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Houston retreats from Santa Anna’s army

Houston retreats from Santa Anna’s army



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Less than a week after the disastrous defeat of Texas rebels at the Alamo, the newly commissioned Texan General Sam Houston begins a series of strategic retreats to buy time to train his ill-prepared army.

Revolutionary Texans had only formally announced their independence from Mexico 11 days earlier. On March 6, 1836, the separatists chose Sam Houston to be the commander-in-chief of the revolutionary army. Houston immediately departed for Gonzales, Texas, where the main force of the revolutionary army was stationed. When he arrived, he found that the Texan army consisted of 374 poorly dressed and ill-equipped men. Most had no guns or military experience, and they had only two days of rations.

Houston had little time to dwell on the situation, because he learned that the Mexican general Santa Anna was staging a siege of the Alamo in San Antonio. Before Houston could prepare his troops to rush to aid the defenders, however, word arrived that Santa Anna had wiped them out on March 6. Scouts reported that Santa Anna’s troops were heading east toward Gonzales. Unprepared to confront the Mexican army with his poorly trained force, Houston began a series of strategic retreats designed to give him enough time to whip his army into fighting shape.

Houston’s decision to retreat won him little but scorn from the Texas rebels. His troops and officers were eager to engage the Mexicans, and they chafed at Houston’s insistence on learning proper field maneuvers. Houston wisely continued to organize, train, and equip his troops so they would be prepared to meet Santa Anna’s army. Finally, after nearly a month of falling back, Houston ordered his men to turn around and head south to meet Santa Anna’s forces.

On April 21, Houston led his 783 troops in an attack on Santa Anna’s force of nearly twice that number near the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River. With the famous cry, “Remember the Alamo,” the Texans stormed the surprised Mexican forces. After a brief attempt at defense, the Mexican soldiers broke into a disorganized retreat, allowing the Texans to isolate and slaughter them. In a stunning victory, Houston’s army succeeded in killing or capturing nearly the entire Mexican force, including General Santa Anna, who was taken prisoner. Only two Texans were killed and 30 wounded.

Fearful of execution, Santa Anna signed an order calling for the immediate withdrawal of all Mexican troops from Texas soil. The Mexicans never again seriously threatened the independence of the Lone Star Republic.

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Timeline of the Texas Revolution

This is a timeline of the Texas Revolution, spanning the time from the earliest independence movements of the area of Texas, over the declaration of independence from Spain, up to the secession of the Republic of Texas from Mexico.

The first shot of the Texas Revolution was fired at the Battle of Gonzales on October 2, 1835. This marked the beginning of the revolution. Over the next three months, the Texian colonists drove all Mexican army troops out of the province. In January 1836, Mexican president and general Antonio López de Santa Anna led Mexican troops into Texas to put down the rebellion. General Jose Urrea marched half of the troops up the Texas coast in the Goliad campaign, while Santa Anna led the rest of the troops to San Antonio de Bexar. After a thirteen-day siege, Santa Anna's army defeated the small group of Texians at the Battle of the Alamo and continued east. Many Texians, including the government, fled their homes in the Runaway Scrape. On March 19 the Texas troops marched into an open prairie outside of Goliad during a heavy fog. When they stopped to rest their animals, Urrea and his main army surrounded them. The Texas force numbered at least 300 soldiers, and the Mexicans had 300 to 500 troops. With no choice but battle, James Fannin chose to stand and fight near Coleto Creek. Santa Anna and his troops searched for the Texian government and the Texian army led by Sam Houston. On April 21, 1836, the Texians defeated Santa Anna's army at the Battle of San Jacinto Santa Anna was captured the following day. The Mexican army retreated back to Mexico City, ending the Texas Revolution. Texas was now an independent colony and later joined the United States.


Houston retreats from Santa Anna’s army - HISTORY

During this period of time the Texas Army would march 42 miles from Matthew Burnett's homesite and meet the Mexican Army on the grassy plains of San Jacinto near Lynchburg Ferry.

Contents

Map of Day Trip:

April 17, 1836

Camp at White Oak Bayou

On this date, the Texas Army broke camp at Matthew Burnett's homesite and began their march toward Harrisburg. The army marched nearly 20 miles and camped somewhere along the north bank of White Oak Bayou. According to some records, the army camped close to the present day Heights area of Houston. There are no markers to commemorate the site.

The Mexican Army arrived at the outskirts of Harrisburg, TX late on April 15th. They were in hopes of capturing President Burnet and his cabinet in Harrisburg. However, the president and cabinet had escaped and made their way to New Washington (present-day Morgans Point). The Mexican Army remained in Harrisburg until April 17th. When they evacuated the city, Santa Anna gave the order to burn the town. The army then marched toward New Washington.

April 18, 1836

Camp at Buffalo Bayou opposite Harrisburg

Since leaving Gonzales on March 13th the Texas Army had marched 200 miles. They marched approximately 6 miles on this date and reached the opposite bank of Buffalo Bayou at Harrisburg around noon. They found the charred remains of the town that had been burned the day before by the Mexican Army.

Historical Marker Text: Early Texas port and trading post. Site of state's first steam saw, grist mills and railroad terminal. Town founded, 1826, by John R. Harris, who was first settler in 1823. Became shipping center for early colonies, established when Texas was part of Mexico, with boats carrying cargo to and from Texas ports and points in the United States and Mexico. Became the seat of government of the Republic of Texas, March 22 - April 13, 1836, when David G. Burnet, President of the ad interim government and several of his cabinet resided near here in the home of Mrs. Jane Harris (site marked), widow of town founder. Here President Burnet adopted the flag for the Texas Navy. In 1835, local resident, Mrs. Sarah Dodson, had made here the first tri-color lone star flag. General Santa Anna attacked the town with 750 Mexican soldiers on April 16 attempting to capture Burnet and his cabinet. The whole town was burned. After Texas gained its independence at nearby San Jacinto, the town was rebuilt and again thrived. The Buffalo, Bayou, Brazos and Colorado, first railroad in Texas began here in 1852 and by the Civil War made the town a Confederate rail center. Became a part of Houston, by annexation, in 1926.

This Marker is located at the 8100 block of Lawndale at Frio in front of Frost Bank.

Texan Capture of Mexican Dispatches

Historical Marker Text: After the fall of the Alamo on March 6, 1836, Gen. Sam Houston led the Texan Army in retreat from Gonzales. The Mexican army under Gen. Santa Anna followed eastward from San Antonio. On April 14, while Houston's army was north of him, Santa Anna led a division of his army from the Brazos River near present Richmond to Harrisburg. He crossed present southwest Harris County, then an uninhabited prairie, and reached Harrisburg (12 miles east of this site) on April 15. The Mexicans burned Harrisburg on April 17 and continued marching east.

Houston's army, arriving at Buffalo Bayou opposite Harrisburg on April 18, found the town in ruins, but did not know the whereabouts of the Mexican army. That day, Texan scouts led by Erastus "Deaf" Smith captured three Mexicans, including Capt. Miguel Bachiller, a courier, and a guide in this vicinity. The prisoners and their dispatches revealed the location, size, and plans of the Mexican army. With this vital intelligence, Houston intercepted Santa Anna's March on April 20 and defeated his division with a surprise attack on April 21 at the San Jacinto River. The Battle of San Jacinto ended the Texas Revolution and secured the independent Republic of Texas. This marker is located at North 2nd Street and Bellaire Boulevard in Bellaire, TX.

It's worth noting that the captured dispatches were contained in a satchel previously owned by William Barret Travis. The information contained in these documents was vital to Sam Houston. They indicated the plans and location of Santa Anna's army, and that the Mexicans were not currently aware of the Texas Army's location.

April 19, 1836

Camp at Harrisburg, TX

The Texas Army made preparations to cross Buffalo Bayou about two miles below Harrisburg near Sims' Bayou. The flooring from Isaac Batterson's home was used to build rafts to ferry the army and supplies across the rain-swollen Buffalo Bayou. The crossing took all day. Once across, they began their march toward Lynch's Ferry (present-day Lynchburg Ferry located next to San Jacinto Battle Field). The army marched until two o'clock a.m. and was within 2 1/2 miles of Lynch's Ferry.

Near Site of Isaac Batterson Home

Historical Marker Text: Famed for its part in winning the War for Texas Independence, the flooring of this house was, on April 19, 1836, appropriated by General Sam Houston to build rafts to ferry his army across rain-swollen Buffalo Bayou. Although 248 soldiers, most of whom were ill, remained at the Batterson place, Houston's army was victorious in the Battle of San Jacinto two days later. This land, originally part of the Ezekiel Thomas Estate, was purchased in 1835 by Batterson. The settlement he started (now Galena Park) he named "Clinton" for his former home in New York. This marker is located in front of the City Hall of Galena Park, TX.

Monument located on the north side of Lawndale St. in front of the Lyondell Basell Refinery. This is 1.6 miles west of the Richey Road intersection.

The Mexican Army was located 18 miles east of Harrisburg at New Washington. While in there, Santa Anna seized Emily West and other black servants. Miss West was the indentured servant of Colonel James Morgan. Emily was forced to accompany the Mexican army. With regard to the Yellow Rose legend, she may have been in Santa Anna's tent when the Texans charged the Mexican camp on April 21, but it was not by choice.

April 20, 1836

Camp at San Jacinto

By 10:00 a.m. Sam Houston moved his troops into a small grove of live oaks adjacent to Buffalo Bayou and made camp. They knew that the Mexican Army was close by because they could see the smoke of New Washington burning in the distance. The army waits here and sends out scouts to find the Mexican Army.

After Santa Anna had learned of the location of the Texas Army at 8:00 a.m. that morning, he assembled his army and left New Washington in flames, and began marching toward Lynch's Ferry. After a 9 mile march they arrived at the ranch of widow Margaret (Peggy) McCormick near the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou. By 11:30 a.m. Mexican scouts made an appearance on the open grassy plain in front of the Texans position. The Texans responded with a volley from the Twin Sisters which resulted in the scouts' hasty retreat. Shortly thereafter, the Mexicans wheeled their canon known as the Golden Standard onto the battlefield and began exchanging fire with the Texans. After several volleys the Texans drew first blood. They wounded a Captain and killed two mules and one horse. Several skirmishes took place during this time resulting in the wounding of several Texans. Eventually, the Mexicans withdrew the Golden Standard, and their Infantryman from the battlefield.

April 21, 1836

Vince's Bridge

On the morning of April 21st the Texas Army burned Vince's Bridge. Historians have debated the location of the bridge, and who gave the order. Some say that the bridge was located over the much larger Sims Bayou rather than the smaller Vince Bayou. The bridge was supposedly burned to either prevent additional Mexican reinforcements reaching the area or to hamper the escape of the Mexicans. Regardless of the reason, both armies faced the same repercussions of the act. Neither army could retreat across the bridge, and neither could receive reinforcements.

Historical Monument Text: Site of "Vince's Bridge" destroyed by military permission April 21, 1836 by Deaf Smith, John Coker, Denmore Reves, John Garner, John Rainwater, Moses Lapham, Y. P. Alsbury. This heroic deed is believed to have insured the capture of Santa Anna.

The Vince's Bridge Historical Monument is located on North Richey St. just across the small bridge on the north bank of Vince Bayou. The photo of the monument was taken from the north bank looking south.

