The iconic "Victory or Death" letter written by Alamo commander William Barret Travis is back in San Antonio for the first time since it left by courier at the start of the famous siege at the old Spanish mission 177 years ago. Travis' letter seeking reinforcements to bolster his outnumbered rebel Texans failed to prevent their deaths nearly two weeks later on March 6, 1836. But the following month, Alamo-inspired men led by Gen. Sam Houston defeated elements of the same army under the Mexican president, Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, in an 18-minute battle outside present-day Houston to win independence for Texas from Mexico.
The single-page faded and yellowing letter, with Travis' words written on both sides, arrived by police escort on the grounds of the Alamo yesterday. It will be displayed for 13 days inside the shrine, beginning today. Travis' letter, written Feb. 24, 1836, was addressed to "the People of Texas and All Americans in the World." "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 26-year-old lawyer wrote. He promised: "I shall never surrender or retreat."