“Liberty Or Death” – (Video)

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……………………Click HERE for the live webcam from the Alamo…

texan59   Guest posted by “Texan59”…

Today, February 24, marks the 177th anniversary of what many would say is the most important letter ever written in the State of Texas.  On February 24, 1836, Lt. Col. William Barret Travis wrote his “Liberty or Death” letter requesting additional troops be sent to the Alamo in their battle against Mexican General Santa Anna.  While history has been more amenable to some of his compatriots, most notably Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, Lt. Col. Travis was tasked with leading this disparate group against the formidable Mexican army.  For the first time since he penned his  immortal words, the letter is back at the Alamo.

Travis - Crockett - BowiePainting by Mark Barnett

Travis – Crockett – Bowie
Painting by Mark Barnett

This little home was the residence of WilliamBarret Travis, the commander of the Alamo and ahero of the Texas Revolution.

This little home was the residence of William
Barret Travis, the commander of the Alamo and a
hero of the Texas Revolution.

Travis was born in August of 1809 in South Carolina.  At the age of nine his family moved to Sparta, AL.  It was there where he received his education and became an assistant school teacher.  He then served an apprenticeship with a local lawyer and hung out his shingle at about the age of eighteen or nineteen.  By the age of 20 he was married and became a father.  Travis was very active in the local business scene, even starting a newspaper – the Claiborne HeraldBut alas, as many young men have encountered, his marriage began to fail and he decided to move to Texas in 1831 at the ripe old age of 22.

Upon his arrival in Texas, Travis obtained land from Stephen F. Austin and began practicing law in Anahuac, TX, a town just to the east of Houston.  The current population of Anahuac is just over 2200.  Not a thriving metropolis by any means.  As frictions began developing between Texas and Mexico, Travis joined up with the Texans.  In October, 1835 the Battle of Gonzales occurred and Travis travelled there but not before the battle was over.  This battle was the beginning of the Texas Revolution and its main claim to fame is the “Come and Take it” flag.

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On December 19, Travis was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel of the Legion of Cavalry and became the chief recruiting officer for a new regular Texan army. His command was to consist of 384 men and officers, divided into six companies. Despite his rank, Travis had to recruit the men who were to serve under his command, but he had difficulty in finding willing colonists to enlist as regulars, because the majority wished to remain in their local militia units. “Volunteers can no longer be had or relied upon”, he wrote to acting governor Henry Smith.

For his role in the Provisional Government during the early stages of the Texas Revolution, Henry Smith is remembered as the first governor of Texas.

For his role in the Provisional Government during the early stages of the Texas Revolution, Henry Smith is remembered as the first governor of Texas.

Smith ordered Travis to raise a company of professional soldiers to reinforce the Texans at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio. Travis considered disobeying his orders, writing to Smith:

“I am willing, nay anxious, to go to the defense of Bexar, but sir, I am unwilling to risk my reputation … by going off into the enemy’s country with such little means, so few men, and with them so badly equipped.”

On February 3 Travis arrived in San Antonio with eighteen regulars as reinforcements. On February 12, as the next highest-ranking officer, Travis became the official commander of the Alamo garrison. He took command of the regular soldiers from Col. James C. Neill, of the Texan army. Neill had to leave to care for his ill family, but he promised to be back in twenty days. Meanwhile, the surrounding militia units were asked to volunteer to serve under the regulars. In turn, James Bowie (1795–1836), a noted frontiersmen, soldier, duelist, and notable of the community would command the volunteers as Travis commanded the regulars. 

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Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón

Meanwhile, the Mexican army, under dictator/General Antonio López de Santa Anna, had begun its rapid movement northward and caught the Texans unaware in early February.  By the second week of February, Mexican regulars were scouting the Alamo and by February 22 began laying siege to the fort. The Mexicans began their attack on the mission on February 23, 1836. In a brief letter, Travis wrote:

“The enemy in large force is in sight… We want men and provisions … Send them to us. We have 150 men & are determined to defend the Alamo to the last.”

On February 24, 1836, during Santa Anna’s siege of the Alamo, Travis wrote a letter addressed “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World“:

Fellow citizens and compatriots;

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and 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, and 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 and 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 and 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 and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.

Travis

He gave this letter to courier John William Smith to deliver. The envelope that contained the letter was labeled “Victory or Death”. In a letter to the Texas Convention, dated March 3, Travis wrote:

“…yet I am determined to perish in the defense of this place, and my bones shall reproach my country for her neglect.”

