THE BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO

          THE GATHERING OF THE TEXAS ARMY AT GONZALES.      The convention which declared Texas Independence of March 2, 1836, immediately chose General Sam Houston Commander-in-chief of the army.  But there was no army to command.  Sunday morning, March 6 about the hour that the Alamo fell, Houston and three companions rode toward the west.  Orders had been sent through the colonies for volunteers to gather at Gonzales.  On March 11 General Houston reached that place and found about three hundred men poorly clothed and with few military supplies.  On that day no on knew that the Alamo had fallen five days before.
          Desiring to get news from Travis, General Houston sent Deaf Smith and others toward San Antonio.  Meanwhile, they met Mrs. Dickinson with her little daughter and Travis' negroe.  Santa Anna had sent them out to tell the Texans of his victory and the slaughter.  By that time there were five or six hundred men at Gonzales.

          HOUSTON'S RETREAT.     Houston learned that Santa Anna had more than six thousand men, and expected him soon to march on Gonzales.  The Texans felt unable to stop his advance.  The news of the frightful massacre at the Alamo filled them with gloom.  Captain Albert Martin's men had gone from Gonzales and nearly every family in the little town had lost a father, a son, or a brother in that company.  It was decided to retreat.  The Texans at Gonzales had one cannon but were in a hurry to get away and it was thrown into the river.
          As the Texan volunteers began the march east all the people of Gonzales, women and children, followed them.  Houses were burned so that the Mexicans would find nothing when they reached the deserted town.  When the patriot army left Gonzales, all military supplies were carried on one wagon.  The retreat continued to the Colorado River and after crossing it to the east bank they marched southward to Beeson's Ferry near the present town of Columbus where they camped to await reinforcements and news of the Mexican army.
          Santa Anna had sent General Sesma with about six hundred men to Gonzales and he followed Houston to the Colorado and camped on the west side opposite the Texas army.  Many of the Texans wanted to cross the river and fight Sesma, but General Houston would not let them do so.  He was waiting for reinforcements from the colonies.  Men joined him every day until he had over twelve hundred in camp.  But news came of the capture and murder of Fannin's men and he ordered a retreat, this time to the Brazos.

          THE "RUNAWAY SCRAPE".     News of the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad had filled the colonies with terror.  All the people east of the Guadalupe fled fro their homes.  Most of the men were with Houston's Army.  The women, children, and old men were on the move, hurrying to get across the Brazos and if possible to Louisiana.  The roads were crowded with fugitives.  Wagons and carts were full of women and children and such household things as had been hurriedly gotten together.  Many were on foot, some women carrying infants in their arms.  Men, women, and children exposed to the hardships of such cruel days, sickened and died and were buried along the road.  They kept going until news of the victory at San Jacinto overtook them.  They then returned to their homes, and ever afterwards they and their children called their flight the "runaway scrape".

          SANTA ANNA'S PURSUIT OF HOUSTON.     All Texans were on the run and most of them were east of the Brazos.  Houston's little army was at Groce's Plantation of the bank of the Brazos above San Felipe.  Once when on the Colorado, Houston had had twelve hundred men, but by this time many had gone to look after their families and he had fewer than one thousand left.
          Meanwhile, Santa Anna had joined Sesma and they together continued their pursuit of Houston's Army.  When they reached the Brazos Santa Anna started building a ferryboat but got tired of waiting for its completion.  He could not follow Houston because of heavy rains in the river bottoms.  And, too, he did not think Houston would fight.  He despised the Americans.  He decided to go down the river and cross; so away he went with fifty horsemen and a few hundred foot soldiers, leaving the rest of his army to follow.

          SANTA ANNA AT HARRISBURG.     Just why Santa Anna turned his back on Houston to march down the river has never been explained.  Part of his army crossed the Brazos at Richmond but the main body camped on the west side.  He had heard that President Burnet and the provisional government were at Harrisburg, thirty miles from the Brazos, and decided to rush down and capture them.  On April 14 he rode away with fifty horsemen, leaving orders for five hundred infantrymen to follow and bring one cannon with them.  The main army were to wait his return in three days.
          When Santa Anna reached the village of Harrisburg, the next day, President Burnet and his cabinet had gone down Buffalo Bayou toward Galveston Bay.  Santa Anna decided to follow.  He sent Almonte ahead with a few horsemen and he followed a day later.  The road all the way from Harrisburg to the bay ran along the edge of some woods and not far from the bayou.  About four miles from Harrisburg it crossed a little stream called Vince's Bayou, where there was a wagon bridge made of pine and cedar logs, about which we shall hear more later.  The whereabouts of Houston's Army seemed to be of no importance to him.   Almonte's men reached the bay shore at Morgan's Point (then called New Washington), and almost captured President Burnet but he got into a skiff and rowed to a steamboat anchored in the bay and went with many refugees down to Galveston Island.   

