Texas 175: A Dozen Documents That Made a Difference

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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William Barret Travis's Letter from the Alamo, 1836

Commandancy of the Alamo—
Bejar, Fby. 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 &
every thing dear to the American
character, to come to our aid,

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William Barret Travis's Letter from the Alamo, February 24, 1836. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: August 25, 2011