Battle of San Jacinto

At 3:30 p.m. General Sam Houston gave the order to assemble the troops. Within half an hour the troops were formed into four divisions in front of the small grove of live oaks. The Texans Army was approximately 930 men strong and anxious to fight. At 4:00 p.m. the troops were ordered, "Trail arms! Forward!". The army proceeded silently and was concealed from the Mexican Army by a small ridge located at the present-day location of the San Jacinto Monument. Shortly thereafter, the 2nd Regiment drew the first blood, and the Battle of San Jacinto began.

The Santa Anna's Army had been reinforced with 500 troops around 9:00 a.m. that morning. These reinforcements had not slept or eaten in twenty-four hours as a result of their forced march. The Mexican Army now numbered approximately 1,360 troops. When the battle began, many of the troops were asleep, and the rest were relaxing.

With cries of "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember La Bahia!" the Texans overpowered and defeated the Mexican Army in 18 minutes. The Mexicans had 630 killed, 208 wounded and 730 captured, whereas the Texans had only 9 killed and 30 wounded. The following day Santa Anna was captured, and terms and conditions for the withdrawal of the Mexican Army were drawn up.

Historical Markers near San Jacinto

Note: The Historical Markers and Monuments located south of the San Jacinto Battle Field on Independence Parkway are not in the proper historical location. They were erected in 1936 during the centennial year and coinciding with the construction of the San Jacinto Monument.

Monument with a relief carving of "The Surrender of Santa Anna" reproduction of William Henry Huddle 1886 painting. This monument marks the spot of this famous event. Located at San Jacinto on the banks of Buffalo Bayou and campsite of the Texas Army.

Text on the opposite side of the monument: Beneath an oak tree that grew on this site General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna President and Dictator of the Republic of Mexico was brought a captive April 22, 1836 before General Sam Houston Commander in Chief of the Army of Texas who had been painfully wounded on the day previous in the Battle of San Jacinto. Known to have been among the captors of Santa Anna were James Austin Sylvester, Joel Walter Robinson, Joseph D. Vermillion, Alfred H. Miles, David Cole.


Monument Text: Texas Army Attacked in Four Divisions - The Cavalry on the right, commanded by Mirabeau B. Lamar next, the Infantry under Lieutenant Colonel Henry Millard and the "Twin Sisters" cannon under Colonel George W. Hockley the 1st Regiment in the center under Colonel Edward Burleson the 2nd Regiment, the left-wing, under Colonel Sidney Sherman.

This monument is located on the west side of Independence Parkway 0.75 miles north of SH 225.

Historical Marker Text: Battle of San Jacinto - At mid-afternoon April 21, 1836, two miles to the north, General Sam Houston with about 1,000 Texans in 18 minutes annihilated the 1,400-man army of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, President of Mexico. Screened by trees and rising ground, Houston's men formed with Edward Burleson's regiment at the center, Sidney Sherman's on the left-wing, artillery under George W. Hockley on Burleson's right, the infantry under Henry Millard on the right of the artillery. Under M. B. Lamar, a future president of Texas, the cavalry took the extreme right, to cut off a possible flight of Mexican troops. Their 4-piece band playing a popular love song, Will You Come to the Bower, the Texans attacked at a run, crying, Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad! Such was their fury that 630 of the enemy were killed, 730 captured. enemy lead shattered Gen. Houston's ankle, but he lost only 9 men killed or mortally wounded and 30 wounded less seriously. San Jacinto stands as one of the world's greatest victories It gave Texas independence, and with her annexation 9 years later brought into the Union all or parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.

Monument Text: The Mexican Cavalry was on the left-wing, Infantry, and Artillery in the center behind a fortification of boxes and baggage, while the extreme right was far extended.

This monument is located on the east side of Independence Parkway 1.3 miles north of SH 225.


Contents

Mexican constitution overturned Edit

General Antonio López de Santa Anna was a proponent of governmental federalism when he helped oust Mexican President Anastasio Bustamante in December 1832. Upon his election as president in April 1833, [4] Santa Anna switched his political ideology and began implementing centralist policies that increased the authoritarian powers of his office. [5] His abrogation of the Constitution of 1824, correlating with his abolishing local-level authority over Mexico's state of Coahuila y Tejas (Coahuila and Texas), became a flashpoint in the growing tensions between the central government and its Tejano and Anglo citizens in Texas. While in Mexico City awaiting a meeting with Santa Anna, Texian empresario Stephen F. Austin wrote to the Béxar ayuntamiento (city council) urging a break-away state. In response, the Mexican government kept him imprisoned for most of 1834. [6] [7]

Colonel Juan Almonte was appointed director of colonization in Texas, [8] ostensibly to ease relations with the colonists and mitigate their anxieties about Austin's imprisonment. [9] He delivered promises of self-governance and conveyed regrets that the Mexican Congress deemed it constitutionally impossible for Texas to be a separate state. Behind the rhetoric, his covert mission was to identify the local power brokers, obstruct any plans for rebellion, and supply the Mexican government with data that would be of use in a military conflict. For nine months in 1834, under the guise of serving as a government liaison, Almonte traveled through Texas and compiled an all-encompassing intelligence report on the population and its environs, including an assessment of their resources and defense capabilities. [10]

Cos is appointed military governor of Texas Edit

In consolidating his power base, Santa Anna installed General Martín Perfecto de Cos as the governing military authority over Texas in 1835. [11] [12] Cos established headquarters in San Antonio on October 9, triggering what became known as the Siege of Béxar. [13] After two months of trying to repel the Texian forces, Cos raised a white flag on December 9 and signed surrender terms two days later. [14] The surrender of Cos effectively removed the occupying Mexican army from Texas. Many believed the war was over, and volunteers began returning home. [15]

