Governor Robinson tries to resupply the Alamo before the arrival of Santa AnnaThe Alamo: James Robinson Autograph Letter Signed "James W. Robinson/ Acting Governor." One page, 8" x 12.5", February 8, 1836, "Executive Department, San Felipe De Austen." Newly appointed Texas Provincial Government Governor Robinson writes this letter to supply the increasingly desperate Alamo defenders with supplies twenty-eight days before the mission fell. Addressed to Matthew Caldwell in Gonzales, who later signed the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836, the letter reads in full as written: "Gen. Edward Burlison [sic] will place in your ha Judge Ponton's hands $300.00 which you are by an order heretofore offered, empowered to draw & appropriate for supplies for the Post of Baxar [sic], and if you have not already recd. & appropriated it for that purpose. You will on the receipt or knowledge of this note, process from 4 to 6 Teams & waggons, & send them to Dimit's [sic] Landing for flour, sugar, coffee, soap, candles, barrel pork, &c for the Post of Baxar [sic]. You will immediately report to this department your proceedings & also you will advise Col. Neill Neill of your proceedings, & send him a copy of this order. I am your very obt. Svt."
General Edward Burleson, along with the military company he had raised in December 1835, was traveling to Gonzales when this letter was written. At Gonzales, Judge Andrew Ponton, the last elected alcalde of that town and a member of the town's Committee of Safety, was to take the $300 from General Burleson and buy supplies. Matthew Caldwell, the letter's recipient, was to prepare "4 to 6 Teams & waggons" and then send them to Dimitt's Landing on the Lavaca Bay to be loaded with the needed supplies. Caldwell was to keep Lieutenant Colonel James Neill, the commanding officer of the Alamo, informed on his progress. The letter has a definite sense of urgency as Santa Anna's large Mexican Army neared the Rio Grande, near 150 miles from San Antonio de Bexar. A few days after this letter was written, Lt. Col. Neill left the Alamo to care for his family, all of whom had been stricken with a serious illness. He left William B. Travis in temporary command, assuring the garrison that he would return within twenty days. He was riding back when the "Post of Baxar" fell.
Although not as well-known as Stephen Austin and Sam Houston, James Robinson (1790-1857) remains an important figure in Texas history. At the time this letter was written, he had succeeded Henry Smith as governor of Texas. Judge, attorney, and San Jacinto veteran, Robinson arrived in Texas at the beginning of 1833 with a letter of recommendation addressed to Stephen F. Austin. He served as a delegate from Nacogdoches to the 1835 Consultation and was elected lieutenant governor of the provisional government of Texas. Later in 1842, he was captured during Woll's invasion of Texas and taken to Mexico. He returned to Texas with terms from Santa Anna to negotiate a brief armistice. After annexation, he moved to San Diego, California, where he became a prominent attorney and engaged in promoting a railroad line between El Paso and California. James C. Neill was a participant of the skirmish at Gonzales. John Holland Jenkins, teenage soldier and later Texas Ranger, recorded that Neill "fired the first gun for Texas at the beginning of the revolution," the famous Gonzales "Come and Take It" cannon. As Lieutenant Colonel of Artillery in the regular army constantly calling for reinforcements and supplies, Neill buttressed the defenses of the Alamo. In September 1835, when a Mexican officer demanded that the Gonzales town cannon be surrendered to the Mexican Army, Andrew Ponton used excuses to delay the Mexicans, later fighting to defend the town in the Battle of Gonzales. Two weeks after this letter was written, William Travis implored Ponton for men and more provisions for the defense of the Alamo.
Written on the verso: "To Matthew Caldwell/ at Gonzales/ from Executive." The letter is toned and archivally reinforced at the folds on the verso. Governor Robinson has boldly written and signed the letter. In the lower margin are later penciled notes. A portion of the bottom left corner is missing, but overall, this important letter is in fine condition.
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