QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2005-02 > 1109251838
Subject: History Feb. 24, 1836
Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2005 08:30:38 EST
1836 Travis sends for help at the Alamo
Texan Colonel William Travis sends a desperate plea for help for the
besieged defenders of the Alamo, ending the message with the famous last words,
"Victory or Death."
Travis' path to the Alamo began five years earlier when he moved to the
Mexican state of Texas to start fresh after a failed marriage in Alabama. Trained
as a lawyer, he established a law office in Anahuac, where he quickly gained
a reputation for his willingness to defy the local Mexican officials. In
1832, a minor confrontation with the Mexican government landed Travis in jail.
When he was freed a month later, many Anglo settlers hailed him as a hero. As
Anglo-American resentment toward the Mexican government grew, Travis was
increasingly viewed as a strong leader among those seeking an independent Texan
When the Texas revolution began in 1835, Travis joined the revolutionary
army. In February 1836, he was made a lieutenant colonel and given command of
the regular Texas troops in San Antonio. On February 23, the Mexican army under
Santa Ana arrived in the city unexpectedly. Travis and his troops retreated
to the Alamo, an old Spanish mission and fortress, where they were soon
joined by James Bowie's volunteer force. The Mexican army of 5,000 soldiers badly
outnumbered the several hundred defenders of the Alamo. Their determination
was fierce, though, and when Santa Ana asked for their surrender the following
day, Travis answered with a cannon shot.
Furious, Santa Ana began a siege. Recognizing he was doomed to defeat
without reinforcements, Travis dispatched via couriers several messages asking for
help. The most famous was addressed to "The People of Texas and All Americans
in the World" and was signed "Victory or Death." Unfortunately, it was to be
death for the defenders: only 32 men from nearby Gonzales responded to
Travis' call for reinforcements. On March 6, the Mexicans stormed the Alamo and
Travis, Bowie, and about 190 of their comrades were killed. The Texans made
Santa Ana pay for his victory, though, having claimed at least 600 of his men
during the attack.
Although Travis' defense of the Alamo was a miserable failure militarily,
symbolically it was a tremendous success. "Remember the Alamo" quickly became
the rallying cry for the Texas revolution. By April, Travis' countrymen had
beaten the Mexicans and won their independence. Travis' daring defiance of the
overwhelmingly superior Mexican forces has since become the stuff of myth,
and a facsimile of his famous call for help is on permanent display at the
Texas State Library in Austin.