          HOUSTON'S PURSUIT OF SANTA ANNA.     When Santa Anna went down the Brazos, Houston's little army was at Groce's Plantation twenty miles above San Felipe.  General Rusk who was secretary of war and had joined the Texas army at Groce's Plantation, persuaded Houston to go to Harrisburg and await the Mexicans.  Just then news came that Santa Anna was already at Harrisburg.  Immediately the Texans took the road for that place after Santa Anna.  They reached Buffalo Bayou on April 19.  Deaf Smith brought in some Mexicans caught with dispatchers for Santa Anna and Houston learned that the Mexican commander was then below Harrisburg with only about six hundred men.  Houston's chance to trap him had finally come!  The Texas soldiers numbered about nine hundred and all of them were eager to fight.  They made a raft, crossed Buffalo Bayou, and went toward Lynchburg Ferry ten miles below.  On the early morning of April 20, they camped where the bayou and the San Jacinto River meet, about six miles from Galveston Bay. 

          HOUSTON FACING SANTA ANNA .      Santa Anna was at Morgan's Point when he learned that the Texans were in Lynchburg.  He went to meet them.  When within a mile of the Texas camp, he and his men were greeted with cannon shots from the "Twin Sisters", two small cannons that had  been shipped from Cincinnati to Texas while the Texas army camped at Groce's Plantation.  The Mexicans opened fire with their one cannon but no serious damage was done.  There were some skirmishes before the two armies camped in sight of each other on that night.  All morning on April 21 both armies waited, now and then firing their cannons at each other.  About noon General Cos, with five hundred men from the Brazos joined Santa Anna, thereby, increasing his army to about twelve hundred men.   

          THE BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO.     At four o'clock on the afternoon of April 21, while the Mexicans were sleeping and resting, (taking a siesta as what was a custom in their country) the Texans formed a battle line of about eight hundred foot-soldiers and made ready to charge the Mexicans who were on a wooded hill a mile away.  Before the battle began, General Houston sent Deaf Smith and five others to destroy Vince's Bridge over which Santa Anna, Almonte, Cos, and their men had crossed as they came down from Harrisburg.  At the same time the calvary, sixty-four men led by Colonel Lamar, rode around some woods to come upon the enemy from another side.  The foot-soldiers walked nearly to the top of the hill and were within a few hundred yards of the Mexican camp before they were discovered.  Their little band began playing a popular song of the time, one verse of which began with, "Will You Come to My Bower I Have Shaded for You?"  Reaching the crest of the hill, they opened fire and began yelling, "REMEMBER THE ALAMO!" "REMEMBER GOLIAD!"  The Mexicans fired and ran, and in eighteen minutes their whole army was routed.  Several hundred Mexicans were killed and almost all the rest were captured.  General Castrillion was among the dead.  Only twenty-one Texans were killed or seriously wounded.  Santa Anna got away on a fresh horse and tried to go back to Richmond, where his main army was waiting.  He was pursued by the Texans and when he reached Vince's Bayou, he found the bridge destroyed so he left his horse and ran into the woods. 

          CAPTURE OF SANTA ANNA.     The chase of the fleeing Mexicans ceased at nightfall.  Hundreds lay dead on the field and other hundreds were wounded.  The night was full of the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying.  The full moon shone over the bay and shed its soft light on th ghastly scene of blood and death.  Santa Anna spent the night in the woods where he found a deserted house and some old clothes.  He took off his uniform with its gold and braid, and put on a cotton shirt and cheap trousers for a disguise.  The next morning he was captured near Vince's Bayou and taken into Houston's camp.  His captors thought he was a common soldier, but as they rode by other Mixican prisoners, some of them recognized Santa Anna and shouted, "El Presidente."  That meant "the president," and thus he was made known to the Texans.  He was then carried before General Houston, who had been wounded in the leg and was resting under a tree.  Men cheered, for they felt that the war was ended, the messengers were hurried east to tell the people taking part in the "runaway srape" to return home.

Reference:  The Lone Star State, A School History by C.R. Wharton, copyright 1932
   

A panel on the side of the monument at San Jacinto reads:  
"Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here led to annexation and to the Mexican War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the States of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. Almost on-third of the present area of the American nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty."

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