It’s the High Holy Season in Texas, as we approach the anniversaries of the Alamo Battle, Goliad & San Jacinto battles. There will be much speech-making and newspaper & TV reports on the Alamo battle’s continuing significance, it’s story of sacrifice and revolt, it’s controversies. People will read Texian commander William B. Travis’ famous ‘To The People of Texas and All Americans In The World’ letter, announcing that the Alamo was besieged by a large force of the Mexican army and was in great need of help. It was a Romantic age and Travis, a prickly, prideful man was a person of his times. You feel that he spoke like Sir Walter Scott wrote, full of florid language, rich in drama and heavy with the weight of sacrifice and honor.
“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,” he wrote, ending, “VICTORY OR DEATH”
It’s a hell of a letter. Many Texans can quote it from memory. But still, the one communique William B. Travis sent out from the Alamo that hits me most is his last, dated March 3, 1836.
It was to a friend, David Ayers, written on a scrap of paper. Ayers was taking care of Travis’ young son. Travis had left his wife and child in Alabama, fleeing from debts and a jail term, and headed to Texas. There was promise there, he believed. As the Alamo siege began to come to a close, as hope for reinforcements dimmed, Travis wrote to Ayers:
“Take care of my little boy. If the country should be saved, I may make him a splendid fortune; but if the country should be lost, and I should perish, he will have nothing but the proud recollection that he is the son of a man who died for his country.”
Three days later, as Mexican troops streamed across the Alamo’s battered walls, Travis died near the fiercest fighting. He was 26 years old.