Battle of San Jacinto
|Battle of San Jacinto|
|Part of the Texas Revolution|
The Battle of San Jacinto-1895 painting by Henry Arthur McArdle (1836–1908)
|Mexico||Republic of Texas|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Antonio López de Santa Anna (POW)
Manuel Fernández Castrillón †
Juan Almonte (POW)
Martín Perfecto de Cos (POW)
|Sam Houston W
Thomas J. Rusk
James C. Neill W
Mirabeau B. Lamar
|Casualties and losses|
|9 killed or fatally wounded
The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican army in a fight that lasted just 18 minutes. About 630 of the Mexican soldiers were killed and 730 captured, while only nine Texans died.
Santa Anna, the President of Mexico, was captured the following day and held as a prisoner of war. Three weeks later, he signed the peace treaty that dictated that the Mexican army leave the region, paving the way for the Republic of Texas to become an independent country. These treaties did not specifically recognize Texas as a sovereign nation, but stipulated that Santa Anna was to lobby for such recognition in Mexico City. Sam Houston became a national celebrity, and the Texans' rallying cries from events of the war, "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!," became etched into Texan history and legend.
Empresarial contracts that brought United States immigrants into Mexican Texas shifted the demographics until Tejanos (Mexicans living in Texas) became a minority population in their own land. The Mexican government tried to stem the tide by passing the anti-immigration Law of April 6, 1830, but it was ineffective and only served to inflame tensions between the colonists and the goverrnment. By 1834, English was the dominant language of the land. Tejanos were divided in their loyalties, and many in the Goliad area resented that land they felt belonged to Mexicans were being given to the immigrants.
Those who maintained friendly relations with the colonists included Erasmo Seguín of San Antonio de Bexar, one of the authors of the Constitution of 1824 and the government's liaison to the first empresario Moses Austin. Their sons Juan Seguín and Stephen F. Austin remained friends the rest of Stephen's life. Officially known as Don Esteban in Mexico, the younger Austin's alliances within influential Tejano families was a factor in the revolution. He was mentor to Bexar native son José María Jesús Carbajal, brother-in-law to alcalde (mayor) Plácido Benavides of Victoria. Santa Anna's 1834 abrogation of the 1824 constitution and centralization of the country's government became a flashpoint in the growing tensions between the Mexican government and citizens of Coahuila y Tejas.
In response to a letter that Austin wrote to the Bexar ayuntamiento (city council) urging a break-away state, the Mexican government kept him imprisoned for most of 1834. Colonel Juan Almonte was appointed Director of Colonization in Texas, ostensibly to ease relations with the colonists and mitigate their anxieties about Austin's imprisonment. He delivered promises of future local-level self-governance, and conveyed regrets that the Mexican congress deemed it constitutionally impossible for Texas to be a separate state. Behind the false rhetoric, his covert mission was to identify the local power brokers, obstruct any plans for rebellion, and supply the Mexican government with data that would be of use in a military conflict . For nine months under the guise of government liaison, Almonte compiled an all-encompassing intelligence report on the population and its environs, including an assessment of their resources and defense capabilities.
In consolidating his power base, Santa Anna installed his brother-in-law Martín Perfecto de Cos as its military authority in 1835, and dissolved all local governing bodies. The initial eruption of hostilities, and first Texian victory in the revolution, came on October 2 at the Battle of Gonzales when colonists refused to relinquish a cannon the Mexican government provided them in 1831 for self-defense. One week after the skirmish at Gonzales, Carbajal and Benavides brought a company of Tejano soldiers to serve with George M. Collingsworth at the October 7 Texian victory of the Battle of Goliad. Area land owners in Goliad were angry that their properties had been confiscated and pillaged by the Texians.
Cos established headquarters in San Antonio on October 9. As the number of Texian volunteers increased into the hundreds, and more continued to arrive from the United States, Austin was selected as commander to oust Cos and the Mexican army. James Bowie and James Fannin led an advance reconnaissance team of 90 militia into Bexar. While stopped at Mission Concepcion, they were attacked by Mexican colonel Domingo Ugartechea. The October 28 battle lasted approximately half an hour, ending with a Texian victory. Upwards of 160 rancheros (Mexican ranch owners) and other Tejanos under Seguin, Carbajal, Benavides, Salvador Flores and Manuel Leal arrived to support Austin. As the Siege of Béxar raged on, Austin was selected to be part of a three-man diplomatic team that included Branch T. Archer and William H. Wharton, to travel to the United States for fund raising and to solicit U. S. support for the revolution. Edward Burleson then assumed command of the Texian forces in Bexar.
