'Victory or Death' letter returns to the Alamo

By Michael Graczyk

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2013 1:24 p.m. MST

At the Alamo, some windows have been covered, lights will be dimmed and the glass and wood air-controlled cabinet holding the letter will be surrounded by drapes. The document itself will stand perpendicular in the trapezoid-shaped bulletproof case inside a glass enclosure and between two panels of plastic glass treated to block ultraviolet light.

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.

After the war, in circumstances that are unclear, the letter was returned to Travis' family in Alabama, said John Anderson, a preservation officer at the state archives. Travis' great-great grandson sold it to the state in 1893 for $85, or the equivalent of $2,179 today.

Parrish said the letter's blending of passion for democracy and religious faith — it closes "The Lord is on our side" — is "quintessentially American and even more quintessentially Texas."

"The letter is just simply wonderful," he said. "For one thing, it is short, it's like the Gettysburg Address. ... It's just powerful.

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