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"Is the Alamo defensible?" Topic

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Personal logo Captain DEwell Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2012 2:14 p.m. PST

In wargaming terms, deploying no more or no less than the actual forces who fought for real, is the Alamo really defensible?

Would you (commanding as William Travis) have ever attempted to hold it for real?

M C MonkeyDew23 May 2012 2:22 p.m. PST

Not with the forces available and glad I did not have to make the decision.

Billy Yank23 May 2012 2:25 p.m. PST

No, its not defensible, but making a good fight of it is worth the propaganda victory.

Billy Yank

The Gray Ghost23 May 2012 2:27 p.m. PST


DeanMoto23 May 2012 2:29 p.m. PST

No way; even if it were an anvil for a larger hammer force (i.e. bait) that would've been really putting lives on the line for the defenders.

RudyNelson23 May 2012 2:46 p.m. PST

No no defensive works just a bunch of barricades. IMHO even a larger force could not have repulsed a determined attack.

John Leahy23 May 2012 3:34 p.m. PST

I agree with Rudy. There were no firing slits or stands for defenders and the walls were poor. It was a death trap. More men would have just increased the cost for the Mexicans not the result.



SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER Inactive Member23 May 2012 3:43 p.m. PST

If Fannin had got there with his men, it might have caused Santa Ana to rethink his strategy.

More men would have just increased the cost for the Mexicans not the result.

With larger losses, Santa Ana my not have felt able to continue. Also if they had fought to a draw, where the Mexican forces no longer had the will to make an assault, Santa Ana may have withdrawn rather than advance with a Texican force to his rear. This is the reason he attacked them in the first place.

doc mcb23 May 2012 4:03 p.m. PST

I game the Alamo, with both 185 men, and also with 240 or so -- because I think there is fairly good evidence the garrison was the higher number. It takes the mexicans a few turns longer to get over the walls, and adds 100 or so soldadoes to the body count. But no, it is not defensible. My games use the Mexican casualty figure as the indicator of who wins the game. 600 Mexican casualties is achievable about half the time, and makes a good criterion for who wins.

Adding 300 men with Fannin -- and assuming adequate supplies and that SA goes ahead and assaults anyway -- I think perhaps the Alamo IS defensible. Those 18 or so cannons are a LOT of firepower. I've never done it, because I use a 1:1 scale and I don't have 500-600 texans, but I think if I gamed Fannin there, I'd also assume a Mexican bombardment that creates a breach or two, and maybe dismounts several of the defenders' guns, and also a larger assault force than the 1200 historically.

And maybe a daylight assault. It would be a VERY different situation and game.

epturner Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2012 4:26 p.m. PST

I have thought about this for a scenario. I put all the players on either the Texican or Mexican side.

The point being that I give them personal victory conditions.

We know the Mexicans are going to win. The idea is "by how much"? And noodling around this way, you can become very creative with scenario specific mods.


Scott Kursk Inactive Member23 May 2012 5:49 p.m. PST

No, it is totally indefensible. That's the reason that they were supposed to get the cannons and leave. Sad thing about both Goliad and the Alamo, they were massacres that really shouldn't have happened.

Now if you read Harry Turtledove's awesome book Remember the Alamo, a small number of M-14 equipped mercenaries does make it quite defensible.

doc mcb23 May 2012 6:39 p.m. PST

Actually, the garrison had plenty of gunpowder. Wonder if the idea of making lots of grenades, for when the Mexicans got up under the walls, occurred to anyone?

Jay Arnold Inactive Member23 May 2012 7:37 p.m. PST

Place snipers in the upper stories of the Menger Hotel and place Claymores around the Cenotaph and they'd have a chance.

But it's still dicey.

corporalpat Inactive Member23 May 2012 7:59 p.m. PST

No, not at all. Trapped, and not willing to surrender, they defended as best they could with what they had. That is what you do in that situation, defensible or not.

GDrover Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member23 May 2012 8:36 p.m. PST

Not with a couple of hundred men.

SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER Inactive Member23 May 2012 11:14 p.m. PST

Doc IIRC Fannin had 400+ men and 8 or 10 cannons.

