William Barret Travis knew he was about to die.
Only 26 years old, he was in command of 180 Anglo and Mexican farmers, bankers and settlers, including former Congressman David Crockett.
Occupying a crumbling church, they were armed with hunting rifles.
Outside its walls were 2,000 soldiers of the Mexican Army, at the time the most powerful military force in the Western Hemisphere. Commanding them was General Antonio López de Santa Anna, Mexico’s supreme military leader and dictator.
Santa Anna vowed cruel revenge against the rebels, whose armed insurrection in the town of Bexar forced the retreat of the area’s military commander — Santa Anna’s brother in law.
Not only had these men declared rebellion against Santa Anna, they had brought shame to his family.
Travis knew that unless thousands of patriots answered his call and rushed to the remote outpost, he and his men would be killed or executed.
He sat down and penned a stirring call to action. Here is that famous letter, written 181 years ago today.
Commandancy of the The Alamo
Bejar, Feby. 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 & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, 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.
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 and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.