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The Battle of San Jacinto
April 21, 1836

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
Saturday, April 21, 2001, will mark the 165th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. Because of the eventual consequences of this encounter, the battle is considered, by many historians, as one of the most important in world history.
San Jacinto Monument
San Jacinto Monument
Photo courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife

More about Battle of San Jacinto
After spending weeks retreating from Mexican troops in an attempt to buy some time to train his "rag-tag" army, General Sam Houston had finally found the right place and time to fight the superior forces under the command of the Mexican dictator, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The fierce confrontation was destined to take place on a grass prairie near the Texas gulf coast; a place we know today as Houston, Texas.
The events that led to the battle at San Jacinto actually began at Gonzales, Texas, in March of 1836. General Houston had arrived at Gonzales just in time to receive the news of the disaster at the Alamo. He immediately made an attempt to form military units within the army. After he had accomplished some sort of organization to his little militia, Houston decided that he must retreat. He knew that his group would be no match for Santa Anna's disciplined troops and his only hope was to withdraw and lure the Mexican forces deeper into Texas. He hoped to lengthen their (Mexican) supply lines and make it difficult for them to move rapidly.
BOOK
As the Texas army retreated east and sometimes northeast in a zigzag sort of way, many of the soldiers became disgruntled and were tired of running-some deserted, most of them just wanted to fight. But, "General Sam" had a plan. A plan he shared with no one.
san Jacinto Monument at sunset
San Jacinto Monument
Photo courtesy San Jacinto Museum of History

More about Battle of San Jacinto
When the Texans arrived at the Colorado River, Sam Houston's army was at its peak strength. It is estimated that he had anywhere from 1000 to 1500 men at this time, but to the chagrin of many of his soldiers and Texas government officials, he continued to retreat.

Everyone felt sure that Houston would make his stand at the Colorado and when he did not, some thought that he should be relieved of his command and indeed this might have happened if there had been a qualified replacement. Sam Houston overcame these difficulties in his same determined way and the exhausted little army moved on toward the plain at San Jacinto.

When the Texas army reached the Brazos River, General Houston turned it toward the north and Groce's Landing. Again, the men started the angry talk about their commander. They were tired of running! Heavy rain was constant and having to trudge through the mud day after day was beginning to take its toll.
Goliad Mexican soldier reenactors
Mexican soldier reenactors at Goliad
Photo courtesy Jerry Tubbs

More about Battle of San Jacinto
While camped at Groce's, Houston continued to drill and train his men. He began to mold his volunteers into a fighting unit. Jared Groce had a fine plantation and he gave all he could to the Texans, including lead to make ammunition. He also gave them vegetables from his garden as well as, a supply of meat from his vast herd of cattle. It was at this time that the Texans received another; much needed gift - two cannons from the citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio. They were promptly named, "Twin Sisters."

After playing his game of "cat and mouse" with the Mexican army for more than a month, Sam Houston was finally ready to spring his trap. Although the odds still favored the Mexicans, Houston must have felt that this was the best chance he had to secure a victory and better yet, possibly capture Santa Anna. At approximately 4:30 p.m. on April 21, 1836, some 800 Texans began their assault against 1300 to 1400 Mexican soldiers. The book Battles of Texas, describes the Texans' charge as follows: "Incredibly the Texans reached within two hundred yards of the Mexican barricade before they were seen .... The "Twin Sisters." roared and muskets barked and men cursed furiously and suddenly all was bedlam."

General Sam Houston had two horses shot out from under him during the battle. He was shot through the ankle. Santa Anna grabbed a horse from one of his men and fled. The Mexican army was caught completely off-guard and the Battle of San Jacinto was over in less than 18 minutes.

The battle had been won, but the killing continued. Thirsty for revenge, emotions ran wild among the Texans. They shot, clubbed, and stabbed the Mexicans as they attempted to escape. Some of the enemy soldiers were even scalped, before the Texas army officers finally restrained their men. It has been estimated that 650 Mexicans were killed and 700 captured. General Santa Anna was taken captive the next day.

The Alamo and Goliad had been avenged. Texas independence was secured.


© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary
April, 2001 Column
Related Topics: Texas | Columns

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