"To the people of Texas and all Americans in the World:
I shall never surrender or retreat ... I am determined to
sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier
who never forgets what it is due to his honor and that of
his country-VICTORY OR DEATH." This was a letter sent by
William Barret Travis during the siege of the Alamo on
February 24, 1836. It was a cry for help to anybody and
everybody willing to listen.
It all started in 1830 with Stephen Austin, a leader of
American pioneers in the wild, living in Texas, under the
rule of the Mexican government, who had solved two major
problems that the settlers had with the government. The
colonist were now allowed to keep slaves in Texas, even
though no other areas under Mexican rule owned slaves and
the second was the government made sure that Texans would
be protected by the Mexican government from suits to
collect debts that they had contracted in the United States
before their immigration to Texas. All over the South were
signs on bankrupt homes homes saying "Gone to Texas" were
they did not have to pay off their debts (Downey 42).
Austin and his followers were very hot tempered and ready
to start up with any government that they disliked. They
soon found a chance to stir up trouble under the changeable
Mexican rule. Mexican authorities began to worry that too
many Americans were coming into their country. About thirty
thousand settlers came to Texas in a ten year span after
Austin had established his settlement. The Mexican
government under the urging of President Bustamante made
harsh laws against arrival of new immigrants into Texas in
1830. Trade was also restricted with America. All borders
were closed to newcomers but the Louisiana border could not
be patrolled and settlers continued to arrive in Texas.
American settlers were put into jail for the ruckus they
caused due to these new laws, among them was Stephen
On July 1833 Austin traveled to Mexico City to plead the
cause of the colonists. The colonists wanted to obtain full
Mexican statehood and have total control over themselves.
Mexican officials would not listen to the Texans. On his
way home Austin was arrested for treason on January 3,
1834. The government had intercepted a letter from Austin
that said that if his appeal had failed the Texans should
establish themselves as a separate state of Mexico. He was
jailed for eighteen months.
The Texans protested and soldiers were sent to control the
mobs. After the release of Austin on September 1, Antonio
Lopez de Santa Anna had been elected President of Mexico.
In the fall of 1835 Santa Anna had sent more troops, under
the leadership of his brother in law General Martin Cos, to
Texas in order to enforce the immigration laws. Austin and
some soldiers had surrounded settlements in Mexican
territory and were considered by the government to be
rebels. Mexico had no choice but to attempt to use military
forces. Thirty thousand Texans were willing to fight
against a nation of seven million. They did not receive any
government aid from the United States but sympathetic
Southern states secretly sent troops.
The war began with the battle of "the Lexington of the
Texas revolution" (Downey 46) which occurred on October 2,
1835. This little battle involved one hundred Mexican
troops who were sent to Gonzales, a town east of San
Antonio, to order the settlers to surrender their only
cannon. The soldiers said "come and take it" (Fisher 26)
and eventually they killed one Mexican soldier. The war had
More and more Texans answered the call to arms such as Ben
Milan a soldier of the War of 1812, James Bowie who was
known for his knife, Sam Houston and Stalwart Davy Crockett
both former soldiers and congressmen. The man that would
lead them all was Wiiliam Barret Travis.
On October 9, 1835 Ben Milan led an attack at Goliad. The
Mexicans were surprised and surrendered to the pioneers who
ended up with numerous weapons and ten thousand dollars.
Later that month Austin sent troops under Bowie to San
Antonio. While camping, they were attacked by Mexican
troops. The Texan solders dominated this fight coming out
with only one fatality. They could have gone on to capture
San Antonio but Austin said that they needed to reorganize
themselves. The siege continued for an additional six
During this time the Texans gathered outside the city of
Bejar and fifty seven Texans signed a Declaration of Causes
explaining why they were now going to war for their
independence. The word came on November 7, 1835:
"Whereas, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, and other
military chieftains, have by force of arms overthrown the
federal institutions of Mexico, and dissolved the social
compact which existed between Texas and other members of
the Mexican confederacy; now the good people of Texas,
availing themselves of their natural rights, Solemnly
1. That they have taken up arms in defense of their rights
and liberties, which were threatened by the encroachments
of military despots, and in defense of the republican
principles of the federal constitution of Mexico, 1824.
2. That Texas is no longer morally or civilly bound by the
compact of union; yet, stimulated by the generosity and
sympathy common to a free people, they offer their support
and assistance to such members of the Mexican confederacy
as will take up arms against military despotism.
3. That they hold it to be their right during the
disorganization of the federal system, and the reign of
despotism to withdraw from the union, and to establish an
independent government... (Fisher 28).
