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To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World

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To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World is an open letter
Open letter
An open letter is a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally....

 written on February 24, 1836, by William B. Travis
William B. Travis
William Barret Travis was a 19th-century American lawyer and soldier. At the age of 26, he was a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army...

, commander of the Texian
Texian
Texian is an archaic, mostly defunct 19th century demonym which defined a settler of current-day Texas, one of the southern states of the United States of America which borders the country of Mexico...

 forces at the Battle of the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

, to settlers in Mexican Texas
Mexican Texas
Mexican Texas is the name given by Texas history scholars to the period between 1821 and 1836, when Texas was an integral part of Mexico. The period began with Mexico's victory over Spain in its war of independence in 1821. For the first several years of its existence, Mexican Texas operated very...

. The letter is renowned as a "declaration of defiance" and a "masterpiece of American patriotism", and forms part of the history education of Texas schoolchildren.

On February 23, the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States of America and the second-largest city within the state of Texas, with a population of 1.33 million. Located in the American Southwest and the south–central part of Texas, the city serves as the seat of Bexar County. In 2011,...

 had been besieged by Mexican forces led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

. Fearing that his small group of men could not withstand an assault, Travis wrote this letter seeking reinforcements and supplies from supporters. The letter closes with Travis's vow of "Victory or Death!", an emotion which has been both praised and derided by historians.

The letter was initially entrusted to courier Albert Martin, who carried it to the town of Gonzales
Gonzales, Texas
Gonzales is a city in Gonzales County, Texas, United States. The population was 7,202 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Gonzales County.-Geography:Gonzales is located at...

 some seventy miles away. Martin added several postscripts to encourage men to reinforce the Alamo, and then handed the letter to Launcelot Smithers. Smithers added his own postscript and delivered the letter to its intended destination, San Felipe de Austin
San Felipe, Texas
San Felipe, also known as San Felipe de Austin, is a town in Austin County, Texas, United States. The town was the social, economic, and political center of the early Stephen F. Austin colony. The population was 868 at the 2000 census.-History:...

. Local publishers printed over 700 copies of the letter. It also appeared in the two main Texas newspapers and was eventually printed throughout the United States and Europe. Partially in response to the letter, men from throughout Texas and the United States began to gather in Gonzales. Between 32 and 90 of them reached the Alamo before it fell; the remainder formed the nucleus of the army which eventually defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto
Battle of San Jacinto
The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican forces in a fight that lasted just eighteen...

.

Following the end of the Texas Revolution
Texas Revolution
The Texas Revolution or Texas War of Independence was an armed conflict between Mexico and settlers in the Texas portion of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. The war lasted from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836...

, the original letter was delivered to Travis's family in Alabama, and in 1893, one of his descendants sold it to the State of Texas for $85 ($ today). For many decades it was displayed at the Texas State Library; the original letter is now protected and a copy is on display under a portrait of Travis.

Background


The Mexican Constitution of 1824 liberalized the country's immigration policies, allowing foreigners to settle in border regions such as Mexican Texas
Mexican Texas
Mexican Texas is the name given by Texas history scholars to the period between 1821 and 1836, when Texas was an integral part of Mexico. The period began with Mexico's victory over Spain in its war of independence in 1821. For the first several years of its existence, Mexican Texas operated very...

. People flocked to the area; an 1834 census estimated the Texas population at 7,800 Mexicans and 30,000 English-speaking people primarily from the United States.As a comparison, in 1825, the Texas population comprised approximately 3,500 people of Mexican descent, with few English-speaking settlers. (Edmondson (2000), p. 75.) Among the immigrants was William Barret Travis, an Alabama native who had variously worked as a teacher, a newspaper publisher, and a lawyer. An avid reader, Travis often devoured a novel in a single day. His taste ran primarily to romantic
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

 adventure and history, especially the novels of Sir Walter Scott and Benjamin Disraeli and the historical works of Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

. Historians have speculated that Travis's choice of reading material may have affected his behavior—Travis was known for his melodramatic ways.


