Skip to comments.The Battle of San Jacinto -April 21, 1836 (175 years ago today)
Posted on 04/20/2011 10:40:26 PM PDT by Texas Fossil
At 4:30 p.m. on April 21, after scout Deaf Smith announced the burning of Vince's Bridge (cutting off the primary avenue of retreat for both armies), the main Texan battle line moved forward. A fifer played 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 on his far left, with Colonel Edward Burleson's 1st Volunteer Regiment next in line. In the center, two small brass smoothbore artillery pieces (donated by citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio, and known as the "Twin Sisters," pictured right) 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. Lamar had the day before been a private in the cavalry, but his daring and resourcefulness in a brief skirmish with the Mexicans on April 20 had led to his immediate promotion to colonel.
The Texan army 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!," only stopping a few yards from the Mexicans to open fire. Confusion ensued. Santa Anna's army primarily consisted of professional soldiers, but they were trained to fight in ranks, exchanging volleys with their opponents. Many were also ill-prepared and unarmed at the time of the sudden attack. General Manuel Fernández Castrillón desperately tried to mount a semblance of an organized resistance, but was soon shot down and killed. His panicked men fled, and Santa Anna's defensive line quickly collapsed.
Hundreds of the demoralized and confused Mexican soldiers routed, and many ran into the marshes along the river. Some of the Mexican army rallied and attempted to push the Texans back, but their training had left them ill-equipped to fight well-armed American frontiermen in hand-to-hand combat. General 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.
During the short but furious fighting, Houston was wounded in the left ankle and Santa Anna escaped. In 18 minutes of combat, the Texan army had won, killing about 630 Mexican soldiers, wounding 208 and taking 730 prisoners. This battle is an important one, though not remembered by many Americans.
The battle only took 18 minutes.
The surrender of Santa Anna
During the battle, Santa Anna disappeared and 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 discovered, he had shed his ornate general's uniform, and when surrounded and compelled to surrender, he was initially thought to be a common soldier. However, when grouped with other captured soldiers, he was enthusiastically saluted as "El Presidente," revealing his true identity to 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, Santa Anna 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. However, the safe passage never materialized; Santa Anna was held for six months as a prisoner of war (during which time his government disowned him and any agreement he might enter into) and finally taken to Washington, D.C. There he met with President Andrew Jackson, before finally returning in disgrace to Mexico in early 1837. By then, however, Texan independence was a fait accompli, although Mexico did not officially recognize it until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War in 1848.
Few times in history have so few men fought a battle that had such impact on so many.
All the inhabitants of Texas owe these brave men enduring thanks.
God Bless the State of Texas and God Bless these United States of America.
Here is another very detailed account of the battle, preparation and aftermath.
“The Battle of San Jacinto”
General Houston disposed his forces in battle order at about 3:30 in the afternoon. Over on the Mexican side all was quiet; many of the foemen were enjoying their customary siesta. The Texans' movements were screened by the trees and the rising ground, and evidently Santa Anna had no lookouts posted. Big, shaggy and commanding in his mud-stained unmilitary garb, the chieftain rode his horse up and down the line. "Now hold your fire, men," he warned in his deep voice, "until you get the order!"
Silently and tensely the Texas battle line swept across the prairie and swale that was No Man's land, the men bending low. A soldier's fife piped up with "Will You Come to the Bower,"' a popular tune of the day. That was the only music of the battle. [Several veterans of the battle said the tune played was "Yankee Doodle."] As the, troops advanced, "Deaf" Smith galloped up and told Houston, "Vince's bridge has been cut down." The General announced it to the men. Now both armies were cut off from retreat in all directions but one, by a roughly circular moat formed by Vince's and Buffalo Bayous to the west and north, San Jacinto River to the north and cast, and by the marshes and the bay to the east and southeast.
General Manuel Fernández Castrillón, a brave Mexican, tried to rally the swarthy Latins, but he was killed and his men became crazed with fright. Many threw down their guns and ran; many wailed, "Me no Alamo!" "Me no Goliad!" But their pleas won no mercy. The enraged revolutionists reloaded and chased after the stampeding enemy, shooting them, stabbing them, clubbing them to death. From the moment of the first collision the battle was a slaughter, frightful to behold. The fugitives ran in wild terror over the prairie and into the boggy marshes, but the avengers of the Alamo and Goliad followed and slew them, or drove them into the waters to drown. Men and horses, dead and dying, in the morass in the rear and right of the Mexican camp, formed a bridge for the pursuing Texans. Blood reddened the water. General Houston tried to check the execution but the fury of his men was beyond restraint.
