San Jacinto, which began with a skirmish on April 20, 1836,
and ended with a full, if brief, battle the next day, determined
the fate of an independent Texas. The losing general, Santa Anna,
was captured and temporarily discredited; and the winning general,
though wounded, started on his way to the presidency of the Republic
of Texas. And the drama took place in the southwestern corner
of East Texas.
The campaign began on March 11 when Houston reached Gonzales
on his way to assist the defenders of the Alamo.
He found 374 men who had come on a similar mission, but they had
waited in Gonzales
for leadership. Houston surely provided that.
Houston learned that the men had not heard a signal cannon, fired
at dawn each day at the Alamo, since March 6. He sent Deaf
Smith down the San Antonio Road to investigate. Smith returned
with Mrs. Almaron Dickinson, her infant daughter, and a servant,
and from her Houston and others in Gonzales
learned the fate of the 180-something defenders of the Alamo.
That began the San Jacinto Campaign, or a chase, if one looks at
the history of it in a certain way. Houston knew his men were not
sufficiently trained or equipped, not to mention sufficient in number,
to fight the disciplined 5,000 to 6,000 Mexican soldiers then in
Texas. So he moved eastward, and Santa followed. Forty-two days
later, the commanders and their soldiers met on the plain of San
Jacinto, approximately 200 miles from where they started.
It began with a skirmish in which Mexican troops would have killed
Secretary of War Thomas J. Rusk, had he not been rescued by a private
newly arrived from Georgia named Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar. Because
of his gallantry in the effort, Lamar commanded the Texas cavalry
the next day as a colonel.
The Texans spent the night of April 20 preparing to resume the battle
the next morning, and were disappointed when Santa Anna did not
attack them and Houston did not order an attack on the Mexican camp.
Santa Anna's delay resulted for the arrival during the evening of
about 500 reinforcements, which had disturbed his camp all night.
Houston's delay, many Texans thought, came from his fear to fight
at all. Finally, about 4:30 in the afternoon, Houston assembled
his men in two ranks and led them across the plain and into the
Battle of San Jacinto. The battle proper lasted about eighteen minutes
but carnage caused by "Remembering" the Alamo
lasted until dark.
of San Jacinto led to the Treaty
of Velasco, signed on May 14, 1836, in which Santa Anna agreed
to recognize the independence of Texas. And not just the independence
of East Texas, where
the victory was won, but as far as the Rio Grande flowed.
April 18-24, 2004
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical
Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and
author of more than 20 books on Texas.
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