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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

Alfonso Steele:
Last Survivor of the Battle of San Jacinto


by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery

From the time that first shot was fired at Gonzales to start the Texas Revolution, countless heroes came forward to answer the call to fight for independence.

The names of many of them are well known - men like Crockett, Travis, Bowie, and Houston. History has made these individuals immortal. And these freedom fighters certainly deserve all the praise that they've received, but there were so many others who also deserve to be remembered. What about them?

One such man was Alfonso Steele. I doubt if occasional students of Texas history have even heard of Steele or why he should even be remembered. However, he has one great distinction - Alfonso Steele was the last survivor of the Battle of San Jacinto.

Alfonso Steele
Alfonso Steele

According to the Handbook of Texas, Alfonso Steele was born on April 9, 1817. His family was pioneers who had settled in Hardin County, Kentucky. While yet just a teenager, Steele traveled from his Kentucky home on a flatboat down the Mississippi to Louisiana. It was there in November of 1835 that the young man joined a company of volunteers who were headed for Texas to fight in the revolution.

Upon arriving at Washington-on-the-Brazos, the volunteers were informed that the Texans had not yet formally declared their independence so the men chose to disband. And although the volunteers decided to return home, young Steele wanted to stay in Texas.

After independence was declared, Steele was eager to get in the fight. He joined Capt. Bennet's company that was rushing to San Antonio to reinforce the Alamo.

But shortly after crossing the Colorado River, Capt. Bennet received word that the Alamo had fallen and the volunteer company joined up with Gen. Sam Houston as his army began its retreat from Gonzales.

That retreat became known as the "Runaway Scrape" - the evacuation included the army and frightened settlers who were hurrying to get out of the way of Gen. Santa Anna and escape his promise to punish all rebels in Texas.

The retreat from Gonzales and Houston's refusal to stand and fight until he reached San Jacinto has been well documented, but Gen. Sam's plan to stretch Santa Anna's supply lines and get him further away from the opportunity to be reinforced certainly worked.

Alfonso Steele had marched to San Jacinto with the Texas army and had endured all the hardships along the way. But the final assault on the Mexican army would be Steele's finest hour and he performed with courage and determination.


History tells us that Steele was severely wounded when the first volleys were fired, and it is said that Gen. Houston rode Steele's horse in the battle until it was shot from under him. Some sources say that horse was the second of three animals Houston would ride during the fight. According to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission: "The Battle of San Jacinto lasted less than twenty minutes, but it sealed the fate of three republics. Mexico would never regain the lost territory, in spite of sporadic incursions during the 1840s.

"The United States would go on to acquire not only the Republic of Texas in 1845 but Mexican lands to the west after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican War in 1848."

As for Pvt. Steele, it took him months to recover from the wounds he suffered at San Jacinto. He was eventually discharged from the army and would go on to marry Mary Ann Powell. The couple farmed and raised cattle in Montgomery County. They were married for 65 years and that union produced 10 children.

The last survivor of San Jacinto died on July 8, 1911, at the age of 94. He is buried at Mexia in the Mexia City Cemetery.


© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary July 7, 2021 Column



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