In compliance with orders from Santa Anna, Mexico's Minister of War José María Tornel issued his December 30 "Circular No. 5", often referred to as the Tornel Decree, aimed at dealing with United States intervention in the uprising in Texas. It declared that foreigners who entered Mexico for the purpose of joining the rebellion were to be treated as "pirates", to be put to death if captured. In adding "since they are not subjects of any nation at war with the republic nor do they militate under any recognized flag," Tornel avoided declaring war on the United States. [16] [17]

Santa Anna takes the Alamo Edit

The Mexican Army of Operations numbered 6,019 soldiers [18] and was spread out over 300 miles (480 km) on its march to Béxar. General Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma was put in command of the Vanguard of the Advance that crossed into Texas. [19] Santa Anna and his aide-de-camp Almonte [20] forded the Rio Grande at Guerrero, Coahuila on February 16, 1836, [21] with General José de Urrea and 500 more troops following the next day at Matamoros. [22] Béxar was captured on February 23, and when the assault commenced, attempts at negotiation for surrender were initiated from inside the fortress. William B. Travis, the garrison commander, sent Albert Martin to request a meeting with Almonte, who replied that he did not have the authority to speak for Santa Anna. [23] Colonel James Bowie dispatched Green B. Jameson with a letter, translated into Spanish by Juan Seguín, requesting a meeting with Santa Anna, who immediately refused. Santa Anna did, however, extend an offer of amnesty to Tejanos inside the fortress. Alamo non-combatant survivor Enrique Esparza said that most Tejanos left when Bowie advised them to take the offer. [24]

Cos, in violation of his surrender terms, forded into Texas at Guerrero on February 26 to join with the main army at Béxar. [25] Urrea proceeded to secure the Gulf Coast and was victorious in two skirmishes with Texian detachments serving under Colonel James Fannin at Goliad. On February 27 a foraging detachment under Frank W. Johnson at San Patricio was attacked by Urrea. Sixteen were killed and twenty-one taken prisoner, but Johnson and four others escaped. [26] [27] Urrea sent a company in search of James Grant and Plácido Benavides who were leading a company of Anglos and Tejanos towards an invasion of Matamoros. The Mexicans ambushed a group of Texians, killing Grant and most of the company. Benavides and 4 others escaped, and 6 were taken prisoner. [28] [29]

The Convention of 1836 met at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 1. [30] The following day, Sam Houston's 42nd birthday, the 59 delegates signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and chose an ad interim government. [30] [31] When news of the declaration reached Goliad, Benavides informed Fannin that in spite of his opposition to Santa Anna, he was still loyal to Mexico and did not wish to help Texas break away. Fannin discharged him from his duties and sent him home. [32] On March 4, Houston's military authority was expanded to include "the land forces of the Texian army both Regular, Volunteer, and Militia." [33]

At 5 a.m. on March 6, the Mexican troops launched their final assault on the Alamo. The guns fell silent 90 minutes later the Alamo had fallen. [34] Survivors Susanna Dickinson, her daughter Angelina, Travis' slave Joe, and Almonte's cook Ben were spared by Santa Anna and sent to Gonzales, where Texian volunteers had been assembling. [35]

Texian retreat: the Runaway Scrape Edit

The same day that Mexican troops departed Béxar, Houston arrived in Gonzales and informed the 374 volunteers (some without weapons) gathered there that Texas was now an independent republic. [36] Just after 11 p.m. on March 13, Susanna Dickinson and Joe brought news that the Alamo garrison had been defeated and the Mexican army was marching towards Texian settlements. A hastily convened council of war voted to evacuate the area and retreat. The evacuation commenced at midnight and happened so quickly that many Texian scouts were unaware the army had moved on. Everything that could not be carried was burned, and the army's only two cannon were thrown into the Guadalupe River. [37] When Ramírez y Sesma reached Gonzales the morning of March 14, he found the buildings still smoldering. [38]

Most citizens fled on foot, many carrying their small children. A cavalry company led by Seguín and Salvador Flores were assigned as rear guard to evacuate the more isolated ranches and protect the civilians from attacks by Mexican troops or Indians. [39] The further the army retreated, the more civilians joined the flight. [40] For both armies and the civilians, the pace was slow torrential rains had flooded the rivers and turned the roads into mud pits. [41]

As news of the Alamo's fall spread, volunteer ranks swelled, reaching about 1,400 men by March 19. [41] Houston learned of Fannin's surrender on March 20 and realized his army was the last hope for an independent Texas. Concerned that his ill-trained and ill-disciplined force would be good for only one battle, and aware that his men could easily be outflanked by Urrea's forces, Houston continued to avoid engagement, to the immense displeasure of his troops. [42] By March 28, the Texian army had retreated 120 miles (190 km) across the Navidad and Colorado Rivers. [43] Many troops deserted those who remained grumbled that their commander was a coward. [42]

On March 31, Houston paused his men at Groce's Landing on the Brazos River. [Note 1] Two companies that refused to retreat further were assigned to guard the crossing. [44] For the next two weeks, the Texians rested, recovered from illness, and, for the first time, began practicing military drills. While there, two cannon, known as the Twin Sisters, arrived from Cincinnati, Ohio. [45] Interim Secretary of War Thomas Rusk joined the camp, with orders from President David G. Burnet to replace Houston if he refused to fight. Houston quickly persuaded Rusk that his plans were sound. [45] Secretary of State Samuel P. Carson advised Houston to continue retreating all the way to the Sabine River, where more volunteers would likely flock from the United States and allow the army to counterattack. [Note 2] [46] Unhappy with everyone involved, Burnet wrote to Houston: "The enemy are laughing you to scorn. You must fight them. You must retreat no further. The country expects you to fight. The salvation of the country depends on your doing so." [45] Complaints within the camp became so strong that Houston posted notices that anyone attempting to usurp his position would be court-martialed and shot. [47]

