Texas history has long forgotten Joe, Lt. Col. Travis’s slave at the Alamo. Born around 1814, Joe was bought by Travis on Feb.13, 1834, and two years later rode into the Alamo with his slave master. He endured the same hardships from the constant shelling from Gen. Santa Anna’s cannons and the playing of the “Deguello” (the cut throat song) by the Mexican band with Travis, Bowie, and Crockett.
Around 5 a.m. in the morning on March 6, 1836, Joe woke up with Col. Travis to the crackling sounds of Mexican Brown
Bess muskets and ran with Travis to the north wall of the Alamo. Being right at Travis side, he witnessed his master being shot in the head and soon retreated to Travis’s quarters. Mexican soldiers spared his life because he was considered a noncombatant and was brought before Gen. Santa Anna. He was given a tour of the Mexican army because Santa Anna wanted him to spread the news what happens to anyone who stands up against him.
Joe accompanied Susannah Dickenson to Gonzales to tell Texas General Sam Houston the sad news of the fall of the Alamo. On March 20, 1836, the Texas cabinet interviewed Joe about the events of the Alamo, and he also said, “The honorable Davy Crockett died like a hero, surrounded by heaps of enemy slain.”
Unfortunately, Joe entered the Alamo as a slave and left the Alamo still a slave. John Rice Jones
bought Joe from the William Travis estate in Columbia, TX. However, on the first anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1837, Joe was last seen “with an unidentified Mexican and taking two fully equipped horses with him.” Joe was probably never caught because the $50 reward for his capture that ran in the newspapers for three months was never renewed.
Texas owes a great debt of gratitude to Joe because of most of what Texas history knows about the Alamo came from his first hand eyewitness testimony. After the Texas War for Independence, Joe should have been given his freedom as a citizen of the Republic of Texas and 320 acres of land for his military bounty service as a defender of the Alamo, but continued slavery was his only reward for this forgotten Texas hero.
Jack Ayoub, Harlingen