the alamo - Time Machine Miniatures
CREATING AN EPIC DIORAMA OF AN EPIC BATTLE
AFTERMATH OF THE ASSAULT
“Much blood has been shed, but the battle is over; it was but a small affair.”
-Generalissimo Anotonio Lopez de Santa Anna Perez de Lebron
As Santa Anna strolled through the ruined Alamo in the immediate aftermath of the assault, the spectacle of the dead and dying
left him unmoved. The assault had actually been unnecessary. After 12 days of cannon bombardment, the fort’s walls were crumbling. Provisions were running out. The beleaguered garrison’s surrender was imminent. Still, Santa Anna stunned his officers
with his insistence on an attack. The reasons were likely political rather than military. At least one of his officers believed he
ordered the assault to prevent the garrison’s surrender, stating that the generalissimo, ―would have regretted taking the Alamo
without clamor and without bloodshed, for some believe that without these there is no glory.‖ One of Santa Anna’s generals had
complained that an assault would result in the needless death of so many of the army’s soldiers. But Santa Anna was firm, stating,
―What are the lives of soldiers than so many chickens?‖
Now, walking among the dead, he stated, ―...these are the chickens. Much blood has been shed, but the battle is over; it was
but a small affair.‖ In strictly military terms he was correct. Less than 2,000 men (180 or so Texians and the rest Mexican) had
been involved. Casualties – including the entire Texian force, Mexican dead and wounded, and those that died later of their
wounds – had probably been about 800.
But numbers alone do not tell the story. The moral effect of the battle was tremendous. The loss of the Alamo – and the massacre of the Texian force at Goliad shortly thereafter – awakened the Texians to their peril. In both cases Santa Anna could have
taken the garrisons with few casualties. Stories of Mexican compassion and Texian failure could have deterred others from joining
the Texian cause. But instead of taking the moral high ground, he chose the path of bloodthirsty butcher and his actions galvanized
the nascent Republic of Texas. Showing contempt for the Texian ―army‖, Santa Anna divided his forces, and at San Jacinto –
with the cry of ―Remember the Alamo – Remember Goliad‖ on their tongues – the Texian Army got their revenge when they defeated a portion of the divided Mexican army and captured Santa Anna. Texan independence soon followed.
THROUGHOUT THE TEXT, HISTORICAL INFORMATION IS CONTAINED IN RED-BORDERED YELLOW
“The fall of the Alamo and the massacre of its garrison, which in 1836 opened the campaign of Santa Anna in Texas, caused a profound sensation throughout the United States, and is still remembered with deep feeling by all who take an interest in the history of that section...not a
single combatant of the last struggle from within the fort survived to tell the tale, while the official reports of the enemy were neither circumstantial nor reliable. When horror is intensified by mystery, the sure product is romance.”
- Captain R.M Potter, from an article written in 1860
“When horror is intensified by mystery, the sure product is romance.” Those words, originally written in 1860—within
living memory of the event—are still true today. Since the battle, legend has become so tangled with fact it is difficult to tell
one from the other. The horror of the event has become intensified by mystery, and romance has most surely been the product.
This article details the making of a diorama that tells only a small a portion of the story of the assault on the Alamo. It
shows one possible interpretation of David Crockett’s last stand by the Alamo Chapel. In many ways, the diorama portrays the
legend at least as much as the reality. This article does NOT detail basic techniques of assembling, painting, and converting
miniature figures or creating basic groundwork. Those methods are covered, in-depth, in one of my other booklets for Time
Machine Miniatures, ―Gandamak: The End of the Road to Ruin‖, and in my other many articles available for free download in
my Yahoo Group. Refer to the last page of this article for details on how to access these. This booklet is therefore not a complete stand-alone work, but is basically a supplement to the earlier ―Gandamak‖ book.
Time Machine Miniatures markets two figure sets depicting Alamo combatants. One includes Crockett and three Alamo
defenders, and the other a Mexican officer and three soldiers. Detailed historical notes and painting guides are included. A
few additional Alamo single figures may also be released by Time Machine. The figures themselves are typical of Time Machine. Also used in this diorama are other Time Machine releases. By the same sculptor, Chris Tubb, kits in the ―American
Heritage‖ and ―British Colonial‖ series are compatible in both size, detail, and design. In fact, many of the figures in the
―American Heritage‖ line could be used with the Alamo sets with no modifications whatsoever.
The figures were assembled, converted, and painted using my normal methods. These methods are explained in numerous
of my other articles and in my book for Time Machine Miniatures, ―Gandamak: End of the Road to Ruin‖. Check out the last
page of this article for information on how to access those other works. The figure are very similar to the Gandamak pieces,
and all the techniques used to create the figures for that diorama are also applicable here—a few of these figures are actually
converted Gandamak pieces!
BACKGROUND TO THE BATTLE
“I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never
forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country”
-William B. Travis
Under President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the government of Mexico revoked the federalist constitution of 1824 and assumed
increasingly dictatorial policies. Many federalists revolted– by 1835 this included the border region of Texas; largely populated by immigrants (legal and illegal) from the United States. Santa Anna sent a force under General Cos to Texas to arrest troublemakers. By December, Texian (as they called themselves) rebels defeated the last Mexican soldiers in the region when they forced Cos’ troops in San Antonio to surrender. Believing the war to be over, many Texians returned home. But it was actually only the beginning. Determined to crush
the rebellion, Santa Anna put together a large ―Army of Operations in Texas‖ to restore order.
After the surrendered (but paroled) Mexican forces under Cos departed San Antonio, the Texians established a garrison at the Alamo, a
crumbling old Spanish mission that had been converted into a makeshift fort. The fort was armed with 18 cannon – most of which had
been left behind by the departing Mexicans. In command was James C. Neill, a competent artillery officer. The Texians did what they
could to improve the defenses at the site, but the mission compound had been originally built to withstand Indian attack – not an assault by
an artillery equipped army. Not only that, but the garrison was woefully undermanned and ill-supplied. Less than 100 men were present
to man the fort’s 1,320 feet perimeter. A lack of cavalry and horses prevented the garrison from sending out scouting parties to locate and
track approaching Mexican forces. There was no sense of urgency: no one believed the Mexicans would arrive so soon.
As 1836 began, reinforcements arrived. These included Volunteer Colonel James Bowie with 30 men, Lieutenant Colonel William B.
Travis with 30 more, and a small group under David Crockett. Unaware that a Mexican army 6,000 strong was advancing on Texas, Neill
took leave to take care of personal issues. He turned command over to Travis, the highest ranking regular officer. As volunteers comprised much of the garrison, they were unwilling to accept Travis and instead elected Bowie. To mitigate any ill-feelings, Bowie agreed to
share command with Travis.
Meanwhile, the Mexican army had made a grueling march across hundreds of miles of extremes of terrain and weather. They arrived
in the early hours of February 23rd; far sooner than it was believed they would. Few arrangements had been made to resist a siege. As the
Mexican army arrived, Texians scrambled to drive cattle into the Alamo and scrounge for provisions in local houses. Several brought
their families with them as they retreated into the compound. By that afternoon, about 1,500 Mexican troops occupied the town and
hoisted the blood red flag of ―no quarter‖. Calling on the garrison to surrender unconditionally, the Mexicans received a cannon ball in
reply. On the 24th, Bowie collapsed from illness becoming largely confined to his cot. Travis assumed sole command of the garrison.
Over the next few days, the Mexicans established artillery batteries to the south, east, and northeast of the fort. Cavalry was positioned
to intercept anyone attempting to reinforce or flee the fort. At first, the Texians returned the Mexican artillery fire (often reusing Mexican
cannon balls) but on the 26th, Travis ordered the artillery to conserve powder and shot. There was a skirmish on the 24 th when 200-300
Mexicans occupied shacks near the Alamo walls. Several Texians sortied out and burned the huts. As the weather turned colder, Texians
attempted to venture out and gather firewood, but were thwarted by Mexican troops. Causalities were few in these small skirmishes.
As news of the siege spread, reinforcements gathered in Gonzales, 90 miles away. Only a handful made it into the garrison. But on
March 3rd, nearly 1,000 Mexicans reinforcements arrived. The Mexican army now had almost 2,400 troops in San Antonio. On the morning of the 5th, Santa Anna determined to assault the Alamo the following day. Legend has it that on the 5 th, Travis gathered the defenders
together and explained that an attack was imminent, and that the Mexicans would prevail. Although possibly apocryphal, legend states
Travis drew a line in the sand and asked those willing to die for the Texian cause to cross and stand alongside him. We are told only one
man refused. The stage was set.
Right: A map of the
Alamo by the Mexican
Commander of Engineers, Labastida. It
shows the town of San
Antonio in a loop in the
Sand Antonio river
(bottom center), La
Villita just across the
river, and the Alamo
Far Right: A “New
Orleans Grey” – one of
the defenders of the
Alamo. This figure is a
stock Time Machine
“One can but admire the stubborn resistance of our enemy, and the constant bravery of all our troops. It seemed every cannon ball or
pistol shot of the enemy embedded itself in the breasts of our men who without stopping cried: "Long live the Mexican Republic! Long live
Santa Anna!" I can tell you the whole scene was one of extreme terror ... After some three quarters of an hour of the most horrible fire,
there followed the most awful attack with hand arms ....‖
-Unidentified Mexican Soldier
At 10 pm on March 5th, the
Mexican artillery fell silent.
As Santa Anna anticipated,
the exhausted defenders of the
Alamo garrison fell into the
first uninterrupted sleep they
had gotten since the siege
began. Mexican preparations
began just after midnight.
The troops were divided into
four attack columns, each
with veterans placed on the
outside to better control the
recruits and conscripts in the
middle of the columns. General Cos commanded 350
men, Colonel Duque and
Colonel Romero each commanded 400 soldiers, and
Colonel Morales led an additional 125. Lieutenant Colonel Amat and 400 troops remained in reserve. Despite
the cold, soldiers were not
wearing overcoats as these
could impede their movements. Clouds covered the moon, concealing the soldiers.
At 5:30 am, the troops silently advanced through the darkness. Cos approached the northwest corner. Duque advanced from the northeast to attack the north wall. Romero moved toward the east wall while Morales aimed for the low parapet on the south near the chapel.
Three sentries that had been posted outside the walls to warn of attack had fallen asleep and were killed by advancing Mexican troops. As
the columns arrived undetected within musket range of the walls, the silence was broken by bugle calls and shouts of ―Viva Santa Anna!‖
The noise alerted the Texians, who rapidly responded. Travis rushed to the walls and the noncombatants gathered in the chapel.
Although surprised, the Texians had some initial advantages. Loading their cannon with any metal they could find (including nails,
door hinges, and cut up horseshoes), they used the artillery as giant shotguns. One volley destroyed half a company of Mexican soldiers.
In close columns, only the Mexican soldiers in the front ranks could safely fire, but unaware of this danger, many raw recruits blindly
fired, often killing or injuring soldiers in front of them. The front ranks wavered, but the rear ranks pushed them on. Soon, the troops
were massed against the walls where the cannon could not depress enough to reach them. The Texians had to lean over the parapets –
exposing themselves to fire – to shoot. While firing his shotgun into the mass of soldiers below him, Travis became one of the first to die.
The attacking columns tried to place ladders and scale the walls, but those who were able to climb were quickly killed. The Mexicans fell
back and attacked again but were again repulsed. They attacked a third time, bolstered by the reserve.
The Mexicans at the north wall soon realized the wall contained many gaps and several – led by General Juan Amador - climbed the
wall and opened a postern gate, allowing other soldiers to pour into the compound. At nearly the same time, others breached the west wall
where there were few defenders. As the Texians abandoned the north and portions of the west wall, the defenders on the south side turned
their guns around to fire into the Mexicans breaching the perimeter from the north. However this action left the south wall weakly defended, and this area was soon overrun as well. About this, Romero’s men also gained access via the east wall.
As many as 60 of the defenders tried to flee but were cut down by cavalry that had been posted for that very purpose. Others fell back
to their final refuge in the long barracks and the chapel. The only portion of the wall still holding out was the log palisade near the chapel
defended by Crockett and his men. In danger of being overrun from the flank and rear, they fell back toward the chapel. The Texians had
failed to spike their cannon, and these were now turned on the barracks. The Mexicans fought with surviving Texians room to room. The
sick Bowie was bayoneted in his cot. The last Texians to fall were those defending the chapel. By 6:30 am, the Alamo was secured. Reportedly, between five and seven Texians surrendered or were captured alive. Santa Anna ordered their immediate execution. The noncombatants – mostly women and children with a couple slaves – were allowed to return to their homes.
