Heroines of the Past, The Alamo

August 1, 2008; Published by Amy Puetz; P.O. Box 429; Wright, WY 82732

Amy’s Corner

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I have an exciting line-up for you this issue! It has been challenging (a good kind of challenging) to find stories of women in connection with the Alamo. After all, the Alamo is the story of brave men holding off a superior force for thirteen days in 1836. Perhaps the most well known woman of the Alamo is Susanna Dickenson whom Santa Anna sent with a message to Sam Houston telling him what happened at the Alamo. It was meant to frighten Texas into submission but instead Texas finally defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto River. Susanna and her baby were the only white survivors of the Alamo. The men who perished in the Alamo left behind mothers, wives, and children. Davy Crockett left his wife, Elizabeth and several children. Although the story of the Alamo is very melancholy it was an admirable sacrifice because Texas did win its independence from Mexico. The shining hero from the conflict was Sam Houston and his wife Margaret was an amazing Christian lady.

Amy Puetz

Heroines of the Past
P.O. Box 429
Wright, WY 82732

Mrs. Susanna Dickenson, The Heroine of the Alamo
By Rufus C. Burleson, published in 1901

The Heroine of the Alamo and her husband, Lieutenant Dickenson, were born in Pennsylvania and brought up in the "City of Brotherly Love." But when the cry came from Texas, struggling for freedom against the Mexicans, Lieutenant Dickenson said, "I must respond to freedom’s call." His young wife said, "I will go with you my husband." He came, enlisted and was made lieutenant in the immortal band of Captain William Barrett Travis, a young and dashing cavalier from Alabama.

On the 22nd of February Santa Anna with the vanguard of 8,000 veterans encamped around the Alamo and demanded an immediate and unconditional surrender. That insolent summons was answered with cannon shot and defiant shouts. Santa Anna immediately raised the blood red flag of death. Then commenced that fearful siege of thirteen days and nights. During these thirteen days and nights our Heroine of the Alamo displayed a courage that eclipsed the heroism of the Spartan mothers. For though her little daughter, Angelina, was only six weeks old, she cooked the food, prepared the bandages, washed and bound up the wounds, and by her words and heroic bearing cheered on the soldiers. What mother on earth ever was called to listen alternately to the roar of the cannon, the groans of the dying, and the pitiful cry of her innocent babe? She saw the gashed bosom of her husband pouring out his lifeblood. She caught his dying accent: "God bless you, wife, I am dying; take care of our babe."

But on that fatal Sabbath morning, March 6, 1836, just as the church and convent bells were calling the devout to prayer by the command of the infuriated Santa Anna, 5,000 men, with booming cannon, muskets, crow-bars, and scaling ladders, rushed with fiendish yells from all directions on the blackened walls of the Alamo.

The heroic band, worn out with thirteen days and nights of watching and fighting, and now reduced to about 100, with god-like courage met and with deadly fire held back their assailants for the first and second time, but the common soldiers, goaded on by the shouts of their commanders and the spurs of the cavalry drawn up behind them, climbed up the scaling ladders while others battered down the doors and broke through the walls.

Our Heroine, with a mother’s instinct, pressed her innocent babe to her bosom and silently gazed upon a scene of horror that no tongue or pen can ever describe. The holy place which had echoed with songs and praises for more than 100 years now resounds with the deadly shot of guns and pistols, and the groans of the wounded and dying, while every spot is swimming in human gore. Oh, what a scene for a mother and innocent babe to look upon! Methinks the guardian angels of that innocent babe as they looked upon that sea of blood and smoke, and those groaning dying men, were almost constrained to fly away, shouting, "These are not men but devils, this is not earth, but hell, and the leader is not Santa Anna, but Satan."

At 12 o’clock of that beautiful Sabbath day the bright sun looked down upon the dead bodies of the 182 heroes of the Alamo. At twilight’s solemn hour our Heroine with a woman’s instinct took her babe in her arms and a pitcher of water, and visited the bleeding soldiers to see if any dying hero needed a cup of cold water or wished to send some message of love to mother or wife or sister, far away. She found the dead bodies of Travis, Bonham, and Bowie, all weltering in blood. She found Crockett lying dead in a little confessional room in the Northeast corner of the Alamo, with a huge pile of dead Mexicans lying around him.