In May 1831, Travis opened a law office in Anahuac, Texas
Anahuac, Texas
Anahuac is a city in the U.S. state of Texas within the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area. The population of the city was 2,210 at the 2000 census. Anahuac is the seat of Chambers County and is situated in East Texas.- History :...

. Almost immediately, he and his law partner, Patrick Jack, clashed with the local military commander, Juan Davis Bradburn
Juan Davis Bradburn
Juan Davis Bradburn , born John Davis Bradburn, was a brigadier general in the Mexican Army. His actions as commandant of the garrison at Anahuac in Mexican Texas in 1831 and 1832 led to the events known as the Anahuac Disturbances....

. Their subsequent actions were instrumental in causing the May 1832 Anahuac Disturbances
Anahuac Disturbances
The Anahuac Disturbances were uprisings of settlers in and around Anahuac, Texas in 1832 and 1835 which helped to precipitate the Texas Revolution. This eventually led to the territory's secession from Mexico and the founding of the Republic of Texas...

. According to historian William C. Davis
William C. Davis (historian)
William C. Davis is a professor of history at Virginia Tech University. An expert on the American Civil War, Davis has twice been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He has written more than forty books on the American Civil War and other aspects of Southern history. He was twice nominated for a...

, Bradburn "overreacted and made heroes of two local malcontents whose actions their own people otherwise had not been much inclined to sanction". Bradburn was forced to resign his post and flee Texas.

The Anahuac Disturbances coincided with a Mexican civil war. Texian
Texian
Texian is an archaic, mostly defunct 19th century demonym which defined a settler of current-day Texas, one of the southern states of the United States of America which borders the country of Mexico...

s aligned themselves with proponents of federalism
Federalism
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

 advocating a stronger role for state governments, in opposition to a centralized government
Centralized government
A centralized or centralised government is one in which power or legal authority is exerted or coordinated by a de facto political executive to which federal states, local authorities, and smaller units are considered subject...

 that set most policies at the national level. The federalists prevailed, and their favored general, Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

, was elected president. In 1835, Santa Anna began consolidating power; in response federalists launched armed rebellion in several Mexican states. Travis, an ardent foe of centralism, led an attack on Anahuac in June 1835 and forced the Mexican garrison to surrender. Many Texas settlers thought Travis's action was imprudent, and he was forced to apologize. Although the Mexican government issued a warrant for his arrest, local authorities did not enforce it.

Texians became increasingly discontented with the government as Santa Anna positioned himself as a dictator. In October, the Texas Revolution
Texas Revolution
The Texas Revolution or Texas War of Independence was an armed conflict between Mexico and settlers in the Texas portion of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. The war lasted from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836...

 began and delegates appointed a provisional government. Travis was commissioned lieutenant colonel in the new regular army
Regular army
A regular army consists of the permanent force of a country's army that is maintained under arms during peacetime.Countries that use the term include:*Australian Army*British Army*Canadian Forces, specifically "Regular Force"*Egyptian army*Indian Army...

 and asked to raise a cavalry company. He participated in the Siege of Béxar
Siege of Bexar
The Siege of Béxar was an early campaign of the Texas Revolution in which a volunteer Texan army successfully defeated Mexican forces at San Antonio de Béxar . Texians had become disillusioned with the Mexican government as President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's tenure became increasingly...

, where he proved to be "an impulsive, occasionally insubordinate, officer".

By the end of 1835, Texians had expelled all Mexican troops from Texas. Believing the war ended, many Texians resigned from the army and returned home. In January, the provisional government essentially collapsed; despite a lack of authority for any branch of government to interfere with other branches, the legislature impeached Governor Henry Smith
Henry Smith (Texas Governor)
Henry Smith was first American-born Governor of the Mexican territory of Texas and briefly presided over the revolution there.-Early life:...

, who in turn disbanded the legislature. No one in Texas was entirely sure who was in charge.

