The reasons this handsome red-haired young South Carolina native who
was practicing law in Alabama left his pregnant wife and young child to move to
Texas in 1831 has been the subject of fruitless speculation and legend.
Upon arrival in Texas, he registered himself as single and certainly acted the
part. He made friends with the more fiery pro-independence crowd, and took part
in the taking of the Mexican post at Velasco in 1832. He kept a bilingual diary detailing,
among other things, sexual conquests and their successive order in his love-life.
His amorous conquests, however, were rather unimpressive by today's standards, having won
only the hearts and the honor of less than a hundred women.
Imagine his surprise when, just before the Texas Revolution broke out, his wife showed
up with their two children, demanding a resolution. He gave her documents necessary to get
a divorce back in Alabama, which she obtained within weeks, re-marrying almost immediately
-- in fact, about the time Travis arrived at the Alamo. However, Travis demanded custody
of his son, then about six. He boarded the boy with a friend.
Travis was on recruiting duty for the newly-created Texas regular army when he was
ordered to take what men he had to reinforcement the Alamo.
He only had 40, and nine deserted in route, taking supplies he had bought
with his own money.
He unexpectedly became commander of the Alamo, Jim Bowie
having succumbed to typhoid fever -- and found himself holding off the
bulk of the Mexican army. His appeals for aid showed he understood the situation perfectly
-- but he also kept announcing he would hold out no matter what, even unto death.
The following is a transcription of Travis' most famous appeal for aid:
Commandancy of the Alamo
Bexar, Feby 24th, 1836
To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World--
Fellow Citizens and Compatriots
I am besieged with 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 surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison is
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 over the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat.
Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, of 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 solder who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country.
VICTORY OR DEATH
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comd't
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 & got into
the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.
Remarkably, he was able to see beyond his own dire predicament to
the big picture. Even more remarkably, he was able to persuade and convince in excess of
180 men to share his vision. Possibly, because of Travis' decisive action and
personal courage, history took a different course. Below are a few conjectures:
Without the Alamo there could have
been no Battle of San Jacinto.
Without the Battle of San Jacinto, Texas
could not have existed.
Without Texas, the westward expansion of the
U.S. would have been thwarted.
Without the West, the U.S. would have
remained an Atlantic power, and not risen to become a world power.
Without the U.S. as a world power, the world
as we see it today would not exist.
Those who believe that historical forces rather
than individuals control events should consider the actions of William Travis. Clearly, his decision to sacrifice himself at the Alamo is one of
the most decisive contributions by a single individual in recent world history.