William Barrett Travis
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William Barrett Travis was born the son of Mark and Jemima Travis on August 9, 1809. When William was nine years of age, his family under the guidance of William’s uncle, Reverend Alexander Travis, moved to Conecuh County, Alabama and lived on the property of David Jay. Alexander was the one who saw to it that young William was educated, first at the Sparta Academy in Sparta, Alabama, then later in Claiborne, Alabama, where William eventually opened a law practice and operated a newspaper. While working as an assistant teacher at a school in Claiborne, he met and married one of the students, Rosanna Cato, on October 26, 1828. In 1829 their son, Charles Edward Travis was born.
It seemed that Travis was becoming a fixture in Claiborne, located in Monroe, County, Alabama in 1831, when suddenly he left, leaving behind his family and an unborn daughter. He headed for Texas.
He arrived at San Felipe De Austin in May of 1831 and purchased land from Stephen F. Austin. He started a law practice in Anahuac, Texas. He became active in the politics of the area as a member of a group of rebels known as the “War Party”, who opposed the harsh treatment of settlers by the government. There were several disturbances in the Anahuac area and Travis was in the midst of most of them. At one point, he was instrumental in driving the army from its post at the old fort in Anahuac.
In October 1835, the Battle of Gonzales occurred, signaling the start of the Texas Revolution. He is said to have taken a small part in the Siege of Bexar (San Antonio), which occurred in November of 1835. In this siege, the “Texians” were successful at driving the Mexican army out of the occupied old mission called the Alamo.
On December 19, 1835, Travis was given a commission as a lieutenant colonel of the Legion of Cavalry. He became the chief recruiting officer for the Texan army.
On January 21, 1836, he received the order to go to Bexar (San Antonio) with volunteers to fortify the Alamo as well as possible. On February 3, 1836, Travis arrived in Bexar with 29 volunteers. On February 12, he was given command of the regular army forces at the Alamo, while Colonel James Bowie commanded the volunteers. In time, illness and injury of Bowie would leave Travis in complete command.
On February 23, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna arrived at the head of his command. On that day, the siege began with an artillery bombardment that remained almost constant for the 13 days of the siege. At night, the Deguello was played by Santa Anna’s trumpeters. The Deguello is a signal for no quarter to the enemy.
Throughout his command at the Alamo, Travis sent out pleas for help with little positive response. He did get 32 volunteers from Gonzales, who miraculously made their way into the Alamo and became known as the “immortal 32“. Among them was sixteen year old Galba Fuqua, who died three days before his 17th birthday!
On March 3, 1826, Travis sent out a letter to David Ayres of Monroe County, Alabama regarding the care of his son, Travis said, “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.”
In early hours of March 6, 1836, Santa Anna had his army quietly surround the Alamo. Then he gave the order to charge. The first assault was a failure. The defenders poured an intense fire into their ranks, killing many. The line fell back into retreat.
A second order was shortly afterward given. This attack was repelled also. It was followed by a few minutes of quietness while Santa Anna addressed his commanders.
The third attack was successful. All the defenders were put to death as Santa Anna had ordered.
Travis' body was found near the north wall with many dead enemy soldiers around him. There were several reports by enemy soldiers stating that he was possibly the bravest of the men at the Alamo, who died advancing on his enemy, though incredibly outnumbered!
His body was burned, along with the bodies of the other defenders of the Alamo.
His former wife, Rosanna married Samuel G. Cloud of Monroeville, Alabama on February 14, 1836. Later in Texas, she married David Y. Portis in 1843. They both died of yellow fever in 1848.
His son, Charles was raised by his mother and her second husband. Following their deaths in 1848, he lived with his sister in Brenham, Texas. He was elected to the Texas Legislature in 1853. He served in the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, but was discharged for cheating in a card game, a charge he contested but to no avail. He studied law at Baylor University, earning a degree in 1859, but he died of tuberculosis within a year.
Susan Isabella Travis was born in Alabama in 1831, after Travis had gone to Texas. Little is known of her upbringing, but she married a planter from Chapell Hill, Texas and had one daughter.
Both, Charles and Susan (Mrs. John [Susan Isabella Travis] Grissett) are buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Chapell Hill, Texas.
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William B. Travis
Alexander Travis Grave
General Santa Anna
Alamo (circa 1850)
Washington on the Brazos
Davy Crockett
C. E. Travis Grave
Susan (Travis) Grissett Grave
©2008 Wilson Jay