CONVERSIONS FROM “DAVID CROCKETT’S LAST STAND”
Figure conversions were accomplished using my normal methods. Shown on the next pages are many of the conversions, simple
and complex, used to create the figures in this diorama. The photos do not show all the steps and are not intended as a primer on
sculpting, but they give an idea of the process and illustrate basic techniques.
They also show the wonderful versatility of the Time
Machine line of miniature figures. Most parts are Time Machine: parts from other manufacturers are listed where used.
These photos show some “generic”
changes made to many figures. Many were
fitted with Hornet heads. The Hornet
heads, in 1/35th scale, are the correct size
and are very expressive. I cut off the original head, hollowed out the collar, and fit the
new head. Attach desired headgear by hollowing out the hat and placing it on the
head. Hair was made from epoxy putty
textured with a sharp hobby knife.
As seen at right, putty was also used to create the round end of the epaulettes where needed. I also used several shakos from the
“Gandamak” series. These are bell-topped, and so must be trimmed to shape. New top bands are made with putty, which also
gives the shakos there needed height. They are detailed with putty. Straps are sheet pewter. I did not model chin scales on the
straps—these were simply painted on. Items that can be convincingly painted do not need to be sculpted.
The Time Machine “Kit Carson” was used basically stock. However, on some of the
older Time Machine releases detail on the muskets is lacking. This kit is a prime example—the weapon appears to be more of a musket “blank” rather than a finished piece
with no lock or trigger guard and only basic details elsewhere (above left). One option
to replace the musket entirely (easy to do). However, only basic changes were needed
to correct the most obvious discrepancies. To make a rifle, the barrel bands were
carved away and a lock and trigger were shaved off a Time Machine musket from the
“Gandamak” line and glued in place (above right). Other details were taken care of
with simple painting. Unless a figure is being designed for commercial production,
details that can be convincingly painted do not need to be sculpted in place.
The simplest conversions of all were hardly conversions!
The figure from Time Machine’s “New Orleans” vignette
loading his musket formed the basis of both these figures.
In the conversion at far left, the left hand, with pistol, is a
Time Machine part. The right hand is from the scrap box.
The bowie knife was made from thick metal foil. The patches
are thin metal foil.
In the conversion at near left, the head was replaced with
another Time Machine part. The musket was originally the
same provided with the Kit Carson figure. Rather than repair it, the portion below the left hand was replaced with a
newer Time Machine piece.
Making a Flag
When making thin sheets, such as a flag, I often mix
Magic Sculpt (very easy to work, easy to sand, but brittle
when thin) with a small bit of Duro (that does not take to
sanding or filing, but remains slightly flexibly). This
mixture gives me the best of both. Each epoxy putty is
mixed individually (above), and then mixed together.
Once mixed, the putty is rolled thin. I roll the putty on a
smooth piece of glass using a dowel rod. I use plenty of
talc powder to ensure the putty does not stick to the glass
After the putty
sheet starts to cure,
but while it is still soft
enough to shape, it is
cut to shape (1) and
super-glued to the flag
staff (2). The flag is
then shaped as needed.
To ensure the drapery
stays in place until the
putty is fully cured,
use any form that
works. In this case,
some blu-tack, pressed
into the appropriate
shapes, was used (3).
At (4) we see the finished flag.
The changes required to
convert the charging Mexican Infantryman (to a standard bearer (right) were
simple. The circles show the
changes. Required changes
included new hands and
repositioned left elbow. I
also chose to replace the
sandals with boots. The feet
were simply cut off at the
top of the sandal and boots
(from Michael Roberts
Miniatures) were glued in
their place. The flag was
made as shown on page 8.
ALL THE CONVERSIONS
SHOWN ON THIS PAGE
STARTED AS THE SAME
Simple changes can make dramatic differences!
Some changes were made to depict a
particular type soldier or a certain
action. Others were made simply for
variation. This figure is an example
of both. As several other version of
this running figure were used, I altered the legs. I bent the left leg and
straightened the right (the opposite
of the stock figure). Other changes
to depict this corporal included a
Hornet head, a converted shako
from the “Gandamak” line of kits,
arms from “Gandamak II”, and a
wire staff with blobs of epoxy added
to make the knots.
THIS + THIS = THIS
This figure was created using
the same running Mexican as
the other two figures on this
page. The right arm (slightly
modified) is from the New Orleans Grey figure. The head is
from Hornet. The shako is cut
from a Time Machine Mexican.
The bayonet was cut from an
extra Time Machine musket.
Although all three of these figures began the same, they are
altered enough that they could
be posed together easily. A
viewer might not even notice
they are the same figure.
In addition to the “American Heritage” line of kits, several figures from Time Machine’s “British Colonial / Gandamak” line
were also used. These figure were left over from the Gandamak diorama I did. By stripping them down to bare mannequins,
they could be made into anything (as the dead Texian at the top of the next page shows). But it is a simple to convert the 1840s
era British uniform to the 1830s timeframe Mexican uniform. This changes primarily entail removing the lace from the front of
the jacket and altering the epaulettes. Three examples are shown here.
The dead Mexican (above right) was created from the dead British soldier in the “Gandamak II” vignette. The boots and leg
wraps were cut away and replaced with sandals cut from a Mexican casting (above left). Rolled up pants were done with putty.
The haversack was replaced with a canteen from the spares box. The British shako was converted to a Mexican type.
The running figure shown below right was created from another figure in the “Gandamak II” vignette. The right leg was repositioned and the footwear altered just like the above conversion. A Hornet head and detail changes finished the conversion.
This figure was made from the
dead man in Time Machine’s
“Gandamak III”. Detail was
carved away (left). The left arm
was repositioned. The shirt and
collar are made from epoxy
putty. The suspenders are sheet
plastic with buttons cut from
plastic rod. The head is from the
scrap box. The pistol is an Airfix
part—the trousers were built up
around it with epoxy putty. The
hat is from a Shenandoah Miniatures.
This conversion created what is perhaps the most dynamic figure in the diorama. The figure is lunging with his bayonet.