Even as Texian governmental authority declined, rumors flew that Santa Anna would personally lead an invasion of Texas to quell the rebellion. Despite this news, Texian army strength continued to dwindle. Texas settlers were divided on whether they were fighting for independence or a return to a federalist government in Mexico. The confusion caused many settlers to remain at home or to return home. Fewer than 100 Texian soldiers remained garrisoned at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio de Béxar (now San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States of America and the second-largest city within the state of Texas, with a population of 1.33 million. Located in the American Southwest and the south–central part of Texas, the city serves as the seat of Bexar County. In 2011,...

). Their commander, James C. Neill
James C. Neill
↔James Clinton Neill was a 19th-century American soldier and politician, most noted for his role in the Texas Revolution and the early defense of the Alamo. He was born in North Carolina.-Early life and career:...

, feared that his small force would be unable to withstand an assault by the Mexican troops. In response to Neill's repeated requests for reinforcements, Governor Smith assigned Travis and 30 men to the Alamo; they arrived on February 3. Most of the Texians, including Travis, believed that any Mexican invasion was months away.

Composition of the letter


Travis assumed command of the Alamo garrison on February 11, when Neill was granted a furlough.The volunteers already gathered in the Alamo did not accept the appointment of Travis, a regular army officer. They instead elected James Bowie as their commander. Bowie and Travis shared command until the morning of February 24, when Bowie collapsed from illness. At that point, Travis assumed sole command. (Hardin (1994), pp. 117–20.) On February 23, Santa Anna arrived in Béxar at the head of approximately 1500 Mexican troops. The 150 Texian soldiers were unprepared for this development. As they rushed to the Alamo, Texians quickly herded cattle into the complex and scrounged for food in nearby houses.Many residents of San Antonio de Béxar had fled when they learned that the Mexican Army was approaching, leaving most of the homes empty. (Edmondson (2000), p. 301.) The Mexican army initiated a siege of the Alamo
Siege of the Alamo
The siege of the Alamo describes the first twelve days of the Battle of the Alamo. On February 23, Mexican troops under General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna entered San Antonio de Bexar, Texas and surrounded the Alamo Mission...

 and raised a blood-red flag signalling no quarter
No quarter
A victor gives no quarter when the victor shows no clemency or mercy and refuses to spare the life in return for the surrender at discretion of a vanquished opponent....

. Travis responded with a blast from the Alamo's largest cannon.

The first night of the siege was largely quiet. The following afternoon, Mexican artillery began firing on the Alamo. Mexican Colonel Juan Almonte
Juan Almonte
Juan Nepomuceno Almonte was a 19th century Mexican official, soldier and diplomat. He was a veteran of the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution...

 wrote in his diary that the bombardment dismounted two of the Alamo's guns, including the massive 18-pounder cannon. The Texians quickly returned both weapons to service. Shortly after, Travis wrote an open letter
Open letter
An open letter is a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally....

 pleading for reinforcements from "the people of Texas & All Americans in the World".

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.



Travis"I shall never surrender or retreat" was underlined once, while "Victory or Death" was underlined thrice. (Green (1988), p. 492.)

Distribution



Travis entrusted the letter to courier Albert Martin, who rode through the night to cover the 70 miles (112.7 km) to the closest town, Gonzales
Gonzales, Texas
Gonzales is a city in Gonzales County, Texas, United States. The population was 7,202 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Gonzales County.-Geography:Gonzales is located at...

, as quickly as possible. During his journey, Martin added two postscripts. The first relayed Martin's fear that the Mexican army had already attacked the AlamoMartin had heard cannonfire as he left the Alamo. (Green (1988), p. 493.) and ended "Hurry on all the men you can in haste". The second postscript is more difficult to read, as the letter was later folded along one line of text. The paper has since partially frayed along the fold, obliterating several words. The gist of the message, however, is that the men at the Alamo were "determined to do or die", and Martin intended to gather reinforcements and return as quickly as possible.

