On Friday, March 4, 1836, Generalissimo Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna Perez de Labron ordered a staff conference at his headquarters near San Antonio’s Military Plaza. The Mexican Army was in the midst of besieging a handful of Anglo-Americans and Tejanos (Mexican Texans) that were bottled up in a broken-down old mission locals called the Alamo. The rebels had held out for 11 days now, and His Excellency’s patience—never great when his prestige was at stake—was wearing decidedly thin.
Santa Anna had actually stepped down as president of Mexico to assume this command, but so far he had failed to win fresh laurels. His Excellency had envisioned a lighting-fast campaign that would throw the norte-americano “land pirates” off Mexican soil once and for all. After a promising start, he found himself bogged down before a ramshackle mission and the sheer frustration was starting to tell on his nerves.
The conference was held in a squat adobe building not far from the looming towers of San Fernando Church, the peacock brilliance of the officers’ uniforms standing in stark contrast to its whitewashed drabness. Major General Santa Anna appeared, a tall and handsome man of 43 whose height was made even more imposing by a cocked hat that sprouted red, white, and green plumes. Doffing this headgear, Santa Anna motioned to the officers and the conference began.
Santa Anna came right to the point, saying he wanted to discuss the possibility of launching an all-out assault on the Alamo. Normally, his officers rarely revealed their true feelings, especially if they ran counter to the dictator’s will, but the sheer audacity of the statement caused passive façades to drop. The Alamo served no strategic purpose and part of its north wall had recently crumbled into rubble. The Alamo rebels were short on provisions; sheer famine would soon compel them to surrender.