Texas history: Travis’s Victory or Death Letter

Remember the Alamo and Col. William B. Travis's Victory or Death Letter

As a person who was born and bred in the great state of Texas, I have always carried a deep love in my heart for my native land. And I’ve tried to pass on that same love and respect to my children, all twelve of whom are native-born Texans, as well.

We sing Texas songs and visit Texas landmarks. We honor the Texas flag and sow Texas bluebonnets in fields near our home. And we are grateful for Texas heroes whose sacrifices helped make our state what it is today: strong, free, and independent.

Travis’s Victory or Death Letter

Just as we have memorized the immortal words of Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty or give me death!”), Thomas Paine (“These are the times that try men’s souls…”), Thomas Jefferson (“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”), Benjamin Franklin (“We must, indeed, all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”) and others who fought for America’s independence in the Revolutionary War, so we have also committed to memory the courageous words of Col. William B. Travis, which he penned at the Alamo on February 24, 1836, during Texas’s War for Independence:

To The People of Texas and All Americans In The World —
February 24, 1836

Fellow citizens & compatriots,

I am beseiged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment & 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 every thing 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 and that of his country — VICTORY OR DEATH.

William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt.

Travis's Victory or Death Letter
[click on image to print]

We Saw the Letter with Our Own Eyes

William Travis’s iconic “Victory or Death” letter came briefly back to the Alamo in 2013 for the first time since it was penned 177 years earlier. We happened to be in San Antonio visiting two of our adult children who were attending dental school there at the time, so we went to view the letter on the actual anniversary of the date it was written.


It was perfect timing, as we were in the big middle of a Texas History study in our homeschool and had just finished reading Susanna of the Alamo a week earlier (hence, our costumes).

The letter was only on display for a couple of weeks, so we were grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Heroism on Display

I admire the brave resolve of Travis and the men who fought under his command. Victory or death! An unshakeable resolve to do their duty. To defend the values they held most dear.

So you can imagine how disappointed I was to learn about proposed changes to State textbooks used to teach 7th grade Texas History. The textbook makers intend to remove Travis’s “Victory or Death” letter. They also want to strike any language that refers to the valiant defenders of the Alamo as “heroes.” Is this revisionist history not downright disgusting?

The State Board of Education is scheduled to meet later this morning (Tuesday, September 11, 2018) in Austin. If you are as concerned about this outright Orwellian war on history as I am, would you please make that fact known? Take a minute to call the Texas Education Agency at (512)463-5822 and register your desire to KEEP THE TRAVIS LETTER AND THE WORDS HERO AND HEROIC in our schoolchildren’s Texas History textbooks. Alternatively, you may email Donna Bahorich (the Chair of the State Board of Education). But do so today. The sooner, the better.

You may also register your opinion in person. To do so, you’ll need to make your way to — ironically — the William B. Travis (WBT) State Office Building, 1701 N. Congress, room 1-109, Austin, Texas 78701.

Thanks so much for your help!

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