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Battle of the Alamo coincided with Carroll's independence efforts [Eagle Archives]

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In October 1833 a referendum was held, in what we now know as the area encompassing Baltimore, Carroll and Frederick counties, on whether a new county was to be created. The vote failed, 593 to 554, although it was later speculated that it failed because of voter irregularities in Baltimore County.

Manchester, which had been against the idea of forming a separate (Carroll) county, “exultantly fired [a cannon] in the direction of defeated Westminster” after the vote was taken.

Subsequently a bill was introduced in 1835 and passed the General Assembly on March 25, 1836 to form Carroll County.  This act was confirmed on January 19, 1837. It took only a war of words that lasted about 50 years, but Carroll Countians had finally become an independent county.

This portion of Carroll County history came to mind earlier in the month as I pondered the events of Feb. 23 through March 6, 1836 while I studied a small clay, mud and straw building in a far-off land, now known as Texas.

Many will recognize the dates as when the Battle of the Alamo took place in San Antonio Texas. I took a few days in early September to tour the Alamo and San Antonio and study how its history compared with events in Carroll County in the same time frame.

With the exception of Manchester getting a bit feisty in 1833 and about three military campaigns during the American Civil War, Carroll County history is remarkably free of bloodshed and violence.

Although a small group of missionaries visited the San Antonio area as early as the 1675-1691 time period, it was not until 1718 that a mission outpost was built on the site of the Alamo. A more permanent building was started in 1744.

In Carroll County, it was near present-day Linwood, that the first recorded structure in the territory was built around 1715 by John Steelman.  In 1744, approximately 65 families lived in Carroll County.

But it was not until the Treaty of the Six Nations was signed on July 4, 1744 with the (Native American) Haudenosaunee Nation, the French and Indian War, 1754–63, was over, and the dispute over the Mason-Dixon Line was settled in 1767; that settlers started to come here in greater numbers.

The last piece of the puzzle enabling settlement in Carroll County with relative freedom from violence was the American Revolution, 1775-83.

In Texas, instead of arguing over the future of the area in a legislative body or bickering at the ballot box; tensions grew rapidly and erupted in violence after Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821 and the area became a Mexican state.

According to a history on the ‘official’ Alamo web site, “On April 6, 1830 the Mexican government attempted to stop the flood of immigration by prohibiting the settlement of emigrants from the United States.  The result only fueled …” the Texas Revolution, September 30, 1835-April 21, 1836; in which the Battle of the Alamo played a key role.

I was intrigued to learn that there was one native Marylander, Charles S. Smith, who fought and died at the Alamo. According to the Maryland State Archives, “there is a Charles S. Smith listed in the 1830 Maryland Census index for Charles County.

“There is also a land grant registered in the Texas Land Office to a Charles S. Smith dated October 14, 1835. The grant was for 4428.4 acres in Austin's Colony. In addition to the Alamo, Smith's known military service included participation in the Siege of Bexar and work as an artilleryman. He held the rank of Private under Unit Commander Carey. Smith died during the 13 day siege at the Alamo in San Antonio,” reports the State Archives.

According to numerous published histories of the battle, including that of historian Linda Davis Reno, “The Texans were vastly outnumbered at the Alamo. There were just 189 defenders against a force of almost 2,000 Mexicans, but yet they held their ground from February 23, 1836 until March 6, 1836.  It was on this date that Charles Somerset Smith was killed and his body, along with the other defenders, was burned at the orders of (the Mexican commander,) Santa Ana.

Reno also noted, “Thomas Kenny, the administrator of Smith's estate, collected his pay account of $74.66 on October 12, 1837.”

When he is not eating Mexican food in San Antonio, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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