The Ride for Texas Independence
It’s a special time of year at the Alamo as we commemorate the anniversary of the 1836 siege and battle. Each year, along with thousands of Texans and visitors, we honor the men who gave their lives in the fight for Texas independence with 13 days of events and interactive living history.
A recent addition to our annual Commemoration is a reenactment of the writing and transport of the famous Travis Letter, presented in front of the Alamo Church on February 24. Many may recall that this year’s event at the Alamo is a spinoff of a much larger event: the Ride for Texas Independence, which in 2016, spanned Texas from San Antonio to Washington-on-the-Brazos.
The Ride for Texas was conceived by Scott McMahon, Director at Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, Texas. McMahon, a long-time living historian and re-enactor, wanted to recreate the historic rides of the couriers who left the Alamo, carrying William Travis’s famous plea all the way to Washington-on-the-Brazos, some 200 miles away. Scott traveled on horseback, the same as the 1836 couriers, dressed in period clothing and using period riding saddles and other tools, many of which he made himself.
In 1836, Travis wrote his now famous letter at the Alamo, where it set off with Albert Martin to be delivered to the people of Texas. Albert Martin handed the letter to Lancelot Smither in Gonzales, who carried it to San Felipe de Austin, the heart of Stephen F. Austin’s original colony. It is unknown who carried the letter from San Felipe to Washington.
In 2016, Scott recreated the famous route, starting at the Alamo, to Gonzales, and San Felipe de Austin, before concluding his ride at Washington-on-the-Brazos. At all points, he stopped to meet with school children and Texas history enthusiasts of all ages.
While some changes had to be made to the route to accommodate modern roadways, McMahon stayed as true as possible to the routes the 1836 couriers would have taken. He told Texas Co-op and Power, “I looked at old maps of Texas from the 1830s, compared them with modern maps and picked the route that followed the old roads and trails as closely as possible.”
The only major change between McMahon’s ride and those made 180 years earlier was length of time. Martin and Smither, acting under the urgency of war and William Travis’s instructions to send the letter “by Express night & day,” made their rides in a matter of two to three days. McMahon understandably stopped to sleep and rest his horses, and took ten days to commemorate the Ride for Texas.
Read more about the 2016 ride and view photos of all of McMahon’s stops on the Ride for Texas Independence Facebook Page.