I read this fascinating and well researched book Joe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo Legend by Ron J. Jackson and Lee Spencer White. I couldn’t stop talking about it which is rare for me. It was a hard book to put down. Below is an excerpt from the book.
In 1838 Joe appears to have wanted to seize control of his life. No longer would he endure the shame and humiliation of another estate sale. He would run, and this escape would be like none he had ever undertaken. He would head for Alabama, the only place he believed he might find sanctuary-with William Travis’s family. If William would have wanted his brother Nicholas to know he had lived well, Joe may have wanted Nicholas to know that William had died well.
Joe planned a daring flight across parts of four slave states to find Nicholas Travis on the Conecuh River and there, he hoped, a safe haven. This would be a journey spurred equally by self-preservation and loyalty. The Travis family deserved the truth about what happened at the Alamo, and Joe likely believed that he deserved a chance for a more peaceful life. The next time he spoke about the Alamo, he wanted to be standing in front of the Travis family. Remaining in Texas would amount to nothing less than a death sentence for him, a lifetime of menial labor on some forgotten patch of ground. If the Alamo experience taught survivors anything, it was that a man or woman must be willing to risk death sometimes in order to live.
As a runaway slave Joe would again encounter hardships. He would have to avoid roads, travel at night, and cross countless creeks and rivers. He would have to live off the land, probably consuming a diet of wild honey, berries, nuts, bird eggs, fish, and plant roots. If he grew desperate, he might need to risk being shot or hanged for stealing food. At least Joe probably felt confident in his planned route. He was already familiar with the road that led eastward to the Mississippi River-the Opelousas Trail or La Bahia Road-which he and Mansfield followed from New Orleans. Joe probably planned to shadow the road and follow it to the Mississippi River, the great waterway he knew intimately from his days in St. Louis.
Once across the Mississippi, by far his greatest geographical barrier, the young slave probably hoped to parallel the river northward as far as Woodville, Mississippi. From there he would again turn eastward until he intersected the Second Creek Road, which cut across the Pine Woods of Mississippi and into the southern reaches of Alabama. The final leg of the journey would take him across the formidable Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers, and then to the farm of Nicholas Travis near Sparta.
The roads, frontier thoroughfares to all, would be easy to find. Joe may have also tapped into the information network of his fellow slaves for safe places to hide. No slaveholder could underestimate this sort of shared knowledge. Slaves commonly shared information about safe houses, trails, and sympathetic individuals,”
Once a slave named Jim made a similar journey from Mississippi to Texas. As the story goes, Jim had been ripped apart from his wife, Winnie, when her master moved to Texas. A heartbroken Jim escaped soon after and walked more than four hundred miles through the wilderness, avoiding public roads and traveling at night. He even swam the Mississippi River. Jim eventually straggled into Texas and managed to find his