In Gonzales, Martin turned the letter over to Launcelot Smithers. When the Mexican army arrived in Béxar, Smithers had immediately set out for Gonzales. Travis may have sent him as an official courier, or he may have journeyed there on his own to warn the townspeople. Smithers added his own message under Martin's, encouraging men to gather in Gonzales to go to the relief of the Texians at the Alamo.

Before departing Gonzales, Smithers gave a letter to Andrew Ponton, the alcalde
Alcalde
Alcalde , or Alcalde ordinario, is the traditional Spanish municipal magistrate, who had both judicial and administrative functions. An alcalde was, in the absence of a corregidor, the presiding officer of the Castilian cabildo and judge of first instance of a town...

 (or mayor) of the town. This second letter may have actually been the reason Smithers travelled to Gonzales, or it might have been a paraphrased version of the letter Martin had delivered. The copy read:

To All the Inhabitants of Texas:

In a few words there is 2000 Mexican soldiers in Bexar, and 150 Americans in the Alamo. Sesma is at the head of them, and from best accounts that can be obtained, they intend to show no quarter. If every man cannot turn out to a man every man in the Alamo will be murdered.



They have not more than 8 or 10 days provisions. They say they will defend it or die on the ground. Provisions, ammunition and Men, or suffer your men to be murdered in the Fort. If you do not turn out Texas is gone. I left Bexar on the 23rd at 4 P.M.


By order of

W.V. Travis [sic]

L. SmithersMany at the Alamo believed that General Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma
Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma
Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma was a 19th-century general for the Republic of Mexico.Sesma commanded the brigade sent in advance of the main body of Antonio López de Santa Anna's main body of troops that were heading to put down the rebellion in the Mexican state of Texas. His orders were to relieve Gen...

 was commanding the Mexican troops, and that Santa Anna would arrive soon with further reinforcements. (Edmondson (2000), p. 349.)



Ponton sent the Smithers copy of the letter to Colonel Henry Raguet, the commander of the Committee of Vigilance and Safety in Nacogdoches. Raguet kept the letter he received and sent a copy, with his additional comments, to Dr. John Sibley, the chairman of the Committee of Vigilance and Safety for Texas Affairs in Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches is a city in and the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States. Established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis as part of French Louisiana, the community was named after the Natchitoches Indian tribe. The City of Natchitoches was first incorporated on February...

.

Smithers rode hard and delivered Travis's letter to San Felipe de Austin in fewer than 40 hours. In a hurriedly organized meeting, town leaders passed a series of resolutions pledging assistance to the Alamo defenders. The results of the meeting were printed in a broadsheet
Broadsheet
Broadsheet is the largest of the various newspaper formats and is characterized by long vertical pages . The term derives from types of popular prints usually just of a single sheet, sold on the streets and containing various types of material, from ballads to political satire. The first broadsheet...

 alongside a reproduction of Travis's letter. After distributing all 200 copies of their initial print run, newspaper publishers Joseph Baker and Thomas Borden made at least four other reproductions of the letter, resulting in more than 500 additional copies. Their final printing included a message from Governor Henry Smith
Henry Smith (Texas Governor)
Henry Smith was first American-born Governor of the Mexican territory of Texas and briefly presided over the revolution there.-Early life:...

 urging the colonists "to fly to the aid of your besieged countrymen and not permit them to be massacred by a mercenary foe. ... The call is upon ALL who are able to bear arms, to rally without one moment's delay, or in fifteen days the heart of Texas will be the seat of war." On March 2, the letter was printed in the Texas Republican. It appeared in the other major Texas newspaper, the Telegraph and Texas Register
Telegraph and Texas Register
Telegraph and Texas Register was the second permanent newspaper in Texas. Originally conceived as the Telegraph and Texas Planter, the newspaper was renamed shortly before it began publication, to reflect its new mission to be "a faithful register of passing events"...

, three days later. The letter was eventually reprinted throughout the United States and much of Europe.

