Soldier. Travis was born on August 9, 1809, in Edgefield District, the son of Mark Travis and Jemima Stallworth. In 1818 the family migrated to Conecuh County, Alabama. Travis moved to nearby Claiborne while still in his teens, teaching school and studying law under Judge James Dellett. Seeking respectability, Travis became a Mason, was commissioned in the local militia, and published a small newspaper, the Claiborne Herald. On October 26, 1828, he married Rosanna Cato. Perennially in debt, Travis abandoned his pregnant wife and infant son early in 1831 and fled to Texas.
Travis set up a law practice in Anahuac, Texas, in 1831 and began a life of drinking, gambling, and womanizing, all of which he faithfully recorded in his diary. He was heavily involved in resistance to Mexican rule, playing a major role in the “Anahuac War” of 1832 and the capture of the Anahuac garrison in January 1835. When the Texas revolution broke out in September 1835, Travis was commissioned a major of artillery, and he became a lieutenant colonel of cavalry on December 24.
In January 1836 Governor Henry Smith ordered Travis to reinforce Lieutenant Colonel James C. Neill’s garrison at San Antonio de Béxer. Travis and his detachment of thirty men arrived about February 2, and shortly thereafter Travis was placed in command when Neill left on furlough because of sickness in his family. This brought Travis into conflict with Colonel James Bowie, commander of the volunteers, who technically outranked Travis. The issue was resolved when the two agreed on a joint command, and it became moot when Bowie fell ill. Travis moved the garrison into the Alamo on February 23, just ahead of Santa Anna’s army. On the morning of March 6, 1836, Travis was killed by a bullet to the head as the Mexican army began its final assault.
Groneman, Bill. Alamo Defenders: A Genealogy, the People and Their Words. Austin, Tex.: Eakin, 1990.
Long, Jeff. Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo. New York: Morrow, 1990.
McDonald, Archie P. Travis. Austin, Tex.: Jenkins, 1976. Roberts, Randy, and James S. Olson. A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory. New York: Free Press, 2001.