Monday, February 24, 2014

On This Day in 1836 Travis's Famous Call for Help

178 years ago, on this day in 1836, Colonel William Travis, commanding 186 Texans in an old mission fort in San Antonio, Texas issued a call for help on behalf of the Texan troops defending the Alamo under attack by the Mexican army.

A native of Alabama, Travis moved to the Mexican state of Texas in 1831. He soon became a leader of the growing movement to overthrow the Mexican government and establish an independent Texan republic. When the Texas revolution began in 1835, Travis became a lieutenant-colonel in the revolutionary army and was given command of troops in the recently captured city of San Antonio de Bexar (now San Antonio). On February 23, 1836, a large Mexican force commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana arrived suddenly in San Antonio. Travis and his troops took shelter in the Alamo, where they were soon joined by a volunteer force led by Colonel James Bowie.

Though Santa Ana's 5,000 troops heavily outnumbered the Texans, Travis and his men determined not to give up. On February 24, they answered Santa Ana's call for surrender with a bold shot from the Alamo's cannon. Furious, the Mexican general ordered his forces to launch a siege and raised a red flag to signify that no prisoners were to be taken.. Travis immediately recognized his disadvantage and sent out several messages via couriers asking for reinforcements. Addressing one of the pleas to "The People of Texas and All Americans in the World," Travis signed off with the now-famous phrase "Victory or Death."

Only 32 men from the nearby town of Gonzales responded to Travis' call for help, and beginning at 5:30 a.m. on March 6, Mexican forces stormed the Alamo through a gap in the fort's outer wall, killing Travis, Bowie and all of their men. Despite the loss of the fort, the Texan troops managed to inflict huge losses on their enemy, killing at least 600 of Santa Ana's men.

The brave defense of the Alamo became a powerful symbol for the Texas revolution, helping the rebels turn the tide in their favor. At the crucial Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 910 Texan soldiers commanded by Sam Houston defeated Santa Ana's army of 1,250 men, spurred on by cries of "Remember the Alamo!" The next day, after Texan forces captured Santa Ana himself (he was found trying to escape dressed in the uniform of a private), and in exchange for his life, the general issued orders for all Mexican troops to pull back behind the Rio Grande River. On May 14, 1836, Texas officially became an independent republic.

Here is the text of that letter. Read it carefully -it is truly the stuff of legend...

Commandancy of the Alamo
Bexar, Feby. 24th 1836

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 and 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 and 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 heads of Beeves.


Live Long and Prosper...

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