Saturday, March 2, 2013

Local News Update

It's been a busy few weeks. I've been a little negligent in maintaining this blog. One of the things that's slipped has been some recent developments regarding the most sacred piece of Texas soil - the Alamo. So here's what's been in the news lately concerning the Cradle of Texas Liberty.

Replica of 18-pound cannon used at Alamo will return to San Antonio
A replica of the 18-pound cannon William Barret Travis answered Santa Anna's demand for surrender with makes a defiant return to the Alamo Friday in celebration of Texas Independence Day and the 177th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo.

"This 18-pound cannon embodies the Texians' unyielding defiance to tyranny," said Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. "This cannon — and the defiance it represented — was one of the main reasons Santa Anna was set on taking the Alamo."
A lot of us think it's about time to rekindle that defiance to a federal government that seems as hell-bent on taking away our rights today as the Mexican government was 177 years ago.
The 18-pounder is believed to be the cannon Travis was referring to when he wrote  ‘". . . I have answered the demand with a cannon shot . . ."  in his famous "Victory or Death" letter...
Speaking of the Travis letter, it is considered by many Texans to be the most sacred and inspirational historical document in state history, and second only to the Declaration of Independence on a national level.

This week, that letter has been put on rare public display at the site where it was written - the Alamo.

'Victory or Death' letter returns to the Alamo
A written plea for help in which the commander of the besieged rebel Texas forces at the Alamo vowed "Victory or Death" will return Friday to the old Spanish mission for the first time since it was penned in 1836.

William Barret Travis' famous letter to "the People of Texas and All Americans in the World," will get a police escort from the state archive in Austin to the Alamo... The weathered, single-page letter will go on display for two weeks, starting this weekend, and will be kept in a special display cabinet and given round-the-clock guards.

The exhibit coincides with the 177th anniversary of the siege, which culminated with the March 6, 1836, fall of the Alamo and the deaths of Travis and the roughly 180 men in his command.

Travis, a 26-year-old South Carolina native and lawyer who left his family in Alabama for Texas, wrote that the forces under Mexico's president, Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, were subjecting him and his men to "continual" cannon fire. Knowing the odds were against them, Travis wrote that he responded to a surrender demand with a single cannon shot of his own and the promise that, "I shall never surrender or retreat."

The letter was smuggled out of the Alamo at night by a courier on horseback, though by the time it was published in leaflets and newspapers, Travis and his men were dead. But volunteers crying "Remember the Alamo!" and led by Gen. Sam Houston routed Santa Anna's forces more than a month later outside what's now the city of Houston, securing Texas' independence from Mexico.

"The writing of the letter by Travis is a pivotal and very, very dramatic moment in the story of the Alamo with all its famous characters, (David) Crockett, (James) Bowie, Travis and many more who willingly decided to give their lives in a cause they considered bigger than themselves," Michael Parrish, a Baylor University history professor, said. "In fact, the Alamo is considered one of the great epic stories of American history, and indeed, world history."

Travis penned the letter in a room across the plaza from the mission's main entrance. The spot is now a Ripley's Haunted Adventure, which is part of a block-long strip of tourist-focused businesses.

Capt. Albert Martin of Gonzales, a Rhode Island native, slipped through the Mexican lines outside the Alamo and handed it the following afternoon to Lancelot Smither, a former Alamo defender who had left earlier to spread word that Santa Anna's army had arrived. Smither delivered it to San Felipe, the unofficial capital of revolutionary Texas about 145 miles east of San Antonio.
And 177 years later the letter was delivered back to where it all began, with appropriate pomp and circumstance.

The famous "Victory or Death" letter penned on February 24, 1836 by William Barret Travis, Commander of the Texian rebels in the former mission known as the Alamo, is carried Friday Feb. 22, 2013 to the Alamo by Alamo Rangers. The letter is returning to the Alamo for the first time since it was dispatched by Travis during the battle. Members of the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce hold a "Gonzales Flag" during the ceremony.

Red carpet rolled out for Travis letter
With all the pageantry worthy of a priceless document, William Barret Travis' enduring “victory or death” letter returned Friday to the Alamo, for the first time since it was written by the desperate young commander in 1836.

A color guard of re-enactors in period Texian dress led four Alamo Rangers who carried a fine arts shipping crate. They carted the letter along a red carpet and into the chapel...

The doors of the chapel swung open as Denton County Sheriff Will Travis finished reading the text of the famous letter, written by his fifth-great uncle.

The letter, carried out of the Alamo on Feb. 24, 1836, by mounted courier Albert Martin, arrived Friday in a blue, specially equipped truck. Employees of the Land Office and Alamo have blocked off windows of the chapel and installed temporary air conditioning units to protect the fragile document from sunlight and variations in temperature and humidity.

Michael Waters, archives commission chairman, said the commission was proud to be part of the “reunion of two icons of Texas history” — the Alamo and the stirring dispatch, considered one of the most famous letters ever written.

“You don't have to tell Texans what 'the letter' is,” Waters said.

In his public appeal for help, Travis wrote, “Then, I call on you in the name of liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch.”

Among about 1,000 people at the ceremony were three women from Gonzales, where the Texas Revolution began Oct. 2, 1835. One of them, Charlie Gray, held a large “Come and Take It” flag, which shows a silhouette of the cannon townspeople defended against Mexican officials.

Here's the text of the letter.
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 and cannonade for 24 hours and 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, and 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 and 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 to his own honor & that of his country — Victory or Death.

William Barrett Travis.

Lt.  Col. comdt.

Those words still ring true today.

No comments: