Of the nearly 250 people that occupied the now famous Alamo Mission (located in San Antonio, Texas), less than 50 survived the Battle of the Alamo. A remarkable woman named Susanna Dickinson and her toddler daughter were two of these survivors. Her experiences at Alamo provided some of the most remarkable eyewitness statements about the battle and the immediate aftermath.
Susanna is believed to have been born in 1814 in Tennessee. She was 15 when she married Almaron Dickinson in May of 1829. The two moved to Texas in 1831 where they had their only child, Angelina Elizabeth, in December of 1834. Her husband was one of the many who died during the 13 day battle against the Mexican Army.
The Battle of the Alamo began on February 23, 1836 and lasted until March 6, 1836. The exact number of forces in the Mexican Army that fought in the Alamo is unknown but estimates place the number near 4000 individuals. The Mexican Army was lead by President General Santa Anna. Of these, it is believed that about 600 Mexican soldiers were killed. Santa Anna was brutal in his attack and ordered that no prisoners be taken which accounted for the few survivors.
Susanna met General Santa Anna after the battle. She was one of four (including her daughter) that was sent to Gonzales with a letter of warning that was meant for Sam Houston. He wanted her to report that the Mexican army was too big to fight and to tell others what had happened at Alamo. It is reported that Santa Anna offered to adopt her young daughter but Susanna kept her daughter with her.
Susanna’s recollections about the battle are important for filling in what happened during the siege and what she saw afterwards. Some of her most famous recollections include the following.
- The last words of her husband: “Great God, Sue, the Mexicans are inside the walls! All is lost! If they spare you, save our child!”
- She saw both the body of Davy Crockett as well as the body of James Bowie.
- She confirmed an incident known as “The Line in the Sand” incident. This incident apparently gave defenders the choice of either staying or leaving. She gave the date as the day before the final assault by the Mexican Army.
This amazing woman had a difficult life after the events at the Alamo. She married four more times before dying in 1883 in Austin, Texas. Her first of these husbands was John Williams who beat both Susanna and her daughter. She was granted a divorce in 1838. Her next husband died of alcoholism in 1843. Yet another marriage (Peter Bellows) ended in divorce in 1857 after he accused her of adultery and prostitution. She was married to a man named Joseph William Hannig in 1857 and remained married to him until her death.
Susanna is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Texas. Her husband was buried next to her when he died in 1890.
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