William B. Travis

Last updated

William B. Travis
William B. Travis by Wiley Martin.JPG
William B. Travis in a sketch by Wyly Martin is the only known likeness of Travis drawn during his lifetime, although its accuracy has been questioned. [1]
Birth nameWilliam Barret Travis
Nickname(s)Buck [2]
Born(1809-08-01)August 1, 1809
Saluda County, South Carolina
DiedMarch 6, 1836(1836-03-06) (aged 26)
The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
AllegianceFlag of Texas.svg  Republic of Texas
Service/branch Flag of Texas.svg Texas Army
Years of service1835–1836
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Commands heldThe Alamo
Battles/wars Texas Revolution
William B Travis signature.svg
Signature of William B. Travis

William Barret "Buck" 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. Travis County and Travis Park were named after him for being the commander of the Republic of Texas at the Battle of the Alamo.

Contents

Early life

Ancestry, early years, and education

Travis's grandfather, Berwick (also known as Barrett) Travis, came to the British Colonies of North America at the age of 12, where he was placed in indentured servitude for more than a decade. Berwick's ancestors came to North America in the late 1600s, and Berwick's (Barrett's) grandfather was born in Perquimans, North Carolina but went back to the United Kingdom for his medical training. A descendant of the Travers of Tulketh Castle in Preston, England, Berwick had a life that hardly resembled his ancestor's glory and wealth. After working his period of servitude, he traveled south to the colony of South Carolina, where he received a grant of over 100 acres of land in what is now Saluda County, South Carolina. [3] A year later, he married Anne Smallwood, and they lived out their lives there. They had four daughters and three sons, including Mark Travis and the Baptist missionary Alexander Travis.

Mark Travis married Jemima Stallworth on June 1, 1808. [4] She gave birth to William Barret Travis on August 1, 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 William was born on the first. Mark and Jemima had nine other children over the next twenty years.

Travis's uncle Alexander migrated to the new territory of Alabama following the War of 1812, settling in modern-day Conecuh County. He urged his brother and family to come join him, where he said that the land was cheap and easy to acquire, so Mark took his family, including young William, then age 9, to Alabama. They settled in the newly forming town of Sparta, where Mark Travis purchased the very first certificate from the Sparta Land company. [5] Young Travis grew up in Sparta, and while his father tended to the farming, his uncle Alexander became prominent, organizing the Old Beulah Church (among other churches), preaching in neighboring counties and nearby Evergreen, Alabama, and leaving a strong influence on young Travis. [6]

During that same time, Alexander also founded the Sparta Academy and served as its superintendent. Travis received his first formal education at the Sparta Academy, studying subjects ranging from Greek and Latin to history and mathematics. After a few years, Travis moved to the academy of Professor William H. McCurdy in Claiborne, Alabama.

After completing his education at the age of 18, Travis gained a position as an assistant teacher in Monroe County, a position he held for less than a year. [7] He met a student, Rosanna Cato, whom he immediately felt attracted to and with whom he began a romantic relationship. [8]

Life in Claiborne, ensuing debt and troubles

Eager to get away from farm life, Travis made his move to Claiborne permanent where he began studying law. Famed lawyer James Dellet accepted Travis as his apprentice. [9] At that time, Claiborne was a major city in Alabama that was right next to the Alabama River, where trade and social life seemed to be miles ahead of the still-growing community of Sparta.

Mounting debt and failure

Travis and Cato married on October 26, 1828. Cato gave birth to their first son, Charlie, a year later, though there is evidence to support that Charlie was born out of wedlock or possibly even a year beforehand. [10]

While still studying law under Dellet, Travis was eager to resume his professional career and to join the high ranks of Claiborne society. Travis started a newspaper, the Claiborne Herald, which, like many other newspapers of the day, published stories ranging from activities in Congress to stories of adventures across the world, local notices, advertisements and more. Travis essentially operated the newspaper himself, and while it provided a modest income during the first few months of operation, it was hardly enough to support himself, Rosanna and young Charlie. The financial stress led to carelessness at the Herald: advertisements were accidentally printed upside down, the type was not set properly in the printing press, letting words fall out of line, and advertisements that had expired were still published. He struggled to continue the paper, and though he asked for help, [11] he received none.