This required totally new arms to be sculpted. These were fashioned with epoxy putty over a wire skeleton. The head, with
a suitable expression, is from Hornet.
Whether a conversion consists of a simple change or a complete reworking of the figure, the key is ensuring the anatomy
and pose stay correct and believable. Take the time to ensure these are correct or, no matter how technically well done the
detail is, the conversion will never work.
The kneeling Texian from the Time
Machine set formed
the basis for this
wounded man. He
was, quite simply,
tilted over onto his
required only that
the left leg be cut off
and reattached at a
new angle. A new
Time Machine right
hand was added as
was a Hornet head.
The main change to this figure was
simply standing him up! This was
done be slightly repositioning the left
New equipment, head and left hand are
New arms and a right hand completed
the conversion. Years ago, at a show, I
purchased a bag of partially completed
1/35th scale figures and parts from a
scrap bin for only $5. Most the figures
were WWII tankers. The figures have
proven very useful in providing arms,
legs, heads, and hands.
While more complex, this conversion—changing the musket wielding militiaman from “New Orleans” in a shotgun toting
Texan, was still easy. The left arm was repositioned. Next, a haversack (from the scrap box) was attached to the figure instead
of the kit provided cartridge box. A tear was added to the knee of the trousers. Putty was needed to repair the right shoulder
and sleeve, left elbow and shoulder, and to blend the haversack strap into the strap cast onto the figure. An Andrea Miniatures shotgun was converted into an earlier type by reshaping the stock and converting the lock from a percussion to flint-lock.
The original musket was cut away from the right arm and the new shotgun, along with a new right hand from the scrap box,
were glued in place. This required the right shoulder to be slightly altered.
Here is process involved in making the kneeling Texian from Time Machine into a shooting Tejano wearing sandals, a serape,
and a bandana. It started as the same kneeling figure used to model the wounded man on the previous page.
1. Boot were replaced with sandals and the bottom of the pants
rolled up using putty. The left
arm was slightly repositioned
and a Hornet head replaced the
Time Machine part.
2/3. The front and back of the
serape was added using sheets of
This was allowed to fully cure.
4. Using more of putty, the
shoulder area of the serape was
5. Details were added.
This figure started as the
militia man from Time
Machine’s “Death of Tecumseh” vignette.
could have been used absolutely stock with no conversion. Rather than holding
his musket at the low
ready, I chose to model him
with clubbed musket. The
weapon and hands were
replaced with old parts
from the spares box. The
stock arms were used, but
the change required joints,
and a bit of the cape, to be
repaired (at the arrows).
This was done with epoxy
putty. Other changes were
simply detail alterations.
Originally called the Mission San Antonio de Valero, construction began in the early 18th Century to educate and Christianize the
Indians. Construction halted in 1793 when Spain secularized San Antonio’s missions. In 1803, Spain stationed a cavalry unit at the mission. The cavalrymen called it the ―Alamo‖, either named for the cottonwood trees (Alamo is the Spanish word for ―cottonwood‖) that
grew nearby or for their hometown in Coahuila. During Mexico’s struggle for independence, and later during the Texas’ war for independence, military units (Spanish, Mexican, and Texian) occupied the site. At the end of the 1836 campaign, retreating Mexicans demolished many of the walls and burned several buildings. It was purchased by the US Army in 1849. They added the distinctive hump and a
roof on the chapel. The army left the site in 1876, and the chapel was soon sold to the state of Texas. Remaining buildings were sold to a
mercantile company. Eventually, the ―Daughters of the Republic of Texas‖ took control of the few remaining structures. Today, the
chapel and the remaining portion of the long barracks are part of a small beautiful park in downtown San Antonio. Nothing else of the
original structures remain. Although it bears scant resemblance to it’s 1836 appearance, people continue to remember the Alamo, and for
many the site remains sacred ground—the Shrine of Texas Liberty.
The mission at the time of the battle. The
solid black rectangle shows the approximate area contained in the diorama.
DAVID CROCKETT (1786-1836):
―Davy Crockett‖ is one of the most well-known figures in American history. Any
schoolchild can tell you about how Crockett – king of the wild frontier - died fighting at the
Alamo. David Crockett (he never used ―Davy‖) was a celebrated 19th-century American
folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician. He became legendary in his lifetime, and his
legend continued to grow after his death. He was ―reborn‖ in a series of Disney specials in
the mid 1950s. The image we have of him today comes largely from these shows, starring
Fess Parker as Crockett.
Crockett grew up in Tennessee and gained a reputation as a hunter and outdoorsman.
After being elected colonel in the local militia, he was elected to the Tennessee state legislature. In 1826, Crockett was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In congress, he
opposed many of the policies of President Andrew Jackson, most notably the Indian Removal Act. This opposition to Jackson's policies led to his defeat in the 1834 elections,
prompting his angry departure to Texas shortly thereafter. He told his constituents, ―You
can go to hell, I’m going to Texas!‖
He hoped to renew his political career and become wealthy as a land agent. When he
arrived, he discovered Texas was fighting for its independence from Mexico. In February
1836, ―Colonel‖ Crockett and about 12 Tennessee volunteers joined the Alamo garrison.
Some historians believe that a few men, perhaps including Crockett, survived the battle but
were then executed immediately afterwards by the Mexicans. Others believe that all the
defenders died in the battle. This question has generated a great deal of controversy. It is
likely that some defenders were taken alive and subsequently executed, but the evidence of whether or not Crockett was among them is
mixed. In my opinion, it makes no difference. Mexican reports never suggested the executed prisoners were cowards - on the contrary,
"these unfortunates died without complaining and without humiliating themselves before their torturers." That may not be stirring enough
for those who prefer the Disney version of history, but it in no way lessens the bravery or the sacrifice. In the final analysis, where he died
matters far more than how he died.
NOTES ON DRESS AND EQUIPMENT:
For the most part, the Texian army was not a uniformed force. Most wore civilian clothes. They ranged from frontiersmen to southern
gentlemen. The cloths were just as varied. These could be frontier – hunting shirt or frock and buckskin breeches. These could also be
hard wearing work clothing. Some even wore store-bought clothes consisting of frock coat and round hat. The few native Tejanos present
probably wore their normal clothing including their traditional short trousers. Foot wear ranged from shoes, to boots, to moccasins.
