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Texas Revolution: Battle of San Jacinto

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Texas Revolution: Battle of San Jacinto

Sam Houston, circa 1848-1850

Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Battle of San Jacinto - Conflict:

The Battle of San Jacinto was the decisive engagement of the Texas Revolution.

Battle of San Jacinto - Date:

Sam Houston defeated the Mexicans on April 21, 1836.

Armies & Commanders:

Republic of Texas

  • General Sam Houston
  • 800 men
  • 2 guns

Mexico

  • Antonio López de Santa Anna
  • 1,400 men
  • 1 gun

Battle of San Jacinto - Overview:

Following his victory at the Alamo, Mexican President and General Antonio López de Santa Anna began pursuing General Sam Houston's Texas Army, while a second Mexican column defeated and massacred a Texan force at Goliad. Outnumbered, Houston began falling back towards the US border. This retreat forced the Texan government to abandon its capital at Washington-on-the-Brazos and flee to Galveston. Turning southeast, Houston moved his army in the direction of Harrisburg and Galveston.

Eager to end the conflict, Santa Anna split his force in three, sending one column towards Galveston to capture the Texas government, a second back to secure his supply lines, and continued pursuing Houston with the third. On April 19, Santa Anna's men spotted the Texas Army near the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou. Moving closer, they established a camp within 1,000 yards of Houston's position. Believing that he had the Texans trapped, Santa Anna elected to delay and postpone his attack until April 22. Reinforced by General Martín Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna had 1,400 men to Houston's 800.

On April 20, the two armies skirmished and fought a minor cavalry action. The next morning, Houston called council of war. Though most of his officers believed they should wait for Santa Anna's assault, Houston decided to seize the initiative and attack first. That afternoon, the Texans burned Vince's Bridge cutting off the most likely line of retreat for Mexicans. Screened by a slight ridge that ran across the field between the armies, the Texans formed for battle with the 1st Volunteer Regiment in the center, the 2nd Volunteer Regiment on the left, and the Texas Regulars on the right.

Quickly and quietly advancing, Houston's men were screened by Colonel Mirabeau Lamar's cavalry on the far right. Not expecting a Texan attack, Santa Anna had neglected to post sentries outside of his camp, allowing the Texans to close without being detected. They were further aided by the fact that the time of the assault, 4:30 PM, coincided with the Mexican's afternoon siesta. Supported by two artillery pieces donated by the city of Cincinnati and known as the "Twin Sisters," the Texans surged forward yelling "Remember Goliad" and "Remember the Alamo."

Caught by surprise, the Mexicans were unable to mount an organized resistance as the Texans opened fire at close range. Pressing their attack, they quickly reduced the Mexicans to mob, forcing many to panic and flee. General Manuel Fernández Castrillón attempted to rally his troops but was shot before they could establish any resistance. The only organized defense was mounted by 400 men under General Juan Almonte, who were forced to surrender at the end of the battle. With his army disintegrating around him, Santa Anna fled the field. A complete victory for the Texans, the battle only lasted 18 minutes.

Battle of San Jacinto - Aftermath:

The stunning victory at San Jacinto cost Houston's army a mere 9 killed and 26 wounded. Among the wounded was Houston himself, having been hit in the ankle. For Santa Anna, the casualties were much higher with 630 killed, 208 wounded, and 703 captured. The next day a search party was sent out to locate Santa Anna. In an attempt to avoid detection, he had exchanged his general's uniform for that of a private. When captured, he nearly escaped recognition until other prisoners began saluting him as "El Presidente."

The Battle of San Jacinto proved to be the decisive engagement of the Texas Revolution and effectively secured independence for the Republic of Texas. A prisoner of the Texans, Santa Anna was compelled to sign the Treaties of Velasco which called for the removal of Mexican troops from Texas soil, efforts to be made for Mexico to recognize Texas independence, and safe conduct for the president back to Veracruz. While Mexican troops did withdraw, the other elements of the treaties were not upheld and Santa Anna was held as a POW for six months and disowned by the Mexican government. Mexico did not officially recognize the loss of Texas until the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican-American War.

Selected Sources

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Military History
  4. Conflicts & Battles
  5. Battles & Wars: 1800s
  6. Texas Revolution
  7. Texas Revolution: Battle of San Jacinto 1836

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