The home of Travis and Rosanna, relocated to Perdue Hill, Alabama and restored in 1985 William B. Travis House 002.JPG
The home of Travis and Rosanna, relocated to Perdue Hill, Alabama and restored in 1985

On February 27, 1829, Travis passed his law examination and received permission to legally practice, so he borrowed $55.37 to open a law office, [12] as well as $90 earlier in the year to help pay for the Herald. [13] Now in debt and with no practical income, he took in three boarding students, and to help Rosanna with the workload, he purchased two slaves. Maintaining the slaves increased his expenses, pushing Travis further into debt.

In 1829, the Herald's editions declined; only six issues were published in the fall when it was intended to be a weekly publication. It went from a newspaper to a two-sided sheet. Still, no one helped Travis with his newspaper, and by the end of that year, the Herald stopped being printed.

With hardly any law business coming in, the debts continued to mount. The earlier loans had never been paid, and more came - $192.40 in May 1829, $50.12 in June, and $50.00 in July. [14] His law practice failed to attract any significant clients because men like Dellet continued to be trusted more than Travis. By the end of his law practice in Claiborne, he had had only six cases, and had received less than a total of $4.00. By the spring of 1831, his debt was $834. [15]

Dellet, along with others to whom Travis owed money, had no choice but to file suit for Travis's debts to be repaid. At one point during the suit, Travis filed a plea that the case be dismissed on the grounds of infancy (he was still considered a minor in many parts of Alabama). Dellet responded by forcing Travis to stand, yelling at the courtroom "Gentlemen, I make 'proofest' of this infant!". [16] Travis stood humiliated in a courtroom filled with people who were roaring with laughter, and the Court's clerk issued orders for his arrest on March 31, 1831. [17]

At some point during his time in Claiborne, Travis heard stories of Texas, which was then an outlying state in the First Mexican Republic. In Texas, there was a massive amount of land speculation and immigration, with settlers coming in from the United States and Europe. There was also a strong demand for lawyers to deal with the influx of immigrants and land dealings, so he quickly made the decision to go to Texas. He promised Rosanna (now pregnant with a second child) that, while in Texas, he would earn enough money to pay back all of his debts. Rosanna trusted him to eventually return or send for her and his children. He did neither. Travis avoided arrest and left for Texas.

Texas and the Alamo command

William Barret Travis Historical Marker in Anahuac, Texas William Barret Travis Historical Marker.jpg
William Barret Travis Historical Marker in Anahuac, Texas
William B. Travis, painted by Henry Arthur McArdle, years after Travis's death, using a stand-in as a model. William travis.jpg
William B. Travis, painted by Henry Arthur McArdle, years after Travis's death, using a stand-in as a model.

In May 1831, upon his arrival in Mexican Texas, a part of northern Mexico at the time, Travis purchased land from Stephen F. Austin, who appointed him counsel from the United States. [18] He set up a law practice in Anahuac and helped start a militia to oppose Mexican rule. [19] He subsequently became a pivotal figure in the Anahuac Disturbances and was imprisoned for his involvement. [18] [20]

Travis was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel of the Legion of Cavalry and became the chief recruiting officer for a new regular Texian army. [18] Governor Henry Smith ordered Travis to raise a company of professional soldiers to reinforce the Texians who were then under the command of James C. Neill at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio. [21] 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." [22] James Bowie arrived at the Alamo with 30 men on January 19, 1836. [21] On February 3, Travis arrived in San Antonio with eighteen regulars as reinforcements. A compromise was reached between Bowie and Travis for command of the Alamo, with Bowie in command of the volunteers and Travis in command of the regulars. [20] When Bowie's health began to fail the compromise became irrelevant, and Travis became the official commander of the Alamo garrison. [21] On March 6, 1836, following a thirteen-day siege, Santa Anna ordered the assault on the Alamo during the predawn hours. Travis died fighting to the end, and his remains were burned along with all the other Alamo defenders. [21]