Weapons ranged from Kentucky rifles, to muskets, to shotguns. Equipment was a matter of choice or availability. About 33 members of
the New Orleans Greys were present at the Alamo. They wore a uniform and forage cap. This was probably grey work clothing and sealskin caps rather than the ―uniform‖ of surplus US fatigues and forage caps they are often depicted as wearing. They carried US weapons
and equipment. However, they had seen hard campaigning since October 1835 and may not have been very uniform . In an angry dispatch to General Sam Houston (self-proclaimed commander of the Texian Army) Colonel Neill had complained, ―The men under my
command have been in the field for the last four months. They are almost naked.‖ Doubtless many of the caps and trousers had been
replaced with civilian items and weapons and equipment personalized or exchanged according to personal preference. Although probably
not present at the Alamo, the Texian ranks were swelled by ―deserters‖ (often times encouraged by their officers) from the US Army.
Many of these wore their US uniforms with insignia removed. Although we often picture Crockett in buckskins in keeping with his role as
―Lion of the West‖, he normally wore more conventional gentlemen’s attire of frock coat, cravat, waistcoat, and top hat. With the exception of the top hat, this is how he was dressed at the Alamo. One Mexican soldier reported he had on a coat with capes. General Cos described him as well-dressed. One of the non-combatants in the fort, Susanna Dickinson, testified seeing his ―peculiar cap‖ by his side. So
he was very likely dressed exactly as depicted by the Time Machine figure—right down to the famous coonskin cap.
It is difficult to be precise about Mexican uniforms. Regulations followed European practice. However, years of neglect resulted in
troops often being ill-supplied and wearing outdated uniforms. The army for the invasion of Texas was rapidly assembled resulting in
regiments receiving whatever was available – different uniforms may have even been used within the same unit. The uniforms of the
militia were even more uncertain, although officially they should have been identical. Prior to the battle of the Alamo, the Mexican army
had undertaken a long rapid march through extremes of both terrain and weather. This would certainly have taken a toll on uniforms and
footwear. Soldiers were also issued a white fatigue uniform, but there is no evidence of any units wearing this uniform at the Alamo
(although they were worn later in the campaign). However, it was common for soldiers to wear the white fatigue pants with the blue
jacket. Belts and straps were white leather, although some units – especially light infantry – may have worn black leather belts. It was
common practice to wear the trousers with the bottoms rolled up and with a rawhide thong tied around the leg just below the knee. It was
also common for peasant-style sandals to be worn or even to go barefoot! However, at least one source states that before the Alamo assault, Mexican officers were ordered to ensure their soldiers were wearing the issue boots or sandals. The fact that this order was given
implies most usually did not wear them! How many officers actually conducted the inspection, and what soldiers did in the time that
passed between the inspection and the assault, may all be questioned. We can be fairly sure such an order was given, but while we can
believe most probably wore their brogans, sandals were likely common, and even bare feet are not out of the realm of possibility.
CREATING THE DIORAMA
From the Osprey Campaign series book, “The Alamo”, this print by Angus McBride was the inspiration for the Time Machine figures and for
the diorama featured here. A small copy of the painting is also included in the information booklet that comes with the Time Machine kits.
CREATING THE DIORAMA
“The columns of soldiers bravely storming the fort in the midst of a terrible shower of bullets and cannon fire...Our soldiers, some stimulated
by courage and others by fury, burst into the quarters where the enemy had entrenched themselves, from which issued an infernal fire. Behind these came others who, nearing the doors and blind with fury and smoke, fired their shots against friends and enemies alike, and in this
way our losses were most grievous. On the other hand, they turned the enemy’s own cannon to bring down the doors to the rooms or the
rooms themselves; a horrible carnage took place, and some were trampled to death. The tumult was great, the disorder frightful; it seemed
as if the furies had descended upon us”
-Jose Enrique de la Pena (A Lieutenant in the Mexican Army)
CONCEPTS AND COMPOSITION:
The figures released by Time Machine as part of their ―Alamo‖ sets are clearly inspired by an Angus McBride painting featured in the Osprey Campaign book ―The Alamo‖. While the figures are very similar, there is one thing missing from the figures that is prominent in the painting—context. Unless the viewer recognizes Crockett or unless there is some sort of identifying nameplate, there is nothing to indicate ―Alamo‖. The painting shows a portion of the chapel façade and part of the south
palisade with a gun platform. I decided to recreate the same scene in the diorama. The Alamo chapel is perhaps the most recognizable building in all of Texas history. This, combined with the well-dressed rifleman in the coonskin cap will clearly and
immediately let the viewer know what they are seeing.
The obvious problem to this approach is one of scale. The Alamo was a very large compound, and even with the number of
the figures I was able to put together for this project, only a very small portion would be practical. Therefore, I chose to include
not the entire façade, but only as much as necessary to let the viewer know what it was. I cut it off just past the door. I included a portion of the palisade to the gun platform. That allowed me to include a cannon. After all, the Alamo was primarily
an artillery fortification. However, the size diorama needed to show a recognizable amount of the fort would have completely
swallowed the 8 original Time Machine figures. Hence, all the conversions to create enough humanity to fill the scene.
To my knowledge, no manufacturer makes an appropriate model cannon in the right scale to go with the Time Machine fig15
CREATING THE DIORAMA
ures. We really don’t have a lot of good information on what type and design carriages the guns were mounted on! That allows lots of leeway. I found a toy gun on a basic carriage of a likely appropriate type and of about the right size. It served as
the basis on which to create my cannon. As the artillery along the palisade consisted of a light field-gun, I selected the smaller
of the two supplied gun tubes to use.
Made of soft plastic, removing the prominent mold seams was problematic and resulted in some damage (mostly gouging)
to the soft plastic. This was repaired with epoxy-putty. Various fittings were made sheet plastic with bolt/rivet heads cut from
plastic rod. Hooks and handles were made from bent wire inserted into holes drilled in the carriage. The cap squares (these
fitted over the gun trunnions and secured the tube to the carriage) were made of sheet pewter which was easily bent into the
needed curved shape.
Basic methods used to paint the cannon did not differ significantly from my normal methods described earlier. Since I decided to finish the cannon in bare wood rather than painted wood, and with the large amount of metal in the fittings and gun
tube, a few different techniques were used as shown on this page.
