William Barret Travis August 1, 1809 - March 6, 1836

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.

He did.

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.


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.


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