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
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.
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
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
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.
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