William B. Travis
William Barret Travis was a 19th-century American lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 and soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

. At the age of 26, he was a lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 in the Texas Army. He died at the Battle of the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

 during the Texas Revolution
Texas Revolution
The Texas Revolution or Texas War of Independence was an armed conflict between Mexico and settlers in the Texas portion of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. The war lasted from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836...


Family life

Travis, an American of English descent was born in Saluda County, South Carolina, to Mark and Jemima Travis in 1809; records differ as to whether his date of birth was the first or ninth of August, but his youngest brother James C. Travis, who was in possession of the Travis family Bible at the time of his statement, indicated that he was born on the first.
When he was nine, his uncle Alexander Travis
Alexander Travis
Alexander Travis was a Baptist preacher and a prominent member of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.His nephew William Barret Travis was Texas commander at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836....

, a prominent Baptist
Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers , and that it must be done by immersion...

 preacher, called on his family to move to the town of Sparta in Conecuh County, Alabama
Conecuh County, Alabama
-2010:Whereas according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau:*51.3% White*46.5% Black*0.3% Native American*0.1% Asian*0.0% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander*1.0% Two or more races*1.2% Hispanic or Latino -2000:...

, where he received much of his education.
He later enrolled in a school in nearby Claiborne
Claiborne, Alabama
Claiborne is a ghost town on a bluff above the Alabama River in Monroe County, Alabama. Situated near the Federal Road, Claiborne began during the Mississippi Territory period with a ferry over the river. During the Creek War a large stockade fort, named Fort Claiborne, was established at the...

, 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 October 26, 1828. The couple stayed in Claiborne and had a son, Charles Edward, in 1829. Travis began publication of a newspaper that same year, the Claiborne Herald. He became a Mason
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

, joining the Alabama Lodge No.3 - Free and Accepted Masons, and later joined the Alabama militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 as adjutant of the Twenty-sixth Regiment, Eighth Brigade, Fourth Division.

His marriage soon failed for unknown reasons, Travis fled Alabama in early 1831 to start over in Texas, leaving behind his wife, son, and unborn daughter. Travis and Rosanna were officially divorced by the Marion County courts on January 9, 1836, by Act no. 115. Their son was placed with Travis's friend, David Ayres, so that he would be closer to his father.

Rosanna married Samuel G. Cloud in Monroeville, Alabama
Monroeville, Alabama
Monroeville is a city in Monroe County, Alabama, United States, the county seat of Monroe County. At the 2000 census its population was 6,862. It is known as the home town of two prominent writers of the post World War II period, Truman Capote and Harper Lee, who were childhood friends in the...

, on February 14, 1836. They both died of Yellow Fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

 in 1848.


In May 1831, upon his arrival in Mexican Texas
Mexican Texas
Mexican Texas is the name given by Texas history scholars to the period between 1821 and 1836, when Texas was an integral part of Mexico. The period began with Mexico's victory over Spain in its war of independence in 1821. For the first several years of its existence, Mexican Texas operated very...

, a part of northern Mexico at the time, Travis purchased land from Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Virginia and raised in southeastern Missouri. He was known as the Father of Texas, led the second, but first legal and ultimately successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States. The capital of Texas, Austin in Travis County,...

 and began a law practice in Anahuac
Anahuac, Texas
Anahuac is a city in the U.S. state of Texas within the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area. The population of the city was 2,210 at the 2000 census. Anahuac is the seat of Chambers County and is situated in East Texas.- History :...

. 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 became a pivotal figure in the Anahuac Disturbances
Anahuac Disturbances
The Anahuac Disturbances were uprisings of settlers in and around Anahuac, Texas in 1832 and 1835 which helped to precipitate the Texas Revolution. This eventually led to the territory's secession from Mexico and the founding of the Republic of Texas...

, which helped to precipitate the war.

The Texas Revolution began in October 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales
Battle of Gonzales
The Battle of Gonzales was the first military engagement of the Texas Revolution. It was fought near Gonzales, Texas, on October 2, 1835, between rebellious Texian settlers and a detachment of Mexican army troops....

. In November, Travis played a small role in the Siege of Bexar
Siege of Bexar
The Siege of Béxar was an early campaign of the Texas Revolution in which a volunteer Texan army successfully defeated Mexican forces at San Antonio de Béxar . Texians had become disillusioned with the Mexican government as President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's tenure became increasingly...