Above is shown the toy soldier set and the set parts for the gun. While not overly detailed, it does serve as an adequate base upon
which to make a detailed cannon.
The finished and unassembled cannon. It
was glued together only after painting was
complete. Sub-assemblies consist of the
gun tube, the carriage, two wheels, two cap
squares, and the ammunition chest. The
chest is designed to fit between the trails of
the carriage for transport. However, as
the Alamo was a permanent fort and the
guns were prepared for action, the chest
was placed behind the gun for easy access
by the gunners.
At right are several of the various support pieces for the gun.
The rammer and sponges are extra parts from on old Verlinden Civil War artillery piece. The powder scoop was carved
from a piece of dowel rod. The handles are piano wire. The
bucket is an Armand Bayardi casting with a thread handle.
The barrel is also from Bayardi. The langrage (cut up bits of
metal to serve as canister) are scraps of plastic. The bag is
from Time Machine. Cannon balls are tiny bits of epoxy putty
rolled round. The handspike is a shaped toothpick.
CREATING THE DIORAMA
THE GUNS OF THE ALAMO:
“It could be observed that a single cannon volley did away with half the company of chasseurs from Toluca…”
-Jose Enrique de la Pena
The artillery at the Alamo was a mixed bag of types and sizes. Accounts vary on the number present. There were most likely 21
guns, but only about 18 actually saw action. These include the famous 18 pounder, one 12-pounder gunnade, one 12-pounder, three 9pounders, five or six 6-pounders, four 4-pounders, two 3-pounders, and three unmounted 2-pounder gun tubes. There may also have been
a pedero present as well. A gunnade is a combination of a cannon and a carronade—essentially a naval gun. The pedrero fired stone balls.
Most of the guns were mounted on field carriages—light wooden carriages designed for mobility. The exact type of carriage is not known
for certain—at least some were likely made by local blacksmiths. A few, most likely the 3-pounders and possibly a 6-pounder, were
mounted on garrison (naval) carriages. Also present were three swivel guns (small swivel-mounted guns that could be placed on walls).
Due to the shortage of manning, crews were probably not more than three men per gun. While most of the guns were supplied with
shot and shell, they had no canister or grape. Therefore, to defend against the assault, the guns were loaded with nails, cut-up horseshoes,
door hinges, and other expedients. These guns were likely used as giant ―fire and forget‖ shotguns during the final assault.
Most historians agree three guns were mounted on the ramp at the rear of the chapel, one gun along the palisade, two guns at the northwest corner, three guns on the north wall, two guns in the main gate lunette, two guns in an interior redoubt facing the main gate, one gun
in the cattle pen area, one gun in the horse corral, two guns firing through the west wall, and the 18 pounder in the southwest corner.
During the assault, the Mexicans captured all the guns. They had begun to make repairs and improvements on the fortification until the
army retreated after San Jacinto. At that time much of the walls and many buildings were razed. At least 13 guns were spiked and disabled (trunnions and cascables knocked off) and dumped in ditches at the compound. These guns were subsequently found and many are
on display at the site today. The remainder were likely taken back to Mexico and subsequently put into Mexican service or melted down.
The gun was painted using Antique
Bronze (L) for the base color, shaded
by adding Dark Chocolate and/or
Black, and highlighted by adding
Bright Gold (L). Highest highlights
are pure Bright Gold (L) and outlining was done in Black.
Weathering was done by adding
Charcoal around the muzzle and
touch hole. Verdigris was added
with washes of Wedgewood Green in
There was no wood grain molded on the pieces, and, because the parts are much larger and needed to appear rougher, the technique
used to paint musket stocks (shown earlier) would not work. First (above left) each individual piece of wood was painted a slightly
different color of a dark grey-brown mix. This provides variation. Note that some individual model parts—especially the wheels-are
each made of multiple pieces of wood. Next (above right), each piece received three or four lighter colors (greys and tans appropriate
to the base color) streaked on in the direction of the grain. Ensure the streaks do not cross joints in the wood. After this was thoroughly dry, (below left), each piece of given a blending wash of a medium grey-brown and shadows added with a mix of Charcoal and
Dark Burn Umber.
Prior to finishing the wood, iron areas were painted. These were painted using the same methods as the bronze but with different
colors. The base color was Antique Silver (L) mixed with Black and Dark Burnt Umber for a dark, rusty look. Highlights were created with Antique Silver (L) and/or Bright Silver (L). Shading was done with a glaze of Black. Rust was added as appropriate.. The
rust is a wash of Red Iron Oxide mixed with Terra Cotta. The gun tube and cap squares were attached at this point.
CREATING THE DIORAMA
Finally, outlining was done. The edges of wood pieces were
brought out with a light tan. Joints, and under the edges of
fittings, were outlined in black. The effect is very visible on the
wheel shown at left. This last step really serves to give the piece
BUILDING THE ALAMO:
While we want our creations to be historically accurate, artistic license can be used to help convey the stress and drama of an
event—or simply to make it look better. This diorama is a prime example. The real chapel, modified thought it’s been, still
stands in San Antonio, and we have early drawings and photos that give a good indication of its likely appearance in 1836. In
his outstanding book, ―The Illustrated Alamo‖, Mark Lemon provides detailed information including models, sketches, and
dimensions of the fort as it likely was. It is possible for a modeler to build an extraordinarily accurate model. I strove to build
such a model with one key exception – scale. My chapel is undersized. It is especially undersized in the length across the façade – since the entire façade was not recreated, I felt size reduction would be less noticeable here. The actual Alamo façade, at
the time of the battle, was 62.9’ long and 24’ high. My model, if complete, would measure only about 48’ by 21’. Rather than
a scale four feet thick, my walls are only about three feet thick. The same liberty was taken with the position of the cannon. In
the actual structure, the gun was positioned about halfway down the 114’ long palisade. My gun is much closer to the chapel,
and it sits on a smaller gun platform, by at least a third, than it would have had in reality. Someone not intimately familiar
with the Alamo will never know, and even an expert, unless they get out a ruler and calculator, will likely not notice the discrepancies; they do not detract from the diorama – in fact they may actually enhance the diorama.