In Travis’ last letter out of the Alamo, which reached the convention the same day on March 3 to David Ayres, he wrote:

“Take care of my little boy. If the country should be saved, I may make him a splendid fortune; but if the country should 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.”

The letter, while unable to bring aid to the garrison at the Alamo, did much to motivate the Texan army and helped to rally support in America for the cause of Texan independence. It also cemented Travis’s status as a hero of the Texas Revolution.

The Alamo was already a hundred years old at the time of the siege and battle. It was founded in 1718 as a Spanish mission for the purpose of Christianizing the Indians indigenous to the area.

The Alamo was already a hundred years old at the time of the siege and battle. It was founded in 1718 as a Spanish mission for the purpose of Christianizing the Indians indigenous to the area.

On March 6, 1836, following a thirteen-day siege, Santa Anna ordered the assault on the Alamo at the predawn hours. The Mexicans used ladders to climb over the wall’s tops and broke down the fort’s outer defenses. After a half-hour of heavy fighting throughout the fort, Travis, Bowie, and most of the defenders were dead. Travis had been killed early in the battle by a single shot to the head.

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Colonel William. B. Travis, shown here atop the North Wall in the center of the painting with his sword over his head, reached over the wall to administer a shotgun blast to the mass of Mexican soldiers clamoring underneath. Travis was shot in the head, tumbled backward, and died at the foot of the ramp used to position the artillery pieces of the North Wall battery.

All of the militia and soldiers defending the Alamo (under 200 men) were killed; however, these men’s lives cost the Mexican army dearly: approximately 1600 Mexican soldiers were killed in the battle.

Hand-Colored Print of Former Slave and Confederate Cook Joe Warren. Joe Warren, the slave of Colonel William E. Travis who followed him to war.  Taken late in his life, this image shows Warren with his head bowed and resting on his cane.

Hand-colored print of former slave and confederate cook Joe Warren. Joe, the slave of Colonel William E. Travis, followed him to war. Taken late in his life, this image shows Warren with his head bowed and resting on his cane.

Travis’ personal slave, Joe, who was present during the final assault, stated afterward that he saw Travis stand on the wall and fire into the attackers. He saw Travis shoot and kill a Mexican soldier climbing over the wall from a ladder, with Travis falling immediately afterward.

When Santa Anna came into the fort he asked the alcalde of San Antonio, Francisco A. Ruiz, to identify the bodies of the rebel leaders to him. Ruiz later said that the body of Travis was found on a gun carriage on the north wall. Within a few hours of the final gunshots being fired, Santa Anna ordered a company of soldiers to gather wood and burn all the Texans’ bodies. By five o’clock that evening, the bodies of Travis, Crockett, Bowie and Bonham, were burned along with the other rebels.

The Battle of the Alamo was led by a young man aged 26 who was tasked with fending off an army of thousands with 183 men.  While we all know how this battle ended, it enabled the Texas army to amass strength and numbers and defeat the Mexican army just a short time later at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Visitors walk past a custom case that houses Texas hero William Barret Travis' famed "Victory of Death" letter at the Alamo in Austin, Texas. For the first time in 177 years, Travis' letter addressed to “the People of Texas and All Americans in the World” seeking aid to the besieged Texans he commanded at the Alamo returns to the Alamo for display.

Visitors walk past a custom case that houses Texas hero William Barret Travis’ famed “Victory of Death” letter at the Alamo in Austin, Texas. For the first time in 177 years, Travis’ letter addressed to “the People of Texas and All Americans in the World” seeking aid to the besieged Texans he commanded at the Alamo, returns to the Alamo for display.

For those who may travel the highways and byways of Texas you will see these men all around.  There are many streets, towns and counties named after these heroes.  Travis County is where you will find the city of Austin.

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About WeeWeed

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18 Responses to “Liberty Or Death” – (Video)

  1. Thank you. I enjoyed this. I finally had the opportunity to visit the Alamo about 20 years ago. It was smaller than I had envisioned. When I walked in, I was nearely overcome with emotion. It felt like a sacred place.

  2. elvischupacabra says:

    Sometimes, it’s hard to get your mind around the fact that Will Travis was only 26 years old when he died. He lived an incredibly full and interesting life in those few years, and was obviously a passionate, honorable and driven man in the way that few people are. It also amazes me how easily and quickly he embraced the Texian cause, even to the point of giving his life for it.

