For anyone who can stomach it---or choose to believe it as factual---this is the sad story of Angelina Dickinson's life, how she was corrputed by Charles Travis, how she fell into a life of "ill repute," how men fought duels over her, how she was blanket-tossed in a Confederate camp----stuff that would make quite a tawdry movie. From my book, An Altar For Their Sons. (Keep in mind that this originated in a TEXAS newspaper).
BABE OF THE ALAMO.
THE SAD FATE OF A HERO'S DAUGHTER AND A STATE'S WARD. __ Angelina Dickinson's Sad Career—Ruined by the Son of Travis—The Affection of Texans for Her—Incidents of Her Sad Life.
Special Correspondence of The Republic.
TEXAS BUREAU OF THE REPUBLIC, DALLAS, Nov. 15.—"The Babe of the Alamo" furnishes the saddest chapter in Texas history. Born to inherit a people's love and reverence, endowed with beauty of person and an active mind, she found her final resting place in a dishonored grave.
The story of the Alamo is familiar, or ought to be familiar, to every American. The defence of the Alamo will be told in song and story when Bunker Hill is forgotten and the charge of the Light Brigade will be a hazy reminiscence. If the Alamo happened to be in Massachusetts it would have been enwreathed in tomes of poetry long before now. If it were English troops instead of Americans that died in its defence the bards of Britain would have glorified it. Yet only one poet has sung of the Alamo in strains worth remembering. Col. R.M. Potter's "Hymn of the Alamo" deserves to live, though it is safe to say that one modern Texan in 50 never heard of it. The Alamo is an old adobe structure, half-church, half-fortress, situated about the centre of the city of San Antonio. It is now owned by the State. Some years ago it fell into the possession of a gentleman from Jerusalem, and was used as a storehouse for his goods. The sentiment of the State revolted and the legislature authorized the Governor to buy the old building and preserve it for the State. The gentleman from Jerusalem saw that he had a chance to drive a good bargain, and the State had to fork over $20,000 before the vulgar trader would evacuate the temple of liberty. But the old structure is now owned by Texas and one of these days it will be used to shelter all the relics of the war for Texas independence in the possession of the State.
The Alamo won its glory during the war for Texas independence. On the 23rd of February, 1836, Santa Anna, Dictator of Mexico, with an army of from 3,000 to 6,000 men, well armed and equipped, invested the Alamo, then garrisoned by 145 Texans. The garrison was commanded by Lieut. Col. William Barrett Travis. Travis had been commissioned lieutenant-colonel of cavalry by the provisional government, but his corps had not been raised, and those under his command in the Alamo were volunteers. James Bowie was second in command, and the gallant and eccentric David Crockett was there as a volunteer in the ranks. There were seven women in the garrison, including a Mexican and a negress. The Mexicans bombarded the fort. The siege lasted for 12 days. On Sunday, March 6, 1836, the Alamo was stormed and all its defenders killed. On the tenth day of the siege, when Travis became convinced that succor would not arrive in time, he announced to his companions their desperate situation. He declared his intention to sell his life as dearly as possible, and drew a line in the yard with his sword. He exhorted all who were willing to fight to the death with him to form on the line. With one exception, all fell into the ranks. Even Bowie, who was dying with consumption, had his cot carried to the line. The man who declined to enter the ranks escaped from the fortress that night.
When the Mexicans stormed the fortress they killed every person in sight. The Texans sold their lives dearly. All of them were killed—144—but nearly 2,000 Mexicans bit the dust. The Mexicans had to kill every man in the fortress before they could call it their own. Thermopylae had her messenger of defeat; The Alamo had none.
