William Barret Travis (August 9, 1809 – March 6, 1836) was a
19th century American lawyer and soldier. At the age of 26, he was a
Lieutenant Colonel in the Texian Army, and commanded the Republic of Texas
forces and died at the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution
from the Republic of Mexico.
At the age of nine, he moved with his family 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, Fourth Division.
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, on February 14, 1836; she subsequently married David Y. Portis in 1843 in Texas (they both died of Yellow Fever 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 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 became a pivotal figure in the
Anahuac Disturbances, which helped to precipitate the
On February 3 Travis arrived in
San Antonio with eighteen men as reinforcements. On 12 February, 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 Texian 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
"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."
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" (a plaque with this written letter is placed in front of the
In Travis' last letter out of the
Alamo, March 3 to David Ayres:
What is not disputed about the Battle of the Alamo, is that by March 3, 1836, Col. Travis understood the situation his garrison faced, and it was less than bleak, but in fact hopeless. It is alleged that he called the troops of his garrison together either 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, 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 should not cross. Only Moses Rose, a French 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 that 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, widow of Alamo defender Capt. Almaron Dickinson, and who was present during the siege and battle, confirmed that this did happen. But, no reliable written accounts support this. Whether or not 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 as to who would stay and who would go, and, by Rose's own accounts, only Rose chose the latter.
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 his attention to studying law, earning a law 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 by some, Travis did name her as his daughter in his will. In 1850 she married a planter from Chapell Hill, and they had one daughter.
William B. Travis. This sketch by Wiley Martin is the only surviving one known to have been drawn during Travis's lifetime, although the accuracy of the likeness has been questioned.
Copyright © Genealogy Trails - All Rights Reserved With full rights reserved for original submitters
This is a FREE website.