Santa Anna and a smaller force had remained in Béxar. After receiving word that acting President Miguel Barragán had died, Santa Anna seriously considered returning to Mexico City to solidify his position. Fear that Urrea's victories would position him as a political rival convinced Santa Anna to remain in Texas to personally oversee the final phase of the campaign. [48] He left on March 29 to join Ramírez y Sesma, leaving only a small force to hold Béxar. [49] At dawn on April 7, their combined force marched into San Felipe and captured a Texian soldier, who informed Santa Anna that the Texians planned to retreat further if the Mexican army crossed the Brazos River. [50] Unable to cross the Brazos because of the small company of Texians barricaded at the river crossing, on April 14 a frustrated Santa Anna led a force of about 700 troops to capture the interim Texas government. [51] [52] Government officials fled mere hours before Mexican troops arrived in Harrisburgh (now Harrisburg, Houston) and Santa Anna sent Almonte with 50 cavalry to intercept them in New Washington. Almonte arrived just as Burnet shoved off in a rowboat, bound for Galveston Island. Although the boat was still within range of their weapons, Almonte ordered his men to hold their fire so as not to endanger Burnet's family. [53]

At this point, Santa Anna believed the rebellion was in its final death throes. The Texian government had been forced off the mainland, with no way to communicate with its army, which had shown no interest in fighting. He determined to block the Texian army's retreat and put a decisive end to the war. [53] Almonte's scouts incorrectly reported that Houston's army was going to Lynchburg Crossing on Buffalo Bayou, in preparation for joining the government in Galveston, so Santa Anna ordered Harrisburgh burned and pressed on towards Lynchburg. [53]

The Texian army had resumed their march eastward. On April 16, they came to a crossroads one road led north towards Nacogdoches, the other went to Harrisburgh. Without orders from Houston and with no discussion amongst themselves, the troops in the lead took the road to Harrisburgh. They arrived on April 18, not long after the Mexican army's departure. [54] That same day, Deaf Smith and Henry Karnes captured a Mexican courier carrying intelligence on the locations and future plans of all of the Mexican troops in Texas. Realizing that Santa Anna had only a small force and was not far away, Houston gave a rousing speech to his men, exhorting them to "Remember the Alamo" and "Remember Goliad". His army then raced towards Lynchburg. [55] Out of concern that his men might not differentiate between Mexican soldiers and the Tejanos in Seguín's company, Houston originally ordered Seguín and his men to remain in Harrisburgh to guard those who were too ill to travel quickly. After loud protests from Seguín and Antonio Menchaca, the order was rescinded, provided the Tejanos wear playing cards in their hats to identify them as Texian soldiers. [56]

The area along Buffalo Bayou had many thick oak groves, separated by marshes. This type of terrain was familiar to the Texians and quite alien to the Mexican soldiers. [57] Houston's army, comprising 900 men, reached Lynch's Ferry mid-morning on April 20 Santa Anna's 700-man force arrived a few hours later. The Texians made camp in a wooded area along the bank of Buffalo Bayou while the location provided good cover and helped hide their full strength, it also left the Texians no room for retreat. [58] [59] Over the protests of several of his officers, Santa Anna chose to make camp in a vulnerable location, a plain near the San Jacinto River, bordered by woods on one side, marsh and lake on another. [57] [60] The two camps were approximately 500 yards (460 m) apart, separated by a grassy area with a slight rise in the middle. [61] Colonel Pedro Delgado later wrote that "the camping ground of His Excellency's selection was in all respects, against military rules. Any youngster would have done better." [62]

Over the next several hours, two brief skirmishes occurred. Using the Twin Sisters, Texians won the first, forcing a small group of dragoons and the Mexican artillery to withdraw. [57] [63] Mexican dragoons then forced the Texian cavalry to withdraw. In the melee, Rusk, on foot to reload his rifle, was almost captured by Mexican soldiers but was rescued by newly arrived Texian volunteer Mirabeau B. Lamar. [63] Over Houston's objections, many infantrymen rushed onto the field. As the Texian cavalry fell back, Lamar remained behind to rescue another Texian who had been thrown from his horse Mexican officers "reportedly applauded" his bravery. [64] Houston was irate that the infantry had disobeyed his orders and given Santa Anna a better estimate of their strength the men were equally upset that Houston had not allowed a full battle. [65]

Throughout the night, Mexican troops worked to fortify their camp, creating breastworks out of everything they could find, including saddles and brush. [66] At 9 a.m. on April 21, Cos arrived with 540 reinforcements, bringing the Mexican force to approximately 1,200-1,500 men which outnumbered the Texian aggregate forces of approximately 800 men (official count entering battle was reported at 783). [67] General Cos' men were mostly raw recruits rather than experienced soldiers, and they had marched steadily for more than 24 hours with no rest and no food. [68] As the morning wore on with no Texian attack, Mexican officers lowered their guard. By afternoon, Santa Anna had given permission for Cos' men to sleep his own tired troops also took advantage of the time to rest, eat, and bathe. [69]

Not long after Cos arrived with reinforcements, General Houston ordered Smith to destroy Vince's Bridge (located about 8 miles from the Texian encampment) to block the only road out of the Brazos and, thereby, prevent any possibility of escape by Santa Anna. [70] Houston describes how he arrayed the Texian forces in preparation of battle: "Colonel Edward Burleson was assigned the center. The second regiment, under the command of Colonel Sydney Sherman, formed the left wing of the army. The artillery, under the special command of Col. Geo. W. Hackley, inspector general, was placed on the right of the first regiment, and four companies under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Millard, sustained the artillery on the right, and our cavalry, sixty-one in number and commanded by Colonel Mirabeau B. Lamar. placed on our extreme right, composed our line." [71]