Here's the Wiki entry.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP23 May 2012 11:53 p.m. PST

Probably not. But Travis had no way to be sure of that. This is hindsight. He expected to be reinforced but the rest of the Texian rebels and leadership, by and large, let him down. He also had no way to really gauge the level of Mexican determination or competence (until it was too late). The Alamo garrison wasn't sure they faced Santa Anna himself until relatively late in the siege. They also had made their decision to make a stand at the Alamo before the extent and timing of the Mexican attack was known to anybody in Texas. And then when the arrival of the Mexican army surprised them, there was no time to hold a council of war or debate what to do -- only enough time to take refuge in the nearest walled position, inadequate though it was.

Once pinned in the Alamo, it was not ever going to be easy for the Texians to make a withdrawal in the face of overwhelming Mexican numbers, plus aggressive cavalry. And they would have had to abandon all that artillery, the most available in all Texas. Even in a best-case scenario, the rebels would have been chased and dispersed and no doubt broken as an effective fighting force. So Travis made the best of a bad hand, after February 23. Surrender was not a viable option (despite reports that the garrison might have considered it had acceptable terms been offered). Without large reinforcements or a relief army, the Alamo was doomed and the only hope was to prolong the siege and hope for a miracle, or failing that, resist as fiercely as possible for as long as possible and try to bloody the Mexican army before the next engagement took place.

Personal logo Who asked this joker Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2012 6:38 a.m. PST

Depends. The Texans were outnumbered about 10-1. You will lose that fight regardless of your situation given the similar technology in weapons.

If the numbers are 4-1, I'd bet that the defenders win. So, yes. The Alamo is a defensible position.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2012 7:42 a.m. PST

If the numbers are 4-1, I'd bet that the defenders win. So, yes. The Alamo is a defensible position.

My point exactly. Almost any position is defensible with enough troops and Artillery. If the Texans out numbered and out gun the Mexicans 10 to 1, well yeah, you bet it can be defended. But you would think the Mexicans would not attack. But considering the idiot in charge, who knows. But given the number of men and guns they had, no it is not defensible.


21eRegt24 May 2012 8:31 a.m. PST

Seems to me that if Fannin had gotten through it simply would have changed the Mexican tactics. Santa Anna assaulted when he did because he needed to move on and wanted to make a public demonstration of crushing (utterly) those who opposed him. If the only other sizeable Texan force in the area places itself in the trap then he can take time to conduct a formal siege and blow great holes in those weak walls and barricades, dismount cannon as previously noted, and weaken the defenders.

No, the Alamo just wasn't physically a defensible position. It is a mission, not a fortress.

doc mcb24 May 2012 8:51 a.m. PST

And while the Mexican army as a whole outnumbered the garrison 10 to 1 or more, the final assault was more like 6 to 1 or 7 to 1.

My rules stress the Mexicans in their five attack columns. And I remind players that EACH of those columns outnumbers the entire garrison. So if the defenders drive off 4 columns -- temporarily -- but the fifth one gets over the wall, that's all she wrote, except for mopping up.

adub74 Inactive Member24 May 2012 9:09 a.m. PST

I'll take the contrarian view.

The Alamo was defensible with the forces at hand against the forces and tactics used by Santa Anna.

When his requests for men went unanswered, Travis gave up like a cry baby. His orders were to hold the mission if possible otherwise destroy the guns and flee. He was not order to stand and die. Or give up and die like he did.

The defenders at Rorke's drift, albeit many years later, give us a prime example of how it's done when both the men AND leadership don't quit.

Yes, the fort is much too large. In the days preceding the battle, the leadership could have order barricades to be built to cut the compound in half. Yes, it's true that Travis truely believed he was going to get reinforced. But even with reinforcements, the inner defense would allow the defenders to bend but not break when attacked. Did the defenders of Roarke's drift just wake up in the morning and say screw it? No, they collapsed the line and built a more defensible position.

I also believe the cannon were handled badly. There were simply too many guns to man and defend. Some of these guns should have been pulled within the the compound for a sort of final redoubt. Or they could have been destroyed or rigged to be destroyed when the Mexican's attacked. Something other than allowing the guns to be captured and turned towards the barracks and mission. This inner defense could hold if it weren't for a ready made artillery park 50 feet away.

The Texicans were bad asses. Travis was a wimp.

doc mcb24 May 2012 10:08 a.m. PST

One problem is where to put the final redoubt. The chapel has high walls but also few fighting positions, and no good way to kill attackers who get up under the wall. And the weakest two places -- the low stockade between the chapel and the main gate, and the cattle pen -- are immediately to each side of the chapel. But if the chapel is NOT part of the redoubt, you are conceding the highest point in the compound to the attackers.