The dastard, Santa Anna had sent Mrs. Dickenson mounted on a mule with a baby in her arms, both sprinkled with blood as a messenger of the defeat and bloody butchery of the Alamo. He hoped thereby to strike terror to all Texans. As she rode into the Texan encampment hundreds of eager men gathered around her. The first word she uttered was "They all died fighting for liberty as every true Texan should die." As strong, rough men looked upon that mother and her little babe all sprinkled with blood, and heard her brave words, they sobbed aloud and cried "Revenge or death." And "Remember the Alamo" became the battle cry.

Mrs. Dickenson’s Conversion

I first met the Heroine of the Alamo under very remarkable circumstances. I had been preaching in Houston about a year. The next Wednesday night at prayer meeting I saw five or six persons weeping under deep conviction, and then, according to my custom, I invited all who wanted to be saved to come forward for special prayer. Among those who came forward with tears and penitential sobs, was Mrs. Dickenson, who had become Mrs. Bells. She was nominally a member of the Episcopal Church, but with many tears she said she never knew anything about her lost condition or the true mission of the church, till she heard that sermon on Sunday night. I visited her at her home, and wept and prayed with her. I found her a great bundle of untamed passions, devoted in her love and bitter in her hate. After many tears and prayers and religious instruction, she was joyfully converted. In less than two months her change was so complete as to be observed by all her neighbors. At least 1,500 people crowded the Banks of Buffalo Bayou one Sabbath evening to see her baptized. During all my pastorate in Houston, and especially during the cholera epidemic, she was a zealous co-laborer of mine in every good work. Whenever she did wrong, especially in giving way to passion, she would confess and weep over it.

Their daughter, the babe of the Alamo, whose infant eyes looked upon the horrors of the Alamo, grew up to womanhood full of life, and fun and frolic. Under the well-meant, pious persuasions of her mother, she married a good, honest, hardworking Baptist man from the country. When I performed the marriage ceremony, I shuddered to see two such uncongenial spirits united in marriage. Marriages for money, for position, for convenience, or from parental persuasion, are often fearful mistakes. Marriage should never be from anything but real love, springing from the heart, guided by the head and limited by conscience. When people marry where they do not love, they are apt to love where they have not married. Soon the vivacious city girl got tired of her country home and her amiable, plodding husband. Alienations, unhappiness, and divorce followed. The mother’s heart bled over the ruin of her child’s happiness. The unhappy daughter drifted off to New Orleans. The mother, with her undying love, followed the daughter, who soon after died with yellow fever. Years rolled away. I heard the mother, too, had died in New Orleans. But one night during a great revival in Austin, in 1862, conducted by W. W. Harris and myself, I saw much weeping in the rear of the church. When I asked all to come forward who had been converted, and who had once been members of the church, and had grown cold and wandered away, and now wanted to return to the path of duty, to my astonishment I saw the stalwart form moving up the aisle that I saw moving up the aisle in Houston, in 1849. Grasping my hand, she said: ’’Erring and wayward, but still struggling to do right and serve my Redeemer." I called on her next day, and learned that in New Orleans she had married a most worthy and industrious man, a Mr. Hannig, and he had been sent by Jeff Davis to establish a workshop for manufacturing munitions of war. I saw but little of her for many years, but learn that in her worldly prosperity she never forgot her baptismal vows.

I had promised to call and spend a day with her on my return from the Baptist State Convention, in 1883, but on my way I learned she was dead. Oh! How sadly I was disappointed! There were many things I wanted to talk over and write up. I am rejoiced to know she died happy in Jesus and respected and beloved by all who knew her. Thus lived and died the Heroine of the Alamo, whose tragic history and wonderful conversion are so full of marvelous events and so rich in material for reflection.

She has often told me of that solemn hour when the heroic Travis drew a long line with his sword and said, "Now soldiers, every man that is resolved never to surrender, but if need be to die fighting, let him cross over this line," and the 182 heroes leaped over the line at once. But the heroic Bowie, lying on his pallet of straw emaciated with consumption, could not stand up, but cried aloud, "Boys, do take me over that line, for I intend to die fighting," and his companions carried him over amid the wildest shouts of applause.

(From The Life and Writings of Rufus C. Burleson, Compiled by Georgia Jenkins Burleson, Published in 1901)

Elizabeth Crockett, The Widow of Davy Crockett
Compiled by Amy Puetz

The Alamo

When Davy Crockett died defending the Alamo he left a wife and six children. Three children--John Wesley Crockett, William Finley Crockett, and Margaret Finley (Polly) Crockett--were from his first wife Mary (Polly) Finley. Polly died in 1815 and Davy married, Elizabeth Patton a widow.

