Below in its entirety is the famous letter written by William Barrett Travis on the second day of the siege of the Alamo on February 24, 1836. It is recognized world over as one of the most heroic dispatches ever penned. Writing from San Antonio de Bexar, Travis requests assistance but makes it clear that if no one comes to his relief, "I shall never surrender or retreat." He concludes this letter with his now immortal words, "I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country -- VICTORY or DEATH."
26 year old Lt. Col. William Barrett Travis together with Col. James Bowie initially defended the Alamo with 150 men. This number would grow to about 186 as some Texans actually made it through the Mexican lines to join the defenders inside the surrounded Alamo. The Mexican Army under Santa Anna would swell in number to 4,000 or 5,000. The defenders of the Alamo withstood the Mexican Army for thirteen days until the final morning of March 6, 1836, when the Mexican Army made an all out pre-dawn attack on the Alamo from all sides. All the defenders, including Travis fighting atop one of the walls, were killed.
The original Travis letter is in the collection of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives & Library Building located next to the Texas State Capitol at 1201 Brazos Street in Austin, Texas. The letter reads:
Send this to San Felipe by Express night & day
To the people of Texas
Commandancy of 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 Barrett 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 and got into the walls 20 or 30 heads of Beeves.