Capt. Albert Martin of Gonzales, a Rhode Island native, slipped through the Mexican lines outside the Alamo and handed it the following afternoon to Lancelot Smither, a former Alamo defender who had left earlier to spread word that Santa Anna’s army had arrived. Smither delivered it to San Felipe, the unofficial capital of revolutionary Texas about 145 miles east of San Antonio.
After the war, in circumstances that are unclear, the letter was returned to Travis’ family in Alabama, said John Anderson, a preservation officer at the state archives. Travis’ great-great grandson sold it to the state in 1893 for $85, or the equivalent of $2,179 today.
Parrish said the letter’s blending of passion for democracy and religious faith — it closes ‘‘The Lord is on our side’’ — is ‘‘quintessentially American and even more quintessentially Texas.’’
‘‘The letter is just simply wonderful,’’ he said. ‘‘For one thing, it is short, it’s like the Gettysburg Address. ... It’s just powerful.