This reduction of the Alamo was done for two reasons. The first reason was size – I wanted to keep the diorama as small
and compact as possible. This is important to add to the visual stress, emotion, and drama of the event; to capture the feel of
the action instead of just the geometry of it. It required fewer figures than if it were full size, and it allowed the figures to be
clustered together tighter. It also allowed me to keep the diorama to a manageable size while still showing several key features
of the fort; in fact, enough of the fort is depicted that most viewers should recognize what it is. The second reason was one of
focus. Even the partial chapel is a large, imposing structure that attempts to draw the viewer’s attention away from the action.
The size reduction (combined with its positioning as a backdrop) helps keep it in the supporting role rather than stealing the
Basic groundwork was built and painted using my normal methods. The most complex part of this scene is the chapel.
First comes planning! I printed a photo of the King and Country ―Alamo Façade‖. Before printed I resized the picture to
the proper scale. After printing, I made various alterations to the picture in both size and detail. This became the template.
The basic form was made from a piece of scrap 3/4 inch thick wood (a particle-board and veneer shelf from an old broken
book shelf). I had the scrap handy, but any type wood, or other material such as Styrofoam, could be used. Using my template
I cut out a wood form. It doesn’t have to be exact as it will covered by additional layers of material, but it should be close. As
any good carpenter will tell you, make sure of your measurements BEFORE you cut—measure twice and cut once. The wood
was then screwed and glued together to make a sturdy form upon which to complete my Alamo chapel.
The rest of the Alamo was built as shown on the next pages.
CREATING THE DIORAMA
Using a photo of King
and Country’s “Alamo
Façade”, a template
was made. This was
transferred to a
left: Cut-outs in the
wall for niches and
and then the basic
structure was screwed
and glued together.
Once the basic form was done, details—such as columns, column bases, stone trim, niche bases, window frames, etc., were modeled
with wood pieces. Now that a form was complete, it was time to apply the stone. Stonework that had to be a specific shape or contain
detail was fashioned with epoxy putty as shown in two photo above right. First, the putty was roughly applied and smoothed. Details
were then added (a made some “stamping” tools to detail the niche frames). Finally, the putty was trimmed to final shape. Care was
taken to ensure the putty stuck out from the wall enough to allow room for the stonework on the wall surfaces.
CREATING THE DIORAMA
Columns were made from dowel rods. Each column was then covered with putty using fingers and a putty spoon. Details were
added using a rubber cone brush and paintbrushes. Once all the epoxy putty details were complete (in the photo above right, the
columns are not yet glued into position), stonework was added using spackling compound. The wood walls were scoured to give the
putty something to stick to. It was then added with a putty knife (below left). After the putty had set, it was sanded as needed and
the individuals stones were carved into the putty. Work was done in small sections.
Along the broken top edges of the wall, debris and gravel were
placed. This isgravel from the driveway and bits of kitty litter
sprinkled onto a mix of white glue thinned with water.
Once the stonework was complete, the only thing that remained were the statues in the niches. These were made by converting some
old Monogram 1/48th scale figures (1). They were cut and reposed (2), then finished with epoxy putty (3/4). They were left separate
until painting was complete.
CREATING THE DIORAMA
Painting began by priming with a coat of grey primer spray paint. This was then over sprayed randomly with various tan colors
(below left) Various individual stones, pieces, and plastered areas were then painted in various colors of light tans and greys—closely
matching the groundwork colors and the colors of the actual Alamo chapel. This included just the plastered areas inside, the corner
stones, the window and door sills, the worked area around the doors, and the columns and niches (below right).
Basic highlighting was done by dry-brushing on lighter colors. This was applied heavier toward the top of the building and the top
edges of stones. Shading was accomplished with glazes of color applied to the bottom of stones and the underside of various parts
(above left). The entire building was then given a very thin wash of a dark brownish-grey color. This was mixed using oil paints and
thinned with turpentine (above right).
Finally, the highest highlights and edging where done using an off-white glaze and deepest shadows
were applied with a very dark grey-brown glaze. Details were picked out and painted as appropriate. The statues were glued into the niches and the basic chapel was done. The watch-tower palisade was made in the same fashion as the wall palisade. The platform was made from bass wood
stained with oil paint washes.
CREATING THE DIORAMA
GROUNDWORK AND PALISADE:
Prior to the application of groundwork, contours are built up of wood,
foam, or other material. The ditch
was routed out and wood strip was
used to make the firing step and gun
platform. Architectural elements also
need placed prior to the making of
groundwork. Here, that is the chapel
and palisade. The palisade is made of
sticks, but even though they already
had natural coloring, they were
painted to match the rest of the items
in the diorama. They were drybrushed in various progressively
lighter earth colors. Next, they were
given a wash of the same colors I used
later to paint the ground. This wash
is very heavy near the bottom of the
logs to blend them with the ground
and lighter near the tops. Finally,
details (cracks, cuts, edges of bark,
etc.) with carefully picked out just like
the highest highlights on a figure.
Compare the logs before painted
(above left) and after painting (left).
The watch-tower on the roof of the
chapel baptistery was made in the
same fashion. Basic groundwork was
created using normal methods.
CREATING THE DIORAMA
THE MEXICAN ARMY AT THE ALAMO
“...created by bayonets and now had to be upheld by them.”
- Jose Enrique de la Pena
The Mexican army at the Alamo was a mix of professional and peasant. While many of the soldiers were raw recruits and reluctant
draftees, the army contained a solid core of long-service professionals. The officer corps contained many less competent political appointees who knew little of their trade, but it also included many long-service and competent professionals.
The bulk of the army was infantry, divided into permanente (regular) and activo (militia). Each battalion had six companies of fusiliers, one of light infantry and one of grenadiers. In theory, each company had 80 men, but most were seriously under strength. Most were
armed with old British smoothbore Brown Bess Muskets, although some of the light infantrymen probably had British-made Baker rifles.
The grenadiers consisted of the older veterans and usually acted as a reserve. The cream of the infantry were the Zapadores, or sappers.
Cavalry consisted of four types, permanente, activo, auxilleries (local auxiliaries), and presidial (garrison troops). They were variously
armed with swords, lances, and carbines. For artillery, Santa Anna had 17 light field pieces, but the guns and carriages were in poor condition, the batteries were undermanned, and the gunners lacked adequate training.
