A few weeks ago on April 21, Texas celebrated the 180th anniversary of the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto. This famous battle was the concluding military event of the Texas Revolution.
On March 13, 1836, after learning of the fall of the Alamo, the revolutionary army at Gonzales began to retreat eastward, crossing the Colorado River and camping near present day Columbia. Sam Houston’s scouts reported Mexican troops moving east after the fall of the Alamo, numbering more than 1,300 men.
On March 25, the men then learned of Fannin’s defeat at Goliad and many of the men felt they had to leave the army to move their families in the Run Away Scrape. Sam Houston continued east, leading his troops to the Jared Groce plantation on the Brazos River.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had decided to take possession of the Texas coast and seaports. He burned Harrisburg and then started in pursuit of the Texas government with 700 men, arriving at Richmond on the Brazos. There he found that the Texas government had already fled to Galveston. Meanwhile, the Texans had received the Twin Sisters cannons (prior snapshot) and had crossed the Brazos River on the steamer named the Yellow Stone. Then by April 17, they had reached White Oak Bayou within the present day city limits of Houston.
There Houston learned that Santa Anna had gone down the east side of the bayou and the San Jacinto River, crossing on a bridge over Vince’s Bayou. On April 20, Santa Anna came marching across the open ground in battle array. However, a volley from the Texans’ Twin Sisters artillery brought him to a sudden stop.
Sam Houston addressed his troops, asking them to remember the massacres at San Antonio and Goliad and withdrew his forces to a skirt of timber protected by a rising ground. Santa Anna made camp three-fourths of a mile from the Texas camp and threw up breastworks of trunks, baggage, packsaddles and other equipment. Both sides prepared for the coming battle.
On Thursday morning, April 21, the Texans were eager to attack. But events had happened to cause concern.
About 9 o’clock in the morning they learned that Gen. Cos (Gen. Santa Anna’s brother-in-law) had crossed Vince’s Bridge with 540 men and had swelled the enemy forces to about 1,200 men. Houston ordered Texas Ranger Erastus (Deaf) Smith to destroy the bridge to prevent any further enemy reinforcements. The move would also prevent the retreat of either the Texans or the Mexicans.
Shortly before noon, Houston held a council of war with Edward Burleson, Sidney Sherman and Alexander Somervell.
Some of the officers wanted to wait for Santa Anna to attack but Houston and Secretary of War Thomas Rusk decided to form the battle line about 3:30 in the afternoon while all was quiet on the Mexican side during their afternoon siesta.
The Texans’ movements were hidden by the trees and the rising ground and evidently Santa Anna had no sentries posted which allowed the Texans to advance to within 70 yards before the order to fire was given. The battle line was formed with the Twin Sisters in the center under the command of George Hockley. The Twin Sisters were wheeled into position and the whole line sprang forward on the run with the yell “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!
Col. Juan Sequin and Sgt. Manuel Flores (his home was across the street from the present day Power Plant Restaurant in Seguin) and their 19-man cavalry unit charged along one flank of the movement. The battle lasted only 18 minutes according to Houston’s official report. The casualties were 630 Mexicans killed and 730 taken prisoner.
Against this, only nine of the 910 Texans were killed or mortally wounded and 30 were wounded less seriously. Houston’s ankle was shattered by a rifle ball.
The Texans captured a large supply of muskets, pistols, sabers, mules, horses and provisions. Santa Anna had disappeared during the battle and search parties were sent out on the morning of April 22.
Santa Anna was discovered hiding in the grass, dirty and wet and dressed as a common soldier. The search party did not recognize him until he was addressed as “el presidente” by other Mexican prisoners.
Santa Anna was forced to sign papers declaring Texas independence and ordered Gen. Cos to remove all Mexican soldiers back across the Rio Grande. Santa Anna was kept prisoner for six months, taken to Washington D.C. where he offered to broker a piece with Mexico in exchange for his freedom. He was released on October 11, 1836, and returned to Mexico in disgrace.