Among the defenders of the Alamo, at least eight came from New England to start a new life. Those lives were cut short, like all the others besieged for 13 days in the old Spanish mission.
This is the story of those men who traveled from every New England state for a piece of land to support a home and a family.
Gone To Texas
After the Mexican Revolution of 1824, the Mexican government offered very generous land grants to people to come and settle in the region of Texas. The government offered the grants on condition the recipients become Mexican citizens and adopt Catholicism.
This project succeeded so well that within a few years Americans outnumbered Mexicans in Texas. As many as 135,000 U.S. citizens made the move.
In fact, so many left their homes in the States that when they didn’t pay their taxes the tax rolls commonly noted GTT, “Gone to Texas.”
As you will see, many of these men made their way to Texas via New Orleans. They did it because the river network was the easiest way to travel among the states. If you could connect with the Ohio River you could then connect with the Mississippi and then on down to New Orleans and, finally, across into Texas.
The Americans in Texas began to petition the Mexican government to change the requirements for the land grants. When that failed, they really started to agitate.
General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna moved the Mexican Army into Texas to quell the unrest and bring the Americans to heel. It culminated in a 13-day siege at the Alamo, a makeshift fort that had once served as a Spanish mission.
About 100 men had been stationed at the Alamo. Before the siege began, William Travis and James Bowie, who would eventually co-command the fort, arrived with some reinforcements.
The siege began on Feb. 23, 1836, when Santa Anna marched 1,500 Mexican troops into San Antonio. He raised a blood-red flag demanding unconditional surrender. In response, the defenders of the Alamo fired off an 18-pound cannon, which volunteer militiamen – including two from New England -- had dragged all the way from New Orleans.
The two sides skirmished for 10 days. Travis knew the garrisoned men couldn't stand up to the Mexicans, so he wrote letters to Texas and the United States begging for supplies and reinforcements.
He sent his final and most famous appeal for help to the people of Gonzales, Texas, addressed “To the people of Texas and all Americans in the world.”
I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch.
New England Defenders of the Alamo
Travis gave the letter to a Rhode Islander named Albert Martin, who commanded the regiment from the town of Gonzales, 70 miles to the east. Martin carried the letter to Gonzales, and then returned to the Alamo with his regiment. Among the men who would earn the title of the ‘Immortal 32,’ was a fellow New Englander, John Flanders.
The Gonzales Regiment sneaked through enemy lines after dark and made it back into the Alamo.
The Mexican Army finally began to move on the Alamo in the early hours of March 6. The defenders fended off two attacks, but couldn't withstand the third.
Among the last of the Alamo defenders to die were the Invincibles, artillerymen who manned 12-pound cannons from the chapel.
Santa Anna’s army spared none of the defenders of the Alamo. In the end, between 182 and 257 men died in the battle, while about 600 Mexican troops were killed or wounded. The Mexicans spared a few civilians, who told the story of the Alamo.
Santa Anna's cruelty inspired more men to join the Texan Army. Less than two months later, the Texans defeated the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Following are descriptions of the eight defenders of the Alamo.
Albert Martin, Rhode Island
Albert Martin, was born in Providence, R. I. in 1808. He attended the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy in Connecticut which would later move to Vermont and become Norwich University. He left Rhode Island in 1832 with his family and set up a business in Tennessee. From there he and his family migrated to New Orleans, where they set up yet another family business in 1835.
Albert moved to Texas and set up a branch of their general store in Gonzales, Texas, Martin, Cofflin & Co. While there he joined the Gonzales Rangers and the Old 18. When at the Alamo, he was selected by Col. Travis to carry out his famous letter to Gonzales. In response, Martin and 32 men returned to the Alamo. All perished.
It should be noted that a cenotaph was erected and may still be seen, at the North Burial Ground, in Providence, to Martin and the defenders of the Alamo.
Miles de Forest Andross, Vermont
He was born in 1809, in Vermont. He married Elizabeth Peabody in 1822 and had two children. Later he made his way to Texas and died with the other defenders of the Alamo. His name appears on the Alamo cenotaph in San Antonio, Texas.
Robert Cochran, New Hampshire
He was born in Pembroke, N.H., in 1810. He went to New Orleans and then on to Texas. At the Alamo, he was assigned to Captain William Carey’s artillery company and died among the defenders of the Alamo on March 6. Forty years after his death a tiny county in Texas -- Cochran County, pop. 3,127 in 2010 -- was named for him.
John Flanders, Massachusetts or New Hampshire
He was born in either Salisbury, Mass., or Newton, N.H., in 1810. Flanders was working for his father when they argued over a mortgage. John Flanders wanted to foreclose on a widow, and his father wouldn’t let him.
John Flanders, too, went to New Orleans and then on to Texas. He joined the Gonzales Rangers and was one of the immortal 32 who sneaked into the Alamo to aid the defenders in response to the plea from Col. Travis.
William D. Howell, Massachusetts
He was a medical doctor and had a practice in New York. He too made his way to New Orleans and joined the New Orleans Greys. They became members of Capt. William Brazeby’s infantry company.
Amos Pollard, Massachusetts
He was born in Ashburnham, Mass., in 1803 and grew up in Surrey, N. H. He graduated from the medical school at the Vermont Academy in Castleton, Vt. Married in 1828 to Fanny Parker, they had one daughter. His wife passed away in 1831.
He served as the chief surgeon at the Alamo and set up a hospital within the compound. Historians say he probably died defending the hospital.
He, William Travis, Jim Bowie and David Crockett were the only defenders of the Alamo to have their portraits painted in their lifetimes.
Gordon C. Jennings, Connecticut
He was born in 1780 or 82 (that too is disputed) in Windham, Conn. But whatever the date, he was the oldest of the defenders of the Alamo. He moved from Connecticut to Missouri then on to Texas. He served as a member of Captain William R. Carey’s artillery company. Carey called his unit the ‘Invincibles,’
William Linn, District of Maine
He lived in Boston for a while and then moved to New Orleans. There he joined the New Orleans Greys, two companies of volunteers who supported Texas independence. The Greys later merged with Balzeby’s Infantry.
Leo Caisse, the author of this story, recently published the book, The Civilian Conservation Corps: A Guide to Their Works in Rhode Island. He has also published a number of historical articles, including Ears On the World in America in World War II Magazine, October, 2017. He has a B.A. and M.A. in American History from Providence College and he lives in East Providence, R.I.
Image of William Martin’s grave marker by Swampyank - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22024069.