Four noncombatants escaped the slaughter. They were a negro servant of Col. Travis, Mrs. Alsbury, Mrs. Dickenson and the infant daughter (4 days old) of the latter. * * Almiram Dickenson was a lieutenant of the volunteer force under Travis at the Alamo. Travis and Dickenson were not only brothers in arms battling for the same cause, but warm personal friends. Dickenson was a brave, rough frontiersman. He was a huntsman, an Indian fighter and a lover of adventure. His wife was also accustomed to the border. She could shoot as straight as her husband, and shared in all his dangers and adventures without quailing. She had little of the polish of civilization, and no education. Dickenson and his wife and child lived at San Antonio when Santa Anna marched on the city. Dickenson immediately joined Travis' band and was chosen a lieutenant. When the Americans in San Antonio retired to the Alamo, Lieut. Dickenson took along his wife and child. When the Mexicans scaled the walls of the Alamo and the slaughter of the garrison was nearly complete, Dickenson tied his child on his back and leaped from an upper window. Scarcely had he touched the ground when himself and child were riddled with bullets. On the eighth day of the siege, or more correctly, the 2d of March, while the Mexican batteries were belching forth death and destruction and the gallant defenders of the Alamo were resisting overwhelming numbers. Mrs. Dickenson gave birth to a little girl. When the Alamo was captured and its last defender was dead, Mrs. Dickenson, still weak from the labors of maternity, was discovered with her babe in her arms in a dark and damp corner of the old church. Even the bloody Mexicans had compassion on her and her life was spared. She was cared for by some charitable people of the town. When the fate of the defenders of the Alamo became known, the Babe of the Alamo became the pet of all Texas. She was toasted and feted and petted. Presents were sent to her from all over the United States: silks and laces were sent from Philadelphia, jewelry from New York, books from Boston and Baltimore and money from Washington. Propositions were seriously made to make her the child of the State by legislative enactment. It is a pity that the State at least did not appoint a guardian for her. Mrs. Dickenson was a coarse, vulgar woman. She grew up herself without education, restraint or object. She was quite content that her daughter should do as she had done. What was everybody's business was nobody's business. Everybody in Texas was interested in Angelina Dickenson, the Babe of the Alamo, but nobody took care of her. When the babe was 4 or 5 years old her mother moved to Houston and soon afterwards married a drayman. Angelina was as warmly petted in Houston as in San Antonio. Everybody bought sweetmeats for her. Everybody gave her presents. She had more clothes, shoes and hats than she knew what to do with. She ran around wild, and if she happened to meet someone who did not know her she would habitually introduce herself as the Babe of the Alamo and demand obeisance. The rod was spared and the child was spoiled. She became a hoiden. She was as wild as a broncho. She finally became the terror of the town. She was sent to school and the first day cut up some papers for which the schoolmaster found it necessary to correct her. It was the first time anyone struck her and she rushed from the school yelling like a Comanche. Meeting a couple of young men she complained that the teacher had whipped her severely. Of course they were indignant. What impudence! A d—— Yankee schoolmaster beating the Babe of the Alamo! They would see about it. They did. The schoolmaster received a severe trouncing and was given three hours to leave town. It is hardly necessary to say that in future teachers refrained from correcting the Babe. The whole community—the whole State, combined to spoil her. All were proud of her, devoted to her, but not one to take an interest in teaching her to be a good woman. She grew up to be 10 years old—an ignorant, wayward, hot-tempered, impulsive, handsome girl bright and merry, and as reckless and wild as a doe. * * In the Second Congress of the republic the condition of the Babe of the Alamo was brought before the House of Representatives, and a bill was introduced to appropriate $10,000 to educate and care for the child until she reached womanhood. The Hon. Guy M. Bryan thus in the fiery ardor of the chivalric youth supported the bill in an impassioned speech. By the way, Mr. Bryan was elected to the Lower House of the Legislature from Galveston and Brazoria counties a few days ago and the fine old boy's voice will be apt to ring again through the corridors of the new Capitol next winter. As a specimen of early Texas oratory, an extract from Mr. Bryan's speech supporting the appropriation for the Babe of the Alamo may be interesting. It was delivered way back in the ‘40s: "I intended, Mr. Speaker, to be silent on this occasion, but silence would now be a reproach when to speak is a duty. No one has raised a voice in behalf of this orphan child; several have spoken against her claim. I rise, sir, in behalf of no common cause. Liberty was its foundation, heroism and martyrdom consecrated it. I speak for the orphan child of the Alamo. No orphan children of fallen patriots can send a similar petition to this house—none, save her, can say: "I am the child of the Alamo." Well do I remember the consternation which spread throughout the land when the sad tidings reached our ears that the Alamo had fallen. It was here that a gallant few, the bravest of the brave, threw themselves betwixt the enemy and the settlements, determined not to surrender nor retreat. They redeemed their pledge with the forfeit of their lives—they fell, the chosen sacrifice to Texas freedom. Texas, unapprised of the approach of the invader, was sleeping in fancied security, when the gun of the Alamo first announced that the Atilla of the South was near. Infuriated at the resistance of Travis and his noble band, he marshalled his whole army beneath the walls, and rolled wave after wave of his hosts against those battlements of freedom. In vain he strove, the flag of liberty—the Lone Star of Texas—still streamed out upon the breeze and floated proudly from the outer wall. Maddened and persistent, he reared his batteries, and after days of furious bombardment and repeated assaults he took a blackened and ruined mass—the blood-stained walls of the Alamo. The noble, the martyred spirits of all its gallant defenders had taken their flight to another fortress, not made with hands. But for this stand at the Alamo Texas would have been desolated to the Sabine. Sir, I ask this pittance and for