Happy San Jacinto Day! On this day in 1836, 800 or so Texas volunteers, including a band of Tejanos under Juan Seguin and some Louisiana militia, defeated a superior force of the Mexican Army under dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
Knowing his army only had one good fight in it, Sam Houston lured Santa Anna to the plain of San Jacinto, a well-known spot east of Harrisburg on the way to Lynch's Ferry, near the estates of Lorenzo de Zavalla and David G. Burnet. The site is bounded on the west by Vince's Bayou, on the north by Buffalo Bayou, and on the south and east by swamp adjacent to the confluence of the San Jacinto River with Trinity/Galveston Bay.
After Houston's army had escaped the pursuing Mexicans at the Brazos crossing, Santa Anna heard that the Texas government had fled from Washington-on-the-Brazos to Harrisburg. Santa Anna led a light force to Harrisburg, too late to capture the government, then burned the town. Houston took up the heavy floorboards of a farm house near present-day Clinton to build a raft to ferry his army to the south side of Buffalo Bayou in order to reach San Jacinto.
Houston camped his men under the trees on Buffalo Bayou, near where the Battleship Texas is now moored. Santa Anna encamped on the next low ridge to the south, and was joined by reinforcements. The first day, there were some skirmishes and cannon exchanges between the two sides. Houston sent Deaf Smith with a patrol to destroy Vince's Bridge, so that the Mexican Army would have no ready escape.
The next day, in broad daylight, Houston marched his men in a broad front through tall grass up the ridge, rolling along their two cannon, the "twin sisters" donated by the citizens of Cincinnati. Some distance from the Mexican rampart, with the cries, "Remember the Alamo" and "Remember Goliad," they loosed several volleys of musket fire, then charged. Houston, on horseback, had two horses shot from under him, one of the musket balls shattering his ankle. The battle quickly turned to hand-to-hand fighting. The main battle lasted about 18 minutes. Overnight, Santa Anna was captured, having shed his general's uniform, and was forced to sign a document promising to relinquish Texas.
There were two other Mexican armies in Texas, however, which might have overturned the results, had they been better organized. That of General Urrea became mired in the Spring mud, and barely limped back to Matamoros.
The battle, which may be considered a work of Divine Providence, secured the independence of Texas, eventual statehood, and after the Mexican War, led to the acquisition of much of the western United States. Those who criticize the Mexican War should realize that Texas continued to be threatened by Mexico, in spite of Santa Anna's promise. Mexican armies occupied San Antonio twice in 1842, and the war was directly sparked by General Arista's invasion across the Rio Grande and attack of a U.S. Army patrol in 1846.
Copyright 2008 The Hughes Report. May be freely shared for non-commercial purposes if this notice remains attached.