On the morning of March 6, 1836 General Antonio López de Santa Anna‘s overwhelming Mexican army force of around 2000 attacked the 200 or so Texians holding the Alamo. None of the Texians survived.
It was a pyrrhic victory for Santa Anna, though. Not only did he lose a reported 600 of his 2,000 soldiers in the battle, he fired up the resolve of the Texas settlers, causing volunteers to flock to the Texan army.
Only two months later Sam Houston would command the forces at the Battle of San Jacinto that would decimate the Mexican army and lead to the capture Santa Anna.
Prominent among the battle cries at the Battle of San Jacinto was “Remember the Alamo!”.
Two weeks earlier, Lt. Colonel William B. Travis at just 26 years old, had written asking for reinforcements. The letter said:
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.
William Barret Travis.
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.
For the first time in the 177 years since it was written, this letter has returned to the Alamo where it will be on display in a special exhibit until March 7.
For an extra special experience, listen to this 1968 recording of Willie Nelson reading the Travis letter.