• Last in a Series
On March 2, 1836, 59 delegates from 17 Mexican settlements in Texas signed a declaration of independence for a new Republic of Texas.
The President of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, a self-appointed dictator, had changed the form of government and abolished the constitution of 1824.
The Texas in late 1835 had captured two Mexican garrisons at Goliad and San Antonio de Bexar – the Alamo.
President/General Santa Anna has been in Texas since February of 1836 with 6,000 troops to extinguish the rebellion. In March alone he has defeated the defenders of the Alamo and Goliad and several small skirmishes along the way. He divided his army into several smaller units trying to locate Sam Houston Texas army.
On April 11, Houston’s army receives a surprise, two new cannons which will be called the “twin sisters.” The citizens of Cincinnati Ohio had heard about the Texas rebellion and raised money to purchase the cannons and had them shipped to Galveston.
More good news is received on April 16 when Texas scouts capture a Mexican courier carrying Santa Anna’s plans and notice that he has divided his army again. Houston now moves his army of about 900 men towards Harrisburg, located near the present day city of Houston.
On April 20, just 50 days from the time Texans declared their independence, Houston’s army is crossing a bridge onto an area known as San Jacinto. Lynch’s ferry is located there at the head of San Jacinto Bay where both Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto river flow into it.
The Texas army will camp in an oak grove near the main road. Santa Anna arrives at San Jacinto just after noon with about 750 troops. The Mexican army advances on the Texans with a single cannon, firing into the camp. The Texans retaliate with a cavalry attack and the cannon is withdrawn from the field and this ends the skirmish for the day.
The Mexican army will camp about a mile away on the east side of the small island.
On the morning of April 21, the Mexican army will be reinforced by another 500 troops, bring the number to 1,250 men, again out numbering the Texas army. There is no action in the morning, so Santa Anna allows his men time to rest from the hard campaign.
At about 3:30 p.m. word comes down from Sam Houston to get your men ready to advance. Houston had already sent Erastu “Deaf” Smith and some men to destroy the bridge to San Jacinto. By doing this the Mexican army could not receive reinforcements or escape. The Texas army would win the battle — or the chance for independence was over.
The Texans silently started through the high march grass with the West sun at their back. To their surprise the Mexican army had not respected the Texas Army to even post sentries.
The Texans brought the “twin sister” cannons within 70 yards of the Mexican breastworks.
At about 4:30 p.m. the “twin sisters” fired grapeshot into the Mexican camp and four columns advanced into the camp. Texas fired their rifles, shotguns and pistols and then used tomahawks and long knives to route the Mexican army.
Commander Sidney Sherman’s column advanced from the far left (where the San Jacinto Monument Museum is located today) and is credited with starting the battle cry, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad.” It soon spread to all four columns charging.
San Houston, who was leading the charge in the middle section, was shot in the ankle and his horse fell on top of him.
The Mexican army who had been trained in Napoleonic tactics could never form battle lines to stop the charge. The Battle was over in 20 minutes or less.
The Texans, who were now in a frenzy, keep killing the Mexican soldiers trying to escape, even those trying to swim the distance where the bridge had been destroyed.
In all, more than 600 Mexican soldiers were killed and most all the others were captured, very few escaped.
In contrast only nine Texans were killed in the battle.
The Texans had won the battle and defeated Santa Anna, but they could not locate him. However, the next day he was captured wearing a private’s uniform, but his men called out to him as he was marched back into camp.
Most Texas soldiers wanted to execute President/General Santa Anna because of the orders he had given his men to take no prisoners.
Sam Houston knew he needed a signed treaty to create a new republic – The Republic of Texas. There were still close to 4,000 Mexican troops in Texas and the treaty required the Mexican soldiers to leave Texas.
I encourage all the people that live in Texas, if you are a native Texan or not to Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad and Remember San Jacinto during the months of March and April.
To have a better understanding and appreciation, please visit the following locations:
A. The Alamo – downtown San Antonio – open 7 day a week
B. Fannin Battleground State Park – 10 miles east of Goliad to Fannin, Texas, south of town on Highway 2506 open 8-5
C.Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park – between Navasota and Brenham on Highway 105
Star of the Republic Museum and replica of building where 59 delegates signed the Declaration of Independence. There is also a walking tour of the old town site and ferry location.
D. San Jacinto Battleground Park – La Porte near the city of Houston. The Monument is 570 feet tall with a museum, theatre and gift shop. Visitors can take and elevator ride to the top.
Across the main road to the park is the battleship “Texas,” commissioned in 1914, it is the only surviving dreadnought class warship. It fought in both World War I and World War II. A crew of almost 2,000 men served on this once flagship for the U.S. Navy. Open Daily
Saturday, April 23 will be the San Jacinto Festival for 2016 with a battle reenactment with soldiers, horses, guns and cannons (call 281-479-2421 for more information).
There are 254 counties in Texas, to the best of my knowledge 95 of the counties are named for people who helped create the Republic of Texas.
Of the 59 delegates who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence 18 have counties named for them. Eleven men who died at the Alamo have counties named after them, Goliad has four out of 349 killed and of the nine men killed at the San Jacinto battle, only one has a county named in his honor.
Waxahachie resident David Hudgins is a member of the Ellis County Museum Board of Directors and co-founder of the Ellis County Veterans Appreciation Committee. He also serves as Chaplin of the O. M. Roberts Camp #178, Sons of Confederate Veterans.