As the crowning stroke of a glorious day, General Rusk presented to him as a prisoner the Mexican general Don Juan Almonte, who had surrendered formally with about 400 men. The casualties, according to Houston's official report, numbered 630 Mexicans killed, 208 wounded, and 730 taken prisoner. As against this heavy score, only nine Texans were killed or mortally wounded, and thirty wounded less seriously. Most of their injuries came from the first scattered Mexican volley when the attackers stormed their barricade. The Texans captured a large supply of muskets, pistols, sabers, mules, horses, provisions, clothing, tents and paraphernalia, and $12,000 in silver.
Santa Anna had disappeared during the battle, and next day General Houston ordered a thorough search of the surrounding territory for him. In the afternoon Sergeant J. A. Sylvester spotted a Mexican slipping through the woods toward Vince's Bayou. Sylvester and his comrades caught the fugitive trying to hide in the high grass. He wore a common soldier's apparel round jacket, blue cotton pantaloons, skin cap and soldier's shoes. [With Sylvester in the capture of Santa Anna were Joel W. Robison, Joseph D. Vermillion, Alfred H. Miles and David Cole.] They took the captive to camp, and on the way, Mexican prisoners recognized him and cried, "El Presidente!" Thus his identity was betrayed; it was indeed the dictator from below the Rio Grande.
He was brought to General Houston, who lay under the headquarters oak, nursing his wounded foot. The Mexican President pompously announced, "I am General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, and a prisoner of war at your disposition." General Houston, suffering with pain, received him coldly. He sent for young Moses Austin Bryan and Lorenzo de Zavala Jr. to act as interpreters. Santa Anna cringed with fright as the excited Texas soldiers pressed around him, fearing mob violence. He pleaded for the treatment due a prisoner of war. "You can afford to be generous," he whined; "you have captured the Napoleon of the 'West." "What claim have you to mercy?" Houston retorted, "when you showed none at the Alamo or at Goliad?"
Thus ended the revolution of 1836, with an eighteen-minute battle which established Texas as a free republic and opened the way for the United States to extend its boundaries to the Rio Grande on the southwest and to the Pacific on the west. Few military engagements in history have been more decisive or of more far-reaching ultimate influence than the battle of San Jacinto.
Lamar had the day before been a private in the cavalry, but his daring and resourcefulness in a brief skirmish with the Mexicans on April 20 had led to his immediate promotion to colonel
Damn, that is one helluva field promotion!!!
Lamar was a heck of a fighter, but not a very good politician.
The San Jacinto monument/ museum in the past had an awesome presentation called Texas Forever that is beyond words cool imho. Guessing they still show that daily.
From Legendary Texians (1982) by Joe Tom Davis there is this little additional piece:
“Houston’s army was silently advancing across the plain of San Jacinto about four o’clock that afternoon when Smith returned on a lathered Mustang and exclaimed, ‘Fight for your lives! Vince’s Bridge has been cut down!’...Deaf joined the melee on horseback...Creed Taylor later declared that Smith began the fight and drew the first Mexican blood.”
Deaf was my gggg uncle, so I always like to get that part into the story. ;)
Indeed God Almighty has looked favorably upon Texas as evidence by the humiliating defeat of the genocidal General Santa Anna and his murderous Mexican minions.
The scene that followed beggars description. People embraced, laughed and wept and prayed, all in one breath. As the moon rose over the vast flower-decked prairie, the soft southern wind carried peace to tired hearts and grateful slumber. As battles go, San Jacinto was but a skirmish; but with what mighty consequences! The lives and the liberty of a few hundred pioneers at stake and an empire won!
Look to it, you Texans of today, with happy homes, mid fields of smiling plenty, that the blood of the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto sealed forever. Texas, one and indivisible!
He was born in New York (about as Yankee a place as they come) but chose to come to Texas in the 1820's. I've heard that he preferred that his first name be pronounced with a long 'e' sound. Is that right or a myth?
The Napoleon of the West is over thrown!
God bless Sam Houston!
& Long live Texas!
That sounds familiar for some reason but I have no specific memory of such a story. Our family came to Texas out of Tennesee in 1823 with Stephen F. Austin and his brother. The Austins were working for the Mexican govt at that time. They signed the Spanish land deeds passing land to the settlers, who are called the “Old 300.” Smith came about the same time, not sure if he was part of the same group.