. On December 19, Travis was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 of the Legion of Cavalry and became the chief recruiting officer for the Texan army. His command was to consist of 384 men and officers, divided into six companies. Despite his rank, Travis had to recruit the men who were to serve under his command, but he had difficulty in finding willing colonists to enlist. "Volunteers can no longer be had or relied upon", he wrote to acting governor Henry Smith.

Smith ordered Travis to raise a company to reinforce the Texans at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio
Alamo Mission in San Antonio
The Alamo, originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, is a former Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound, site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, and now a museum, in San Antonio, Texas....

. Travis considered disobeying his orders, writing to Smith: "I am willing, nay anxious, to go to the defense of Bexar, but sir, I am unwilling to risk my reputation ... by going off into the enemy's country with such little means, so few men, and with them so badly equipped."

On February 3 Travis arrived in San Antonio with eighteen men as reinforcements. On February 12, as the next highest ranking officer, Travis became the official commander of the Alamo garrison. He took command of the regular soldiers from Col. James C. Neill
James C. Neill
↔James Clinton Neill was a 19th-century American soldier and politician, most noted for his role in the Texas Revolution and the early defense of the Alamo. He was born in North Carolina.-Early life and career:...

, of the Texan army. Neill had to leave to care for his ill family, but he promised to be back in twenty days. James Bowie (1795–1836) would command the volunteers as Travis commanded the regulars.

The Mexican army, under dictator/General Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

, began its attack on the mission on February 23, 1836. In a brief 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 March 3:
"...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, March 3 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."

There is a legend that, one to three days before the final Mexican assault, Travis gathered all of the Alamo's defenders in the main plaza of the fort. Announcing that reinforcements would not be coming, Travis unsheathed his sword and drew a line in the dirt. He then told those men who were willing to stay and die with him to cross the line; those who wanted to leave could do so without shame. Most of the Alamo's defenders subsequently crossed the line, leaving only two men behind. One soldier, Bowie, was confined to a cot with typhoid, but asked to be carried across the line. The other was a French veteran of the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 named Moses Rose
Moses Rose
Louis "Moses" Rose , also seen as Lewis Rose), known as the Coward of the Alamo, was according to Texas legend, the only man who chose to leave the besieged Alamo in 1836, rather than fight and die there. Some regard him as a coward for having left the Alamo prior to the final battle...

. Rose, who later declared, "By God, I wasn't ready to die," scaled a wall that night and escaped, thus preserving the story of Travis's line in the sand. This account was told by Rose to numerous people later in his life.

On March 6, 1836, following a thirteen-day siege, Travis, Bowie, David Crockett, and James Bonham
James Bonham
James Butler Bonham was a 19th-century American soldier who died at the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution...

  were killed in a predawn attack along with about 188-250 other defenders during the Battle of the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

. The Mexicans overran the fort, surrounded it, used ladders to climb over the walls and broke down the fort's defenses. There are reports that Travis died early in the assault, of a single gunshot wound to the forehead while defending the north wall. Joe, a freed former slave to Travis, who was present during the final assault as a noncombatant, stated afterward that he saw Travis stand on the wall and fire into the attackers. He saw Travis shoot and kill a Mexican soldier climbing over the wall from a ladder, with Travis falling immediately afterward. This is the only dependable account of Travis' death.

When Santa Anna came into the fort he asked the alcalde of San Antonio, Francisco A. Ruiz, to identify the bodies of the rebel leaders to him. Ruiz later said that the body of Travis was found on a gun carriage on the north wall. Within a few hours of the final gunshots being fired, Santa Anna ordered a company of dragoons to gather wood and burn all the Texans' bodies. By five o'clock that evening, the bodies of Travis, Crockett, Bowie and Bonham were burned along with the other defenders.

Travis's famous 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 and compatriots;
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and 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, and 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 and 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 and 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 and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.

He gave this letter to courier John William Smith
John William Smith
John William Smith was a Texas political figure and the first mayor of San Antonio, Texas. He supported and served Texas during the struggle for Texas Independence.-Early life:...

 to deliver. The envelope that contained the letter was labeled "Victory or Death". The 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.

Chance for help

As late as March 3, Travis had every bit of optimism of reinforcements with the arrival of messenger James Bonham. He carried a letter from Robert M. "Three-Legged Willie" Williamson, which stated that help was coming in the form of 60 volunteers from San Felipe, 300 volunteers (and four cannons) from James Fannin
James Fannin
James Walker Fannin, Jr. was a 19th-century U.S. military figure on the Texas Army and leader during the Texas Revolution of 1835–36...