    Just days before the last election, Ted Cruz was at an event in Conroe, held at the high-school football stadium. Ted spoke of liberty, freedom and the great lengths people go to win and keep them. As a centerpiece of his speech, he read Travis’ letters from the Alamo and put them into the context of today. There were very few dry eyes in the crowd.

    What happened in the cold, early spring of 1836 in that crumbling old mission is as relevant today as it was 177 years ago. The cause of Liberty and Freedom is worth any sacrifice! To not protect it today, is to render every sacrifice made in the cause of Liberty and Freedom, from Concord to the Present, as being in vain. And we cannot… we will not… let that happen!

    I think Ted Cruz and Will Travis would easily recognize one another in a crowd.

  3. stellap says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post, Tex. While knowing of the existence of the Alamo and the bare facts, I have never read this story before. Will Travis was indeed a patriot!

  4. WeeWeed says:

    Y’all be sure and check out the webcam Puddy put at the top – people’re like ants, all over the shrine today…..

  5. Sharon says:

    Excellent.

    If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country. Victory or Death.

    …yet I am determined to perish in the defense of this place, and my bones shall reproach my country for her neglect.

    Signed–The Benghazi Four

    Today the whole nation is The Alamo. :(

  6. triage says:

    I think what happened at the Alamo is symbolic of so many struggles in life. We have to find a higher purpose for our lives. There are worse things than death. One being a dishonerable life. I am not a big fan of useless wars and needless death but some times the easy way is a death in and of itself. I think so many die the death of a thousand cuts due to continued compromise of ones morals and ideals. We are afraid to stand up and speak up for fear we will lose the comfort we have. It is almost with this modern culture that courage and virtue are foolish and many people don’t see and value in these outdated character traits. To me the Alamo is not about white people fighting brown people as some see it but rather a reflection of a stuggle all cultures have had to face. All people are faced with their Alamo. Some shrink and some die good if that is all thats left. If hanged for my beliefs I would prefer to kick my own horse rather than fret about dying.

  7. czarowniczy says:

    I first went to the Alamo with my father in the early 50s as he had to spend a few days at a function being held at Lackland AFB (he was still in the AF). It wasn’t as it is today, not quite as touristed-up. I can remember my father pointing out bullet and shrapnel holes that were still visible in places and where some of the various persons stood and where the attacks came from, I’ve been back a number of times as I had business in San Antonio, it’s a place that still maintains an aura of history and personal sacrifice even though it’s been spruced up. Now I’m thinking about how, as Texas once again slowly becomes a province of North Mexico, how the Alamo story will be presented to future generations.

  8. ottawa925 says:

    Gosh, I really felt that one. My mind was picturing the scene. As far as future generations and how they will present the story of the Alamo, it would not surprise me that with the growing Mexican population that you will hear what I hear them say now … that we stole their land from them. There have been a few movies The Alamo, but my fav will always be the one with Wayne, Widmark, and Laurence Harvey as Travis. Even tho Harvey was British I thought he did an excellent job of portraying the character … he was intense. And Sharon, you were right on there.

    “1600 Mexican soldiers were killed in the battle.” < incredible

    • debfrmhell says:

      The line to see the letter is lasting for 2-3 hours. Even people from here are coming into downtown for the event. A couple showed me a souvenir copy of it and it gave me goose bumps. Amazing.

  9. When my grandmother was a child (our family is from Texas) she said there were still cannon balls stuck in the walls. It was her great great uncle William cloud that gave his life at the Alamo so she could grow up in the country she did. He died so that she could have the life she did. May we all be found as brave as he was found on those days.

  10. ctdar says:

    I did not know the full story, thank you Tex for writing this. I just finished
    No Easy Day (SEAL Team 6 & Bin Laden raid)…author closes with this which is fitting to Travis bravery & contribution to our Country:
    Don’t just live, but live for a purpose bigger than yourself. Be an asset to your family, community, and country.

  11. Ad rem says:

    Excellent presentation Tex! What you wrote truly honors these great men. I hope the following video isn’t too outta line…. ;-)

  12. WeeWeed says:

    A really great write up, Tex, and thanks for doing it! Every time I read the letter, or hear the audio, I get verklempt.

  13. Frances Gustason says:

    I just want to thank you as Travis and I have a common ancestor.

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