Texian response



This letter was one of several that Travis sent during the siege of the Alamo. Each carried a similar message—the Mexican army had invaded Texas, the Alamo was surrounded, and the Texians needed more men and ammunition to wage a successful defense. No assistance was forthcoming from the Texas government. By this point infighting had rendered the provisional government completely ineffective, and delegates convened on March 1 at the Convention of 1836
Convention of 1836
The Convention of 1836 was the meeting of elected delegates in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas in March 1836. The Texas Revolution had begun five months previously, and the interim government, known as the Consultation, had wavered over whether to declare independence from Mexico or pledge to...

 to create a new government. Most of the delegates believed that Travis exaggerated the difficulties he faced.

Many Texas residents disagreed with the convention's perception. As the message spread across Texas, settlers left their homes and assembled in Gonzales, where Colonel James Fannin
James Fannin
James Walker Fannin, Jr. was a 19th-century U.S. military figure on the Texas Army and leader during the Texas Revolution of 1835–36...

 was due to arrive with the remaining Texian Army troops.Fannin aborted his reinforcement mission on February 27 and returned to Goliad
Goliad, Texas
Goliad is a city in Goliad County, Texas, United States. It had a population of 1975 at the 2000 census. Founded on the San Antonio River, it is the county seat of Goliad County. It is part of the Victoria, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area. Goliad is located on U.S. Highway 59, named also for...

. (Edmondson (2000), pp. 324, 328.) He and many of his men were executed by Mexican troops during the Goliad Massacre
Goliad massacre
The Goliad Massacre was an execution of Republic of Texas soldiers and their commander, James Fannin, by Mexico, reluctantly carried out by General Jose de Urrea.-Background:...

 in late March.
On February 27 one group of reinforcements impatiently set out on their own; as a result 32 additional Texians entered the Alamo. Research by historian Thomas Ricks Lindley indicates that an additional 50 or 60 men reinforced the Alamo on March 4.

Almost all of the Texians were killed at the Battle of the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

 when the Mexican army attacked on March 6; Travis was likely the first to die. Unaware that the Alamo had fallen, reinforcements continued to assemble; over 400 Texians were waiting in Gonzales when news of the Texian defeat reached the town on March 11. Earlier that day, General Sam Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

, newly reappointed commander of the Texian Army, had arrived in Gonzales. On hearing of the Alamo's fall, Houston took command of the assembled volunteers. The following month, this hastily organized army defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto
Battle of San Jacinto
The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican forces in a fight that lasted just eighteen...

, ending the Texas Revolution.

This letter may have influenced the election of David G. Burnet
David G. Burnet
David Gouverneur Burnet was an early politician within the Republic of Texas, serving as interim President of Texas , second Vice President of the Republic of Texas , and Secretary of State for the new state of Texas after it was annexed to the United States of America.Burnet was born in Newark,...

 as interim president of the new Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

. After reading one of the broadsheet versions of the letter, Burnet rushed to join Travis at the Alamo. After stopping at Washington-on-the-Brazos to recruit reinforcements from the men assembled at the Convention of 1836, Burnet became so "inspired by their deliberations" that he remained as a visitor. The convention declared independence from Mexico on March 2, but delegates feared for the safety of the new country's officers. Speaking privately with many of the delegates, Burnet professed his willingness to serve as president of a new republic, even if that made him a target of Santa Anna. The most popular delegates were absent from the convention on other business for the war effort. In the absence of interest in the position from most of those remaining, Burnet was nominated for president and defeated the only other candidate, Samuel Carson, by a 29–23 margin.

Preservation


After the Texas Revolution ended, the original draft of the letter was given to Travis's family in Alabama. Several prominent Texians are known to have visited Travis's estranged wife shortly after the hostilities ended, but historians are unsure which of these men might have delivered the letter. Travis's daughter Susan (aged five at the time of his death) passed the letter down to her descendants; it eventually reached her great-grandson, John G. Davidson. In February 1891, Davidson lent the letter to the Texas Department of Agriculture, Insurance, Statistics, and History. Two years later, Davidson offered to sell the letter to the state of Texas for $250 ($ today). This represented half of the annual sum allocated for collecting historical manuscripts, and the state was hesitant to agree. After negotiations, Davidson agreed to accept $85 ($ today) for the letter, and on May 29 it officially passed into state ownership.

