William Barret Travis is important to Texas history because he commanded the Alamo mission when it was overwhelmed by the Mexican army under General Santa Anna. Although the Texas troops were vastly outnumbered, Travis helped the defense hold until the final assault of the Mexican army on March 6, 1836.
As a young married man, Travis immigrated to Texas when it was still part of Mexico. Some of his early work involved helping slave owners capture runaway slaves. Frequently clashing with Mexican authorities, Travis became involved in the movement for Texas to gain independence from Mexico. In the Texas army with the rank of lieutenant colonel, he was ordered to gather some men and aid the forces in San Antonio under Jim Bowie. With less than 40 men, he arrived at the Alamo mission on Feb. 3, 1836.
Although James Neill was in command when Travis arrived, he soon left. When Bowie became ill, Travis found himself in command of less than 200 men, defending the Alamo against a Mexican army of several thousand troops. Travis famously drew a line with his sword in the sand, challenging his men to stay and fight, and all but one crossed the line. He sent out numerous letters requesting reinforcements, but no one responded. When Santa Anna's forces attacked the fort at dawn, Travis was shot in the head and killed.