Friday, February 18, 2011

Texas Tidbits: The Story of Joe the Slave at the Alamo

Earliest Known Image of the Alamo
While many of us are familiar with the names of the men who died at the Battle of the Alamo, very few of us are familiar with the names of those who survived the attack. yes, there some who made it out alive. One such survivor was a freed slave of William B. Travis, commander of the Alamo. The only name we can find for the slave is Joe. This man was an eyewitness to the happenings of one of the most famous military engagements in history, and he lived to tell about it.

Here's an excerpt from The Handbook of Texas Online : "Joe claimed that when Gen. Antonio López deSanta Annaqv's troops stormed the Alamo on March 6, 1836, he armed himself and followed Travis from his quarters into the battle, fired his gun, then retreated into a building from which he fired several more times. After the battle, Mexican troops searched the buildings within the Alamo and called for any blacks to reveal themselves. Joe did so and was struck by a pistol shot and bayonet thrust before a Mexican captain intervened. Sam, James Bowie's slave, was also reported to have survived the battle, but no further record of him is known to exist. Joe was taken into Bexar, where he was detained. He observed a grand review of the Mexican army before being interrogated by Santa Anna about Texas and its army. Accounts of his departure from the Alamo differ, but he later joined Susanna W. Dickinson and her escort, Ben, Santa Anna's black cook, on their way to Gen. Sam Houston's camp at Gonzales."

Joe was also the only living witness to the famous story about Colonel Travis drawing a line in the sand of the coutryard of the Alamo. The story goes that Travis drew a line in he sand and told his men that bthey could stay and almost certainly perish defending the Alamo or leave without losing their honor. Every last soldier corssed that line and sacrificed his life for the cause of Idependence for Texas. Except for one. He crossed the line to fight along side the orher men, but soo sneaked out if the Alamo before the fight began. He was a French guy. Go figger. Joe the slave told that story to a gathering of the Cabinet of thr new Republic of Texas and was commended for honesty and integrtiy.

Another excerpt from The Handbook of Texas Online gives this account of what later became of Joe: "he remained until April 21, the first anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto. On that day, accompanied by an unidentified Mexican man and taking two fully equipped horses with him, he escaped. A notice offering fifty dollars for his return was published by the executor of Travis's estate in the Telegraph and Texas Register
on May 26, 1837. Presumably Joe's escape was successful, for the notice ran three months before it was discontinued on August 26, 1837. Joe was last reported in Austin in 1875"

I look back at this story and think what a shame it was that Joe did not the opportunity to tell his story to the people of Texas in a book. He was, after all, there when the Alamo fell, and his recollections of that March day in 1836 would have added to the Historical Record, so that future generations would forever more be able to read a first hand account of those thirteen days that stand as one of the greatest stories ever told. Alas, it was not to be.

God bless Joe and may God continue to bless Texas.

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All Original Material © Toby Shoemaker