The Alamo today

On a recent visit to the Alamo, I was surprised to see the Rhode Island flag displayed. The flag was in honor of Albert Martin, a Providence native who was among those who died defending the Alamo against the Mexican forces under General Santa Anna.  I knew about such heroes as Davey Crocket and Jim Bowie, but I had not known that a Rhode Islander was among those considered a hero during the Texas fight for Independence.  This was, in part, due to the fact that Martin was inaccurately listed as being from Tennessee.  It took a long time for the error to be corrected.

Who was Albert Martin?  How did he get to Texas?  What role did he play in the battle for Texas independence?

Albert Martin’s name on Memorial outside Alamo

Albert Martin was born in Providence in 1808 to Joseph and Abby Martin.  It seems he might have had some military training.  Some accounts say he attended what is now Norwich University.   At the time it was called “The American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy” and was located in Connecticut.  Other sources say he was admitted to West Point in 1824.  Military training would have come in handy when the family moved to Texas.

The family had been prominent merchants, but they fell on hard times.  The family was lured to the Texas area by the promise of land grants. The newly independent Mexican government wanted to populate the area.   Joseph, Albert and an older brother left Rhode Island in 1832.  They came by way of Tennessee and spent some time in New Orleans along the way.  They moved to Gonzales, Texas in 1835 where they ran a general store – a part of “Martin, Coffin & Company.”

Albert Martin arrived in Texas just in time to take a role in the battle for Texas Independence.  As General Santa Anna attempted to get more centralized control over the Texas area, the Texians (Anglo-American settlers) and the Tejanos (the Texans of Mexican and Native American  descent) joined together to fight for independence.

Martin’s military training would come to play in three  battles.  He joined the Gonzales Rangers and was one of the “Old Eighteen” defenders. The people of Gonzales had been given an old six pound cannon that was to be used to defend against attacks by local tribes.  In September of 1835 the Texans were shinning up the cannon to use it in defense of their town, but then over a hundred Mexican troops came to take it back.  Albert Martin had buried the cannon in a peach orchard and he and seventeen other defenders taunted the Mexicans with the cry “Come and Take It!” This allowed the rebels time to gather 150 troops for the Battle of Gonzales. On a foggy night the Texans crept up on the Mexican forces.  As the fog lifted the two sides faced each other.  After some musket fire from the Mexicans,  the Gonzales cannon shot nails and old horseshoes at the Mexican troops and they turned and headed away.  The men of Gonzales were jubilant.  The Texas Revolution had officially begun. In December of 1835 Martin was involved in the Battle for Bexar.

In February of 1836, Albert Martin arrived at the Alamo.  Beginning Feb. 23, 1836, a group of Texas rebels were holding a fort/church (the Alamo) from about 4000 Mexican forces under President/General Santa Anna.  The 13 day siege enabled Texas General Sam Houston to gather an army at San Jacinto.  Santa Anna had raised the flag that meant they would take no prisoners, so those defending in the Alamo knew what their fate might be.  The Texans replied with a shot of their cannon.  When the Texans learned that the Mexicans had requested to meet, both Jim Bowie and William Travis (co-leaders of the rebels) sent out emissaries.  Albert Martin went to speak for Travis.  Martin crossed the river under a flag of truce and met with Mexican Colonel Almonte on the footbridge. He said he was speaking for Travis and that if Almonte wanted to speak with Travis he would be received “with much pleasure.”   Almonte said he was just there to “listen” and stressed that the Texans’ only hope was to surrender.  Martin reported back to Travis.  Travis wrote to Sam Houston – “I answered them with a cannon shot.”

On February 24th, Colonel Travis decided to send off a letter for help.  Albert Martin would be his messenger.

Commandancy of the The Alamo

Bejar, Feby. 24th. 1836

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World-

Fellow Citizens & compatriots-

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna – I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man – The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken – I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls – I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch – The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country – Victory or Death.

William Barret Travis.

Lt. Col.comdt.

P. S. The Lord is on our side – When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn – We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.

Martin slipped out of the Alamo and the Mexicans made no effort to stop him.  He could hear the rumble of cannons behind him.  He reached Gonzales the next day.  Martin wrote on the back of that Travis letter “Hurry on all the men you can.”  He passed the letter on to a fresh rider, Launcelot Smithers who road on to San Felipe and arrived there February the 27th.  More couriers spread the word on to settlements to the Gulf Coast.

According to Martin’s obituary in the July 1836 Manufacturers and Farmer’s Journal, Martin’s father tried to persuade him not to go back to the Alamo and certain death.  Albert said “This is no time or such considerations.  I have passed my word to Colonel Travers, that I would return, nor can I forfeit a pledge thus given.”  He gathered a group of 62 who would go to the Alamo with him, but in the end only 32 from Gonzales arrived with him on March 1st.    Although the group was small, it did revive the spirits of the rebels.

March 6th was the final battle.  The battle took only 90 minutes.  Santa Anna would not allow a proper burial for the men who had defended the Alamo.  Their bodies were burned. The women and children were allowed to go to spread the message of the Mexican victory.

Martin’s  obituary goes on to say:  “Thus died Albert Martin, a not inapt illustration of New England heroism.”  Although Albert Martin has no burial place, Rhode Islanders did not forget him  There is a marker in a North Burial Ground, Providence.  “Albert Martin fell at the Alamo, Texas in defense of his adopted country, March 6, 1836.  Aged 28 y’rs and 2 mo’s.”


Lord, Walter:  A Time to Stand:  The Epic of the Alamo.  1961, Harper Row, NY.

Handbook of Texas Online, Bill Groneman, “MARTIN, ALBERT,” accessed December 02, 2019,

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