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 General Antonio López de Santa Anna stormed that mission, a critical and savage moment in their campaign to reclaim control of the surrounding area from the self-proclaimed Texans. Outnumbered nearly ten-to-one, the besieged Alamo defenders scarcely stood a chance. Despite heroic resistance, every last one of them was killed. Their fateful last stand has lived on as one of the most iconic tales of courage in American military history. Nearly seven weeks after their deaths, Texas forces avenged their loss by decisively defeating the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto. Their battle cry? “Remember the Alamo!”
Many of the 189 Alamo defenders had come to Texas from the southern United States. The largest single cohort, including the legendary Davy Crockett, came from Tennessee; other large contingents hailed from Virginia, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. Alone in the sea of Southerners defending the mission stood one single Connecticut Yankee: Gordon Cartwright Jennings, born in Windham, Connecticut in 1782. At 53, he was the Alamo’s oldest defender.
Ironically, historians know more about Gordon Jennings’ death than they do his life. The few documentary records about him show that Jenning left the Constitution State in his early twenties, not long after filing for divorce. In that lawsuit, he cited his wife’s adultery as the reason for wanting the dissolution. Leaving his failed marriage behind him, Jennings moved around the country, likely living in Pennsylvania and Tennessee before settling for a time in the St. Louis, Missouri area. There, he remarried in 1822 and, in what one might surmise was a happier partnership, subsequently had four children. Drawn by the promise of inexpensive land, Jennings moved again, taking his family to Stephen F. Austin’s new Texas colony in 1833. There, he joined the local militia, serving in an artillery unit. Jennings died while manning the cannons at the Alamo on March 6, 1836. The 53 year old was not only the oldest Alamo defender, he was also the only one to hail from the Nutmeg State. Like so many other early 19th-century Connecticans, Jennings had left his then-economically-challenged natal state in search of a better life elsewhere. He ended up dying to preserve that dream for other Anglo-Americans at The Alamo — today in Connecticut history.
David Drury, “Historian Traces Connecticut Ties to the Alamo,” Hartford Courant
“The Defenders,” thealamo.org