Denton County Sheriff recites relative's 'Victory or Death' letter at Alamo

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on February 22, 2013 at 6:23 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 22 at 9:28 PM

DENTON COUNTY -- It was a big day Friday at the Alamo. The iconic "Victory or Death" letter from the commander of the Alamo has just returned.

It's the first time since it was carried away on horseback at the start of the famous siege in 1836. In it, Commander William Barret Travis seeks help for his badly outnumbered rebel Texans at the old Spanish mission. The Alamo fell two weeks later.

Friday, another Travis recited the powerful words of that historic letter at the place it was written. Denton County Sheriff Will Travis is a distant relative of his namesake, the legendary Alamo commander who wrote it 177 years ago.

"I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat," wrote the Alamo commander.

Sheriff Travis is the fifth-generation great nephew of Lt. Colonel William Barret Travis. Travis' stirring "Victory or Death" letter has become symbolic of the cost of freedom.

"I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die as a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country, Victory or Death," wrote the Commander.

Travis' wrote the letter as a plea for help as his 189 men were surrounded ten-to-one by an overwhelming Mexican assault force of 1,800 soldiers.

"To date, it's one of the greatest letters that has ever been written in the state of Texas," said Sheriff Travis. "And I'm extremely proud that it was written by my uncle."

The sheriff said his relatives sold the "Victory or Death" letter for $85. The fragile and weathered single-page document is now worth $1.2 million. It will go on display Saturday for a 13-day run.

Lt. Colonel Travis was the first to fall in the 1836 massacre. Sheriff Travis believes his legendary relative's words describing patriotic sacrifice still ring true today.

"It's hard to get what he was feeling to know that he was surrounded like he was, and to know that he was probably fixing to die," Travis said.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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