In his book, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee, Crockett tells the story of how he wed Elizabeth,

There lived in the neighborhood, a widow lady whose husband had been killed in the war. She had two children, a son and daughter, and both quite small, like my own. I began to think, that as we were both in the same situation, it might be that we could do something for each other; and I therefore began to hint a little around the matter, as we were once and a while together. She was a good industrious woman, and owned a snug little farm, and lived quite comfortable. I soon began to pay my respects to her in real good earnest; but I was as sly about it as a fox when he is going to rob a hen-roost. I found that my company wasn’t at all disagreeable to her; and I thought I could treat her children with so much friendship as to make her a good stepmother to mine, and in this I wan’t mistaken, as we soon bargained, and got married, and then went ahead. In a great deal of peace we raised our first crop of children, and they are all married and doing well. But we had a second crop together; and I shall notice them as I go along, as my wife and myself both had a hand in them, and they therefore--belong to the history of my second marriage.

Elizabeth and Davy had three children, Robert, Rebecca, and Matilda.

What did Elizabeth and the Crockett children do after the death of David? In the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical published in 1911 this description appeared.

David Crockett was married to Miss Elizabeth Patton in Lawrence County, Tennessee, about the year 1815. Their first child, Robert Patton Crockett, was born September 8, 1816. Elizabeth Crockett came to Texas in 1854 with her son, Robert Patton Crockett, from Gibson County, Tennessee. They located on the David Crockett head right, a league of land patented to Elizabeth Crockett by the Republic of Texas as the surviving widow of David Crockett, which was situated between Rucker and Long Creeks in Johnson (now Hood) county. She lived with her son, Robert Patton Crockett, in his rude log cabin in Johnson County until 1860, when death claimed her. She was buried in the Acton cemetery on Walnut Creek. Immediately after the fall of the Alamo in 1836 and the death of his father, David Crockett, Robert Patton Crockett left his home, came to Texas and joined the revolution, remaining in the service until the Independence of Texas had been secured. He returned to Tennessee in 1841, where he was married. In 1854, as I have stated, he moved his family to Texas, bringing his mother with him, locating at the place I have just mentioned. Robert Patton Crockett died in Hood County, September 23, 1889, aged 73 years and eight days. He was also buried in the same lot of land in the Acton cemetery.

Mrs. Houston, the wife of Texas’ Hero
By William Carey Crane, Edited by Amy Puetz

Texas Flag

After the Alamo Santa Anna and his troops were defeated by Sam Houston at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. Sam Houston went on to become the first president of the Republic of Texas. Here is the story of his good wife Margaret Lea Houston.

The history of Sam Houston’s relations to Margaret Lea is alike honorable to all parties, and a noble tribute to the exalted excellence of a pure, lovely, well-developed female character. Margaret Moffette Lea, daughter of Temple and Nancy Lea, was born in Perry Co., Alabama, on April 11, 1819. She received the best advantages of the schools of Alabama, and through all her life continued to improve her intellectual powers by reading and study. Associating with the most cultivated people of Alabama, possessed of winning manners and conversational powers, she attracted no little attention from men of eminence in church and state.

She was a thorough student of the Bible, and was devotedly attached to the principles of practical Christianity. The writer first met her in Marion, Alabama, in 1839, at a time when she was regarded as the most attractive and fascinating young lady in that part of Alabama. She became a member of Siloam Baptist Church, Marion, and was baptized by Rev. Peter Crawford, then pastor of that church.

On a visit to Mobile she first met Gen. Houston. He was at that time given to occasional excesses in drinking, by which he had acquired the name among the Indians of "Big Drunk." His romantic history, his brilliant career as the savior of Texas, his commanding figure, winning manners, and vivacious conversation, won the heart of the young Alabamian.

She was asked by the writer why she ran the risk of unhappiness and misfortune by consenting to link her destinies with those of Gen. Houston, at a time when he gave way to such excesses? She replied, "not only had he won her heart, but she had conceived the idea that she could be the means of reforming him, and she meant to devote herself to the work." According to her wishes, and to the astonishment of her friends, she was married to Gen. Sam Houston in Marion, Alabama, May 9th, 1840. It was not long before her influence induced him to give up strong drink, to which he never returned.

