Joe (ca. 1813–unknown)

By: Nolan Thompson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 16, 2020

Joe, slave of William B. Travis and one of the few Texan survivors of the battle of the Alamo, was born about 1813. He was listed as a resident of Harrisburg in May 1833. Joe claimed that when Gen. Antonio López deSanta Anna'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. On March 20 Joe was brought before the Texas Cabinet at Groce's Retreat and questioned about events at the Alamo. William F. Gray reported that Joe impressed those present with the modesty, candor, and clarity of his account. After his report to the Texas Cabinet, Joe was returned to Travis's estate near Columbia, where 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.

William Fairfax Gray, From Virginia to Texas, 1835 (Houston: Fletcher Young, 1909, 1965). Paul D. Lack, "Slavery and the Texas Revolution," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 89 (July 1985). Phil Rosenthal and Bill Groneman, Roll Call at the Alamo (Fort Collins, Colorado: Old Army, 1985). Telegraph and Texas Register, March 24, 1836, May 26, August 26, 1837. Amelia W. Williams, A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo and of the Personnel of Its Defenders (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1931; rpt., Southwestern Historical Quarterly 36–37 [April 1933-April 1934]).

  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Military
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civil Rights, Segregation, and Slavery
Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Nolan Thompson, “Joe,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 16, 2020

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