William Barret Travis was a lawyer and soldier who is remembered as the Texas commander at the Battle of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.
Born in the Edgefield District of South Carolina on August 9, 1809, William’s family later moved to Alabama. After finishing his education, Travis worked as a school teacher and a lawyer. Travis fled a wife and family in 1831, setting up a law office in Anahuac, Texas. Strongly disliking Mexican rule, he became one of the leaders of what became known as the “war party” and on June 29, 1835, he raised a company of 25 volunteers and captured Captain Antonio Tenorio, the commander of Mexican forces in Anahuac.
After the outbreak of the Texas Revolution, Travis joined the Texas Army and soon afterward Samuel Houston appointed him as lieutenant colonel of cavalry. Soon after, the Texans surrounded San Antonio de Bexar on December 7, 1835, and the volunteers attacked the town. On January 21, 1836, Travis was ordered to go to the Alamo with volunteers to reinforce the 120-150 men already there.
On February 3rd, he arrived with 20-30 reinforcements and within a short time, he immediately became the commander of the regular soldiers, while James Bowie commanded the volunteers. When General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and 7,000 Mexican troops arrived in San Antonio, the Texans took refuge in the fortified grounds of the Alamo. Bowie was struck down with typhoid and Travis eventually took over sole command of the fortress.
Santa Anna ordered the shelling of the Alamo but the Texans refused to surrender. On March 6th, the Mexican army stormed the fortress and during the battle, 189 Texans, including Travis, Bowie, and Davy Crockett, were killed, but not without a valiant fight. It is estimated that 1,500 Mexicans died during the battle.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated July 2021.