We are also related to Alamo Defender Thomas Miller of Gonzales.
As countless enemies over the centuries have realized (the Japanese, Waffen SS, Muslims), massacring Americans is foolish and counterproductive, because it only gets our dander up.
God Bless Texas
Good post. But there is one inaccuracy...Houston’s guys did not blow Vince’s Bridge to cut off the primary avenue of retreat. They blew it to prevent (or delay) Santa Anna’s artillery from arriving at the battleground. Santa Anna had rushed to the San Jacinto area to try to cut off the retreat of the Texas government from Houston (then known as RIchmond) to the Galveston area, and his artillery was about two days behind. Santa Anna was waiting for it to arrive on the scene (and messing around with the 14-year old “Yellow Rose of Texas) when Sam Houston attacked.
The patriots of the Texas revolution were more than brave and more than glorious that day. There is no need for the revisionist notion that they blew to bridge to prevent Santa Anna’s retreat.
You bring up a subject that I have not spent time studying. Thanks for your observation. May I suggest you contact the “decendants website” executive board members and suggest changes to their narative.
Yesterday I tried to find a site to post for this 175th Anniversary of the most important battle in the history of Texas. I had not previously found the “decendants” organization and thought this might be appropriate.
Last year I posted this link:
On this post:
Thanks for that account. And that he was your ancestor.
The sound of that day still reverberate. The current enemies of free men in this nation should take note. Some things do not “change”. hee hee hee
The bridge was cut down with axes, not "blown".
The Battle of San Jacinto - April 21, 1836 (175 years ago today)
Thank God for the liberation of Texas and subsequent acquisition of New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Imagine if they were still a part of Mexico. Then illegal aliens would be sneaking into Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon.
Controversy has surrounded Vince’s Bridge since the battle of San Jacinto, when observers and participants gave conflicting accounts of the location and destruction of the bridge. Recent investigation supports the statements of earlier writers who believed the bridge was located on Sims Bayou, on the survey of Allen Vince, and not on Vince’s Bayou, on the property of William Vince. Allen Vince built and owned the structure, and no record shows that he ever owned land in the William Vince sitio; contemporary references to the “Vince Bridge” or to the bridge “on the bayou of that name” reflect the confusion caused by the adjoining lands of the two brothers and the close proximity of the two streams. Théodore Frédérick Gaillardetqv, an early observer of Texas events, wrote in 1839 that the “bridge over Sims Bayou was the only means of retreat which lay open to the Mexicans” and that General Houston’s first command was to destroy it. Other early historians accepted Vince’s Bayou as the site, but some later historians, after observing the location of the present historical marker at Vince’s Bayou, have called the entire episode a myth. Vince’s Bayou was hardly deep enough-despite heavy rains-or long enough to delay reinforcements reaching the Mexican Army, but Sims Bayou is a larger body of water and would take longer to head if the bridge were down. Santa Anna, in his attempted escape, came to a burned bridge on what he thought was the headwaters of Buffalo Bayou, and his secretary thought it was on the Brazos. Both could hardly have mistaken a small stream such as Vince’s Bayou for much larger streams. Santa Anna was captured after being delayed by the burned structure, and Amasa Turner’s account states specifically that Santa Anna was captured near Sims Bayou, although most accounts place his capture at Vince’s Bayou. The idea for destroying the bridge has been credited to several participants, but mainly to Erastus (Deaf) Smithqv and to General Houston, who credited himself with the idea in a speech before the United States Congress. Houston’s version was contradicted, however, by Moseley Baker, and by most accounts the idea was originally that of Deaf Smith. It is probable then that Smith proposed the idea, that after some debate Houston authorized it, and that Smith and others attempted to cut the span with axes. Since nearly every witness after the battle relates that the bridge was burned, it is also probable that Smith, with little time and few men, finally had to set fire to it. The strategic importance of Vince’s Bridge is more easily explained by its location on Sims Bayou. Its destruction prevented reinforcements from reaching Santa Anna by keeping news of his defeat from Gen. Vicente Filisola, his second-in-command, and also from Gen. José de Urrea, who had a division on the west bank of the Brazos River. In addition, the escape of nearly all of the Mexican survivors was prevented, including that of their commander. Further, if the destruction of the bridge was announced to the Texans just before the battle, as related in many accounts, they knew that there was little hope for retreat by either army.
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