Plan of the Alamo

Scots who fell at the Alamo

Richard W. Ballantine

John McGregor

Isaac Robinson

David L. Wilson

Information gathered from the Alamo Official website run by ‘Daughters of the Republic of Texas’.


Remember the Alamo

Originally named Mision San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo served as home to missionaries and their Indian converts for nearly seventy years. Construction began on the present site in 1724. In 1793, Spanish officials secularized San Antonio’s five missions and distributed their lands to the remaining Indian residents. These men and women continued to farm the fields, once the mission now their own, and participated in the growing community of San Antonio.

In the early 1800s, the Spanish military stationed a cavalry unit at the former mission. The soldiers referred to the old mission as the Alamo ( the Spanish word for ‘cottonwood’) in honor of their hometown Alamo de Parras, Coahuila. The post’s commander established the first recorded hospital in Texas in the Long Barrack. The Alamo was home to both Revolutionaries and Royalists during Mexico’s ten-year struggle for independence. The military (Spanish, Rebel and then Mexican) continued to occupy the Alamo until the Texas Revolution.

San Antonio and the Alamo played a critical role in the Texas Revolution. In December 1835, Ben Milam led Texian and Tejano volunteers against Mexican troops quartered in the city. After five days of house to house fighting, they forced General Martin Perfecto de Cos and his soldiers to surrender. The victorious volunteers then occupied the Alamo, already fortified prior to the battle by Cos’ men, and strengthened its defenses. On February 23, 1836, the arrival of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army outside San Antonio nearly caught them by surprise. Undaunted, the Texians and Tejenos prepared to defend the Alamo together. The defenders held out for 13 days against Santa Anna’s army. William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo, sent forth couriers carrying pleas for help to communities in Texas. On the eighth day of the siege, a band of 32 volunteers from Gonzales arrived, bringing the number of defenders to nearly two hundred. Legend holds that with the possibility of additional help fading, Colonel Travis drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over, all except one did. As the defenders saw it, the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas, and they were ready to give their lives rather than surrender their position to General Santa Anna. Among the Alamo’s garrison were Jim Bowie, renowned knife fighter and David Crockett, famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee.

The final assault came before daybreak on the morning of March 6, 1836, as columns of Mexican soldiers emerged from the predawn darkness and headed for the Alamo’s walls. Cannon and small arms fire from inside the Alamo beat back several attacks. Regrouping, the Mexicans scaled the walls and rushed into the compound. Once inside, they turned captured cannon on the Long Barrack and church, blasting open the barricaded doors. The desperate struggle continued until the defenders were overwhelmed. By sunrise the battle had ended and Santa Anna entered the Alamo compound to survey the scene of his victory.

While the facts surrounding the siege of the Alamo continue to be debated, there is no doubt about what the battle has come to symbolize. People worldwide continue to remember the Alamo as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds, a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty.



The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

Scottish and Burns Connections with the Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

The Alamo

While four Scots died during the battle of the Alamo, it is McGregor, a piper and second sergeant of Captain William R Carey’s artillery company that has romantically captured the imagination of Alamo historians and enthusiasts.

In a bid to raise the morale of the besieged defenders, McGregor performed musical ‘duels’ with American folklore legend and second generation Scot, Davy Crockett, who played the fiddle. McGregor was said to have won the duels because he played the longest and loudest.

The pair’s musical endeavours led to the Alamo urban legend, that the Mexican troops coined the word ‘gringo’ after hearing the defenders, many of them Scottish-Americans, singing rousing choruses of  Robert Burns’ ‘Green Grow The Rashes O’ as they faced certain death.

The skirl of the pipes that sounded around the fortified former mission steeled the nerves of the 200 men who knew their fate lay in the hands of the tyrant ruler of Mexico, General Antonio López de Santa Anna, who had them surrounded with his 5,000-strong army for 13 days.

John McGregor was probably born in Aberfeldy at Dull Parish in Perthshire and went to America some time after the Napoleonic Wars, around 1815. He was 28 when he died.

At the Alamo site, there is a plaque in his honour and he has been called ‘the last warrior piper’.

Three other first generation Scots were among the men who lost their lives in March 1836.

Richard W Ballentine, a rifleman, was born in Scotland in 1814, and travelled to Texas from Alabama in 1835. He and the other passengers signed a statement declaring: "We have left every endearment at our respective places of abode in the United States of America, to maintain and defend our brethren, at the peril of our lives, liberties and fortunes."  He was 22 when he died.

Isaac Robinson was born in Scotland in 1808 and came to Texas from Louisiana. He took part in the siege of Bexar and later served in the Alamo garrison as a fourth sergeant in Captain William R Carey’s artillery company.  He was 28 when he died.

David L Wilson, son of James and Susanna (Wesley) Wilson, was born in Scotland in 1807. In Texas, he lived in Nacogdoches with his wife, Ophelia. Wilson was one of the volunteers who accompanied Captain Philip Dimmitt to Bexar and the Alamo in the early months of 1836. He remained at the Alamo after Dimmitt left on the first day of the siege. A rifleman in Dimmitt’s company he was 29 when he died.

The Scottish Influence

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The Alamo, Paisley, Scotland.

Wooden Post card from the Alamo of San Antonio, Texas