Lawyer and soldier (1809–1836). He grew up in South Carolina and Alabama, studied law privately, and was admitted to the bar before he turned 20. Migrating to Texas in the early 1830s, he became active in the movement agitating for independence from Mexico. In 1835 he led a small band of Texans in open revolt; in early 1836 Mexican forces besieged his little command inside the Alamo fortress. The Alamo fell on March 6, 1836, and all its defenders, including Travis, were killed. Extremely rare ALS signed “W. B. Travis,” one page, 7.75 x 9.25, January 20, 1835. A letter to future interim president of the Republic of Texas, David G. Burnet, who was serving as an appointed judge in San Felipe de Austin. Travis writes, in full: “I rec’d your esteemed favor by Mr. Richardson this morning; and I am sorry to say, that Major Luis refuses to pay over on Clokey’s note the am’t collected of Ayers which is about $750. He says he has no orders now to it since the note has been taken from him & c; but will write to Clokey for anything & c—I shall take the note to Brasoria & decide on it—Litigation will be [?] attended to—Williams has not gone—I will name him to your wishes—your letter to Aduconte shall go—So news—F. W. Johnson & George Ewing are the judges—The election will result in favor of an Austin Ticket—my best respects to Mrs. B.—write me when you have leisure—you shall hear from me often—In haste—sincerely yours.” Second integral page bears an address panel in an unknown hand to Burnet in San Jacinto, Texas. In fine condition, with intersecting folds (several extra horizontal folds) and one faint vertical fold passing through a single letter of signature.
In this extremely rare letter, Travis, who would make the ultimate sacrifice some 13 months later at the Alamo, hints at some early revolutionary stirrings to the man who would become the first president of the free Republic. As he was writing this letter, the first Mexican troops were arriving in Anahuac; his earlier imprisonment there in June 1832 helped create one of the first armed encounters leading up to the war. He would later agitate in Anahuac in June 1835 leading to the Second Anahuac Disturbance, which helped ignite the Texas Revolution.
In this information-rich letter, we witness the development of relationships among many of Texas’ most prominent founders. Travis refers to Frank W. Johnson, a political and military leader who had commanded the forces that freed Travis from custody during the first Anahuac Disturbance in 1832. He also alludes to the upcoming Consultation Election of February 1. His reference to an “Austin ticket” was a prediction of an outcome where candidates favoring independence would be elected. Travis himself was keeping a low political profile, focusing on his own legal practice, however the ascendence of political figures he sympathized with would compel him to become more substantially involved in public life.
Indeed, Texas politics was in a state of flux, and the first preparations for war with Mexico were imminent. At the Convention of 1833 Burnet had earlier drafted a rejected petition that called for the separate Texas within the Mexican federation. In August of 1835, Burnet drew up a set of resolutions on behalf of the San Jacinto community that would have codified the rights of Texans; its rejection gave added urgency to the independence movement and all but guaranteed war with Mexico. The Robert Davis Collection. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.