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|William Barret Travis|
William B. Travis. This sketch by Wiley Martin is one of the few surviving likeness drawn during Travis's lifetime, although its accuracy has been questioned.
August 1, 1809|
Saluda County, South Carolina
|Died||March 6, 1836
The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
|Allegiance|| United States
Republic of Texas
|Years of service||1835–1836|
|Commands held||The Alamo|
Signature of William B. Travis
William Barret Travis (August 1, 1809 – March 6, 1836) was a 19th-century American lawyer and soldier. At the age of 26, he was a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army. He died at the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution.
Family life 
Travis, an American of English descent, was born August 1, 1809 in Saluda County, South Carolina, to Mark and Jemima Travis. 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, a prominent Baptist preacher, called on his family to move to the town of Sparta in Conecuh County, Alabama, where he received much of his education. He later enrolled in a school in nearby 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 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, joining the Alabama Lodge No.3 – Free and Accepted Masons, and later joined the Alabama militia as adjutant of the Twenty-sixth Regiment, Eighth Brigade, and Fourth Division.
His marriage soon failed, and Travis fled Alabama in early 1831 to start over in Texas, leaving behind his wife, son, and unborn daughter. Their son was placed with Travis's friend, David Ayres, so that he would be closer to his father. Travis and Rosanna were officially divorced by the Marion County courts on January 9, 1836, by Act no. 115. Rosanna married Samuel G. Cloud in Monroeville, Alabama, on February 14, 1836. However, they both died of Yellow Fever during an epidemic which afflicted the state in 1848.
In May 1831, upon his arrival in Mexican Texas, a part of northern Mexico at the time, Travis purchased land from Stephen F. Austin and began a law practice in Anahuac. He became a pivotal figure in the Anahuac Disturbances, during which Mexico City's increasingly arbitrary and authoritarian rule led to a series of assemblies by Texans, with subsequent civil disturbances and outbreaks of violence precipitating the war.
While the assemblies began debating how best to defend their Mexican rights, a similar series of outbreaks of demonstrations, assemblies, and civil strife throughout Mexico led to a massive crackdown throughout the country by a new military junta led by Antonio López de Santa Anna. Several Mexican states in the south declared independence in response. Santa Anna immediately declared a state of martial law and ordered the execution of anyone involved in the uprising. In reply, a number of Texas militia units surrounded various arsenals and armories into which Mexican central authorities had confiscated the local militia's weapons.
This led in October 1835 to the [Battle of Gonzales] in which Texas militia engaged Mexican army regulars quartered in the town and guarding the arsenal. In November, Travis played a small role in the Siege of Bexar, during which several militia units from across the state surrounded the main Mexican position at the Alamo, forced the Mexican army to leave, and secured large numbers of weapons, ammunition and supplies. Subsequently, on December 19, Travis was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel of the Legion of Cavalry and became the chief recruiting officer for a new regular 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 as regulars, because the majority wished to remain in their local militia units. "Volunteers can no longer be had or relied upon", he wrote to acting governor Henry Smith.
Alamo command 
Smith ordered Travis to raise a company of professional soldiers to reinforce the Texans at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio. 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 regulars 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, of the Texan army. Neill had to leave to care for his ill family, but he promised to be back in twenty days. Meanwhile, the surrounding militia units were asked to volunteer to serve under the regulars. In turn, James Bowie (1795–1836), a noted frontiersmen, soldier, duelist, and notable of the community would command the volunteers as Travis commanded the regulars.
Meanwhile, the Mexican army, under dictator/General Antonio López de Santa Anna, had begun its rapid movement northward and caught the Texans unaware in early February. By the second week of February, Mexican regulars were scouting the Alamo and by February 22 began laying siege to the fort.
The Mexicans began their attack on the mission on February 23, 1836. In a brief letter to the alcalde 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, dated March 3, Travis wrote: "...yet I am determined to perish in the defense of this place, and my bones shall reproach my country for her neglect." In Travis' last letter out of the Alamo, which reached the convention the same day on March 3 to David Ayres, he wrote, "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."
On March 6, 1836, following a thirteen-day siege, Santa Anna ordered the assault on the Alamo at the predawn hours. The Mexicans used ladders to climb over the wall’s tops and broke down the fort's outer defenses. After a half-hour of heavy fighting throughout the fort, Travis, Bowie, and most of the defenders were dead. Travis had been killed early in the battle by a single shot to the head. All of the militia and soldiers defending the Alamo (under 200 men) were killed; however, these men's lives cost the Mexican army dearly: approximately 1600 Mexican soldiers were killed in the battle.
Travis' personal slave, Joe, who was present during the final assault, 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.
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 soldiers 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 rebels.
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 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.
Travis' children 
Charles Edward Travis (1829–1860) was raised by his mother and her second husband. He won a seat in the Texas legislature 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) 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 in 1859. He died of consumption (tuberculosis) 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, and they had one daughter.
See also 
- McKeehan, Wallace L. "Gonzales Alamo Relief Defenders". Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas. Texas A&M University. Retrieved January 23, 2009.
- Davis, William C. Three Roads to the Alamo; HarperCollins Publishers; ISBN 0-06-017334-3 , p. 262.
- Betty Smith Meischen (2003). Trails West: Book II the Trail to San Jacinto. iUniverse. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-595-25897-2.
- Davis (1966), p. xii.
- Davis (1966), p. xiv.
- Hardin (1994), p. 117.
- Davis (1966), p. xvi.
- Biographic sketch of Charles Edward Travis in the Handbook of Texas Online
- Masonic Cemetery at Chappell Hill, TX
- Davis, Robert E. (1966). The Diary of William Barret Travis. Waco, Tx: Texian Press. ASIN B000MTTVP4
- Hardin, Stephen L. (1994). Texian Iliad. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-73086-1.
- Brief biography of Travis at Lone Star Junction
- Detailed biography from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Timeline of the life of William Barret Travis
- First Hand Alamo Accounts
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
- William Barret Travis from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Travis "Victory or Death" Letter at Texas Heritage Society
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1889). "Travis, William Barrett". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.