Finally after one hundred and fifty soldiers were wounded
General Cos and his troops surrendered to the Texans and
among the things acquired by the Texans was the Alamo. This
building was originally used as a Catholic missionary built
by Padre Olivares in 1718. It consisted of a monastery and
church that were enclosed by high walls. The original name
was San Antonio de Valero. It was later called the Alamo
due to the cottonwood trees surrounding the mission. But
this victory was a very costly one. While the siege was
going on nearly ten thousand more settlers assembled
outside the city. The one problem was that these soldiers
were getting bored and had nothing to do. Many started to
return home either out of boredom or belief that the war
Only one hundred and fifty men were left to face the winter
under the leadership of Sam Houston. The soldiers assumed
that the Mexicans who now were driven South were very
unlikely to return for the duration of the winter months.
Sam Houston ordered a concentration of men on the theory
that the Mexicans would return. He also recommended the
destruction and abandonment of San Antonio. For this
cautious counseling Houston was deposed from command. Thus
lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis a twenty seven
year old lawyer from Edgefield, South Carolina was now in
command with James Bowie.
Santa Anna was infuriated by his brother in law's loss and
took command of about four thousand soldiers. They arrived
at San Antonio on the afternoon of February 23, 1836.
Travis immediately ordered the town to be abandoned and the
Alamo occupied. Travis, Bowie and the soldiers packed into
the Alamo waiting for Santa Anna. Captain Almaron
Dickenson, his wife and baby also went into the fort.
Travis sent out couriers with appeals for help. It was
dated February 24,1836 and said:
To the people of Texas and all Americans in the world,
Fellow citizens and compatriots, I am besieged by a
thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna - I have
sustained a continual bombardment and cannonade for twenty
four hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded
a surrender at discretion, otherwise the Garrison are to be
put to the torch, 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 and that of his country. The letter
was signed in Victory or death (Fisher 7 ).
The day after the battle had commenced Bowie was deathly
sick with pneumonia and had to be carried everywhere on a
stretcher. He surrendered his leadership solely to Travis.
Besides Bowie nobody had been injured just yet.
A week later after receiving Travis' plea for help, thirty
two soldiers from Gonzales slipped through the Mexican
lines and arrived safely at the Alamo. Four hundred men
also attempted to releave the Mexicans but they had
equipment trouble on the way.
Santa Anna continually bombed and fired at the Alamo and
the Alamo fired back until the garrison was extremely low
On March 2, 1836 delegates from all fifty nine towns in
Texas declared independence and signed a Declaration of
Independence. They formed a provisional government and
David Burnet, President. The people at the Alamo had no
idea that independence had been declared and continued
fighting. Travis knew that they were being destroyed and
the next day he called for a fight to the death. He took
his sword and drew a line in the dirt and said, "Whoever
wants to fight to the death should step over it".
They all fought valiantly and bravely but there were only
four survivors; Mrs. Dickinson, her child and two male
slaves. All the others were massacred by the Mexican army.
From that point on the Texans used the battle cry "
Remember the Alamo!"( Downey 57 ).
A brief description was given by the mayor of Bejar Antonio
Ruiz of the scene after the battle:
" On the North battery of the fortress lay the lifeless
body of Colonel Travis on the gun carriage, shot only in
the forehead. Toward the west, and in a small fort opposite
the city, we found the body of Colonel Crockett. Colonel
Bowie was found dead in his bed, in one of the rooms of the
south side...." ( Fisher 41 ).
The loss at the Alamo sent a panic through Texas. Extremely
angry Houston gathered an army together and six weeks later
began to search for Santa Anna and his men. Houston marched
his troops toward Anna screaming " Remember the Alamo!" (
Downey 57 ). With that cry they defeated Anna at San
Jacinto capturing Anna and forcing him to sign a treaty
granting independence to the Texas republic.
The words spoken by Travis were very important as they
created a strong bond between the rest of Texas. The Texans
attacked the Mexicans with all their might charging at the
enemy screaming " Remember the Alamo" ( Doweny 57 ). Their
incentive in winning was the one hundred and eighty deaths
at the Alamo. This inner strength that they obtained from
the defeat at the Alamo helped the others defeat the
Mexicans and finally win their freedom from the yolk of the
Mexican government. Eventually, they were accepted as the
twenty eighth state in the United States of America.
But the acceptance would not come easily. They had problems
being accepted because they used slave labor and the North
did not want to accept more slave states. Eventually on
February 19, 1846 they were accepted as a state.