“While we were conversing,” writes Crockett, “Colonel Bowie had occasion to draw his famous knife, and I wish I may be shot if the bare sight of it wasn’t enough to give a man of a squeamish stomach the colic. He saw I was admiring it, and said he, ’Colonel, you might tickle a fellow’s ribs a long time with this little instrument before you’d make make him laugh.’”
According to Crockett’s account, many shameful orgies took place in the little garrison. They were evidently in considerable trepidation, for a large force was gathering against them, and they could not look for any considerable reinforcements from any quarter. Rumors were continually reaching them of the formidable preparations Santa Anna was making to attack the place. Scouts ere long brought in the tidings that Santa Anna, President of the Mexican Republic, at the head of sixteen hundred soldiers, and accompanied by several of his ablest generals, was within six miles of Bexar. It was said that he was doing everything in his power to enlist the warlike Comanches in his favor, but that they remained faithful in their friendship to the United States.
Early in the month of February, 1836, the army of Santa Anna appeared before the town, with infantry, artillery, and cavalry. With military precision they approached, their banners waving, and their bugle-notes bearing defiance to the feeble little garrison. The Texan invaders, seeing that they would soon be surrounded, abandoned the town to the enemy, and fled to the protection of the citadel. They were but one hundred and fifty in number. Almost without exception they were hardy adventurers, and the most fearless and desperate of men. They had previously stored away in the fortress all the provisions, arms, and ammunition, of which they could avail themselves. Over the battlements they unfurled an immense flag of thirteen stripes, and with a large white star of five points, surrounded by the letters “Texas.” As they raised their flag, they gave three cheers, while with drums and trumpets they hurled back their challenge to the foe.
The Mexicans raised over the town a blood-red banner. It was their significant intimation to the garrison that no quarter was be expected. Santa Anna, having advantageously posted his troops, in the afternoon sent a summons to Colonel Travis, demanding an unconditional surrender, threatening, in case of refusal, to put every man to the sword. The only reply Colonel Travis made was to throw a cannon-shot into the town. The Mexicans then opened fire from their batteries, but without doing much harm.
In the night, Colonel Travis sent the old pirate on an express to Colonel Fanning, who, with a small military force, was at Goliad, to entreat him to come to his aid. Goliad was about four days’ march from Bexar. The next morning the Mexicans renewed their fire from a battery about three hundred and fifty yards from the fort. A three-ounce ball struck the juggler on the breast, inflicting a painful but not a dangerous wound.