Saturday, March 06, 2010

ALAMO FALLS - Travis’ Dispatch Yields Naught

If you attended school in Texas (in the 50’s or 60’s at least) you got a year of Texas History as part of the curriculum. One of the texts studied was Texas History Movies sponsored and distributed by the Magnolia Petroleum Company. It instilled in me a certain pride that Texas was different, special if you will. Anyone who knows me knows that a love of Texas and her ideals run deep in my psyche. I still have a beat up copy of that ‘50’s era publication and I treasure it.

On 6 Mar 1836 following the third assault of that early morning, Santa Anna’s troops breached the walls of The Alamo. Their overwhelming numbers allowed them to take the garrison. All her defenders perished, most in battle though a handfull were executed following an attempt at surrender. One of Travis’ surviving letters became fact from his supposition and the “Runaway Scrape” was on, only to end a short month and a half later at San Jacinto at the hands of Texians led by General Sam Houston. The Mexican Army, still led by Antonio López de Santa Anna’s defeat was total and complete. Texas had achieved her declared Independence. Casualties that morning for the Texians reportedly were only 7 dead while Mexican casualties numbered around 700. Travis, Crockett, Bowie, et al had been avenged.
“Among the original ink on paper war documents that have survived to our time, the Travis Letter from the Battle of the Alamo has no comparable equal in textural content and value to future generations of Texans and Americans. The Letter not only records Lt. Colonel William Barret Travis' appeal to "The People of Texas and all Americans in the world", but also carries two additional signed postscripts.

The first is from Captain Albert Martin and is located on the right hand side of the second page of Travis's Letter. … Captain Martin was selected by Travis to carry this to Gonzales his hometown. He arrived in Gonzales on February 25th with the postscript already added…

True to his word Albert Martin returned to the Alamo with a small relief force on or about March I, 1836 and died in at the Alamo on March 6, 1836. There are few accounts in military history of personal dedication that surpasses Captain Martin's brave ride through the Mexican Armies lines and a return to almost certain death with his fellow patriots at the Shrine of Texas Liberty.

The second is from Lancelot Smither. He had been sent by Travis the day before Martin left with an estimate of the growing strength of the Mexican troops. Martin gave the February 24th Letter to Smither to carry out the order of the Letter shown on the extreme left hand side of the first page to take to San Felipe "by express day and night." Smither added a note to the back of the Letter located running at a ninety degree angle below Martin's postscript…

Smither carried the Letter to San Felipe after forty hours of hard riding and delivered the appeal to a citizens' committee. Printed copies of the Travis Letter were made which were not faithful to the original Letter. At some point after the war the Travis Letter was returned to his family. Smither lived until 1842 having served as a city treasurer of San Antonio and as mayor pro pro-tem for a short period. He was killed by invading Mexican troops at Sutherland Springs in September of 1842. The final courier would also die at the hands of Mexican troops.”

The Travis Letter and the Alamo are forever linked together and they continue to provide Texans and all Americans with a sense of pride and respect for sacrifice, honor and dedication to country. In this regard, the Travis Letter continues to be a treasure for our time and a beacon from a distant past, which inspires all those who fight against tyranny, and oppression in the world.

Page 1
Send this to San Felipe by Express night & day To the People of Texas and All Americans

Page 2
Commandancy of the Alamo—Bejar, Fby. 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 & every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid,
Page 3
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
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 head of Beeves—


Page 4
Since the above was written I heard a very heavy Cannonade during the whole day think there must have been an attack made upon the Alamo. We were short of ammunition when I left. Hurry on all the men you can in haste. When I left there was but 150 determined to do or die tomorrow I leave for Bejar with what men I can raise [copy here illegible] at all events— Col. Almonte is there the troops are under the Command of Gen. Seisma
Albert Martin

[printed sideways]
Nb I hope that Every One will Rondevu at gonzales as soon poseble as the Brave Solders are suffering do not neglect this powder is very scarce and should not be delad one moment
L. Smither
Was reading a book by a friend (Empty by The Rev. Patrick J. Miller – another Texan BTW) and he was speaking about visiting Masada in Israel and how it is to Israelis as The Alamo is to Texans; or for that matter what Thermopylae was to ancient Greeks. It allowed me to develop an interesting insight into the current Israeli soldiers state of mind. Having just finished the book I suppose it’s in part responsible for this post.

Travis wrote several letters from the Alamo but the preceding is his most poignant, best remembered; and gives witness to the character of those 182 brave men who fought and died in support of their beliefs. Guess that’s where my love of Texas began germination.

On this March 6th 2010:
“Remember The Alamo and Remember Goliad”

N.B. All of Travis’ Alamo Letters in order of date of composition may be found here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Texas Independence

Today is Texas Independence Day.

March 2, 1836, representatives of the citizenry gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos and adopted Texas’ Declaration of Independence. Bowie, Travis, Crockett, et al, had been gathered at the Alamo and under siege by Santa Anna and his troops since Feb 23rd. It would fall only four days later.

I stopped by the local “C” Store for a bottle of Ozarka Water, from Piney Woods Springs, Woods County, Texas to celebrate the morn. I couldn’t find any Utopia brand. As I drank it, I read: ”To Texas” by Joe B. Franz.
To Texas-

Joyous and sparkling,
Evergreen when it rains,
enduring in drought,
Timeless, endless in
boundaries, exciting,
Home to the adventurous of
yesterday and today,
With shrines from the past
And space and spirit for the
To Texas,
Everlasting in the hearts of
your people!
That was just after I had voted in our primary elections. On the way to work, at a light, a young fellow got out of his car, ran over to my window and asked if I had voted. I said: “I had.” Having seen my Kinky Friedman for Governor sticker in the back window of my truck, he wanted to remind me to vote for Kinky for Ag. Commissioner this time around.

Lordy, I love Texas and am proud to be a native son…