The Texian cavalry was first dispatched to the Mexican forces' far left, and the artillery advanced through the tall grass to within 200 yards of the Mexican breastworks. [71] The Texian Twin Sisters fired at 4:30, beginning the battle. [72] After a single volley, Texians broke ranks and swarmed over the Mexican breastworks, yelling "Remember the Alamo! Remember La Bahia (Goliad)!", to engage in hand-to-hand combat. Mexican soldiers were taken by surprise. Santa Anna, Castrillón, and Almonte yelled often conflicting orders, attempting to organize their men into some form of defense. [73] The Texian infantry forces advanced without halt until they had possession of the woodland and the Mexican breastwork the right wing of Burleson's and the left wing of Millard's forces took possession of the breastwork. [71] Within 18 minutes, Mexican soldiers abandoned their campsite and fled for their lives. [74] The killing lasted for hours. [75]

Many Mexican soldiers retreated through the marsh to Peggy Lake. [Note 3] Texian riflemen stationed themselves on the banks and shot at anything that moved. Many Texian officers, including Houston and Rusk, attempted to stop the slaughter, but they were unable to gain control of the men, incensed and vengeful for the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad, while frightened Mexican infantry yelled "Me no Alamo!" and begged for mercy to no avail. [76] In what historian Davis calls "one of the most one-sided victories in history", [77] 650 Mexican soldiers were killed and 300 captured. [78] Eleven Texians died, with 30 others, including Houston, wounded. [79]

Although Santa Anna's troops had been thoroughly vanquished, they did not represent the bulk of the Mexican army in Texas. An additional 4,000 troops remained under the commands of Urrea and General Vicente Filisola. [80] Texians had won the battle because of mistakes made by Santa Anna, and Houston was well aware that his troops would have little hope of repeating their victory against Urrea or Filisola. [81] As darkness fell, a large group of prisoners was led into camp. Houston initially mistook the group for Mexican reinforcements and reportedly shouted out that all was lost. [82]

Mexican retreat Edit

Santa Anna had escaped towards Vince's Bridge. [83] Finding the bridge destroyed, he hid in the marsh and was captured the following day, wearing the uniform jacket of a private. This subterfuge was uncovered when other Mexican prisoners cried out in recognition of their commander. [78] He was brought before Houston, who had been shot in the ankle and badly wounded. [80] [Note 4] Texian soldiers gathered around, calling for the Mexican general's immediate execution. Bargaining for his life, Santa Anna suggested that he order the remaining Mexican troops to stay away. [84] In a letter to Filisola, who was now the senior Mexican official in Texas, Santa Anna wrote that "yesterday evening [we] had an unfortunate encounter" and ordered his troops to retreat to Béxar and await further instructions. [81]

Urrea urged Filisola to continue the campaign. He was confident that he could challenge the Texian troops. According to Hardin, "Santa Anna had presented Mexico with one military disaster Filisola did not wish to risk another." [85] Spring rains had ruined the ammunition and rendered the roads nearly impassable, with troops sinking to their knees in mud. The Mexican troops were soon out of food and began to fall ill from dysentery and other diseases. [86] Their supply lines had broken down, leaving no hope of further reinforcements. [87] Filisola later wrote that "Had the enemy met us under these cruel circumstances, on the only road that was left, no alternative remained but to die or surrender at discretion". [86]

For several weeks after San Jacinto, Santa Anna continued to negotiate with Houston, Rusk, and then Burnet. [88] Santa Anna suggested two treaties, a public version of promises made between the two countries, and a private version that included Santa Anna's personal agreements. The Treaties of Velasco required that all Mexican troops withdraw south of the Rio Grande and that all private property be respected and restored. Prisoners of war would be released unharmed, and Santa Anna would be given immediate passage to Veracruz. He secretly promised to persuade the Mexican Congress to acknowledge the Republic of Texas and to recognize the Rio Grande as the border between the two countries. [89]

When Urrea began marching south in mid-May, many families from San Patricio who had supported the Mexican army went with him. When Texian troops arrived in early June, they found only 20 families remaining. The area around San Patricio and Refugio suffered a "noticeable depopulation" in the Republic of Texas years. [90] Although the treaty had specified that Urrea and Filisola would return any slaves their armies had sheltered, Urrea refused to comply. Many former slaves followed the army to Mexico, where they could be free. [91] By late May, the Mexican troops had crossed the Nueces. [86] Filisola fully expected that the defeat was temporary and that a second campaign would be launched to retake Texas. [87]

Military Edit

When Mexican authorities received word of Santa Anna's defeat at San Jacinto, flags across the country were lowered to half staff and draped in mourning. [93] Denouncing any agreements signed by a prisoner, Mexican authorities refused to recognize the Republic of Texas. [94] Filisola was derided for leading the retreat and was replaced by Urrea. Within months, Urrea gathered 6,000 troops in Matamoros, poised to reconquer Texas. His army was redirected to address continued federalist rebellions in other regions. [95]

Most in Texas assumed the Mexican army would return quickly. [96] Such a large number of American volunteers flocked to the Texian army in the months after the victory at San Jacinto that the Texian government was unable to maintain an accurate list of enlistments. [97] Out of caution, Béxar remained under martial law throughout 1836. Rusk ordered that all Tejanos in the area between the Guadalupe and Nueces rivers migrate either to east Texas or to Mexico. [96] Some residents who refused to comply were forcibly removed. New American settlers moved in and used threats and legal maneuvering to take over the land once owned by Tejanos. [94] [98] Over the next several years, hundreds of Tejano families resettled in Mexico. [94]

