As is the case with many people who came to the United States prior to modern record keeping, Avrom Wolf is a bit of a mystery prior to 1818. It’s believed he was born in Spain before emigrating to England. Wolf claimed that he was born on February 17, 1782, but was never clear on where he was born. To some he said England, to others Spain.
For whatever reason, he did not want people to know where he was born, which was a common occurrence. What is known is that he was Jewish and never concealed his Judaism from anyone. To most people, he was Avrom Wolf, a few Anthony Wolf or Wolff. Avrom was not a name given by anyone who was not Jewish.
Beginning in 1818, when records appear for Wolf, he was already living a remarkable life. He was already an indian scout and interpreter based out of either Louisiana or Texas, somewhere close to the border between the two. An interpreter meant more than just having a knack for languages, which Wolf must have had, but an ability to determine what is not being said. This was a time when a mistake, no matter how small, did get people killed.
On September 15, 1818, Wolf was sent as an emissary to the Wichita tribe to negotiate. They were located on the Brazos River, an area deemed of great importance. Wolf was successful in his endeavor, which helped to solidify his reputation.
A short time later, Wolf became seriously ill and would remain so for years. He, along with his two sons, stayed at Captain John Hall’s house. The same Captain Hall who would be instrumental at the Battle of San Jacinto, the last major battle for Texas independence.
When war between Mexico and Texas broke out, he was well enough to travel. Wolf took his sons with him to the Alamo to become a garrison defender without rank. He had the reputation to have requested rank and would have been received, but he did not care about rank.
The Battle of the Alamo began on February 23, 1836 when Santa Anna began his siege. There were 200 defenders, which included Davy Crockett. Almost the entire Mexican military, 1000s of troops and artillery surrounded the Alamo.
13 days later, the Alamo fell. Those defenders who had not died were all executed in front of the women and children who were within the Alamo during the siege. Most were taken by and held by Santa Anna, but a few were allowed to leave, which included Susana Dickinson, who was handed a letter of warning from Santa Anna to be taken to Sam Houston.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, it was Dickinson who spoke of one garrison defender who asked for clemency from the Mexicans. Dickinson, “stated that a defender named “Wolff” asked the Mexicans for clemency, but was killed. His two young sons were killed in a room with Alamo survivors, their bodies removed on bayonets.” His sons were 11 and 12 years old.
In a letter written by San Antonio dated March 19, 1874, nearly 40 years after the Alamo, Santa Anna wrote of the slaughter by his soldiers following his orders:
I will add that, that conflict of arms was bloody, because the chief Travis, who commanded the forces of the Alamo, would not enter into any capitulation, and his responses were insulting, which made it imperative to assault the fort before it could be reinforced by Samuel Houston who was marching to its succor with respectable forces. The obstinancy of Travis and his soldiers was the cause of the death of the whole of them, for not one would surrender. The struggle lasted more than two hours, and until the ramparts were resolutely scaled by Mexican soldiers.
The bayonetting of boys has no justification. The execution of disarmed defenders has no justification. Not even in his later life could Santa Anna take responsibility for the horrors he brought to Mexico, before Texas ever declared independence.
Why would one of the oldest defenders remain with his two young sons? Wolf could have left the Alamo with his sons when word of the Mexican army’s approach reached them. He, like the others believed the Alamo could be defended, just as they believed those who were not defenders would be spared.
Wolf and the other defenders were wrong. As bad as things had been under Santa Anna prior to the Alamo, he had never taken such measures as to have his soldiers bayonet boys to death. Prior to the Alamo, Santa Anna did have some degree of honor, which is why the result was so shocking to all who heard after the slaughter had taken place.
The decision to slaughter those within was made by Santa Anna before his forces ever reached the Alamo. He pretended to split his forces to give the appearance of only about 1000 soldiers were headed to the Alamo. 200 defenders could hold back a force of over 1000 until reinforcements arrived.
No commander takes an entire Army to lay siege to a single fortified mission the size of the Alamo unless the plan is to slaughter everyone within. The slaughter at the Alamo was believed by Santa Anna to be necessary in the same way that the Goliad Massacre would a short time later where over 400 prisoners of war were executed at Santa Anna’s direct orders.