Feb. 23, 1836, began the famous siege of the Alamo. This 13-day moment in history turned a ruined Spanish mission on the river a short distance from the small town of San Antonio, Texas, into a shrine known and revered the world over.
On Jan. 17, 1836, Sam Houston, the commander of the revolutionary troops, had sent Colonel Jim Bowie and 25 men to San Antonio. Colonel William Travis had arrived in San Antonio on Feb. 2 with a small cavalry company. The total number of Alamo defenders was only about 130.
The Alamo was not a strong fortress, but rather an old Spanish mission built around a church. The walls were not high, ranging from eight to twelve feet. The north wall was missing, with a wooden palisade of upright posts as the only barrier. On Feb. 9, Davey Crockett and 14 other Tennessee Mounted Volunteers rode into San Antonio, adding to the small number of defenders.
Mexican President D. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, with a well-equipped army of 6,000 men, crossed the Rio Grande on Feb. 12—a month earlier than expected. His goal was to crush the Texans. He occupied San Antonio on Feb. 23 and issued an ultimatum to the defenders of the Alamo, warning that they would all be executed if they did not surrender. Travis, Davey Crockett, and the Texans provided their answer to Santa Anna with a blast from their 18-pounder cannon. Travis dispatched a note to Gonzales calling for reinforcements, noting that only 150 men defended the Alamo. The next day he wrote his “Letter from the Alamo,” probably the best known of all Texas documents. His message was published as soon as possible in Texas and the United States. The famous words “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World . . . shall never surrender or retreat . . . Victory or Death!” are considered one of the most heart-wrenching pleas that has ever been written. Santa Anna ordered his men to pound the fortifications with cannon and rifle fire for 12 days and nights, hoping that the defenders would surrender.
At four o’clock on the morning of March 6, 1836, Santa Anna advanced his men to within 200 yards of the Alamo’s walls. The first and second attacks were repulsed by the Texans, but the third was directed against the wooden wall, which collapsed under cannon fire.
The ensuing battle was terrible, with the defenders exacting a heavy toll for every step gained. When it was over Santa Anna had 1,544 dead and over 500 wounded. The few prisoners taken, including Davey Crockett, were executed. Six weeks later, Santa Anna was defeated at San Jacinto. The men who died inside the walls of the Alamo had bought with their lives the time needed for General Sam Houston to build a force that won Texas its independence.
Historians today debate how the defenders of the Alamo, outnumbered and outgunned by more than 30 to one, held out for 13 days and fought with such determination in the face of certain death. The only answer is obvious: the one unpredictable and unmeasurable facet of war—courage built on the brotherhood of the men. These men had all crossed the line in the sand drawn by the sword of Colonel Travis—promising to each other that they would fight to the death if need be. They became a classic “Band of Brothers.”
Now it is 2022. Earlier this year, the world witnessed the beginning of the awful invasion of Ukraine by the powerful Russian army. Russian president Vladimir Putin predicted the show of force would mean quick surrender of his victims. Instead, the Ukrainian people, inspired by a determined leader in Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have faced the enemy with courageous resistance that has inspired support from people across the globe. Putin seemingly miscalculated the “Band of Brothers” mentality of the Ukrainian people and his army will likely pay a heavy price for that.
As the world descends into an increasingly evil abyss, the true followers of Jesus Christ will need to rely on each other as a “Band of Brothers” more than ever.
The future is foreboding in many ways: likely food and energy shortages, rampant inflation, political persecution and upheaval, more wars and possibly diseases. Jesus said that this will be a time of “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). The prophet Daniel described it as a time of trouble, “Such as never was since there was a nation” (Daniel 12:1). In fact, the coming suffering of humankind will be so terrible that “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22).
The importance of being supported by each other is strongly emphasized in the Bible. Writing to a church that was about to see its city destroyed, forcing them to flee for their lives with only what they could carry, Paul instructed, “Some people have given up the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer” (Hebrews 10:25, Contemporary English Version).
During the past two years, it may have become easier for those of us in the U.S. to get “out of the habit of meeting for worship” due to some of the temporary government measures taken during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Encouraging each other requires meeting regularly for worship. Being connected by screen or phone simply is not the same.
Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Romans 1:11-12).
God intends Christians to be a “band of brothers,” being encouraged together by the mutual faith of each other. That will be increasingly more important in the coming days. You will not want to face these days alone.
So, while many people prepare by hoarding food, fuel and essential items, we should prepare by developing and solidifying our relationships with God and with one another. Here is what we need to do: “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5: 19-21).
As a “Band of Christian Brothers and Sisters” we will need the courage and support of each other in the coming days more than ever. Remember the Alamo—or at least this important lesson we can remember from the men at the Alamo in 1836.