Juana Gertrudis Navarro Alsbury is remembered as one of the few survivors of the Battle of the Alamo. Contemporary accounts of the battle's survivors often feature stories about Susanna Dickinson, the Anglo woman who purportedly nursed the ailing Jim Bowie, and William B. Travis' slave, Joe, as being the survivors. While a number of Tejana women and their children also survived the battle, most left no written record of the event. Juana Navarro, however, was interviewed later in life, and her son, also an eyewitness of the Alamo battle, preserved the memory of her experiences.
Juana was the daughter of Concepción Cervantes and José Angel Navarro, the older brother of José Antonio Navarro. Her father Angel became prominent in San Antonio affairs and during the Texas Revolution, served as jéfe político (political chief) of the Department of Béxar. At an early age, Juana was sent to live with her wealthy and influential godparents, Josefa Navarro Veramendi and her husband Juan Martín de Veramendi. There she met some of the most influential men in Texas -- including the charismatic James Bowie, who would eventually marry her cousin, Ursula Veramendi. Juana's first husband, Alejo Perez Ramigio, died in 1834. Later she married an Anglo newcomer, Dr. Horace Alexander Alsbury, who was instrumental in aiding the Texian cause during the Siege of Béxar and the Texas Revolution.
A Divided Family
As was the case with many Tejano families, the Navarros were split down the middle by the events leading up to the Alamo battle. While her father continued to uphold Mexican law, her uncle, José Antonio, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and her husband fought alongside the rebels. When the Mexican leader, Santa Anna, and his army of 5000 men entered Béxar on February 23, 1836, many Tejanos fled from what they knew would be a bloody battle.
Others dedicated themselves to the rebel cause and fortified the Alamo. Jim Bowie, husband of Juana's cousin Ursula, brought Juana, her son and younger sister into the Alamo compound for shelter. While inside, Juana cared for Bowie, who was dying of pneumonia. On March 6, the day of the Mexican assault, Juana saw the fighting first-hand and was narrowly saved from harm by two Alamo defenders. She later recounted how Mexican soldiers took the few valuables she had brought with her. After the battle, learning of her father's loyalty to Mexico, the victorious Santa Anna pardoned her and her family, equipping her with some blankets and a few pesos. She did not hear from her husband until months after the battle. Dr. Alsbury brought with him news of the Texas victory at San Jacinto.
During Juana's 11-year marriage, her husband's military activities continued. When the Mexican army briefly re-captured San Antonio in 1842, Alsbury was taken captive. Juana followed him to Mexico, where she waited two years for his release. Again involved in military action during the Mexican-American War, Alsbury died in Mexico in 1847.
A Widow's Compensation
Juana was widowed again at age thirty-five. She would remarry years later. In 1857, she petitioned the newly-formed U.S. state of Texas for payment for the losses she experienced during the Revolution. The legislature granted her a pension as compensation. She died on July 23, 1888.