SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A written plea for help in which the commander of the besieged rebel Texas forces at the Alamo vowed "Victory or Death" returns today to the old Spanish mission for the first time since it was penned in 1836.
William Barret Travis' famous letter to "the People of Texas and All Americans in the World," is getting a police escort from the state archive in Austin to the Alamo, which is now in the heart of downtown San Antonio. The weathered, single-page letter will go on display for two weeks, starting this weekend, and will be kept in a special display cabinet and given round-the-clock guards.
The exhibit coincides with the 177th anniversary of the siege, which culminated with the March 6, 1836, fall of the Alamo and the deaths of Travis and the roughly 180 men in his command.
"I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch", Travis wrote in the roughly 200-word letter dated Feb. 24.
Travis, a 26-year-old South Carolina native and lawyer who left his family in Alabama for Texas, wrote that the forces under Mexico's president, Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, were subjecting him and his men to "continual" cannon fire. Knowing the odds were against them, Travis wrote that he responded to a surrender demand with a single cannon shot of his own and the promise that, "I shall never surrender or retreat."
"It's something about martyrs and last stands," Michael Parrish, a Baylor University history professor, said of the letter's allure. "There's just something very, very romantic and epic and heroic and all the grandiose terms you want to apply."
The letter was smuggled out of the Alamo at night by a courier on horseback, though by the time it was published in leaflets and newspapers, Travis and his men were dead. But volunteers crying "Remember the Alamo!" and led by Gen. Sam Houston routed Santa Anna's forces more than a month later outside what's now the city of Houston, securing Texas' independence from Mexico.