As a woman, Mrs. Houston was as remarkable as was General Houston as a man. True to principle, firm in her convictions, spiritual in her ideas of religion, devoted to her husband and her children, she considered the strict performance of the great duties of domestic life as an achievement of moral heroism. The good of the land were always welcome to her fireside, and cordially entertained.

While thus absorbed in home duties, Mrs. Houston was busied with her pen; her private letters and her magazine contributions all being tinged with the one aim of her life; as the moral and religious guide of her children, and the guardian angel of her husband’s private and public life. During his Senatorial career Houston was never so happy as in receiving her weekly letters, in reading portions of them to his trusted friends, and in writing his Sunday afternoon replies. The contributions of Mrs. Houston to the Mothers’ Journal, of Philadelphia, were as highly prized by its numerous readers as by him who rejoiced that their sentiment and their suggestions were realized in his own household.

Eight children blessed their married life: Sam, Nancy Elizabeth, Margaret Lea, Mary William, Antoinette Power, Andrew Jackson, William Rogers, and Andrew Temple, all grown and married, except the two younger ones, and all occupying commanding positions in society. After the death of Gen. Houston, Mrs. Houston returned to their former residence at Independence, Texas, for the purpose of educating her children in Baylor University and Baylor Female College. Her health was much impaired by asthma, still she availed herself of all opportunities of doing good, and signalized her sympathy with the suffering and dying during the prevalence of yellow fever and kindred diseases in Texas in the summer and fall of 1867. Just at the close of that season she was herself prostrated by disease, of which, in entire resignation to the Divine will, she died December 3, 1867, leaving a noble example of a blameless and useful life to her children, who survived her.

Our Daughters

By Mrs. Houston
Huntsville, Texas, March 14, 1856

Our eldest is an autumn bloom.
Just as the summer rose grew pale
She smiled upon our woodland home,
The brightest flower in all the vale.

The second April came with showers.
The buds to ope, and vines to wreathe,
And left the sweetest of its flowers
Upon my joyous heart to breathe.
Sweet month! but two short years had past,
And lo! with smiles again she came,
And left a bloom fair as the last,
A strange bright flower for me to name!

Almost two years had passed away,
And winter looked upon my flowers
With meaning smile that seemed to say,
"I bring no vine-wreath for your bowers."

No spring bird’s song, nor summer breeze,
Nor leaves of autumn’s glowing hue,
To throw around my lone, bare trees;
But winter has its offering too.

And oh! the brightest rose there lay
Upon his hand! "It is thine own"
He whispered, as he passed away,
"Oh, guard it well, the fragile one."

My beauteous gifts! how carefully
Their tender branches I must train!
That each fair plant on earth may be
A household joy! And yet in vain

My fondest care without that aid
The blessed Lord alone can give.
Father! these earthly blooms must fade,
But let their souls before Thee live.

My buds of innocence in time
Be formed to bloom beyond the skies,
Within the cloudless spirit’s clime
Unfading flowers of Paradise.



Books & Kit

819235: The Alamo: A Day That Changed America
The Alamo: A Day That Changed America
By Shelley Tanaka / Hyperion

The cry of "Remember the Alamo!" helped to win Texas’ independence from Mexico, but at what a cost! This fascinating picture book tells the story of the alamo, from the initial disputes to the siege, battle and aftermath. Accompanied by evocative paintings, the story of the Alamo is remembered as a time of bravery and courage in the midst of tremendous sacrifice. 48 pages, indexed, hardcover with dust jacket.
343605: Young Architects Brick and Mortar Construction Kits: The Alamo
Young Architects Brick and Mortar Construction Kits: The Alamo
By Educational Insights Inc.

Calling all amateur architects!

Ages 8+. Experience the fun, excitement, and pride of building ready-to-display stone replicas of world famous architectural masterpieces - brick by brick! Mix the special mortar in the mini-sized wheelbarrow, then follow the step-by-step instructions for building each spectacular structure with real kiln-fired bricks! The special mortar dissolves in water, allowing students to create and build more structures of their own design, and teachers to use the kits year after year!

Each kit includes:

  • Hundreds of real-stone bricks
  • Bags of special water-soluble mortar mix
  • Base with label
  • Wheelbarrow for mixing mortar
  • Mason’s tools
  • L-shaped ruler
  • 8-page illustrated instruction guide
Copyright 2011 Amy Puetz, www.AmyPuetz.com