The November Consultation of 1835 in San Felipe de Austin created a provisional government based on the 1824 constitution. Although it had not been decided on to whether break away as a republic, or to remain with Mexico but push for a reinstatement of the constitution, they moved to establish a regular paid defense force initially named the Provisional Army of Texas. Sam Houston was named commander-in-chief and expected to recruit and train the men.[Note 1][Note 2] In Goliad, angry residents adopted resolutions to prevent the Texian military from seizing their properties. Commandant Phillip Dimmitt responded by declaring martial law. Santa Anna stepped down from the presidency to take charge of the Mexican army on November 28. General Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma was put in command of the Vanguard of the Advance that marched into Texas. On December 10, the General Council called new elections to choose delegates to determine the fate of the region. The next day the Siege of Béxar finally ended with with the surrender of Cos, the terms of which required that his army leave Texas.
The Convention of 1836 met at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 1. The following day, the fifty-nine delegates signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, and chose an ad interim government. On March 4 Houston's military authority was expanded to include "the land forces of the Texian army both Regular, Volunteer, and Militia."
In 1836, Santa Anna led a force of about 6,000 Mexican troops into what is now Texas to put down the insurrection. He first entered San Antonio de Béxar and, after a 13-day siege, defeated and killed the Texan force on March 6, 1836 at the Alamo.
Santa Anna ordered the Goliad prisoners to be shot or bayoneted on March 27, a Palm Sunday. General Urrea resisted the orders at first and sent a special message to Santa Anna to confirm the order, which Santa Anna upheld. After granting clemency to those prisoners of war who had surrendered unarmed, Urrea approached the problem of how to execute over 300 prisoners. Those who were able to walk were told that they were being moved under guard to a new location. As the prisoners were being led down the road in three columns, between two lines of guards, the Mexican soldiers opened fire. Out of 303 Texian prisoners, 28 escaped, of which six carried the tale to Sam Houston's militia. Of the remaining 40 Texians who were unable to walk and remained held in the fort, 39 were shot and killed after the others had departed. This execution of 342 prisoners of war became known as the Goliad massacre.
After learning of the Goliad massacre, soldiers and militia were assembled in Gonzales. Colonel James Neill had taken charge and started to organize the troops. Houston soon arrived and assumed command of what was now the main Texian Army. Seeking a more defensible position, he slowly retreated eastward. To President David G. Burnet, no admirer of Houston's, Houston appeared unwilling to fight his pursuer, despite Burnet's frequent orders for Houston to do so. Texas settlers jeered Houston as he passed, and his officers threatened to seize command. Houston responded that he would shoot anyone who tried. Concerned that the Mexican Army was rapidly approaching unchecked, Burnet and the Texas government abandoned the provisional capital at Washington-on-the-Brazos and moved towards the Gulf of Mexico, re-establishing key governmental functions in Harrisburg and later Galveston. In their wake, thousands of panicked colonists (both Texian and Tejano) fled in what became popularly known as the "Runaway Scrape".
Houston initially headed toward the Sabine River, the border with the United States, where a Federal army under General Pendleton Gaines had assembled to protect Louisiana if Santa Anna decided to invade the US. However, Houston soon turned to southeast toward Harrisburg.
After the Battle of the Alamo, while still at Bexar, Santa Anna had devised his three-pronged plan, pursuing Houston’s army directly from the center with flanks to the north and south. However, in mid-April, Santa Anna abandoned the plan in an attempt to capture the fleeing Texas government at Morgan's Point, about a half-day’s March below Lynch's Ferry. Santa Anna personally led a picket column of about 900 troops, but failed to encounter the sought-after leaders. On April 20, he then countermarched toward Lynch's Ferry, where Houston’s army had, earlier that morning, established a position in the woods along the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou. Santa Anna began setting up camp and defenses on a grassy field 1,000 yards (914 m) below the Texans’ position.
Prelude to battle
Believing Houston to be cornered, Santa Anna decided to rest his army on April 19 and attack on April 22. On April 20, Texian and Mexican patrols clashed at New Washington. Neill was seriously wounded when a fragment of a Mexican grapeshot caught him in the hip. J.C. Neill was replaced by G. W. Hockley. Mexican Captain Urizza was also wounded.
On the afternoon of April 20, Colonel Sidney Sherman, accompanied by a detachment of cavalry, engaged the Mexican infantry, almost bringing on some major action when they were counter-attacked by Mexican Lancers. Captain Jesse Billingsley came to their aid, and the entire regiment under Colonel Burleson promptly joined in. The Mexicans were repulsed and Houston called for the Texians to fall back. Two Texans were wounded, Walter Lane and Olwyn J. Trask (who later died), with several horses also being killed. Private Mirabeau B. Lamar, from Georgia (a future President of the Republic of Texas), performed so bravely, first saving Thomas J. Rusk and later Walter Lane (with help from Henry Karnes), that he was promoted to colonel and placed in command of the cavalry.
