WILLIAM BARRET TRAVIS
William Barret Travis was only twenty-six years old when he died defending the Alamo. He came from Alabama just five years before, in 1831, leaving behind a failed career and marriage. Texas, a land he came to love, gave Travis a new life—and an early death.
Travis clashed with authorities in Anahuac shortly after arriving in Texas, feuding over Mexico’s antislavery laws. He spent two months in prison, and earned a reputation as a troublemaker, but went on to build a successful law practice. Then, in June 1835, as tension mounted between colonists and Mexican officials, Travis returned to Anahuac. With twenty volunteers and a small cannon, he forced the local customs officer to leave town. That was Travis’ first experience with military action just as the Texas Revolution was unfolding.
Six months later, in February 1836, newly commissioned Lt. Colonel Travis assumed joint command of the Alamo with James Bowie. As Mexican forces gathered, Travis sent dispatches to fellow Texians pleading for reinforcements. “If my countrymen do not rally to my relief,” he declared, “I am determined to perish in defense of this place, and my bones shall reproach my country for her neglect.”
His words were prophetic: little help came, but outrage over the slaughter of Travis and other Alamo defenders inspired a rush of Texian volunteers who ultimately defeated Mexican General Santa Anna at San Jacinto.
For More about William Barret Travis
The William Barret Travis Papers, 1831–1924, at the Dolph Brisoce Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin contain Travis’s diary and correspondence.
Brands, H.W. Lone Star Nation: The Epic Story of the Battle for Texas Independence. New York: Anchor Books, 2005.
Davis, William C. Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis. New York: HarperCollins, 1998.
McDonald, Archie P. Travis. Austin: Jenkins, 1976.
McDonald, Archie P. “Travis, William Barret.” Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/TT/ftr3.html
Travis, William Barrett [sic]. “Report and Appeal for Aid, 3 March 1836.” http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/adp/history/bios/travis/travis_appeal.html
This episode originally aired on April 30, 2012.