Commander's ''Victory or Death'' letter finally to return to the Alamo

Fri Feb 8, 2013 7:59pm EST
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By Jim Forsyth

AUSTIN, Tex. (Reuters) - An 1836 letter penned by the commander of the small force of Texans defending the Alamo, a pivotal battle in the Texas Revolution that led to its break from Mexico, will be displayed for the first time at the San Antonio mission.

With its dramatic ending - "Victory or Death!" - the letter by William Travis, written on both sides of a single sheet of paper, is considered one of the defining documents of 19th century American history.

"I call on you in the name of liberty, patriotism, and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all dispatch," Travis wrote in the open letter, in which he pleaded for reinforcements, addressing the letter to "the People of Texas and All Americans in the World."

The letter will be on display from February 23 to March 7 at the Alamo, which typically gets 2.5 million visitors a year.

"It is amazing to think of Travis and 150 men surrounded in that little compound, and he is putting this ink on this paper," John Anderson, the preservation officer at the Texas State Archives, told Reuters this week as a colleague removed the document from the iron casing where it is carefully preserved.

Travis and his men had been ordered into the Alamo, which at the time was a disused Spanish colonial mission, as Mexican forces arrived in San Antonio to crush what to them was a provincial rebellion. Texas at the time was a part of the Republic of Mexico.

Twelve days after Travis wrote the letter, the Mexican Army stormed the Alamo and Travis and his entire command were killed.

Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, two frontiersmen, had gone to the Alamo before Travis sent the call to arms, and their deaths ensured their places as American heroes.   Continued...

A letter by William B. Travis, a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army, written in 1836 during the Battle of the Alamo, is seen in this image provided by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The famous letter written by the commander of the small force of Texans defending the Alamo is being prepared by historians for display at the San Antonio mission for the first time since Travis wrote it there, pleading for reinforcements. As the battle raged outside, Travis wrote in the letter, "I will never surrender or retreat." With its dramatic ending -- "Victory or Death!" -- the letter is now considered one of the defining documents of 19th-Century American history. REUTERS/Texas State Library and Archives Commission/Handout