Texas Tales: Letters written by Alamo defenders show their hopes for Texas

By Mike Cox, Texas Tales

The impassioned letters Col. William B. Travis sent by courier from the Alamo are dramatic pieces of writing, but they are not the only surviving words of someone who died in the old Spanish mission on March 6, 1836.

Nearly two months earlier, former Congressman David Crockett wrote his “Sone and daughter” from San Augustine. Opening his letter with the explanation that this was the first time he had “opertunity to write you with convinience,” he went on to report he was in “excellent health and…high spirits.”

Everyone in Texas had been most cordial, receiving him “with open cerimony of friendship.” The ladies had honored him with a dinner party both in Nacogdoches and San Augustine. “At this place [San Augustine] the Cannon fired…on my arrival and I must say as to what I have seen of Texas it is the garden spot of the world,” Crockett wrote.

The Tennessean waxed on about the plentitude of good but inexpensive land. With his background, he clearly expected to figure in the politics of a new republic.

“I am rejoiced at my fate,” he continued. “I had rather be in my present situation than to be elected to a seat in congress for life. I am in hopes of making a fortune yet for myself.”

Crockett had enrolled as a volunteer in a company he expected would be part of a Texas expedition to capture the Mexican city of Matamoros. Instead, of course, he ended up at the Alamo.

“I hope you will all do the best you can,” he concluded to his children, “and I will do the same.”

On Jan. 13, five days after Crockett posted his letter, another Tennessean took pen in hand to write his wife. Micajah Autry was 42, a little younger than Crockett, but just as optimistic about the future.

Autry’s trip to Texas had been cold and wet. He was tired, but in good health. Like his fellow Tennessean, Autry yet had no idea that he would end up in San Antonio. But no matter where he would serve, “I go whole hog in the cause of Texas.”

He expected to help the province gain its independence from Mexico and “to form their civil government, for it is worth risking many lives for.”

Clearly, something about Texas captured the imagination of new arrivals.

“From what I have seen and learned from others,” Autry continued, “there is not so fair a portion of the earth’s surface warmed by the sun.”

For serving in the army, he told his wife, he would be entitled to 640 acres, plus an additional 444 acres “upon condition of settling my family here.”

Of course, he and the other volunteers had a little work to do first.

“Whether I shall be able to move you here next fall or not will depend upon the termination of the present contest,” he wrote.

Some speculated that Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna “with an immense army” already was “near the confines of Texas,” Autry continued. Others had the Mexican general holding back below the Rio Grande, “intimidated for fear that the Texans will drive the war into his dominion.” That school of thought held that the general was preparing to flee to Europe if Texas invaded, Autry wrote.

Autry correctly said he was “inclined to discredit” the latter theory. Even so, the volunteer from Tennessee seemed to have no sense of foreboding that his dream of moving Martha to “a sweet home” in Texas would never be realized.

“We stand guard of nights and night before last was mine to stand two hours during which the moon rose in all her mildness but splendor and majesty,” Autry wrote in a post script. “With what pleasure did I contemplate that lovely orb chiefly because I recollected how often I had taken pleasure in standing in the door and contemplating her together. Indeed I imagined that you might be looking at her at the same time. Farewell Dear Martha.”

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