The Wild West of Yester-Year

Enrique Esparza

By Rachel Kovaciny


Enrique Esparza really could “remember the Alamo.” The famous rallying cry called for all Texans to remember the Battle of the Alamo and those who died there. It was supposed to encourage them while fighting for their independence from Mexico in the 1830s. But few Texans could literally remember the Battle of the Alamo, because the Mexican military killed every single defender. Still, there were a handful of survivors, all women and children. Enrique Esparza was one of those. It’s thanks to him we know quite a bit about what the defenders endured during the siege and battle.


Enrique’s father, Gregorio Esparza, was a soldier in the Texan army. When stationed in San Antonio, his wife Ana and their children accompanied him. The Mexican Army arrived at San Antonio on February 23, 1836, determined to wipe out the Texas revolutionaries there. They proclaimed any white Americans who had joined the Texan Army could leave without being pursued or harmed. But the Mexican Army vowed to execute any revolutionary soldiers with Mexican heritage, which included Gregorio Esparza. The Texas soldiers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis, refused to be divided up along racial lines that way. As a group, they made the Alamo mission their fortress.

Gregorio Esparza intended to send his wife Ana and their children away from San Antonio, to somewhere safer. Most of the married Texas soldiers did this, and the Esparzas bought a wagon and supplies for the family’s escape. Before Ana and the children could leave, the Mexican Army arrived and cut off all clear escape routes. Gregorio and Ana felt it would be safer for the family to stay inside the fortified Alamo rather than for Ana and the children to flee.

More than a dozen noncombatants took shelter in the Alamo, along with the soldiers, including the Esparza family. Other Texas revolutionaries had fortified the mission buildings a few months earlier, and it provided the best means of defense in the area. Enrique was eight years old and shared his memories of the Alamo’s siege and battle with others many times during his adult life.
For thirteen days, the Mexican Army, under the command of General Santa Anna, laid siege to the Alamo. Led by Lt. Colonel Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie, about two hundred Texans defended the mission-turned-fortress and kept three thousand Mexican soldiers busy. While Santa Anna got stalled outside San Antonio for nearly two weeks, the rest of the Texan Army could gather strength and supplies elsewhere. 

In the end, the Alamo got overrun, and the victors killed every combatant within the mission’s walls. They allowed nearly twenty women, children, and slaves to live. After the Alamo fell, the Mexican Army held Enrique, his mother, and his siblings prisoner for a short time. Eventually, they gave each woman a few dollars and let them leave. The Esparza family stayed with relatives in San Antonio for a time before making a new home for themselves elsewhere.

In the early 1900s, Enrique shared his reminiscences about the Battle of the Alamo with the newspapers. His accounts gave historians clear and vivid details of what the defenders endured. He remembered meeting Davy Crockett but did not interact with the other celebrities, Jim Bowie and Lt. Colonel Travis. His memories included information about where the noncombatants sheltered, who defended which parts of the fortress, and how the combatants were supplied with water and food.

As an adult, Enrique Esparza was a farmer in the San Augustine area. He married Gertrudes Hernandez and raised seven children. The family later moved back to the San Antonio region and farmed there. Enrique also worked transporting goods between San Antonio and Indianola, Texas. He died on December 20, 1917, in San Antonio. ♦