For years, Mexican authorities used the reconquering of Texas as an excuse for implementing new taxes and making the army the budgetary priority of the impoverished nation. [99] Only sporadic skirmishes resulted. [100] Larger expeditions were postponed as military funding was consistently diverted to other rebellions, out of fear that those regions would ally with Texas and further fragment the country. [99] [Note 5] The northern Mexican states, the focus of the Matamoros Expedition, briefly launched an independent Republic of the Rio Grande in 1839. [101] The same year, the Mexican Congress considered a law to declare it treasonous to speak positively of Texas. [102] In June 1843, leaders of the two nations declared an armistice. [103]

Republic of Texas Edit

On June 1, 1836, Santa Anna boarded a ship to travel back to Mexico. For the next two days, crowds of soldiers, many of whom had arrived that week from the United States, gathered to demand his execution. Lamar, recently promoted to secretary of war, gave a speech insisting that "Mobs must not intimidate the government. We want no French Revolution in Texas!", but on June 4 soldiers seized Santa Anna and put him under military arrest. [104] Burnet called for elections to ratify the constitution and elect a Congress, [105] the sixth set of leaders for Texas in a twelve-month period. [106] Voters overwhelmingly chose Houston the first president, ratified the constitution drawn up by the Convention of 1836, and approved a resolution to request annexation to the United States. [107] Houston issued an executive order sending Santa Anna to Washington, D.C., and from there he was soon sent home. [108]

During his absence, Santa Anna had been deposed. Upon his arrival, the Mexican press wasted no time in attacking him for his cruelty towards those executed at Goliad. In May 1837, Santa Anna requested an inquiry into the event. [109] The judge determined the inquiry was only for fact-finding and took no action press attacks in both Mexico and the United States continued. [110] Santa Anna was disgraced until the following year, when he became a hero of the Pastry War. [111]


Houston Retreats from Gonzales

Having determined on a retreat, General Houston and his forces set out before midnight on the 13th, leaving behind his spies, who were reinforced by some volunteers from Peach creek. It may be stated, as a proof of the poverty of the materiel in the Texan army, that, when they set out on their retreat, they had in camp two public wagons, two yoke of oxen, and a few poor horses! The flying citizens had carried with them every species of conveyance. The Texan army reached the Navidad on the 14th, where they rested one day, while a guard was sent back for a widow woman and her children, whose residence, being off the road, was passed without knowledge of her. Some of the party who had remained behind at Gonzales conducted the family on to the army, while the three spies before named, and Reese, remained to burn the town. It was set on fire in many places at once, so that the flying inhabitants, looking back, saw the light of their burning dwellings. By early dawn the place was reduced to ashes, and its only inhabitants were the four faithful Texan spies previously mentioned.

Houston, having decided to make the Colorado the line of defense, dispatched his aide-de-camp, Colonel William T. Austin, to the Brazos for artillery, and marched to Burnham's, on the right bank of the Colorado. He reached this point on the evening of the 17th. His force had by this time increased to six hundred men, including a rear-guard, who were bringing with them some families.


Audio Recording Santa Anna's Retreat

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Contents

In 1835, there was a drastic shift in the Mexican nation. The triumph of conservative forces in the elections unleashed a series of events that culminated on October 23, 1835, under a new constitution, after the repeal of the federalist Constitution of 1824. Las Siete Leyes (Spanish: [las ˈsjete ˈleʝes] ), or Seven Laws were a series of constitutional changes that fundamentally altered the organizational structure of Mexico, ending the first federal period and creating a unitary republic, officially the Mexican Republic (Spanish: República Mexicana). [6] Formalized under President Antonio López de Santa Anna on 15 December 1835, they were enacted in 1836. They were intended to centralize and strengthen the national government. The aim of the previous constitution was to create a political system that would emulate the success of the United States, but after a decade of political turmoil, economic stagnation, and threats and actual foreign invasion, conservatives concluded that a better path for Mexico was centralized power.

The new policies, and the increased enforcement of immigration laws and import tariffs, incited many immigrants to revolt. [7] The border region of Mexican Texas was largely populated by immigrants from the United States, some legal but most illegal. These people were accustomed to a federalist government and to extensive individual rights including the right to own slaves, and they were quite vocal in their displeasure at Mexico's law enforcement and shift towards centralism. [8] Already suspicious after previous American attempts to purchase Mexican Texas, [9] Mexican authorities blamed much of the Texian unrest on American immigrants, most of whom had entered illegally and made little effort to adapt to the Mexican culture and who continued to hold people in slavery when slavery had been abolished in Mexico. [10]

In October, Texians engaged Mexican troops in the first official battle of the Texas Revolution. [11] Determined to quell the rebellion of immigrants, Santa Anna began assembling a large force, the Army of Operations in Texas, to restore order. [12] Most of his soldiers were raw recruits, [13] and many had been forcibly conscripted. [14]

The Texians systematically defeated the Mexican troops already stationed in Texas. The last group of Mexican soldiers in the region—commanded by Santa Anna's brother-in-law, General Martín Perfecto de Cos—surrendered on December 9 following the siege of Béxar. [11] By this point, the Texian Army was dominated by very recent arrivals to the region, primarily illegal immigrants from the United States. Many Texas settlers, unprepared for a long campaign, had returned home. [15] Angered by what he perceived to be American interference in Mexican affairs, Santa Anna spearheaded a resolution classifying foreign immigrants found fighting in Texas as pirates. The resolution effectively banned the taking of prisoners of war: in this period of time, captured pirates were executed immediately. [15] [16] Santa Anna reiterated this message in a strongly worded letter to United States President Andrew Jackson. This letter was not widely distributed, and it is unlikely that most of the American recruits serving in the Texian Army were aware that there would be no prisoners of war. [17]