, and another contingent of 300 volunteers by March 1. ( ...For God's sake hold out until we can assist you...")

The "line in the sand"

What is not disputed about the Battle of the Alamo is that by March 3, 1836, Travis understood the situation his garrison faced, and it was more than bleak; in fact, the situation was hopeless. It is alleged that he called the troops of his garrison together either on that day or on March 4, 1836, and told them, "We must die. Our business is not to make a fruitless effort to save our lives, but to choose the manner of our death." With that, taking example from "the 13 of the Fame" act done by Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro González, Marquess was a Spanish conquistador, conqueror of the Incan Empire, and founder of Lima, the modern-day capital of the Republic of Peru.-Early life:...

 a couple of centuries before, it is alleged he made a sweep with his sword and drew a line in the sand, asking all who would stay to cross it and those not willing not to cross it. Only Moses Rose
Moses Rose
Louis "Moses" Rose , also seen as Lewis Rose), known as the Coward of the Alamo, was according to Texas legend, the only man who chose to leave the besieged Alamo in 1836, rather than fight and die there. Some regard him as a coward for having left the Alamo prior to the final battle...

, a French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

-born former soldier in Napoleon Bonaparte's Grande Armée, did not cross. Rose has since been known as the Coward of the Alamo.

It is a fact that Moses Rose, by his own later accounts, was the only soldier who chose to depart, which he did by sneaking through Mexican lines in the late-night hours of March 5, 1836. Allegedly, it was Rose who first said that Travis drew the line. Susannah Dickinson
Susannah Dickinson
Susanna Wilkerson Dickinson was one of two American survivors of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution, where her husband, Captain Almaron Dickinson, and 182 other defenders were killed by the Mexican Army...

, widow
A widow is a woman whose spouse has died, while a widower is a man whose spouse has died. The state of having lost one's spouse to death is termed widowhood or occasionally viduity. The adjective form is widowed...

 of Alamo defender Capt. Almaron Dickinson
Almaron Dickinson
Almaron Dickinson was a Texan soldier and defender during the Battle of the Alamo, fought during the Texas Revolution. Dickinson is best known as having been the artillery officer of the small garrison, and for being the husband of one of the only three non-Mexican survivors to live through the...

, was present during the siege and battle and confirmed that this did happen. But no reliable written accounts support this. Whether Travis actually did draw the line in the sand is still disputed. However, what is known, by Rose's own accounts, is that Travis did give the members of the garrison a choice of staying or going, and by Rose's own accounts only Rose chose the latter.

Travis' children

Charles Edward Travis (1829–1860) was raised by his mother and her second husband. He won a seat in the Texas legislature
Texas Legislature
The Legislature of the state of Texas is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Texas. The legislature is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives. The Legislature meets at the Capitol in Austin...

 in 1853. In 1855, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a captain in a cavalry regiment (which was later renamed the 5th Cavalry Regiment (United States) commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston
Albert Sidney Johnston
Albert Sidney Johnston served as a general in three different armies: the Texas Army, the United States Army, and the Confederate States Army...

) but was discharged in May 1856 for "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman" following an allegation that he had cheated at cards.

He appealed the decision to no avail and then turned to studying law, earning a degree from Baylor University
Baylor University
Baylor University is a private, Christian university located in Waco, Texas. Founded in 1845, Baylor is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.-History:...

 in 1859. He died of consumption (tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

) within a year and is buried beside his sister.

Susan Isabella Travis was born in 1831, after Travis had departed for Texas. Although her paternity has been questioned, Travis did name her as his daughter in his will. In 1850 she married a planter from Chapell Hill
Chappell Hill, Texas
Chappell Hill is a small rural community in the eastern portion of Washington County, Texas, United States. It is located along U.S. Highway 290 roughly halfway between Brenham and Hempstead. Chappell Hill is located inside Stephen F...

, and they had one daughter.

Further reading

  • Lord, Walter; A Time To Stand; University of Nebraska Press; ISBN 0-8032-7902-7
  • Davis, William C. Three Roads to the Alamo; HarperCollins Publishers; ISBN 0-06-017334-3
  • McDonald, Archie P.; William Barret Travis; Eakin Press; ISBN 0-89015-656-5

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.