Travis's "Victory or Death" 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":

Plaque with the contents of the letter in front of the Alamo William Travis famousletterplaque.jpg
Plaque with the contents of the letter in front of the Alamo
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 and 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 and 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.
Travis

He gave this letter to courier Albert Martin to deliver. The envelope that contained the letter was labeled "VICTORY or DEATH". [22] The letter, while unable to bring aid to the garrison at the Alamo, did much to motivate the Texian army and helped to rally support in America for the cause of Texas independence. It also cemented Travis's status as a hero of the Texas Revolution.

Alleged burial

Cathedral of San Fernando sarcophagus with images of Travis, Bowie and Crockett San Antonio 067.JPG
Cathedral of San Fernando sarcophagus with images of Travis, Bowie and Crockett

A year after the battle, acting upon orders from General Felix Huston, Colonel Juan Seguín oversaw the reclamation of the abandoned ashes of the Alamo defenders from three sites. On March 28, 1837, an official public ceremony was conducted to give a Christian burial to the ashes. It was believed they were buried in the vicinity of the Alamo, but their exact location was forgotten over time. When San Antonio's Cathedral of San Fernando was being renovated for a new altar during the Texas 1936 centennial, human remains believed to be those of the Alamo defenders were found. Because of discrepancies in various accounts in the ensuing century after the burial, public opinion was divided about whether or not these were the remains of the defenders. The recovered ashes were re-interred in a marble sarcophagus inside the cathedral, purportedly containing the bones of Travis, Crockett and Bowie, as well as others. [23] Calls for DNA testing have not been acted upon. [24]

Family

Travis 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 and a daughter, Susan, in 1831. [25] They 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. They both died of yellow fever during an epidemic which afflicted the state in 1848.

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 United States 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. [26] He appealed the decision to no avail. He then turned to studying law, earning a degree from Baylor University in 1859. He died of consumption (tuberculosis) within a year and is buried in the Masonic Cemetery. [27] [28]

Susan Isabella Travis (18311868) was born after Travis had departed for Texas. Although her paternity has been questioned, [29] Travis did name her as his daughter in his will. She married a planter from Chappell Hill, Texas. [30] Their son, who died young, was William Barret Grissett, and their daughter was Mary Jane Grissett Davidson DeCaussey. [31] [32]

See also

Related Research Articles

Texas Revolution rebellion of colonists from the United States and Tejanos against the Mexican government

The Texas Revolution was a rebellion of colonists from the United States and Tejanos in putting up armed resistance to the centralist government of Mexico. While the uprising was part of a larger one that included other provinces opposed to the regime of President Antonio López de Santa Anna, the Mexican government believed the United States had instigated the Texas insurrection with the goal of annexation. The Mexican Congress passed the Tornel Decree, declaring that any foreigners fighting against Mexican troops "will be deemed pirates and dealt with as such, being citizens of no nation presently at war with the Republic and fighting under no recognized flag." Only the province of Texas succeeded in breaking with Mexico, establishing the Republic of Texas, and eventually being annexed by the United States.

James Bowie nineteenth-century American pioneer, soldier, smuggler, slave trader, and land speculator, played a prominent role in the Texas Revolution

James Bowie was a 19th-century American pioneer who played a prominent role in the Texas Revolution, culminating in his death at the Battle of the Alamo. Stories of him as a fighter and frontiersman, both real and fictitious, have made him a legendary figure in Texas history and a folk hero of American culture.

