American Portraits

Remember the Alamo! Davy Crockett and Self-­Sacrifice

In this lesson, students will learn about Davy Crockett and the other men who sacrificed themselves for independence from Mexico at the Alamo. Students will learn the importance of fighting for what they believe.

Founding Principles

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.


On February 23, 1836, as the sun was at its zenith in the expansive Texas sky above San Antonio, the church bell pealed an ominous warning for the 156 soldiers and handful of civilians inside the former Spanish mission called the Alamo. “The enemy is in view!” announced one of the sentries on the walls. The soldiers immediately manned their stations and looked out to try to discern a few of the camouflaged advance guard of the army of Mexican President Santa Anna. Meanwhile, the garrison commander, William Travis, wrote out a message pleading for nearby forts to send reinforcements. “We have 150 men and are determined to defend the Alamo to the last,” he wrote. They planned “never to retreat” and underlined those words several times. After rejecting Santa Anna’s offer of unconditional surrender in the mid-afternoon, Travis gathered his men together and addressed them. He promised to resist to the end, and his men gave a loud cheer agreeing….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

Why is it important to stand up for what you believe, even if you have to make sacrifices to do so?

Virtue Defined

Self-sacrifice is purposeful action exchanging personal loss for the good of others.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about Davy Crockett and the other men who sacrificed themselves for independence from Mexico at the Alamo. Students will learn the importance of fighting for what they believe.


  • Students will evaluate the self-sacrifice of Davy Crockett at the Alamo.
  • Students will analyze the virtue of sacrifice.
  • Students will act selflessly and be willing to make sacrifices in their lives.


In the 1820s, many Americans began to settle in Texas, which was owned by Mexico at the time. The settlers sought cheap land on which to raise cotton, and Mexico put three conditions on their entry. They had to give up their slaves, convert to Catholicism, and become Mexican citizens. By the mid-1830s, tens of thousands came, and most simply ignored the conditions.

Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna decided to suddenly crack down on the American settlers in Texas, who wanted to govern themselves. Believing that they were becoming too independent, Santa Anna marched an army northward to subjugate the Texans. This action sparked a war for Texas independence.


  • Convert
  • Subjugate
  • Zenith
  • Pealed
  • Ominous
  • Mission
  • Camouflaged
  • Reinforcements
  • Dispatched
  • Fortress
  • Sharpshooters
  • Sappers
  • Artillery
  • Sporadically
  • Conserve
  • Monotonous
  • Tiresome
  • Impending
  • Morale
  • Valiantly
  • Imminent
  • Scabbard
  • Bugle
  • Scaling
  • Anarchy
  • Acrid
  • Obscured
  • Bayonet
  • Unhesitatingly

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

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Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • How did Davy Crockett’s actions at the Alamo help to advance freedom?
  • What was Davy Crockett’s role at the Alamo?
  • What was his purpose through the battle?
  • Why did Davy Crockett sacrifice himself for Texas independence?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

  • Brands, H.W. Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence—and Changed America. New York: Doubleday, 2004.
  • Davis, William C. Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis. New York: Harper Perennial, 1999.
  • Donovan, James. The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo—and the Sacrifice that Forged a Nation. Back Bay Books, 2013.
  • The Alamo. Touchstone Pictures, 2004.
  • Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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