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"Victory or Death" Letter to Return to Alamo for Exhibit

After addressing concerns about security and preservation, the Texas Library and Archives Commission voted to allow Col. William Travis' famous 1836 letter to be displayed at the Alamo in February as part of a special exhibit.

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The famous “Victory or Death” letter will return to the Alamo for the first time since Col. William B. Travis wrote it there in 1836.

The Texas Library and Archives Commission voted 6-1 to allow the Texas General Land Office to display the document during a special exhibit at the Alamo from Feb. 23 to March 7.  During a hearing Wednesday morning, the commission addressed concerns including the security of the document and its continued preservation while on display.

“The document is a demonstration of our rich Texas history and culture,” said Michael Waters, the archives commission chairman. “It will be a benefit to see it where it originated.”

The letter reflects Travis’ dedication to Texas as the Mexican army besieged Texan troops. He wrote, “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 & that of his country — Victory or Death.” Travis was among the 189 defenders of the Alamo who died March 6, 1836, when the Alamo fell to the Mexican army.

Previous displays of the document have damaged it, said David Gracy, a former state archivist. He said the commission should rely on its own expertise to make a decision that will best preserve the document for the future.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said the Alamo display would protect the document while allowing many Texans to view it for the first time.

“Some of the efforts have been primitive and without consideration to good archival standards, and I’m not proposing we do that,” Patterson said. The Legislature gave the Land Office control over the Alamo site last year.

Visitors to the Alamo site in San Antonio surge from Feb. 23 to March 6, the dates of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. About 7,000 to 10,000 visitors come to the Alamo each day during that period.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, Alamo Rangers and San Antonio Police Department will all be involved to ensure the safety of the document during transport and display, said DPS Capitol District Commander Joe Ortiz.

The display will provide a meaningful opportunity for Texans to see one of the state’s most important historical documents, said Karen Thompson, the president general of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

“I have seen the letter in person three times. It never fails it makes me cry to hear the letter read,” Thompson said. “I think the people of Texas will enjoy seeing it at the Alamo.”

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