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The Texan Scouts Joseph A. Altsheler

To The Last Man

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"The bands are ready, general," he said, "and when the signal is given they will play the air that you have chosen."

A Mexican, trumpet in hand, was standing near. Santa Anna turned and said to him the single word:


The man lifted the trumpet to his lips, and blew a long note that swelled to its fullest pitch, then died away in a soft echo.

It was the signal. A tremendous cry burst from the vast ring of the thousands, and it was taken up by the shrill voices of the women on the flat roofs of the houses. The great circle of cavalrymen shook their lances and sabers until they glittered.

When the last echo of the trumpet's dying note was gone the bands began to play with their utmost vigor the murderous tune that Santa Anna had chosen. Then four columns of picked Mexican troops, three thousand strong, rushed toward the Alamo. Santa Anna and the generals around him were tremendously excited. Their manner made no impression upon Ned then, but he recalled the fact afterward.

The boy became quickly unconscious of everything except the charge of the Mexicans and the Alamo. He no longer remembered that he was a prisoner. He no longer remembered anything about himself. The cruel throb of that murderous tune, the Deguelo, beat upon the drums of his ears, and mingled with it came the sound of the charging Mexicans, the beat of their feet, the clank of their arms, and the shouts of their officers.

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Whatever may be said of the herded masses of the Mexican troops, the Mexican officers were full of courage. They were always in advance, waving their swords and shouting to their men to come on. Another silver gleam flashed through the gray light of the early morning, ran along the edges of swords and lances, and lingered for a moment over the dark walls of the Alamo.

No sound came from the mission, not a shot, not a cry. Were they asleep? Was it possible that every man, overpowered by fatigue, had fallen into slumber at such a moment? Could such as Crockett and Bowie and Travis be blind to their danger? Such painful questions raced through Ned's mind. He felt a chill run down his spine. Yet his breath was like fire to his lips.

"Nothing will stop them!" cried Santa Anna. "The Texans cower before such a splendid force! They will lay down their arms!"

Ned felt his body growing colder and colder, and there was a strange tingling at the roots of the hair. Now the people upon the roofs were shouting their utmost, and the voices of many women united in one shrill, piercing cry. But he never turned to look at them. His eyes were always on the charging host which converged so fast upon the Alamo.

The trumpet blew another signal, and there was a crash so loud that it made Ned jump. All the Mexican batteries had fired at once over the heads of their own troops at the Alamo. While the gunners reloaded the smoke of the discharge drifted away and the Alamo still stood silent. But over it yet hung a banner on which was written in great letters the word, "Texas."

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The Texan Scouts
Joseph A. Altsheler

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