The Battle of Nuestra Mission was one of the most well-known battles of the Mexican-American War (1838-1940). Lasting for four days, the battle involved 490 men of the US 5th Cavalry Regiment who garrisoned themselves within the Nuestra Mission roughly 200 miles west of San Antonio Texas. They then held the fort-turned mission for four days against a much larger force of 9500 Mexican troops commanded by Santa Anna himself.
The nearly 500 men of the cavalry regiment who weren't engaged in the fighting had called for support by the nearby US army under the command of Sam Houston, and had begun carrying out raid attacks against the Mexican army at night while they were encamped on the ridge about one km away, overlooking the mission. The southwestern side of the ridge was covered with trees and shrubs, making ample hiding spots should the Mexicans suspect a raid. However, the northeastern side was virtually bare of any life, which was later explained in Lieutenant Colonel Ferrington's autobiography; "While as the Mexican troops camped and rested on the hill above our entrenchment, Major Perry [executive officer and commander of the other 500 cavalrymen] would operate against them with raids on their camp in the form of confiscating ammunition, arms and even rides had we made it out without our horses afterwards. The side of the hill facing the mission was devoid of vegetation, which supported Perry's statement to me that any of his attempts at reaching us with supplies or ammunition would be spotted and almost certainly stopped."
Daily charges of the bulk of the Mexican army's infantry put a toll on the defenders of the mission. Most of the time they would march to the mission under constant fire from Ferrington's riflemen. As a survivor of the battle said in his diary, "They would walk to us up to 100 yards, at which point they would yell a cry of death and run at us with the fervor of a pious minister or priest." The first two days gave the Mexican troops little success; the constant firing and pinpoint accuracy of the American soldiers would force an immediate rout. However, on the third and fourth days of the battle, the Mexican troops were told to "charge to the point of the bayonet", and actually convened in a melee fight with the American defenders. The mission was perched on a slight incline from the gently slope of the Mexican's fortified ridge; attacking Mexican troops would have to grab a hold of the sills of broken windows or get a foothold in the crags of dirt and dried mud to get into the mission. Preventing this, of course, were bayonet-tipped rifles by the determined American soldiers, and simple fist-fighting between the soldiers.
On one occasion, during the second attack of the third day, about 100 Mexican troops successfully breached the defenses of the mission and walked through the rooms of the hospital- and fort-turned religious building. Many of the wounded American troops who were unable to fight actually attempted to wound or hurt the Mexican troops; some made tries at tripping them, kicking them, punching them, or throwing nearby objects - such as boots, tin cups and even small rocks - in a desperate attempt to push them out.
On the morning of the fourth day, Lieutenant Colonel Ferrington quoted George Washington: "I think the game is pretty near up." Many men still prayed and hoped that the army under Sam Houston would arrive in time to relieve them. At about 1:15 in the afternoon, Private James Wallace, a marksman who was positioned on the roof, reported to the lieutenant colonel, "By God, Sam is here, and he has his boys with him!" Many men's spirits skyrocketed after Ferrington announced that Houston's troops were en route and would arrive shortly with medical aid and supplies.
The last attack of the siege occurred about 15 minutes later. Santa Anna, realizing that he had one last chance at taking the enemy-held defense, ordered an assault of nearly 3000 infantry - many of which were bandaged or wounded in some form or another - against the American cavalrymen. Almost as soon as the Mexicans mounted the wall of the mission and began the melee fighting, Major Perry ordered his men to make a "Last-ditch save" and ordered them to charge the mission, dismount and help defend it. His 500 men did so, and Perry and Ferrington themselves were fighting the enemy in hand-to-hand combat with their ceremonial swords. After another ten minutes of fighting someone called out, "Ol' Sam is here!" Indeed, Sam Houston had finally arrived with an army of nearly 5000 which was virtually overstocked with supplies, medical and military. Anna, realizing the battle was lost, sounded the retreat.