Tag Archives: William B. Travis

Today in Texas History – March 6

From the Annals of the Revolution –  In 1836, the San Antonio de Valero Mission better known as the Alamo, was stormed after a 13 day siege by the Mexican army.  The Mexican troops were under command of General Antonio Lòpez de Santa Anna who had pledged no quarter to the rebels.  The early morning assault caught the defenders of the makeshift fortress relatively unaware.  The battle lasted only 90 minutes during which time the Alamo was taken and all the Texian forces were killed. The crumbling chapel – which is the  iconic symbol of Texas Independence – fell last.   The historians debate whether the most famous Alamo defender David Crockett – who had arrived in San Antonio days before the siege – was killed or captured along with a handful of survivors.  Crockett did not fancy himself a military figure and was likely surprised to be among the fighters in a hopeless situation.   Santa Anna might have been anxious to take a valued captive.  Regardless of whether Crocket was killed or executed after the battle, his sacrifice and the sacrifice of the other 185 defenders inspired the continued fight for independence from Mexico.

A romanticized version of Crockett’s death from Robert Onderdonk’s  The Fall of the Alamo – at the Texas State Archives.

Today in Texas History – February 24

From the Annals of the Revolution –  In 1836, Col. William Barret Travis  wrote his famous letter addressed “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World.” Travis, a failed lawyer and largely considered to be an inept military commander, achieved his moment of greatness with the stroke of his pen.  Writing from the besieged garrison at the Alamo in San Antonio, Travis relayed the dire circumstances he and the unfortunate forces under his command were facing.  He called out for help. “I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch.” Travis either knew that his situation was hopeless or was hoping against hope for a miracle that did not exist.  Inspired by his letter, some 32 men from Gonzales and the DeWitt Colony reached the Alamo in the early morning hours of March 1.  They were killed along with the other defenders when the Mexican Army assaulted the crumbling fort days later.  Col. James Fannin, another hopeless military incompetent, began a march towards the Alamo but deterred by the presence of Gen. Urrea’s forces  moved into an indefensible position, surrendered and was later killed in the mass execution of his troops.  The most famous lines of Travis’ letter pledged that he would “never surrender or retreat” and swore “Victory or Death” most likely knowing that the latter was the only possible outcome.  His prediction was correct as Travis was among the first to die in the final battle.

Today in Texas History – February 23

From the Annals of the Revolution –  In 1836, the siege of the Alamo began when Mexican troops under the command of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna entered San Antonio de Bexar and began to encircle the crumbling mission.   Despite knowledge that the Mexican Army was on the move, the Texian troops at the Alamo commanded by the inexperienced Col. William B. Travis were almost completely surprised by their arrival.  Historians have speculated that the Texians were still recovering from an all night party celebrating George Washington’s birthday.  The Mexican troops were no more than 1.5 miles from Bexar when they were finally spotted by a sentry in the San Fernando Church bell tower. Advance Mexican cavalry under the command of Gen. Joaquin Ramirez y Sesma would likely have taken the mission in a surprise attack but were delayed by rains which flooded the Medina River.  At the time, the Texians had only 156 able-bodied troops in the Alamo and almost no provisions.  They were able to herd a few cattle into the compound and scrounged enough corn from local houses to last for maybe a month.  By late afternoon, Béxar was occupied by about 1500 Mexican troops, who quickly raised a blood-red flag signifying “No Quarter.”  Travis answered Santa Anna’s request for a parlay with a cannon shot.  Believing that Travis had acted foolishly, James Bowie who was in command of the volunteers at the Alamo, sent Green B. Jameson to meet with Santa Anna.  The General refused but did allow Jameson to meet with some of his officers.  The Mexican officers conveyed the following message:  “I reply to you, according to the order of His Excellency, that the Mexican army cannot come to terms under any conditions with rebellious foreigners to whom there is no recourse left, if they wish to save their lives, than to place themselves immediately at the disposal of the Supreme Government from whom alone they may expect clemency after some considerations.”

Today in Texas History – May 26

From the Annals of Slavery –  In 1837, the executor of William Barret Travis’s estate placed a notice in the Telegraph and Texas Register for an escaped slave named Joe.  Joe had been one of the few survivors of the battle of the Alamo the year before. The notice ran for three months before it was discontinued.

During the final battle for the Alamo, Joe was armed and defended with others before retreating to an interior room.  After the battle, Joe answered the call of the Mexican troops for any slaves to reveal themselves. Joe came out was immediately shot and suffered a bayonet thrust. A Mexican captain prevented his death.  He was taken by the Mexican Army and later interrogated by Santa Anna regarding Texas and the Texas Army.  He was apparently released and on March 20, Joe was questioned by the Texas Cabinet at Groce’s Retreat about the siege and final battle at the Alamo. William F. Gray reported that Joe impressed those present with the modesty, candor, and clarity of his account. Joe was then returned to Travis’s property near Columbia.  On the first anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto, Joe escaped with two fully equipped horses while accompanied by an unidentified Mexican man.  Joe was never returned to slavery and was last reported in Austin in 1875.