Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson - Lt. Col. Travis' Victory or Death Letter to Return to the Alamo

Lt. Colonel William Barrett TravisAs Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, Jerry Patterson is now responsible for oversight of one of the most distinctive landmarks in American history - The Alamo. On February 24th, 1836 Lt. Colonel William Barrett Travis was in command of a ragtag group of militia defending the Alamo and delaying the march of the armies of Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Gen. Santa Anna was on a mission to disarm the residents of Texas and strip her citizens of the rights of freedom of speech and religion previously guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution. Surrounded by more than a thousand regular army troops, Travis wrote a letter which has become known as the "Victory or Death" letter requesting assistance from the people of Texas. The letter left the Alamo under the cover of darkness and has never returned. Now, Patterson says he is returning Travis' letter to its place of origin - The Alamo!

In an interview with TexasGOPVote, Patterson described the significance of the letter and where it has been since it left the Alamo 177 years ago next month.

"Most of us have heard about this iconic letter, the Liberty of Death letter, that Travis sent out during the siege in a desperate plea for reinforcements," Patterson said.  "We got a little help, 32 folks came from Gonzales, but this letter is known as the Victory or Death letter, and it left under cover of darkness on the 24th of February 1826 by horseback, by a courier named Albert Martin. Well, it's never returned. It's been a 177 years and that letter that defines the spirit of Texas liberty, sacrifice, and courage has never been back to the Alamo since Travis sent it out.

Travis Letter - Victory or DeathNow, it appears it is time for Travis' letter to return to its origin. "We're taking it back there next month to coincide with the thirteen days of glory," Patterson said. "So to correspond with that thirteen day siege, we're going to have it at the Alamo for public viewing, and it will be the first time in 177 years, but it's returning in glory, not surreptitiously under cover of darkness."

Matt Howerton, a TexasGOPVote reader from Houston, Texas said on Facebook, "The historical importance of it's first return since that fateful day is immeasurable and should pull at the heart strings of every Texan."

During our conversation I asked Patterson where this kind of leadership comes from. The kind of leadership referenced in the Declaration of Independence where the signers pledged "Our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor." Many of our founding fathers lost all three so that we might find liberty and freedom.

"You wonder from time to time, in this day in time, where do we find leaders like that," Patterson answered,  "that are willing to take that kind of stand. I mean where do we find people who can live up to Travis, Bowie, Crockett, Seguin, de Zavala, or even folks like little known Texas names like Dan Moody, the guy that took on the Klan in the 1920s, or Alan Shivers, the Democrat governor in Texas in 1953 who endorsed the Republican candidate for President, Dwight Eisenhower over an issue having to do with the submerged land in the Gulf of Mexico, who put his state in front of his party. Where do we find people like that? You know, everyone is flawed, and you're talking about historical figures, you know Bowie, Crockett, Travis, they all had their baggage, but at that moment in time, they were men who were a cut above others, and it's a good thing, or we wouldn't be having this conversation, at least not in English."

Indeed that is most likely a fact. The Alamo is certainly an historic icon. But it is also a reminder in our current day of the extent a government will go to in order to strip its citizens of the tools to defend their other freedoms - WEAPONS AND GUNS.  

TexasGOPVote will travel with the Travis letter next month and bring you the details of this historic trip for an historic document from the Texas Archives.

TEXT OF TRAVIS' LETTER

 

Colonel William Barrett Travis Letter to the People of Texas during the Siege of the Alamo

February 24, 1836 (text)

Commandancy of the Alamo------

Bejar Fby. 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 wall ----- I shall never Surrender or retreat

Then, I can on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism &
every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid

with an dispatch ----- The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily &
will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days.
If this can is neglected, I am deter mined 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
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 & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves---

Travis

 

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW:

Bob Price and Jerry Patterson discuss Travis' Victory or Death Letter

TexasGOPVote blogger Bob Price: Today, we're talking with Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson about a really exciting event that's happening next month at the Alamo. As Land Commissioner, the Alamo falls under your purview and leadership. Tell us what's going to happen in February as we go into the siege of the Alamo. 

