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Travis' 'Victory or Death' Letter Returns To The Alamo On Friday

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

The famous Victory or Death Letter written by William B. Travis during the fall of the Alamo will be returned to the shrine here in San Antonio on Friday.

Travis wrote the letter on Feb. 24, 1836 as a plea for help when the Alamo’s defenders were surrounded by several thousand Mexican troops; it's now been 177 years.

Mark Loeffler of the Texas General Land office said the letter only reached one town before the battle began due to slow travel and distance.

"The first town it reached was Gonzales, and Gonzales immediately sent 32 brave individuals who arrived at the Alamo five days before the final battle . They’re now known as the immortal 32," Loeffler said.

Travis died along with the other 18 defenders on March 6 during the siege.   The letter was returned to Travis’ daughter, which was in turn was passed down to her grandson. He decided to sell it to the state in the 1890’s.

"He wanted to get a good price but he also wanted to make sure the letter was kept safe in perpetuity. Eventually, in 1893 he sold it to the state of Texas for $85," Loeffler said.

That $85 would have been worth about $2,000 today. The letter will be returned to the Alamo where it will remain for two weeks until March 8th for public viewing. That time period coincides with the days the Alamo was under attack by Santa Ana.

Text of the letter:

Bejar, 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 .




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 and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.


Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules