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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

In The Alamo

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As he spoke he tapped the outer wall.

"No Mexican on earth," he said, "has got a tough enough head to butt through that. At least I think so. Now what do you think, Ned?"

His tone was so whimsical that Ned was compelled to laugh despite their terrible situation.

"It's a pity, though," continued Crockett, "that we've got such a big place here to defend. Sometimes you're the stronger the less ground you spread over."

Ned glanced around. He had paid the Alamo one hasty visit just after the capture of San Antonio by the Texans, but he took only a vague look then. Now it was to make upon his brain a photograph which nothing could remove as long as he lived.

He saw in a few minutes all the details of the Alamo. He knew already its history. This mission of deathless fame was even then more than a century old. Its name, the Alamo, signified "the Cottonwood tree," but that has long since been lost in another of imperishable grandeur.

The buildings of the mission were numerous, the whole arranged, according to custom, in the form of a cross. The church, which was now without a roof, faced town and river, but it contained arched rooms, and the sacristy had a solid roof of masonry. The windows, cut for the needs of an earlier time, were high and narrow, in order that attacking Indians might not pour in flights of arrows upon those who should be worshipping there. Over the heavy oaken doors were images and carvings in stone worn by time.

To the left of the church, beside the wing of the cross, was the plaza of the convent, about thirty yards square, with its separate walls more than fifteen feet high and nearly four feet thick.

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Ned noted all these things rapidly and ineffaceably, as he and Crockett took a swift but complete survey of their fortress. He saw that the convent and hospital, each two stories in height, were made of adobe bricks, and he also noticed a sallyport, protected by a little redoubt, at the southeastern corner of the yard.

They saw beyond the convent yard the great plaza into which they had driven the cattle, a parallelogram covering nearly three acres, inclosed by a wall eight feet in height and three feet thick. Prisons, barracks and other buildings were scattered about. Beyond the walls was a small group of wretched jacals or huts in which some Mexicans lived. Water from the San Antonio flowed in ditches through the mission.

It was almost a town that they were called upon to defend, and Ned and Crockett, after their hasty look, came back to the church, the strongest of all the buildings, with walls of hewn stone five feet thick and nearly twenty-five feet high. They opened the heavy oaken doors, entered the building and looked up through the open roof at the sky. Then Crockett's eyes came back to the arched rooms and the covered sacristy.

"This is the real fort," he said, "an' we'll put our gunpowder in that sacristy. It looks like sacrilege to use a church for such a purpose, but, Ned, times are goin' to be very hot here, the hottest we ever saw, an' we must protect our powder."

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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