William B. Travis

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William Travis

William Barret Travis (August 1809March 6, 1836) was an early figure in Texas history. He was the commander of the Texas revolutionary forces at the Battle of the Alamo.


Early life

Travis was born in Saluda County, South Carolina, the eldest of eleven children of Mark and Jemima Travis; records differ as to whether his date of birth was the first or ninth of August. At the age of nine, he moved with his family to the town of Sparta, Alabama in Conecuh County, Alabama, where he received much of his education. He later enrolled in a school in nearby Claiborne, Alabama Claiborne, where he eventually worked as an assistant teacher. Travis then became an attorney and, at age 19, married one of his former students, 16-year-old Rosanna Cato(1812-1848) on 26 Oct. 1828. The couple stayed in Claiborne and had a son, Charles Edward,(1829-1859) in 1829. Travis began publication of a newspaper in 1829,the Claiborne Herald and became a Mason,Alabama Lodge No.3-Free and Accepted Masons and joined the Alabama militia Adjutant of the Twenty-sixth Regiment, Eight Brigade, Fourth Division of the Alabama Militia. For unknown reasons, Travis fled Alabama in early 1831, leaving his wife, son, and unborn daughter (b.1831 Susan Isabella) behind, to start over in Texas. Travis and Rosanna were officially divorced by the Marion County courts in 1835. Rosanna then married Samuel G. Cloud in Monroeville, Alabama in 1836 and then to David Y. Portis in 1843 in Texas.


Charles Edward Travis won a seat in the Texas legislature in 1841. By 1856 he had enlisted in the US Army as a lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Calvary commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston. Charles was discharged for dishonesty. He earned his bachelor's degree in law from Baylor University in 1859 but soon died thereafter. He had no children of his own.

Susan Isabella married and had a daughter. William Travis' graddaughter had to resort to selling family mementos to survive and wanted the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) to hire her husband as a janitor at the Alamo.


Upon his arrival in Texas in May 1831, which was a part of Northern Mexico at the time, Travis purchased land from Stephen F. Austin and started a law practice in Anahuac. He played a role in the growing friction between American settlers and the Mexican government and was one of the leaders of the "War Party", a group of militants opposed to Mexican rule. He was a pivotal figure in the Anahuac Disturbances that helped to precipitate war.

The Texas Revolution started in October 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales. Travis was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel of cavalry and became the chief recruiting officer for the army. Travis took a small part in the Siege of Bejar in Nov. 1835. In January 1836, he was ordered by the provisional government to go to the Alamo with volunteers to reinforce the 120-150 men already there. Travis arrived in San Antonio with thirty reinforcements. Within a short time, he had become the official commander, taking over command of the regular soldiers from Col. James C. Neill, of the Texian troops. Neill promised to be back in twenty days. James Bowie (1795-1836) would command the volunteers and Travis would command the regulars. The Mexican army and General Antonio López de Santa Anna entered San Antonio and began the attack on the mission on February 23, 1836. In a quick letter to the alcade of Gonzales, Andrew Ponton, Travis wrote:

"The enemy in large force is in sight-We want men and provisions-Send them to us-We have 150 men & are determined to defend the Alamo to the last"

In a letter to the Texas Convention on 3 March-

"...yet I am determined to perish in the defence of this place, and my bones shall reproach my country for her neglect."

In Travis' last letter out of the Alamo, 3 March, to David Ayres-

"Take care of my little boy. If the country should be saved, I may make him a splendid fortune; but if the country should be lost, and I should perish, he will have nothing but the proud recollection that he is the son of a man who died for his country."

After a thirteen day siege Travis, along with James Bowie, David Crockett, James Bonham and others were killed on 6 March in a predawn attack along with the other 188-250 defenders during the Battle of the Alamo after what many consider a heroic defense of a noble cause.

Travis's letter from the Alamo

On February 24, 1836, during Santa Anna's siege of the Alamo, Travis wrote a letter addressed "To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World":

Fellow citizens & compatriots—
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country. Victory or Death
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. comdt
P.S. The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.

This letter, while unable to bring aid to the garrison at the Alamo, did much to motivate the Texan army and helped to rally support in America for the cause of Texan independence. It also cemented Travis's status as a hero of the Texas Revolution.



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