For many decades, the letter was publicly displayed, usually in a locked glass case with other manuscripts and artifacts from the Texas Revolution. At times, it was arranged alongside the Travis family Bible and a copy of Travis's will. In 1909, the letter was moved to the Texas State Library
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission refers to the agency in the state of Texas that is charged with overseeing and assisting with state-wide library programs, meeting the reading-related needs of Texans with disabilities, and finally preserving and providing access to significant Texas...

 and has since left that building only twice; it was among 143 documents loaned to the Committee on Historical Exhibits for the Texas Centennial Exposition
Texas Centennial Exposition
The Texas Centennial Exposition was a World's Fair held at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Texas's independence from Mexico in 1836. More than 50 buildings, for which "George Dahl was director general of a group of architects who designed the buildings ", were...

 in 1936, and it returned briefly to the site of the exposition in 1986. The original letter is no longer on permanent display. In its place is, in the words of Michael Green, former reference archivist for the Texas State Library Archives Division, "an exacting, one-of-a-kind facsimile". Directly over its display case is a portrait of Travis.

Four copies of the original broadsides are known to survive. One was placed for auction in 2004, where it was predicted to reach a price of over $250,000.

Reception


Travis' letter is regarded as "the most famous document in Texas history", but its widespread distribution allowed an impact outside the relatively isolated settlements in Texas. Historians place the letter in a broader context, "as one of the masterpieces of American patriotism" or even "one of the greatest declarations of defiance in the English language". It is rare to see a book about the Alamo or the Texas Revolution which does not quote the letter, either in full or part. The letter also appears in full in most Texas history textbooks geared towards elementary and middle school children. The postscripts, however, have rarely been printed. Despite its asserted impact, minimal scholarship exists on the letter itself.

Almost from the moment of his arrival in Texas, Travis had attempted to influence the war agenda in Texas. As he realized the magnitude of the opposition he faced at the Alamo, the tone of Travis's writings shifted from perfunctory reports to the provisional government to more eloquent messages aimed at a wider audience.

Travis's success and probably his survival depended upon these messages. Historian Thomas Ricks Lindley states: "In a time when there were only two methods of communication, speech and the written word, Travis used language to emotionally move the people. The missive, more than reflecting Travis's ego, showed his urgent need to influence citizens of a like mind to speed to the garrison's rescue."

His previous work as a journalist likely gave him a good understanding of the type of language that would most resonate with his intended audience. Travis used this particular letter not only as a means to publicize his immediate need for reinforcements and supplies, but also to shape the debate within Texas by offering "a well-crafted provocation" that might incite others to take up arms. He chose "unambiguous and defiant" language, resulting in a "very powerful" message. The letter represented an unofficial declaration of independence for Texas.The Convention of 1836
Convention of 1836
The Convention of 1836 was the meeting of elected delegates in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas in March 1836. The Texas Revolution had begun five months previously, and the interim government, known as the Consultation, had wavered over whether to declare independence from Mexico or pledge to...

 did not officially declare independence for Texas until March 2. Alamo defenders were unaware of this development.
Its word usage evoked the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 and Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

's famed cry of "Liberty or Death!
Give me Liberty, or give me Death!
"Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!" is a quotation attributed to Patrick Henry from a speech he made to the Virginia Convention. It was given on March 23, 1775, at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, and is credited with having swung the balance in convincing the Virginia House of Burgesses...

"

Critics have derided the letter for its emotionalism, noting that it appears to show "a preoccupation with romance and chivalry" not uncommon to fans of Sir Walter Scott. In particular, they point to Travis's asserted determination to sacrifice his own life for a lost cause.

External links