El Degüello is a bugle call, notable in the US for its use as a march by Mexican Army buglers during the 1836 Siege and Battle of the Alamo to signal that the defenders of the garrison would receive no quarter by the attacking Mexican Army under General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. "Toque a Degüello" was introduced to the Americas by the Spanish armies and was later adopted by the patriot armies fighting against them during the Spanish American wars of independence. It was widely used by Simon Bolivar's armies, notably during the Battle of Junin and the Battle of Ayacucho.
"Degüello" is a Spanish noun from the verb "degollar", to describe the action of throat-cutting. More figuratively, it means "give no quarter." It "signifies the act of beheading or throat-cutting and in Spanish history became associated with the battle music, which, in different versions, meant complete destruction of the enemy without mercy." It is similar to the war cry "¡A degüello!"used by Cuban rebels in the 19th century to launch mounted charges against the Spanish infantry.
Martha Keller's The Alamo in Brady's Bend and Other Ballads, published in 1946, became popularized through Juanita Coulson's folk song, "No Quarter, No Quarter." In it, Keller wrote, "When they sound the 'No Quarter', they'll rise to the slaughter, when they play 'The Deguello', the wail of despair."
K. R. Wood's 1997 compilation album Fathers of Texas explains the bugle call and what it meant at the Alamo through song and narration.
Depiction in films
In films, El Degüello varies, sometimes markedly. It is an instrumental — not a bugle call — in the John Wayne films Rio Bravo (1959) and The Alamo (1960), and in The Alamo (2004). In the first two films mentioned, the same music is used, it was not the actual Deguello, but actually music written by film composer Dimitri Tiomkin; in the latter, it is in the form of a military dirge. It is depicted as a bugle call in Disney's Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955), in The Last Command (1955), in Viva Max! (1969), and in the made-for-television movie The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory (1987).
- "Affairs of the Association". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. July 1921 – April 1922 (Denton, Texas: Texas State Historical Association via the University of North Texas Libraries) 25: 79. Retrieved 2011-03-22.
- Amelia W. Williams. "Degüello". A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo and of the Personnel of Its Defenders (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1931. Handbook of Texas. Retrieved 2011-03-22.
- Martha Keller Brady's Bend & Other Ballads Rutgers University Press; 1st edition (1946)
- Coulson J., Keller M. Rifles and Rhymes, Off Centaur Publications, 1984 (cassette)
- Fathers of Texas from the Summit Artists website
- "Movie connections for Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-03-22. "Edited from ..."Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color: Davy Crockett at the Alamo (#1.18)" (1955)"