William Barret Travis was just 26 when he wrote the letter. (File)
Fellow Citizens and Compatriots: I am besieged with 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 surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison is 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 over the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, of 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 his honor and that of his country--Victory or Death.
William Barrett Travis, Lt. Col. Commander. “
SAN ANTONIO (February 23, 2013)—William Barret Travis’ iconic "Victory or Death" letter was on display Saturday at the Alamo, to which it was returned Friday for the first time since it was dispatched on horseback at the start of the famous siege in 1836.
A box truck escorted by motorcycle officers transported the letter from Austin to San Antonio on Friday.
The yellowing, single-page letter will be on display for 13 days through March 7 in a specially built cabinet.
In the letter, the Alamo commander sought help for his badly outnumbered rebel Texans at the old Spanish mission.
A courier on horseback smuggled the single-page letter from the old Spanish mission where Travis and his men had taken up defense against Mexican army forces sent to put down their rebellion.
It was widely published in newspapers and pamphlets, but although the call for reinforcements was heeded, it was too late to help the roughly 180 men defending the Alamo, who were all killed.
The Alamo fell two weeks later on March 6, 1836.
The following month, Gen. Sam Houston defeated elements of the same Mexican army to win Texas' independence.
A webcam has been placed to stream a live view of the letter in its protective case.
"Col. Travis had the boldness to address his letter to the People of Texas and All Americans in the world, but his letter took months to reach its audience," Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said.
"Now it will reach them anywhere in the world in a fraction of a second."
The display is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through March 7.
Admission is free.