Battle of the Alamo Major battle of the Texas Revolution

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 reclaimed the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar, killing the Texian and immigrant occupiers. Santa Anna's cruelty during the battle inspired many Texians, both legal Texas settlers and illegal immigrants from the United States, to join the Texian Army. Buoyed by a desire for revenge, the Texians defeated the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, ending the rebellion.

James Fannin American soldier and leader during the Texas Revolution

James Walker Fannin Jr. was a 19th-century American military figure in the Texas Army and leader during the Texas Revolution of 1835–36. After being outnumbered and surrendering to Mexican forces at the Battle of Coleto Creek, Colonel Fannin and nearly all his 344 men were executed soon afterward at Goliad, Texas, under Santa Anna's orders for all rebels to be executed.

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. Anahuac was located on the east side of the Trinity River near the north shore of Galveston Bay, which placed it astride the trade route between Texas and Louisiana, and from there to the rest of the United States. In new attempts to curtail smuggling and enforce customs tariffs from the coastal settlements, Mexico placed a garrison there after 1830. American settlers came into conflict with Mexican military officers, and rose up against them. They increased political activity and residents of numerous communities declared support for the federalists, who were revolting against the Mexican Government.

<i>The Alamo</i> (2004 film) 2004 film by John Lee Hancock

The Alamo is a 2004 film about the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. It was directed by John Lee Hancock, produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Mark Johnson, distributed by Touchstone Pictures, and starred Dennis Quaid as Sam Houston, Billy Bob Thornton as David Crockett, and Jason Patric as Jim Bowie.

James Bonham Alamo defender

James Bonham was a 19th-century American soldier who died at the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. He was a second cousin of Travis and was a messenger of the Battle of the Alamo. His younger brother, Milledge Luke Bonham, was a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army in the American Civil War, and served as Governor of South Carolina from 1862 to 1864.

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.

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World is an open letter written on February 24, 1836, by William B. Travis, commander of the Texian forces at the Battle of the Alamo, to settlers in Mexican Texas. The letter is renowned as a "declaration of defiance" and a "masterpiece of American patriotism", and forms part of the history education of Texas schoolchildren.

<i>The Last Command</i> (1955 film) 1955 film by Frank Lloyd

The Last Command is a 1955 Trucolor Western film directed by Frank Lloyd starring Sterling Hayden, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Richard Carlson, Arthur Hunnicutt, Ernest Borgnine and J. Carrol Naish based on the life of Jim Bowie and the Battle of the Alamo.

Immortal 32

The Immortal 32 was a relief force of thirty-two Texian Militia from the Gonzales Ranging Company who reinforced the Texians under siege at the Alamo. They are "immortalized" as the only unit to answer the To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World letter. Along with the other Alamo defenders, they were all killed and burned after the Battle of the Alamo.

Juana Gertrudis Navarro Alsbury was one of the few Texian survivors of the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution in 1836. As Mexican forces entered her hometown, San Antonio de Bexar, on February 23, Alsbury's cousin by marriage, James Bowie, brought her with him to the Alamo Mission so that he could protect her. Bowie, the co-commander of the Texian forces, collapsed from illness on the second day of the siege; Alsbury nursed him throughout the remainder of the siege. On March 4, Texian co-commander William Barret Travis sent her as an emissary to Mexican commander Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to negotiate an honorable surrender for the Texian forces. She made no headway, and her visit likely increased Santa Anna's impatience to end the siege in a spectacular fashion. Santa Anna launched an early-morning assault on the Alamo on March 6.

Francisco Antonio Ruiz was the alcalde of San Antonio during the Texas Revolution and was responsible for identifying the bodies of those killed at the Battle of the Alamo.

Almaron Dickinson was a Texian soldier and defender during the Battle of the Alamo, fought during the Texas Revolution. Dickinson is best known as the artillery officer of the small garrison, and the husband of one of the only three non-Mexican survivors to live through the battle, Susanna Dickinson, as well as the father to their infant daughter Angelina, whose life was also spared. He is a member of the Immortal 32 and Old Eighteen.

