Final Resting Place?


Cremated remains unearthed on the ground of San Fernando Cathedral in this century are entombed near the front entrance. They were presumed to be those of the Alamo defenders, although the presence of military uniform buttons clouds this determination.

It is probably not possible to point to a specific burial place for the defenders of the Alamo. Various first-person accounts indicate the following:

After the battle Santa Anna pulled his men out of the fort and ordered the mayor of San Antonio to clean up the site using civilian labor, presumably to preserve morale. The mayor was faced with a shortage of adult male civilians that he could press into service, and the task took several days. Of the Mexican soldiers, they apparently buried the officers in a municipal cemetery but at some point gave up and began pitching bodies of enlisted men into the river. This was a mistake since they just caught in shallows and attracted vultures, and required further attention.

As for the defenders, the bodies were taken by carts to a gathering spot called the Alameda, a grove of cottonwood trees that marked the eastern entrance to the town. It began about two blocks south and one block east of what is now Alamo Plaza, and extended about 275 yards to the southeast. It is now part of East Commerce Street. Two pyres were built at either end of the Alameda, bodies stacked with kindling wood. They burned for two days. Tallow was poured on to keep them burning. The sight and smell was as memorable as the battle itself.

After the fire, some anatomical fragments remained, and individuals acting on impulse buried them in one of more shallow graves. Some of these were later moved to a cemetery, the old-timers said, but the spot was not permanently marked.

In November 1836, Col. Juan Seguin of the Army of the Republic of Texas reoccupied San Antonio, and in February 1837 he held a funeral for the defenders. He reported finding two small heaps and one large heap of ashes. (Presumably, the two small heaps were close together and represented one of the pyres, which had been exposed to the weather for nearly a year.) He put ashes from the small heaps into a coffin and used that in a funeral procession to the church and back, where salutes were fired over each heap and a service was read at the large heap. The coffin and the ashes were then interred, presumably where the large heap had been.

Newspaper articles at the turn of the century noted that the sites of the pyres, which aged citizens could still point out, were being obliterated by construction. That the ashes were apparently buried at one of the sites appears to have been unknown or disregarded.

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