Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
Next week marks the anniversary of the birth of a free and independent Republic of Texas. On March 2, 1836, fifty-four delegates, representing each of the settlements in Texas, approved the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington on the Brazos. Our forefathers met in a single frame house to ink our independence and create a constitution for the new republic. This date is often overshadowed by the battle at the Alamo and the final victory at San Jacinto, but it was on March 2nd that Texas heroes became legends. My favorite Texas freedom fighter, William Barrett Travis, earned his place in history a few short days later at the Alamo.
Four days after declaring our independence, on March 6th, in an old, beat-up Spanish mission in central Texas, 187 men from every state in the United States and 13 foreign countries, including Mexico were surrounded by several thousand invading troops. Things looked bleak for these outnumbered freedom fighters. They were led by a 27-year-old lawyer and commander by the name of William Barrett Travis. It was behind the cold, damp walls of the Alamo, that the energetic Travis penned by candlelight the most famous letter in Texas history:
“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 enemy under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual bombardment and cannon fire for over 24 hours, but I have not lost a man.
The enemy has demanded surrender at its discretion. Otherwise, the fort will be put to the sword. I have answered that demand with a cannon shot. And the flag still waves proudly over the north wall.
I shall never surrender or retreat.
I call upon you, in the name of liberty and patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to my aid with all dispatch. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself for as long as possible, die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country. Victory or death.” --William Barrett Travis, Commander of the Alamo.
After 13 days of glory at the Alamo, Commander Travis and his men sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom. Those lives would not be lost in vain. Travis said in his last letter, ``Victory will cost the enemy more dearly than defeat.'' He was right. Santa Anna suffered staggering losses. Some estimate that Santa Anna’s losses were over 10 times the casualties of the Alamo volunteers.
The Alamo is a tribute to those that are defiant against any form of tyranny. The Alamo reminds Texans that freedom is expensive and there are some things worth dying for. A plaque on the Alamo wall states “The Alamo: The Thermopylae of Texas.”
After the Alamo fell, General Sam Houston rallied Texas on April 21, 1836. General Sam and his boys routed a superior numbered Mexican Army at San Jacinto and Texas was a free nation at last. The rest is as they say – Texas history.
The reason I became a lawyer was because of William Barrett Travis; he is my favorite defender of Texas, the inspiration behind my profession and even my grandson’s name, Barrett Houston. His words, “I shall never surrender or retreat,” are printed at the bottom of my personal stationary.
Some folks say you must be born in Texas to be a real Texan, but I will make an exception for Travis. He was born in South Carolina, grew up and practiced law in Alabama and came to Texas in 1831 were he became one of the fiercest defenders in the Texas Revolution. Travis set up his law practice right here on the Gulf Coast, about 45 miles east of Houston in Anahuac. It was here, in our own backyard, that Travis first dug in his heels and began the fight for Texas’ independence. He was even jailed by officials for boldly speaking out about freedom, but was relentless in his determination.
Because of men like William Barrett Travis, Texas is the great state that it is today. His legacy embodies the passion and loyalty that makes Texans stand out around the world. As school children across our state join together to pledge allegiance to the American flag, they also recite the pledge to the flag of Texas thanks to the brave men that gave their lives for our independence. I ask that we all say a prayer of thanks to the men and women that are still fighting for our freedoms and never forget “what is due his honor and that of his country.” God and Texas.
And that’s just the way it is.