At the Alamo in San Antonio, then called Bejar, 150 Texas rebels led by William Barret Travis made their stand against Santa Anna's vastly superior Mexican army. On the second day of the siege, February 24, 1836, Travis called for reinforcements with this heroic message. But little help came. Santa Anna's troops broke through on March 6. All of the defenders of the Alamo died.
This historic letter was carried from the Alamo by 30-year-old Captain Albert Martin of Gonzales, a native of Rhode Island. On the afternoon of the 25th, Martin passed the dispatch to Lancelot Smither, who had arrived from the Alamo the day before with an estimate of Mexican troop strength. Both Martin and Smither added notes to Travis's letter.
That evening, fighting an icy wind, Smither departed for San Felipe. In less than 40 hours he delivered the appeal to the citizens' committee in that town. Several copies were made, and transcripts of the letter began to appear in newspapers as early as March 2. The original holograph was returned to the Travis family shortly after the Revolution.
In 1893, Travis's great-grandson, John G. Davidson, sold the letter for $85 (about $2000 in today's currency) to the Texas Department of Agriculture, Insurance, Statistics, and History, the predecessor agency to the Texas State Library and Archives.
William Barret Travis's Letter from the Alamo, February 24, 1836
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Commandancy of the Alamo—
Fellow citizens & compatriots—
William Barret Travis's Letter from the Alamo, February 24, 1836. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.