Determined to win independence for the Mexican State of Texas, William Travis raises a volunteer army of 25 soldiers and prepares to liberate the city of Anahuac.
Born in South Carolina and raised in Alabama, William Travis moved to Mexican-controlled Texas in 1831 at the age of 22. He established a legal practice in Anahuac, a small frontier town about 40 miles east of Houston. From the start, Travis disliked Mexicans personally and resented Mexican rule of Texas politically. In 1832, he clashed with local Mexican officials and was jailed for a month. When he was released, the growing Texan independence movement hailed him as a hero, strengthening his resolve to break away from Mexico by whatever means necessary.
Early in 1835, the Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna overthrew the republican government and proclaimed himself dictator. Rightly fearing that some Texans would rebel as a result, Santa Anna quickly moved to reinforce Mexican control and dispatched troops to Anahuac, among other areas. Accustomed to enjoying a large degree of autonomy, some Texans resented the presence of Santa Anna’s troops, and they turned to Travis for leadership.
On this day in 1835, Travis raised a company of 25 volunteer soldiers. The next day, the small army easily captured Captain Antonio Tenorio, the leader of Santa Anna’s forces in Anahuac, and forced the troops to surrender. More radical Texans again proclaimed Travis a hero, but others condemned him for trying to foment war and maintained that Santa Anna could still be dealt with short of revolution. By the fall of 1835, however, conflict had become inevitable, and Texans prepared to fight a war of independence.
As soon as the rebels had formed an army, Travis was made a lieutenant colonel in command of the regular troops at San Antonio. On February 23, 1836, Travis joined forces with Jim Bowie‘s army of volunteers to occupy an old Spanish mission known as the Alamo. The following day, Santa Anna and about 4,000 of his men laid siege to the Alamo. With less than 200 soldiers, Travis and Bowie were able to hold off the Mexicans for 13 days. On March 6, Santa Anna’s soldiers stormed the Alamo and killed nearly every Texan defender, including Travis.
In the months that followed, “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry as the Texans successfully drove the Mexican forces from their borders. By April, Texas had won its independence. Travis, who first hastened the war of independence and then became a martyr to the cause, became an enduring symbol of Texan courage and defiance.