whom? For the only living witness, save the mother, of this awful tragedy—‘this bloodiest picture in the book of time,' the bravest act that ever swelled the annals of any country. Grant the boon! She claims it as the Christian child of the Alamo—baptized in the blood of a Travis, a Bowie, a Crockett and a Bonham. To turn her away would be a shame. Give her what she asks that she may be educated and become a worthy child of the State—that she may take that position in society to which she is entitles by the illustrious name of her martyred father, illustrious because he fell at the Alamo." The House could not resist the plea of Mr. Bryan. The bill passed almost unanimously, and was sent to the Senate. It would have passed the Senate, too, but a hard-headed old fellow named Jesse Grimes was chairman of the appropriations committee and he refused to report it back, saying that the passage of the measure would establish a dangerous precedent, and that Bryan had turned too many heads, so the appropriation failed. * * Miss Dickenson, or as everybody called her, the Babe of the Alamo, resided at Houston until she reached the age of womanhood. She was thoroughly spoiled. She was a handsome young woman, tall and graceful, with a clear complexion, rich brown eyes, and a great mass of wavy brown hair. She grew up as wild and untamed as if she lived on the plains miles away from a civilized being or a human habitation. She went to school when she felt like it, left when she felt like it, and remained away altogether when she felt like it. When she saw anything in the shop windows that she took a fancy to, she hailed the first passer-by, introduced herself as the Babe of the Alamo, and bade him get it for her. As a general rule she got whatever she wanted. It is a pity that a veil cannot be drawn over Miss Dickenson's life from this time until her death. It is a mournful commentary on the frailties of human nature that the petted child of Texas, the Babe of the Alamo, should go to the bad, and that the son of William Barrett Travis should be the author of her ruin. Young Travis was a dissolute fellow. He settled in Hayes County and represented it in one session in the Legislature when he was barely of age. Like his father he was a fearless man and a soldier. He got an appointment in the United States army but was cashiered for drunkenness. He went to Houston a mature man of 35 when the Babe of the Alamo was barely 20. As the son of the commander of the Alamo defenders he called on Miss Dickenson, the daughter of his father's friend and comrade. They became fast friends, and the dissolute man effected the ruin of the reckless, unsophisticated young girl. He deserted her after a time and she went from bad to worse. She went to New Orleans and entered a house of prostitution and led a depraved life for a number of years. Her fame as the daughter of the Alamo went with her to her degradations, and she made capital of it. But Texans ever remembered her tenderly, and several unsuccessful efforts were made to redeem her. * * On one occasion she made a trip on a steamboat from New Orleans to St. Louis and back in company with a dashing young man about town of New Orleans. On the return trip her escort fell into conversation with a quiet gentleman on the boat. The quiet gentleman, in answer to a question, said he was from Texas. The young man said that he was accompanied by the Babe of the Alamo, and volunteered the further information that she was the most notorious courtesan in New Orleans. At this the quiet gentleman from Texas promptly knocked the young man down. The young fellow was one of the bloods of New Orleans and he challenged the Texan. The challenge was accepted. There was no trouble in securing seconds, and when the boat stopped ay Vicksburg the parties got off, went a couple of hundred yards from the river and exchanged shots. The Texan shot the young man through the head at the first fire and killed him. All parties assisted in taking the body on board and it was carried to New Orleans. The Babe of the Alamo remarked that he was a fool when she beheld his dead body. The Texan took her in charge, remonstrated with her for her evil life, and worked upon her feelings until she promised to accompany him to Texas. He promised to provide a home for her. When they reached New Orleans they boarded a boat for Galveston. When they reached Galveston the Babe met a drummer she knew in New Orleans, and giving her kind friend the slip, returned to New Orleans with him on the return trip of the boat. * * In the early days of the civil war Miss Dickenson, in company with some kindred characters went from New Orleans to visit a Confederate army camped in Mississippi. She fell in with some Alabama and Georgia tramps, got drunk and proceeded to have a high old time. Of course, she introduced herself as the Babe of the Alamo and told all about her birth and the affection in which she was held in Texas. After a while the soldiers became boisterous and the Babe was tossed in a blanket. This is a favorite trick of soldiers. It consists of several men grasping a blanket by the four corners, slacking it and then drawing it tight and pitching it. The person on the blanket is sometimes tossed 12 or 14 feet high. The Babe received some very rough treatment. Her clothes were torn in tatters and she bled copiously from the nose. When she escaped from her tormentors she made her way to the camp of some Texas troops, to whom she introduced herself and related her grievances. The Texans were wild. They sought the Georgia and Alabama fellows who abused the Babe, beat them into insensibility, and a first-class row between Georgia and Alabama on one hand and Texas on the other, was only prevented by the prompt action of the commanding general. The General sent the Babe and her companions out of the camp. * * Angelina Dickenson, the petted child of Texas, never reformed. Many Texans, individually, went to New Orleans to endeavor to rescue her, but their efforts were unavailing. She never looked upon life seriously, and until the time of her death was the untamed broncho. The late Ashbel Smith of Houston, on one occasion after vainly trying to induce her to return to Texas and reform, had her arrested in New Orleans and endeavored to have her confined in an institution. But she was of age and he could do nothing with her. She died in a brothel in New Orleans about 12 or 15 years ago. Young Travis ended almost as wretchedly as did his victim a career that dawned in promise. He was a hopeless drunkard for a number of years before his death, and died while in the throes of delirium tremens. O'B. M. —St. Louis Republic, November 18, 1888
The truth shall make you free.