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ALAMO NONCOMBATANTS

ALAMO NONCOMBATANTS. When the Mexican army appeared at San Antonio de Béxar on February 23, 1836, a number of civilian noncombatants retired to the dubious safety of the Alamo, along with the Texian forces of Lt. Col. William B. Travis. Some of these civilians remained in the Alamo during the entire siege. Most, but not all, survived the battle of March 6.

Some of the survivors are well known: Susanna and Angelina Dickinson, wife and daughter of Capt. Almeron Dickinson; Ana Salazar Esparza and Enrique Esparza, wife and eldest son of Pvt. José María Esparza; Juana Navarro Alsbury, wife of Dr. Horace Alsbury, who was away from the Alamo on a scouting mission; and Joe, Travis's slave, who fought in the battle but survived.

There were, however, a number of lesser known occupants of the Alamo during the siege and battle. Gertrudis Navarro (November 26, 1816-April 1895) was the sister of Juana Alsbury and the daughter of the second José Ángel Navarro and Concepción Cervantes. She and her sister were raised by the Veramendi family of San Antonio de Béxar and probably entered the Alamo under the protection of James Bowie, the Veramendis' son-in-law. Gertrudis survived the Alamo battle and married José Miguel Felipe Cantú on July 26, 1841. They had eight children. She lived the remainder of her life in San Antonio.

Alejo Pérez, Jr. (March 23, 1835-October 19, 1918), was the son of Juana Alsbury and her first husband, Alejo Pérez, Sr. He was brought into the Alamo by his mother and was seventeen days short of his first birthday at the time of the Alamo battle. He survived the battle and grew up in San Antonio, where he was later a policeman. On December 27, 1853, he married Antonia Rodríguez; they had four children. Alejo was still living in San Antonio in 1900. Some evidence indicates that he was married again, to Florenzia Valdez, at the age of eighty-one, on March 1, 1916. He died on October 19, 1918, probably the last survivor of the Alamo.

Manuel Esparza (October 19, 1830–1886) and Francisco Esparza (1833-July 1887) were the younger sons of Gregorio and Ana Salazar Esparza and were present during the entire siege and battle. On September 7, 1853, Manuel married Melchora Leal (January 4, 1834-February 13, 1922); they had eleven children. In the 1850s Manuel moved with his brothers Enrique and Francisco to Atascosa County, where they farmed and ranched. They also built the church of San Augustine. Manuel was described as being much like his brother Enrique. Both liked history and were Democrats. Francisco Esparza married Petra Zamora (1827–1924). They had five children. At the outbreak of the Civil War he left Atascosa County to serve in the Confederate Army. After the war he did not return to his family but settled in Tucson, Arizona. He remarried and had two children with his second wife.

María de Jesús Castro Esparza (January 11, 1826–1849) was the daughter of Ana Salazar Esparza and her first husband, Victor de Castro. She accompanied her mother and stepfather into the Alamo and survived the siege and battle. Some confusion has always surrounded this Alamo survivor. At least one newspaper reported that Ana Salazar Esparza brought an infant daughter into the Alamo, but there is no evidence that she and Gregorio ever had a daughter. There is further confusion since Enrique Esparza gave several newspaper interviews in his old age, in which he stated that three brothers, one an infant, entered the Alamo with his parents and half-sister. San Fernando de Béxar Cathedral records, however, indicate that the Esparza family had four children, one of whom was María de Jesús Esparza.

The family of Alamo defender José Toribio Losoya actually lived for a time within the Alamo compound. Toribio Losoya's mother, Concepción, his younger brother Juan, and his sister, Juana Francisca Melton, were present in the fort and survived the siege and battle. Juana Francisca Melton was the wife of the Alamo garrison's quartermaster, merchant Eliel Melton. Enrique Esparza later remembered that when he entered the Alamo, one of the first things he saw was Mrs. Melton drawing circles on the ground with an umbrella. The image remained vivid in his mind since he had seen very few umbrellas. He also remembered that after the Alamo battle and before the survivors were brought before Santa Anna, Mrs. Melton, through her brother Juan, asked Ana Esparza not to reveal to Santa Anna that she was married to an American. Mrs. Esparza told her not to be afraid.

A Victoriana de Salinas and her three small daughters survived the battle. Little is known of them, but Enrique Esparza remained acquainted with two of the girls in later life. Petra Gonzales, an old woman known as "Doña Petra" to Enrique Esparza, also survived the battle. She may have been an elderly relative of Ana Esparza, since both her paternal grandmother and her maternal grandfather were named Gonzales. Trinidad Saucedo, a twenty-seven-year-old former servant of the Veramendi family, was present during the siege, but left the fort before the final battle. Besides the identified survivors, there were also a number of unidentified slaves who lived through the battle. A number of the Alamo's defenders were slaveholders, and Joe, Travis's slave, reported that several blacks were in the fort.

The Alamo's noncombatants suffered casualties among their small number. Joe remembered a black woman killed attempting to cross the Alamo during the battle. Her body was found lying between two cannons. Enrique Esparza stated that a young American boy, no older than he (eight to nine years) was shot down and killed right beside him, while the boy was drawing a blanket around his shoulders. Susanna Dickinson remembered that the two young sons of artilleryman Anthony Wolf, ages eleven and twelve, were bayonetted, along with their father, before her eyes.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Files, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio.

Bill Groneman

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Bill Groneman, "ALAMO NONCOMBATANTS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qsa01), accessed August 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Modified on July 24, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.