Texas history buffs should circle Friday, Feb. 22 on their calendars — that’s the day the “Victory or Death” letter penned by William Barrett Travis at the Alamo will be displayed for the first time in 177 years.
Denton County residents have another reason to be interested — the letter will be publicly read for the first time by a distant relative of Travis — Denton County Sheriff Will Travis — during a 4 p.m. ceremony at the Alamo.
Sheriff Travis is a fifth-generation great-nephew of William Barrett Travis.
Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, sent the Denton County resident a request earlier last month to read what some describe as the letter “defining true patriotism,” after learning of his connection to the Alamo commander.
This will be the first time the letter has been at the Alamo since it left with a courier on horseback under the cover of darkness during the famous 13-day siege in 1836, according to the land office.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be inspired by this patriotic letter at the Shrine of Texas Liberty itself,” Patterson wrote in an e-mail.
An honor guard will carry the letter inside, where it will be placed inside a custom-built, shatterproof glass display, allowing visitors to see both sides of the fragile document.
As a prelude to the viewing of the letter, visitors can tour an exhibit detailing Commander Travis’ life and the Texas Revolution through historic documents and artifacts from the vaults of the Texas General Land Office and the Alamo, according to a news release issued by the Texas General Land Office.
A Facebook photo contest sponsored by the Texas General Land Office Save Texas history program is being held in connection with the celebrations. Entrants have until midnight Thursday to enter by submitting original photography that captures the essence of the “Travis Letter” by illustrating the meaning of courage, duty, loyalty and valor. Photographs must be in digital format and include a caption.
For more information, visit the “Travis Letter” Facebook page or www.travisletter.org.
In his letter, written on Feb. 24, 1836, Travis issued a plea for help for the Texian rebels, who were surrounded by enemy forces. Although the Alamo fell, Travis’ letter stirred volunteers to rally behind Sam Houston, who ultimately led them to victory, and the Republic of Texas was born.
Being invited to read the “Victory or Death” letter at the Alamo is quite an honor, one that every Texan — or adopted Texan, for that matter — should be able to appreciate.
Congratulations, Sheriff Travis — Denton County is proud of you.