On the morning of April 21, Santa Anna received roughly 500 reinforcements under General Martín Perfecto de Cos. His total strength now approached 1,400 men. Santa Anna posted Cos to his right, near the river, and posted his last artillery in the center, erecting a five-foot-high barricade of packs and baggage as hastily constructed protection for his infantry. He placed his veteran cavalry on his left flank and settled back to plan the following day's attack.
At noon on April 21, Houston held a council of war. Pro-Houston versions of the meeting say the majority of his officers favored waiting for Santa Anna's eventual assault. The conference lingered on for two hours. Houston decided to make a surprise attack of his own that afternoon, concerned that Santa Anna might otherwise use the extra time to concentrate his scattered army. Most of the assault would have to be staged over open ground, where the Texan infantry would be vulnerable to Mexican gunfire. Houston took a risk in deciding to outflank the Mexicans with his cavalry, stretching his troops even thinner. Santa Anna made a crucial mistake when, during his army's afternoon siesta, he failed to post sentries or skirmishers around his camp.
The 900-strong Texan army was ready to meet the enemy. Houston, urged by Texas Secretary of War Rusk, who had caught up with the militia to consult with the general at the insistence of President Burnet, began the action. By 3:30 p.m., Houston had formed his men into battle lines for the impending assault, screened from Mexican view by trees and by a slight ridge that ran across the open prairie between the opposing armies. Santa Anna's failure to properly post lookouts proved fatal to his chances of victory.
At 4:30 p.m. on April 21, scout Deaf Smith announced the burning of Vince's Bridge, which cut off the only avenue of reinforcement and retreat for both armies without having to cross water more than 10 feet (3.0 m) deep. The main Texan battle line moved forward with their approach screened by the trees and rising ground. As they emerged from the woods, the order was given to "advance" and a fifer began playing the popular tune "Will you come to the bower I have shaded for you?"
General Houston personally led the infantry, posting the 2nd Volunteer Regiment of Colonel Sidney Sherman together with Juan Seguín's men on his far left, with Colonel Edward Burleson's 1st Volunteer Regiment next in line. In the center, the "Twin Sisters", two small brass (or iron) smoothbore artillery pieces, were wheeled forward under the command of Major George W. Hockley. They were supported by four companies of infantry under Captain Henry Wax Karnes. Colonel Henry Millard's regiment of Texas regulars made up the right wing. To the extreme far right, 61 Texas cavalrymen under newly promoted Colonel Mirabeau B. Lamar planned to circle into the Mexicans' left flank.
The Texan militia moved quickly and silently across the high-grass plain, and then, when they were only a few dozen yards away, charged Santa Anna's camp, shouting "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!," not stopping to open fire until only a few yards from the Mexicans. Manuel Flores is credited for taking the lead in the charge against Santa Anna's army. José Maria Rodriquez says in his book, Memoirs of Early Texas, that during the charge, the Texans fired and fell to the ground expecting a volley from the Mexican camp, but Flores remained standing and challenged the Texian Army to "get up" and advance, for "Santa Anna's men are running"! Thomas Rusk also galloped up to the men shouting, "Don't stop... give 'em hell!"
The Texans achieved complete surprise. A bold attack in broad daylight, their success can be attributed in good part to Santa Anna's relaxed vigilance due to the superior number of forces he possessed. Santa Anna's army primarily consisted of professional soldiers, but they were trained to fight in ranks, exchanging volleys with their opponents. The Mexicans were ill-prepared and unarmed at the time of the sudden attack. Most were asleep with their soldaderas (i.e., wives and female soldiers), worn out from building fortifications. Some were out gathering wood, and cavalrymen were riding bareback fetching water. Not all were unaware; Colonel Delgado was concerned with the laxness and General Manuel Fernández Castrillón, who at the Alamo had tried to save a small band of Texian defenders, desperately tried to mount an organized resistance. His panicked troops fled (the general himself was soon shot down and killed), and Santa Anna's defensive line quickly collapsed.
Some of the Mexican cavalry plunged into the flooded stream by Vince's Bridge, but they were shot as they struggled in the water. Houston tried to restrain his men, but was ignored. Gen. Juan Almonte, commanding what was left of the organized Mexican resistance, soon formally surrendered his 400 remaining men to Rusk. The rest of Santa Anna's once-proud army had disintegrated into chaos. From the moment of the first charge, the battle was a slaughter, "frightful to behold", with most of the Texan casualties coming in the first minutes of battle from the first Mexican volley.
