Travis famous 'victory or death' letter will return to Alamo on Feb. 22

Published: Jan. 17, 2013 at 9:50 PM CST
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The Alamo (Source: Wikipedia)
The Alamo (Source: Wikipedia)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - For the first time since Lt. Col. William Barrett Travis penned the letter from the then-besieged Alamo on Feb. 24, 1836 and sent the letter off under cover of darkness, his famous "victory or death" letter will be on display at the old Spanish mission's historical site, which is located at Alamo Plaza.

The exhibit will be on display in time for the 177th anniversary of the Alamo. Previously, the letter had been on display in Austin.

"Colonel Travis' letter has been kept in the Texas State Library Archives Building since 1895," Mark Loeffler, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office, said Thursday. "Travis' great-grandson sold the letter to the state of Texas for $85 after he and his family fell on hard times, thinking it would be kept safe."

Travis' letter will be on display in a custom-built, shatter-proof glass display case made by the world-renowned German company Casewerks at a cost of $20,000," according to a press release from the Texas General Land Office. The case will allow visitors to see both sides of the fragile letter. Armed police officers will be stationed on either side of case for the duration of the exhibit.

In the press release, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson paraphrased the opening lines of Travis's letter, "'To the people of Texas and All Americans in the in world' - come and see the letter. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be inspired by this patriotic letter at the Shrine of Texas Liberty itself."

The letter will arrive in a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance at 4 p.m. on Feb. 22. After Texas Department of Public Safety troopers escort the Travis letter to the Alamo, an honor guard will carry it inside, where Travis's fifth great-nephew, Denton County Sheriff William B. Travis will read the inspiring letter.

Before the letter goes on display, visitors will be able to tour an exhibit with details from Travis' life and the Texas Revolution. The exhibit will feature fragile historic documents and artifacts from the vaults of the Alamo and the Texas General Land Office. The arrival ceremony will include music and historical re-enactors.

Visitors are asked to be silent and respectful when viewing the document and no flash photography will be allowed to protect the light-sensitive paper. Commemorative items will also be available in the newly renovated gift shop, including an official exhibition guide, T-shirts, mugs and more. Sales from the Alamo Gift Shop fund the operation of the 300-year-old mission.

Travis' letter will remain on display at the Alamo from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Feb. 23 through March 7. The dates are not a coincidence; General  Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and thousands of Mexican soldiers started their 13-day siege on the Alamo on Feb. 23, 1836.

On the second day of the siege, Travis, 26, wrote that he and the Alamo defenders were facing thousands of Mexican soldiers and were under constant cannon fire. In addition, he wrote that Santa Anna had ordered the Alamo garrison to surrender. If not the Texans were to be executed.

"I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls - I shall never surrender or retreat," Travis' letter states. "Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch - The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. "

Travis wrote that if no one answered his call, he and his men would hold out as long as possible. He also mentioned his determination to "die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country." He finished the letter with the words, "Victory or death."

All 189 of the Alamo's defenders, including Travis, were killed when the Alamo fell on March 6, 1836, according to a link on the Texas Heritage Society's Web site. Travis had no way of knowing that Texas declared its independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836.

"In Texas, many of the volunteers stirred by Travis' letter formed the core of the army Sam Houston led to victory over Santa Anna on April 21, 1836," a Texas General Land Office Web site stated. "With his defeat, the Republic of Texas was born and a chain of events began that led to the Mexican War a decade later.  U.S. victory in that war brought the American Southwest into the nation. Consequently, Travis' letter shaped the destiny of America and the world."

For more information on the Travis letter exhibit visit

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