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 Texas : Features : History :

ALAMO LETTER

From Travis' hand to the State Archives
or
Is there a Graphologist in the House?

by John Troesser
Cover page of the Travis Alamo Letter in the Stae Archive
Cover page of the Travis Letter

Image courtesy Texas State Library & Archives Commission
The dispatch from what we now call the Alamo was initially carried by Captain Albert Martin of Gonzales. En route to Gonzales with the letter, Martin heard the battle underway and felt compelled to add his own message to the dispatch. When he arrived in Gonzales, Martin passed the dispatch to Lancelot Smither, who later added his own note - both of which can be read on the copies displayed on the TSL website.

The TSL website states: "There is evidence that Smither extracted the essence of the letter and deposited this copy with Judge Andrew Ponton before he departed Gonzales. Ponton prepared other copies and forwarded these to Nacogdoches and other population centers in the province."

Smither carried the letter on to San Felipe. Slowed by a bitter storm, it took him 40 hours to cover approximately 90 miles. "A reasonably accurate printing" of Travis' message was made at San Felipe. Two hundred copies were initially printed and eventually it went into five printings - but none were printed verbatim. Subsequent printings over the years seem to have been drawn from what had been printed in San Felipe. It is believed that the original document was given to the Travis family after the war.
vandalised tombstone
Vandalized Tombstone of William Travis' daughter Susan Grissett in Chappell Hill Masonic Cemetery. (It has since been mended.)

Photo circa 1960. Courtesy Texas State Library & Archives Commission
The letter went from Travis' daughter, Susan Isabella Travis (who was only four years old when her father died) to her daughter and then on down until it reached a great grandson who, in the 1890s, found himself "financially embarrassed." The grandson offered to sell the letter to the State in 1893 for $250. History wasn't a priority at the time and that sum was considered a heavy expenditure. The grandson demonstrated his patriotism by offering to sell it to the state below any private bids - to insure preservation of the document. It was eventually acquired for $85.00 and the Texas State Library and Historical Commission (as it was then called) became custodians of the letter on March 19, 1909.

Source:
www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/republic/alamo/travis-01.html

L -State Archive's Travis Letter Page 2
R - Travis Letter showing the writing of Martin and Smither
Images courtesy Texas State Library & Archives Commission

 
The "Bonham" Alamo Letter
Click on photo for larger image

Photo courtesy David London and Patricia A. Roulette

New Letter from the Alamo
(The unpublished letter - never seen by the public - that sat for years in the bedroom of "Aunt Cora" - so that it wouldn't embarrass the State of Texas.
Shared with the readers of Texas Escapes by David London, Bonham, Texas, July 30, 2005 )

It is entirely possible that this new letter from Bonham is one of the copies made by Judge Ponton in Gonzales. Nevertheless, even as a copy, it remains an important artifact of the Texas Revolution. However, the question about the spelling of Travis' middle name is still a mystery. It would seem that there would be enough samples of Judge Ponton's handwriting extant to compare his style with whoever penned the "Bonham" letter.

The following links tell the story of the New Alamo Letter (as of August 2005)

  • New Travis' Alamo Letter - Mr. London's Correspondence concerning the Travis Letter in his family's possession

  • Bonham New Travis' Alamo Letter - Image

    For those who find the story as interesting as we did, please examine the TSL website.
    www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/republic/alamo/travis-01.html
  • * * *
    A few other remaining artifacts from the Texas Revolution

    Since the spoils of war belong to the victors, artifacts such as Bowie's original knife - or Crockett's famous musket "Old Betsy" found themselves (at least temporarily) in the hands of the troops that besieged the Alamo. How many "original" Bowie knives have been passed off onto tourists in Mexico as the real item - will never be known. "Old Betsy"on the other hand has supposedly surfaced - but that's a story we don't currently have any information on. The cannon that fired the first shot of the war near Gonzales disappeared for a hundred years and was then unearthed by a flood almost exactly 100 years later. It resides today in Gonzales - a tiny thing considering the colossal changes it brought about. One other authentic relic is on display daily. It's the flag that flew above the Alamo during the seige. It hangs today behind a bulletproof glass case at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City - guarded 24 hours a day by armed sentries. When Texas was having it's sesquicentennial in 1986 - Texas asked the Mexican government if the flag might be loaned out for the festivities. The answer - accompanied with a big smile - was the Spanish equivilent of "We don't think so." Some people have long memories.

    From San Jacinto - spoils included Santa Anna's gold-buttoned embroidered vest that was worn by bridesgrooms in Fayette County until it finally disappeared in the 1930s.The dictator's wash basin and pitcher found their way to Bastrop County where a tiny blurb in the Bastrop Adverstiser in the 1930s mentioned that it was thrown and smashed during what is now known as a "domestic disturbance."


    John Troesser
    August 11, 2005
    Any constructive or informative letters are invited.
    Contact editor@texasescapes.com

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