During the short but furious fighting, Houston was shot in the left ankle, two of his horses were shot from under him, and Santa Anna briefly escaped. The combat lasted 18 minutes.
Santa Anna disappeared during the battle and evaded discovery by shedding his ornate uniform for that of a common soldier. A search party consisting of James A. Sylvester, Washington H. Secrest, Sion R. Bostick, and a Mr. Cole was sent out the next morning. When surrounded in high grass and compelled to surrender, Santa Anna was initially thought to be a common soldier. However, when saluted as "El Presidente" by other prisoners, his true identity was discovered by the Texans. Houston spared his life, preferring to negotiate an end to the overall hostilities and the withdrawal from Texas of Santa Anna's remaining columns.
On May 14, 1836, Santa Anna (dictator and de facto head of government) signed the Treaties of Velasco, in which he agreed to withdraw his troops from Texan soil and, in exchange for safe conduct back to Mexico, lobby there for recognition of the new republic. There were two treaties, a private treaty and a public treaty. Santa Anna was held by the United States for six months as a prisoner of war and finally taken to Washington, D.C. There he met with President Andrew Jackson, before finally returning in disgrace to Mexico in early 1837. The independent Republic of Texas received diplomatic recognition from the United States, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Yucatán, all sovereign nations recognizing the new nation and its independence from Mexico. Even after the Republic joined the United States in 1845, Mexico maintained claims on Texas to the mid-19th century, until it was defeated in war with the United States of America and forced to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.
- The Provisional Army of Texas consisted of three different categories of enlistees. The Regular Army was much like a modern-day army in its command structure, and had a two-year enlistment period. Permanent Volunteers ran a democratic structure allowing internal elections, and was for the duration of the war. The Volunteer Auxiliary was short-termed with an enlistment period of only six months.Todish et al. (1998), pp. 14–15,24."Proclamation of San Houston, A Call for Volunteers, December 12, 1835". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. State of Texas. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
- Locally organized volunteer militias were initially separate from the Provisional Army of Texas and operated autonomously. Whether or not they were paid, or had supplies or uniforms, varied. Each had its own framework and elected leaders. They decided as a unit which battles they would fight. The Consultation only made Houston commander-in-chief of the paid provisional army he was to recruit and train. On March 4, 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos , the Convention also put the volunteer militias under Houston's command."The Texas Revolution: Part C (January–March 7, 1836)". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved May 23, 2015.Todish et al. (1998), pp. 14,44,46,75,127.
- "Picture and Key for "The Battle of San Jacinto" – Texas State Library and Archives Commission". Tsl.state.tx.us. Retrieved 2013-04-21.
- The official report of the battle claims 783. The more detailed roster published after the battle lists 845 officers and men but failed to include Captain Wyly's Company, giving a total of around 910.
- Texas State Historical Commission. "Battle of San Jacinto Historical Marker".
- Poyo (1996), pp. 116–117, Finding Their Way (Ana Carolina Carrillo Crimm)
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- Some primary accounts (veterans of the battle) insist that the fifer's tune was "Yankee Doodle". Battle of San Jancinto
- Rodriquez (2010), pg. 3–15
- Hardin (1994), pg. 211
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- Moore, Stephen L. (2004). Eighteen Minutes: The Battle of San Jacinto and the Texas Independence Campaign. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-58907-009-7.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of San Jacinto.|
|Wikisource has the text of The New Student's Reference Work article about Battle of San Jacinto.|
- Battle of San Jacinto – Handbook of Texas Online
- Santa Anna's Account of the Battle
- San Jacinto
- Vince's Bridge
- 1856 map of the San Jacinto Battle-ground hosted by the Portal to Texas History
- Schematic of San Jacinto Battle-ground showing troop deployment and movements.
- Map of the Battle Ground of San Jacinto from A pictorial history of Texas, from the earliest visits of European adventurers, to A.D. 1879, hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
- True veterans of Texas: an authentic account of the Battle of San Jacinto : a complete list of heroes who fought, bled and died at San Jacinto, hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
- Battle of San Jacinto – The Sons of DeWitt Colony
- Battle of San Jacinto – Texas State Library
- Memorial aerial view
- Flags of Guerrero and Matamoros Battalions – Texas State Library and Archives Commission
- Battle of San Jacinto from Yoakum's History of Texas, 1855
- San Jacinto Monument & Museum
- Sam Houston's official report on the Battle of San Jacinto – TexasBob.com
- Battle of San Jacinto, A Mexican prospective – Pedro Delgado in 1837 – TexasBob.com
- Invitation to a Ball Celebrating Battle of San Jacinto, April 10, 1839 From Texas Tides
- Junius William Mottley killed in the battle
- 2010 San Jacinto Day Ceremony