This Veterans Day I thought it fitting to publish what is possibly my favorite document from Military History within the United States. The letter sent out from William Travis at the Battle of the Alamo February 24, 1836.
William Barret Travis and almost two hundred other defenders found themselves surrounded at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio in late February of 1836. Refusing to surrender, they held off the invading armies of Mexican Dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna for almost two weeks.
Commandancy of the Alamo
Bexar, Feby. 24th, 1836
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World:
Fellow citizens & compatriots—
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna—I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken—I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat.
Then, 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—The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country—Victory or Death.
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt
P.S. The Lord is on our side—When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn—We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.
Send this to San Felipe by Express night & day–
In response, 32 brave men bid farewell to their families and rode from Gonzales to the Alamo, which was surrounded by over 5,000 of Santa Anna’s best troops. In the pre-dawn hours on the first March, the men from Gonzales fought their way through the Mexican lines – no other help was able to reach Travis in time.
Moses Rose, a French veteran would offer a witness account that not long before the final assault Travis gathered all of the defenders and announced that reinforcements would not be coming. Travis took his sword and drew a line in the dirt. He told those men who were willing to stay and die with him to cross the line, those who wanted to leave could do so without shame. All but two men crossed the line; one was confined to a cot and asked to be carried across the line, the other was Moses Rose who escaped to tell the tale.
On March 6, the 182 courageous Texans, who volunteered to sacrifice their lives for the Liberty of their loved ones, were overrun and slaughtered by well over 2000 Mexicans. The resulting delay of Santa Anna’s eastward movement gave other Texans more time to organize, both politically and militarily, and to ultimately defeat and capture Santa Anna less than one month later.
This letter to William Travis’ friend David Ayers is the last known letter written by Travis before the fall of the Alamo on the morning of March 6, 1836.
To David Ayers
March 3, 1836
Take care of my little boy. If the country should be saved, I may make for him a splendid fortune; but if the country be lost and I should perish, he will have nothing but the proud recollection that he is the son of a man who died for his country.
William Barret Travis died at his post on the cannon platform at the northeast corner of the fortress, he was 26 years old.
To all those who march for the Sacred Fire of Liberty, both with Uniform and without, I say:
May the LORD bless you and have a good day.
Or perhaps better, in the spirit and voice of William Barret Travis:
My respects to all friends, confusion to all enemies. God Bless you.