Isaac Millsaps' Last Alamo Letter & The Lavaca Precinct Election Return by Chester Wilkes and Wallace L. McKeehan
In the 1960's the dramatic letter shown below dated 3 Mar 1836 from Alamo Defender and Gonzales Ranger Isaac Millsaps who was among the Gonzales Alamo Relief Force who entered the surrounded Alamo on 1 Mar 1836 surfaced on the Texas history document market passing through the hands of notorious dealer C. Dorman David. If authentic, such a find was of great historic and emotional value to Texas historians, Alamo buffs, library collections and therefore also monetary value on the documents market. The letter became cited and probably will continue to be a topic of discussion for a long time to come as exampled by this article in works related to Texas history and particular the Alamo.
The Millsaps letter is currently in the University of Houston's Texana collection which was purchased in 1964 and according to some authors has been proudly displayed as authentic and reproduced in histories sold at the Alamo and in Time-Life Books on the American West. The Millsaps letter ended up in the University of Houston in the E.B. Taylor collection which is believed in large part to have come from dealer C. Dorman David. David is an admitted forger of rare Texas history documents in addition to his legitimate business in them and in many people's eyes the suspect for creation of the Millsaps letter. Experts have pointed out from the onset the many signals in the Millsaps letter that make it unlikely authentic although the document has probably not been examined scientifically for paper and ink of the period. Although by no means proof of forgery, the letter contains language and descriptions that are not characteristic of the times which include description of the Alamo fortress itself and the uniforms of Mexican soldiers. There is nothing personal or unique in the letter that could not have been gathered from readily available histories of the period just before the letter appeared in the 60's.
With time attention turned away from David as the actual forger and the prime suspect for creation of the Millsaps letter is more recently John Laflin who was considered "one of the greatest forgers in American history." Laflin also used the surname John Lafitte and claimed descendancy from the famous corsair, Jean Lafitte of the Gulf and Caribbean of the early 19th century. Laflin is believed to have created the Journal of Jean Lafitte, not de novo, but from even earlier documents, some concocted and some authentic, that he inherited from his family and those in common records. It has more recently been suggested that Laflin had a hand in the creation of the La Pena Diary, which was the basis of reprinting of the book With Santa Anna in Texas: A Personal Narrative of the Revolution by Jose Enrique de la Pena. La Pena was a lieutenant in the centralist army of Santa Anna and gives great detail into the movements of the army, the Battle of the Alamo and fate of several defenders including Davy Crockett. It is agreed by multiple experts and authors that styles, even near direct quotes in places, with names and scenes changed to fit the work, and even handwriting in the La Pena diary, the LaFitte journal and the Millsaps letter are those with striking similarity to that of master forger John Laflin.
In February 1836 DeWitt Colonists in the Lavaca River valley like all freedom-loving Mexican Federalist Republicans found their dreams and livelihood and their very existence threatened by the centralist dictatorship of Santa Anna. Among the voters of the Lavaca Precinct on 1 Feb 1836 gathered to elect two delegates to the Texian independence convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos was Isaacs Millsaps. Millsaps along with neighbor Andrew Kent was appointed an election judge and along with another neighbor, Henry C.G. Summers who was election clerk, served as the executors of the election. The documentation of the election on the Lavaca was recorded and is in the Texas Archives (Lavaca Precinct Election Return). The document is assumed to have been recorded by election Clerk Henry C.G. Summers and signed by Judges Andrew Kent and Isaac Millsaps. A close comparison of the handwriting on the document reveals that the assumed signature of Clerk Henry C.G. Summers is probably the same as the entries on the entire document. The signature of Andrew Kent is clearly different from that of Summers and identical to his signature on other historic documents including his land grant title of 28 June 1831 assigned by DeWitt Colony land commissioner Navarro. However, the signature of Isaac Millsaps on the return has not been verified yet from independent historic documents. Summers presumed entry on the return spells the surname "Millsapps" with two "p's" rather than the "Millsaps" signature as Judge. However, it remains unclear whether the Millsaps signature is actually his own or was done for him by Clerk Summers. The handwriting of Summers on the entries has significant similarity to those of Millsaps signature as Judge. In fact the differences between the Millsapps entry and the Millsaps signature are no greater than the differences between Henry C.G. Summers signature as clerk and the entry of his own name on the return. The possibility arises that Isaac Millsaps may have been unable to write at all and that to save the embarrassment of signing with the usual "X" or "his mark," Summers signed for him. Since the vote was probably taken orally there may have been no need for election judge Millsaps to be able to read or write fluently. The reader can decide from the magnified illustrations of the individual entries on the Lavaca Precinct Return. In any event, none of the handwriting on the election list is similar to either the text or the signature "Isaac" of the Millsaps Alamo Letter.