U.S. Sen. John Cornyn Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm


For the first time in 177 years, one of the most important documents in Texas history has returned to the place it was written.

On Feb. 22, Texas state troopers transported the famous letter penned by Lt. Col. William B. Travis from Austin to the Alamo, where Travis wrote the letter on Feb. 24, 1836, in hopes of recruiting reinforcements to help defend the Alamo against the Mexican Army.

In his letter, considered one of the most inspiring and defining documents of 19th Century American history, Travis urged “the People of Texas and All Americans in the World” to “come to our aid with all dispatch.” He called on them “in the name of liberty, patriotism, and everything dear to the American character.”

If his call was not answered, Travis wrote: “I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country — Victory or Death.”

Travis sent Capt. Albert Martin to Martin’s hometown of Gonzales to deliver and distribute copies of the letter. After hearing heavy fire upon departing the Alamo, Martin added a post-script to Travis’ letter that read, “{T}hink there must have been an attack made upon the Alamo {.} We were short of Ammunition when I left {.} Hurry on all the men you can in haste.”

Martin handed off the letter to Launcelot Smither in Gonzales who in turn traveled immediately to San Felipe, where he delivered the letter to the citizens’ committee there. Copies of the letter were made and distributed and newspapers began printing the letter as early as March 2.

After delivering the letter to Smither, Martin returned to the Alamo with a relief force of about 35 men from Gonzales. Records indicate the relief force from Gonzales was the only organized force to respond in time to Travis’ call for reinforcement, raising the total number of defenders at the Alamo to roughly 183.

This garrison ultimately could not withstand the attack by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and his forces, who stormed the Alamo on the morning of March 6, 1836, killing Travis and his entire command, including Texas heroes Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.

Today, Travis’ letter is safely housed at the Texas State Archives and Library Building. According to the Commission, it has only been on public display eight times. Prior to that, the letter endured decades of wear and tear, having traveled throughout the state on horseback, in saddlebags, in jacket pockets and even having gone missing for several years.

The request to have the letter displayed at the Alamo was made by Texas General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson and approved by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in October 2012 on the condition that certain safety requirements were met.

Now, after 177 years, this Texas treasure has returned to its place of origin and dramatic words penned on a weathered, yellowed page will unlock history for Texans young and old.

Travis’ letter will be on display in the Alamo Shrine through March 7. For hours and more information, visit: www.travisletter.com.

Sources: Texas State Library and Archives Commission; Texas State Historical Association; KUT News;San Antonio Express-News

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