The main gate area has possibilities with the exterior work, but it isn't very large, won't hold too many men.

And once the Mexicans gain part of the wall, they likely get control of some artillery pieces, easy to turn around and use at whatever strongpoints still remain, as you point out. And you sure can't put ALL the guns down inside.

The other problem is communication. It is fine for some Texian officer to yell "Fall back!" to prepared 2nd positions -- but how many hear him? If some fall back and others do not, the ones still holding the outer perimeter will get cut off and attacked from both directions. You only have to puncture a balloon in one place for it to collapse.

RudyNelson24 May 2012 11:10 a.m. PST

Folks the Alamo is not defensible. The mexicans made several Tactical errors in their assualt mainly due being rushed to complete the task ASAP. A more proper bombardment by the Mexican cannon, most of which out ranged the Texan guns could have levels any hasty works or battered the door entrance. The improper use of Arty definately cost mexian lives.

Delaying the assault until the bombardment had had an effect would have enabled a morre concentrated Mexican assault. The Cavalry could have rings the other walls to lanc down escapees.

Jeroen72 Inactive Member24 May 2012 12:46 p.m. PST

It is a mission, not a fortress.


So it was a mission…impossible…

adub74 Inactive Member24 May 2012 3:51 p.m. PST

"And you sure can't put ALL the guns down"
"but how many hear him?"

Yell "Fall back!", give the men a second or two, interior guns shoot exterior guns (or the the construction they are sitting on).

And just because you can't use the chapel doesn't mean you concede the chapel.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2012 5:33 p.m. PST

Not a chance – if the Texicans had withdrawn and built up their walls, the Mexicans could stand off and pound them to powder

That being said, Travis was dealt a bad hand – the Mexicans arrived much more quickly than the Texicans thought they would, and when it was clear how many troops the Mexicans had, the huge superiority the Mexicans held in cavalry made a fighting retreat next to impossible

austinjacobite Inactive Member24 May 2012 5:39 p.m. PST

Overwhelmingly hopeless amateur defense, but I think a 19th century sense of honor compelled them to stay.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP24 May 2012 6:11 p.m. PST

Well, when Blue Moon release's the 15/18mm TWI along with the entire mission/fort you can have a go at it using a myraid of various scenarios over and over again until you find out?
Russ Dunaway

John Leahy24 May 2012 6:18 p.m. PST

Lets see. The Texans couldn't fire at the Mexican infantry when they got close to the walls nor could the artillery. Fields of fire were poor since no firing steps or slots were created. Mexican infantry weren't Zulus. They had firearms and could afford to wait. The Alamo had zero chance to hold with even 1000 men defending. Give them a smaller perimeter and a month to prepare, maybe. Santa Anna's force march surprised the defenders completely. Adding Fannin simply means more dead Texans and Mexicans.



Deucey24 May 2012 6:25 p.m. PST

So the jury seems to be in. The Texans were not heroes, but morons.

(read that with sarcasm!)

How can we judge with 20/20 Hindsight?

Their stand was glorious and ultimately lead to victory!

doc mcb24 May 2012 7:15 p.m. PST

It is certainly true that the Mexican cavalry made escape difficult. However, the horses were not in great shape, having crossed the plains in bad weather before the grass had grown.

I do not really disagree with anything written above, but it IS worth observing that couriers were able to get out until almost the very end. And I think the evidence that there were lots of Texans outside the Mexican perimeter, trying to get in to help, and that someone (Crockett?) may actually have brought in 50 or so, while certainly not conclusive, is also not completely out of the question.

Perhaps the movie is correct that SA was leaving the door open, the Alamo as a fly trap as the US military has done with, say, Iraq.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP24 May 2012 10:12 p.m. PST

The orders were to abandon the Alamo and join the main army. Travis was talked into staying by probably Bowie. IMHO they could have all gotten away at night.

Santa Anna stole a march on the Texans. No one expected him to march his army North in winter conditions. They thought they had months to prepare defenses.

The Texans were not heroes, but morons.

They were a little of both. Actually Fannin was the biggest moron of the bunch. Yet we name schools after him (thank you DRT.)