Salvador Flores served as a volunteer in the Texan Army in 1835–1836. He was instrumental in organizing and commanding Texian volunteers in support of the Texas Revolution. He participated in many battles and would rise through the ranks to reach Captain status during the fight for Texas independence from Mexico. Salvador continued to provide protection for the ranches and settlers of Texas throughout the Republic years.

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.

Claiborne, Alabama Place in Alabama, United States

Claiborne is a ghost town on a bluff above the Alabama River in Monroe County, Alabama.

Mathew Caldwell Texan settler

Matthew Caldwell,, also spelled Mathew Caldwell was a 19th-century Texas settler, military figure, Captain of the Gonzales – Seguin Rangers and a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Because of his recruitment ride ahead of the Battle of Gonzales, some call him the Paul Revere of Texas.

Alamo Cenotaph United States historic place

The Alamo Cenotaph, also known as the Spirit of Sacrifice, is a monument in San Antonio, Texas, United States, commemorating the Battle of the Alamo of the Texas Revolution, which was fought at the adjacent Alamo Mission. The monument was erected in celebration of the centenary of the battle, and bears the names of those known to have fought there on the Texas side.

References

  1. McKeehan, Wallace L. "Gonzales Alamo Relief Defenders". Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas. Texas A&M University. Archived from the original on May 29, 2003. Retrieved January 23, 2009.
  2. Davis 1998, p. 262.
  3. Davis (1998), p. 189.
  4. Davis (1998), p. 190.
  5. Alabama Territory. A List of Taxable Property Taken in the County of Conecuh
  6. Riley, B.F., Makers and Romance of Alabama History, 1951, pg. 98
  7. William Travis Autobiography, 1833. There is no mention of Travis being given a position at the same academy. As McCurdy's academy opened when Travis was 16 and he changed schools to one in Monroe County at 16, it can be assumed that he went there, as well as taught there.
  8. Davis, pg. 193
  9. McMillan Papers; Letford, "Story of William B. Travis". There is no firm evidence that Travis studied under Dellet, though members of his family and also a former probate judge of Monroe County claimed that he did.
  10. Travis Family Bible. Travis wrote in his own handwriting that Charlie was born in 1828; however, that date was later changed in someone else's handwriting, to 1829. That was a very common practice that happened in the 18th and 19th centuries to purify marriages and family bibles from children being born before a wedding or before nine months had passed.
  11. Claiborne Herald, February 27, 1829
  12. Davis, pg. 199
  13. Davis, pg. 90
  14. Davis, pg. 201
  15. Davis, pg. 203
  16. Davis, pg. 204
  17. Davis, pg. 205
  18. 1 2 3 Curtis, Gregory (January 1986). "The First Texas". Texas Monthly: 26, 88–89. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  19. "The Turtle Bay Resolutions". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  20. 1 2 Davis 1966, p. xiv.
  21. 1 2 3 4 McDonald, Archie P. "William Barret Travis". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  22. 1 2 Hardin 1994, p. 117.
  23. Sibley, Marilyn McAdams (October 1966). "The Burial Place of the Alamo Heroes". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. Texas State Historical Association. 70 (2): 272–280. JSTOR   30236392.
  24. Anderson, Christopher. "Group Targets Remains of Alamo Heroes. Defender's Relatives Want Church Sarcophagus Opened to Study Disputed Bones. San Antonio Express-News February 24, 1996. https://www.tamu.edu/faculty/ccbn/dewitt/adp/archives/newsarch/alamoash.html. Accessed August 7, 2016.
  25. Davis 1966, p. xii.
  26. Cutrer, Thomas W. "Charles Edward Travis". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  27. "Chappell Hill, TX". Texas Escapes. Blueprints For Travel, LLC. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  28. Texas State Cemetery
  29. Alamo Story
  30. Heart of San Antonio
  31. From Jamestown to Texas
  32. Texas State Cemetery

Bibliography

Further reading