About Juana Gertrudis Alsbury (Navarro)
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Juana Navarro Alsbury (1812 – July 23, 1888) was one of the few Texian survivors of the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution in 1836. As Mexican forces entered her hometown, San Antonio de Bexar, on February 23, Alsbury's cousin by marriage, James Bowie, brought her with him to the Alamo Mission so that he could protect her. Bowie, the co-commander of the Texian forces, collapsed from illness on the second day of the siege; Alsbury nursed him throughout the remainder of the siege. On March 4, Texian co-commander William Barret Travis sent her as an emissary to Mexican commander Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to negotiate an honorable surrender for the Texian forces. She made no headway, and her visit likely increased Santa Anna's impatience to end the siege in a spectacular fashion. Santa Anna launched an early-morning assault on the Alamo on March 6.
Most Texian troops were killed during the Battle of the Alamo. Two of them died in front of Alsbury. One Texian was killed trying to protect Alsbury, her sister Gertrudis, and her young son Alijo Perez Jr., from Mexican troops. The other was found hiding in her room. The women were rescued by a Mexican officer and interviewed by Santa Anna before being released.
Alsbury belonged to a prominent family within San Antonio de Bexar and was raised by her uncle Juan Martin de Veramendi, who briefly served as governor of Texas. She married three times. Her first husband died of cholera; the second, Dr. Horace Alsbury, was captured by Mexican forces during the Mexican-American War; after his death, she married a cousin of her first husband.
Juana Gertrudis Navarro was born in San Antonio de Bexar (modern San Antonio, Texas) to José Ángel Navarro and Concepción Cervantes. Her exact birthdate was unrecorded, but she was baptized on December 28, 1812. The Navarro family was well known in Bexar; both Juana's father and his brother, José Antonio Navarro, held prominent positions in local government. Her paternal aunt, Josefa Navarro, married Juan Martín de Veramendi, who briefly served as governor of Spanish Texas.
After Juana's mother died, she and her younger sister Gertrudis were adopted by the Veramendi family and raised alongside their daughter, Ursula. In 1832, Juana married Alejo Pérez Ramigio. That same year, Juana's adoptive parents and her cousin Ursula died in a cholera epidemic in Monclova, Mexico. Juana's husband likely died of the same disease in 1834. She had one son, Alijo Perez Jr., and may have given birth to a daughter who died in infancy.
In the early to mid-1830s, the political situation in Mexico underwent much upheaval. Federalists wished to delegate many powers to the individual Mexican states, while centralists wished to consolidate power at the national level. In 1835, several interior Mexican states, angry at the increasingly dictatorial policies of Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna, took up arms against the Mexican government. Texians launched their own armed rebellion, known as the Texas Revolution, in October 1835. Over the next two months, Texians successfully removed all Mexican troops from the region. Their actions infuriated Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who immediately began preparations to invade Texas. Juana's father joined Santa Anna's new Army of Operations in Texas as an officer. The remaining members of the Navarro family supported the Texian cause.
In January 1836, Juana married again, to Dr. Horace Alsbury. Rumors soon flew that Santa Anna and his army were coming directly toward Bexar, location of the Alamo Mission, one of two Texian garrisons. Many local residents fled the town. On February 23, Horace Alsbury left for East Texas, determined to find a safe place to bring his wife, her son, and her sister Gertrudis. Alsbury left his family with James Bowie, the widower of Juana's cousin Ursula. Later that afternoon, the vanguard of Santa Anna's army arrived. Bowie moved into the Alamo, accompanied by Juana, Alijo and Gertrudis. By the end of the day, more than 1,500 Mexican troops had entered Bexar and initiated a siege of the Alamo.
At some point on the second day of the siege, Bowie collapsed from illness. He was confined to his bed and Juana acted as his nurse. Throughout the siege, the Mexican army kept up a continual bombardment, while the Texians were forced to conserve their ammunition and rarely respond. On March 3, an additional 1,000 Mexican soldiers arrived in Bexar. The Texians were vastly outnumbered, although between 32 and 80 additional men were able to break through Mexican lines to join them in the Alamo, bringing Texian numbers to approximately 250.
The following evening (March 4), Alamo commander William Barret Travis sent Juana to Santa Anna to try to negotiate an honorable surrender for the Alamo defenders. Fellow survivor Susanna Dickinson misinterpreted Juana's mission and, years later, accused her of deserting the Texians to provide information about their defenses to her father, who served on Santa Anna's staff. Historians do not believe that Juana spied for the Mexican army, but they do believe that her visit likely increased Santa Anna's impatience to end the siege. As historian Timothy Todish noted, "there would have been little glory in a bloodless victory". The following morning, Santa Anna announced to his staff that the assault would take place early on March 6.
The Mexican army launched their assault just before 6:00 am on March 6. During the battle, Juana and her son and sister hid in one of the rooms along the west wall. Gertrudis Navarro opened the door to their room to signal that they meant no harm. When Mexican soldiers threatened them, a Texian defender charged into the room to defend them; he was quickly killed, as was a young Tejano who took refuge in the room. A Mexican officer soon arrived and led the women to a spot along one of the walls where they would be relatively safe.
When the battle ended, almost all of the Texians were dead. Most noncombatants were spared. Santa Anna personally interviewed them each on March 7. He was most impressed with Dickinson, and offered to adopt her young daughter and educate the child in Mexico City. No similar offer was extended to Juana, whose son was approximately the same age. Each woman was given a blanket and two silver pesos. Juana and her family were allowed to move into their father's home in Bexar.
The Texas Revolution ended in April 1836, when the Texian army captured Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. The Mexican government refused to recognize the Treaties of Velasco or the new Republic of Texas. In September 1842, Mexican general Adrian Woll invaded Texas and captured Bexar. He arrested several dozen Texians, including Horace Alsbury, and marched them into Mexico. Juana followed as far as Candela, Coahuila. She waited there for almost two years, until Horace Alsbury was released in 1844. The couple then returned to Bexar.
Alsbury likely died in 1847. At some point after that, Juana married again, to Juan Pérez, her first husband's cousin.
The state of Texas began offering pensions to many people who had served in the Texas Revolution, and in 1857 Juana petitioned the legislature. For her service as a nurse to Bowie, she was granted a small pension.
Juana died on July 23, 1888 at her son's home along Salado Creek in Bexar County, Texas. She was either buried there or at a Catholic cemetery within San Antonio