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson: Well, we all grew up in Texas, or maybe you didn't grow up in Texas, but nonetheless, we're all Texans, whether you were born here or came here later, and all of us know about the siege of the Alamo and James Crockett and Bowie and Travis. Then after that, most of us have heard about this iconic letter, the Liberty of Death letter, that Travis sent out during the siege in a desperate plea for reinforcements. We got a little help, 32 folks came from Gonzales, but this letter is known as the Victory or Death letter, and it left under cover of darkness on the 24th of February 1826 by horseback, by a courier named Albert Martin. Well, it's never returned. It's been a 177 years and that letter that defines the spirit of Texas liberty, sacrifice, and courage has never been back to the Alamo since Travis sent it out. We're taking it back there next month to coincide with the thirteen days of glory, you know that song by Marty Robbins, the Ballad of the Alamo. So to correspond with that thirteen day siege, we're going to have it at the Alamo for public viewing, and it will be the first time in 177 years, but it's returning in glory, not surreptitiously under cover of darkness. 

Bob Price: This is the letter that really almost defines what it is to be a Texan. This liberty or death attitude that many Texans like yourself carry forward as they go through their political positions and how to define themselves as a public servant and a Texan. 

Jerry Patterson: Well the good news is I consider myself a person who takes firm stands and without concern for the consequences, but unlike Travis, his firm stand cost him his life. I don't know any votes that I've cast or positions I've taken that put me in physical jeopardy, but I guess you could say there's some similarities there, but Travis, he knew, he knew at the time he was writing the letter that the chances of survival were very slim, and he elected to stay. 

Bob Price: Much like our own Founding Fathers of the country when they signed the Declaration of Independence and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, and many of those people lost all three in that war. 

Jerry Patterson: You wonder from time to time, in this day in time, where do we find leaders like that that are willing to take that kind of stand. I mean where do we find people who can live up to Travis, Bowie, Crockett, Seguin, de Zavala, or even folks like little known Texas names like Dan Moody, the guy that took on the Klan in the 1920s, or Alan Shivers, the Democrat governor in Texas in 1953 who endorsed the Republican candidate for President, Dwight Eisenhower over an issue having to do with the submerged land in the Gulf of Mexico, who put his state in front of his party. Where do we find people like that? You know, everyone is flawed, and you're talking about historical figures, you know Bowie, Crockett, Travis, they all had their baggage, but at that moment in time, they were men who were a cut above others, and it's a good thing, or we wouldn't be having this conversation, at least not in English. 

Bob Price: You know, in American history, you see that all the time where during the time our country needs it, you see people step forward and do that kind of thing. Now, it seems too much where people are willing to just throw people over the bridge because of personal flaws in their life, but they might otherwise be very dynamic leaders and qualified to help move the issues forward. 

Jerry Patterson: You know, we have a history where in times of crisis, let's rise to the occasion, and maybe we can use a few more folks to rise to the occasion here in Texas these days. 

Bob Price: Well tell us a little more about this event that's going to happen now. What's the pomp and circumstance? 

Jerry Patterson: Well it was a difficult thing, the letter is contained in the State Archives, the building just east of the Capitol. 

Bob Price: And you're responsible for these?

Jerry Patterson: Well, no I'm not. This is the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. They're the custodians of many historical documents. The Land Office, we have some historical documents as well, but our documents are limited to those documents that have to do with land. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission was not exactly excited about this idea to take this out of the archives for it's stored with humidity control, temperature control, UV light controls, they were not excited about it. The letter has only been in the possession of Texas since about 1889 when the Travis family sold it to Texas for 85 or 95 dollars, and it is in fragile condition. Light can have a significant negative impact, so we raised $100,000. We're going to spend $20,000 on a special case made in Germany. Texas Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement, Texas National Guard, we're going to have armed escort, we're going to have 24/7 security next to the letter in the Alamo chapel. We've got a budget for education and outreach. There's going to be a documentary done on the history of it itself and then on the actual movement to and from the Alamo, armed escort. DPS says they're planning on having helicopters. I get almost teared up thinking about it, and certainly, the hair on the back of my neck stands up thinking about this letter going back for the first time in 177 years. 

Bob Price: Well, we look forward to hopefully having the opportunity to go with you in February and watch this significant event happen. 

Jerry Patterson: Good, we look forward to having you there. 

Bob Price: Thank you for taking the time to tell us about it, and we'll make sure all of our readers know about it in the future. 

Jerry Patterson: Good, good, thank you.

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