For the assault on the Alamo, the Mexican order of battle was as follows:
General Martin Perfecto de Cos: 300 men including 9 fusilier companies (6 from the Aldama Permanente Battalion and 3 from the
San Luis Activo Battalion) and 1 cazadore company (from the Aldama Permanente Battalion)
Colonel Francisco Duque: 400 men including 9 fusilier companies (6 from the Toluca Activo Battalion and 3 from the San Luis
Activo Battalion) and 1 cazadore company (from the Toluca Activo Battalion)
Colonel Jose Maria Romero: 300 men made up of 12 fusilier companies (6 each from the Matamoros Permanente and the Jimenez
Colonel Juan Morales: 100 men from 3 cazadore companies (1 each from the Matamoros Permanente, the Jimenez Permanente,
and the San Luis Activo Battalions)
LtCol Agustin Amat (Reserve): 400 men made up of the Zapadores battalion and the Grenadier companies from all battalions
COMPARISON OF MEXICAN AND TEXIAN FORCES
No standardization. Many had quality rifles. Others
had muskets of varying quality, or sporting arms. Rifles
had great range, but were slow to load. Texian gunpowder was of good quality but was in short supply.
Large knives, pistols, shotguns, and multi-barreled
Mexican arms could mount bayonets. Many considered
pepperbox pistols (more effective in theory than practhis the decisive weapon (with good reason). The bayonets
tice) were common. Few had bayonets and fewer still
were put to good use during the assault.
knew how to use them (only muskets could mount bayonets).
Militiamen and volunteers were largely undisciplined
and were governed by whim. Many were untrained.
They usually elected their own officers.
The Mexican army was a professional disciplined army.
Although many were recruits and conscripts, there was a
core of long-service professionals. Leadership, for the most
part, was competent.
The Texian government was largely non-functional and
did not have the means to support the garrison. What
they went into the Alamo with (and what they could
scrounge in San Antonio) was all they had.
The Mexican army was operating far from their sources of
supply. For financial reasons, Santa Anna had reduced
―unnecessary‖ services such as medical. Camp followers
probably increased the headcount by at least 50%
The Texians had at least 18 tubes (maybe as many as
21). However, there was not enough manning to fully
crew them and powder/shot were in short supply.
The Mexicans had fewer guns and no heavy siege train.
Crews were in short supply and relatively untrained.
Cavalry for scouting, raids, etc., was almost nonexistent. Cavalry was able to help ―seal-up‖ the garrison and effectively prevented any escape and significant reinforcement.
Most carried Brown Bess smooth bore muskets. These
were easy to use and quick to load, but were effective only
to about 100-150 yards. Few had rifles. Mexican-made
gunpowder was poor and unreliable.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Jim Corless of Time Machine provided the Time Machine figures (and parts) used in this diorama. I have worked with Jim
on several projects—all were enjoyable. This one was meaningful on a personal level—I lived in San Antonio for several years.
I have touched the Alamo’s stones. Jim: Thanks much, friend, and best of luck to you in your future endeavors! It’s been fun.
Osprey Campaign Series:
Osprey Man At Arms Series:
Osprey Man At Arms Series:
Osprey Elite Series:
William C Davis:
Stephen L. Hardin:
Alan C. Huffines:
Buena Vista Movie/2004
Kit Historical Notes and Painting Instructions
―The Alamo 1836‖
―The Alamo and the War of Texan Independence‖
―The Texan Arm 1835-1846‖
―Santa Anna’s Mexican Army 1821-48‖
―Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James
Bowie, And William Barret Travis‖
―Texian Illiad: A Military History of Texian Independence‖
―Blood of Noble Men: The Alamo Siege & Battle, An Illustrated Chronology
―The Illustrated Alamo 1836: A Photographic Journey‖
For the modeler, ―Blood of Noble Men‖ by Alan Huffines, is perhaps the most useful of the listed works. It contains numerous detailed
drawings by Gary Zaboly of all aspects of the battle to include uniforms, equipment, personalities, events, and even the Alamo itself. These
were invaluable in the creation of the pieces in this book. For the student of history, the book is valuable for its eyewitness testimony.
For information on the likely appearance of the Alamo at the time of the siege, the book ―The Illustrated Alamo 1836‖ by Mark Lemon
is a must-have. His detailed model and sketches give us perhaps the best look we will probably ever get at the Alamo as it appeared during
the battle. This book was my primary reference for the creation of my Alamo chapel.
For those looking for a military history of the Texas Revolution, look to ―Texian Illiad‖ by Dr. Stephen Hardin. The Osprey Campaign
book, ―The Alamo 1836‖ also by Hardin, is a ―condensed version‖ of ―Texian Illiad‖ with many great maps, photos, and illustrations. For
those looking for a simple overview of the campaign and its battles, this is a great choice.
Information on Mexican uniforms of the period is sparse. What there is can be found in the Osprey titles and “Blood of Noble Men”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kevin Townsend retired from the Air Force as a Senior Master
Sergeant in January 2006 after 22 ½ years of honorable service. He
currently works as an Air Force civilian employee performing Physical
Security, Resource Protection, and Antiterrorism functions.
Kevin began modeling in middle school in the 1970s. His figures
have won numerous awards including Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals
and special awards such as the ―St Petersburg Medal‖, ―Most Popular
Award‖, and ―Best In Show‖. He has been married for 27 years and
has two adult children. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife
Arden and their two dogs.
The diorama featured in this book was built and painted by Kevin Townsend. To access this
article, and other articles explaining his methods containing more than 700 pages and over 2400
illustrations and photos, visit his Yahoo Group at:
As of this writing,
TIME MACHINE MINIATURES
can be found at:
You must be a group member to access the files therein. Joining is quick, easy, and free. You
may also contact Kevin directly at:
or at: US 001 201 387-7889
In this booklet, Kevin Townsend builds on the earlier released Time Machine
booklet “Gandamak: End of the Road to Ruin”. Using the same methods,
Kevin shows how he used several releases in Time Machine Miniature’s
“American Heritage” series, and conversions based on these and other Time
Machine figures to recreate a portion of the legendary assault on the Alamo.
Also Available from Time Machine: ―THE TEUTOBURGER WALD‖ and ―GANDAMAK:
END OF THE ROAD TO RUIN‖ by Kevin Townsend