On March 6, 1836, 189 men who had pledged allegiance to the newly-formed Republic of Texas lost their lives defending a small, fortified mission known as the Alamo near San Antonio, Texas. Following a thirteen-day siege, Mexican troops under the command of General Antonio López de Santa Anna stormed the Alamo and killed every last male defender inside as part of a larger campaign to reclaim control of the surrounding area from the self-proclaimed Texians. Outnumbered nearly ten-to-one, the besieged Alamo defenders scarcely stood a chance; their fateful last stand has since become known as one of the most iconic tales of tenacity and bravery in American military history. Nearly seven weeks later, Texian forces decisively defeated the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto, fueled in a large part by the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!”
Many of the 189 officially recognized Alamo defenders were Anglo-Americans who had moved to the territory (and later Republic) of Texas from the United States or U.S.-controlled territories to the north or east. The largest single cohort, including the famous Davy Crockett, came from the state of Tennessee; other large contingents hailed from Virginia, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. Among the sea of native Southerners at the Alamo stood one single Connecticut Yankee: Gordon Cartwright Jennings, who was born in Windham, Connecticut in 1782.
Ironically, as one of the famous Alamo defenders, one could argue that historians know more about Gordon Jennings’ death than they do his life. From the few documentary records that are available about Jennings, it is known that he left the Constitution State not long after filing for divorce in his early twenties, citing adultery on his wife’s behalf as the reason. Leaving his failed marriage behind him, Jennings moved around the country several times, likely living in Pennsylvania and Tennessee before moving to the St. Louis, Missouri area, where he remarried in 1822 and had four children. Attracted by the promise of inexpensive land, Jennings moved his family to Stephen F. Austin’s new Texan colony in 1833, where he soon joined the local militia, serving in an artillery unit. He died while manning the cannons at the Alamo on March 6, 1836. At age 53, Gordon Jennings was the oldest of the 189 known Alamo defenders, and the only one to hail from the state of Connecticut. Like so many other Connecticans in the early 19th century, he left his tiny home state in search of better opportunities and more easily-obtainable land elsewhere, and ended up dying to preserve that dream for other Anglo-Americans in the Texas territories. The Alamo, and the men who defended it, remembered — today in Connecticut history.
David Drury, “Historian Traces Connecticut Ties to the Alamo,” Hartford Courant
“The Defenders,” thealamo.org