Why Santa Anna wasted time attacking the thing is puzzling. To make an example? An example of how not to conduct a campaign. Leave part of your army to deal with the Alamo and continue the push with the rest of your army.

The defenders at Rorke's drift, albeit many years later, give us a prime example of how it's done when both the men AND leadership don't quit.

Really? Lets see, the Zulus where armed with spears and attacked in broad daylight against a well trained, well disciplined army with breech loading rifles and competent leadership, defending a supply depot with enough ammunition for a brigade. Yep, very similar to the Alamo.

John Leahy24 May 2012 11:12 p.m. PST

I hope my comments don't seem to denigrate the defenders. That was not my intention. I am merely commenting on whether the Alamo could actually be defended from any successful attack. I believe the men who died defending it were heroes of the first caliber.



SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER Inactive Member25 May 2012 5:53 a.m. PST

Adding Fannin simply means more dead Texans and Mexicans.

But there his death would have been useful!

Cacique Caribe Inactive Member25 May 2012 8:58 a.m. PST

Jay Arnold: "Place snipers in the upper stories of the Menger Hotel and place Claymores around the Cenotaph and they'd have a chance."

LOL. What about the souvenir shops across the street???

By the way, wife and I were at the Alamo yesterday. It was my second visit in 25 years, and the most educational. They've really done a great job explaining the events leading up to the battle, instead of simply focussing on the final clash.


Edwulf Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2012 9:04 a.m. PST

Impossible with the historical situation.

GeoffQRF25 May 2012 11:47 a.m. PST

Would nuking it from orbit have helped?

badger2225 May 2012 6:51 p.m. PST

How about reequiping the defenders with Martini-Henrys? And the roughly 25000 rounds they had at Rourkes drift? Bet that would have helped a lot.

Oh, and take all the Mexican ammunition, that should really even things up.


badger2225 May 2012 6:52 p.m. PST

Geoff if you nuke it from orbit then who wins? Who ever dropped the nuke I guess.

GeoffQRF26 May 2012 4:01 a.m. PST

The one stood furthest away.

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop28 May 2012 4:26 a.m. PST

"When his requests for men went unanswered, Travis gave up like a cry baby."

Yeah, that's why he died on the wall, shooting at the enemy.

Santa Anna could have bottled up the garrison with a fraction of his force then pounded it flat once his nig guns came up.
I found a computer reconstruction of the Alamo on youtube. My wife thought it represented the ruins as they are now. I had to explain it looked like that when they were defending it. She's quite a militarily clued-up wargames widow, & her face & comments were priceless…

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop28 May 2012 6:34 a.m. PST

'big guns'

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop28 May 2012 6:35 a.m. PST

"We are the Mexicans who say 'Nig!'"

jammy four Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Jun 2012 3:29 a.m. PST

for me i do believe the Alamo, with the numbers of available

men.. .artillery and extra gunpowder matter how they were

spread could have held the Alamo. i guess a broad daylight

assault may have slowed the Mexicans down ,but in the end

they would have swarmed over the walls. as a particular

period this rates close to the top for me. im having a

representation of the Alamo built and i hope to game with

800 40mm Mexicans and nearly all the defenders so i can

recreate a decent chunk. a new Alamo range will be the

outcome…..first figures nearly ready as these will

compliment my Mexican -American war figures…….cant wait

to see the finished buildings…..



CooperSteveOnTheLaptop01 Jun 2012 4:18 a.m. PST

"I'm having a representation of the Alamo built and i hope to game with 800 40mm Mexicans"

Make that 800 Mexicans & ME!?!

jammy four Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Jun 2012 12:15 p.m. PST

your cordailly invited Steve when Santa Anna re-appears!!


John Leahy01 Jun 2012 11:55 p.m. PST

That's awesome. I am slowly working on doing it in 54mm. I figured about 400 Mexicans and 80 Texans give or take.



jammy four Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Jun 2012 2:42 a.m. PST


for 54mm i reckon 400 against 80 would be the optimum figure

what figs are these?



John Leahy04 Jun 2012 9:10 a.m. PST

They are a mix of CTS, Conte, Marx, Barzo and some BMC Mexican infantry. I am trying to decide whether I should buy the premade Alamo set or just the chapel and make my own buildings. The larger figs certainly have a major ah factor to them.



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