Enrique Esparza, one of the many young children to witness the Alamo battle, is notable for being the only one to discuss his experiences in detail. As an eyewitness account, Esparza's story is unique. Although he was only eight years old at the time of the battle, he later recalled specifics about the experience that have aided historical understanding of what went on inside the walls of the Alamo.
A Divided Family
The Esparza family's experience during the Texas Revolution is emblematic of the crisis faced by many Tejanos in that period. Torn apart by political loyalties, the two Esparza brothers, Gregorio and Francisco, supported opposite sides in the Texas Revolution. While Enrique's father, Gregorio, chose to side with the revolutionaries, Francisco remained a soldier in the Mexican army. In 1835, Gregorio joined forces with Juan N. Seguín's company during the Siege of B éxar and Francisco defended the Alamo from the rebels under the leadership of General Mart ín Perfecto de Cos.
Screams and the Gunfire
Gregorio brought his wife, Ana Salazar, daughter, and three sons (including Enrique) to the Alamo for shelter, and he manned one of the cannons in the compound. Young Enrique saw a number of women and children in the fort in addition to seeing Anglo leaders Davy Crockett, William Travis, and Jim Bowie. His most gripping accounts are of the final attack. He recounted how his mother had the chance to leave the compound when Mexican leader Antonio López de Santa Anna called a brief armistice, but she refused. On the morning of March 6, Enrique watched as the Mexicans attacked and his father joined the fighting. He described how the families huddled in corners, all the while hearing the screams and gunfire of the men. Ultimately, the fighting spread into the room where the women and children were hiding. Mexican soldiers shot into the dark and narrowly missed them.
At daybreak, soldiers ordered the non-combatants to leave the fort. It was only during his mother's interview with Santa Anna that Enrique learned that his father had been killed. Learning of his brother's death, Enrique's uncle, Francisco, pleaded that he be allowed to give Gregorio a proper Christian burial. Santa Anna acquiesced and Gregorio was interred in the Campo Santo, a cemetery near San Pedro Creek. Mexican soldiers burned the bodies of the remainder of Alamo defenders in funeral pyres in the Alamo plaza.
The Last Survivor
Enrique did not share his experiences until he was in his seventies. In the early 1900s, San Antonians and others learned that the last Alamo survivor was living in their midst. Enrique told his story to an interviewer for the San Antonio Daily Express. Until then, his stories had only circulated among family members. He felt a certain responsibility for telling the world of his experience inside the Alamo, believing that he was the last one to tell it. As he put it, he had no difficulty remembering the event: "It is burned into my brain and indelibly seared there. Neither age nor infirmity could make me forget, for the scene was one of such horror that it could never be forgotten." He served his last days as a farmer and cart driver in Atascosa County, and died in 1917.