When Mexican troops departed San Antonio de Béxar (now San Antonio, Texas, USA) Texian soldiers captured the Mexican garrison at the Alamo Mission, a former Spanish religious outpost which had been converted to a makeshift fort by the recently expelled Mexican Army. [18] Described by Santa Anna as an "irregular fortification hardly worthy of the name", [18] the Alamo had been designed to withstand an attack by native tribes, not an artillery-equipped army. [19] The complex sprawled across 3 acres (1.2 ha), providing almost 1,320 feet (400 m) of perimeter to defend. [20] An interior plaza was bordered on the east by the chapel and to the south by a one-story building known as the Low Barracks. [21] A wooden palisade stretched between these two buildings. [22] The two-story Long Barracks extended north from the chapel. [21] At the northern corner of the east wall stood a cattle pen and horse corral. [23] The walls surrounding the complex were at least 2.75 feet (0.84 m) thick and ranged from 9–12 ft (2.7–3.7 m) high. [24] [Note 1]

To compensate for the lack of firing ports, Texian engineer Green B. Jameson constructed catwalks to allow defenders to fire over the walls this method, however, left the rifleman's upper body exposed. [20] Mexican forces had left behind 19 cannons, which Jameson installed along the walls. A large 18-pounder had arrived in Texas with the New Orleans Greys. Jameson positioned this cannon in the southwest corner of the compound. He boasted to Texian Army commander Sam Houston that the Texians could "whip 10 to 1 with our artillery". [25]

The Texian garrison was woefully undermanned and underprovisioned, with fewer than 100 soldiers remaining by January 6, 1836. [26] Colonel James C. Neill, the acting Alamo commander, wrote to the provisional government: "If there has ever been a dollar here I have no knowledge of it". [26] Neill requested additional troops and supplies, stressing that the garrison was likely to be unable to withstand a siege lasting longer than four days. [26] [27] The Texian government was in turmoil and unable to provide much assistance. [28] [Note 2] Four different men claimed to have been given command over the entire army: [Note 3] on January 14, Neill approached one of them, Sam Houston, for assistance in gathering supplies, clothing, and ammunition. [28]

Houston could not spare the number of men necessary to mount a successful defense. [29] Instead, he sent Colonel James Bowie with 30 men to remove the artillery from the Alamo and destroy the complex. [28] [Note 4] Bowie was unable to transport the artillery since the Alamo garrison lacked the necessary draft animals. Neill soon persuaded Bowie that the location held strategic importance. [30] In a letter to Governor Henry Smith, Bowie argued that "the salvation of Texas depends in great measure on keeping Béxar out of the hands of the enemy. It serves as the frontier picquet guard, and if it were in the possession of Santa Anna, there is no stronghold from which to repel him in his march towards the Sabine." [31] [Note 5] The letter to Smith ended, "Colonel Neill and myself have come to the solemn resolution that we will rather die in these ditches than give it up to the enemy." [31] Bowie also wrote to the provisional government, asking for "men, money, rifles, and cannon powder". [31] Few reinforcements were authorized cavalry officer William B. Travis arrived in Béxar with 30 men on February 3. Five days later, a small group of volunteers arrived, including the famous frontiersman and former U.S. Congressman David Crockett of Tennessee. [32]

On February 11, Neill left the Alamo, determined to recruit additional reinforcements and gather supplies. [33] [34] He transferred command to Travis, the highest-ranking regular army officer in the garrison. [31] Volunteers comprised much of the garrison, and they were unwilling to accept Travis as their leader. [Note 6] The men instead elected Bowie, who had a reputation as a fierce fighter, as their commander. Bowie celebrated by getting very intoxicated and creating havoc in Béxar. To mitigate the resulting ill feelings, Bowie agreed to share command with Travis. [34] [35] [36]

As the Texians struggled to find men and supplies, Santa Anna continued to gather men at San Luis Potosi by the end of 1835, his army numbered 6,019 soldiers. [37] Rather than advance along the coast, where supplies and reinforcements could be easily delivered by sea, Santa Anna ordered his army inland to Béxar, the political center of Texas and the site of Cos's defeat. [37] The army began its march north in late December. [37] Officers used the long journey to train the men. Many of the new recruits did not know how to use the sights of their guns, and many refused to fire from the shoulder because of the large recoil. [38]

Progress was slow. There were not enough mules to transport all of the supplies, and many of the teamsters, all civilians, quit when their pay was delayed. The many soldaderas – women and children who followed the army – consumed much of the already scarce supplies. The soldiers were soon reduced to partial rations. [39] On February 12 they crossed the Rio Grande. [40] [Note 7] Temperatures in Texas reached record lows, and by February 13 an estimated 15–16 inches (38–41 cm) of snow had fallen. Hypothermia, dysentery, and Comanche raiding parties took a heavy toll on the Mexican soldiers. [41]

On February 21, Santa Anna and his vanguard reached the banks of the Medina River, 25 miles (40 km) from Béxar. [42] [43] Unaware of the Mexican Army's proximity, the majority of the Alamo garrison joined Béxar residents at a fiesta. [44] [Note 8] After learning of the planned celebration, Santa Anna ordered General Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma to immediately seize the unprotected Alamo, but sudden rains halted that raid. [43]

Investment

In the early hours of February 23, residents began fleeing Béxar, fearing the Mexican army's imminent arrival. Although unconvinced by the reports, Travis stationed a soldier in the San Fernando church bell tower, the highest location in town, to watch for signs of an approaching force. Several hours later, Texian scouts reported seeing Mexican troops 1.5 miles (2.4 km) outside the town. [44] Few arrangements had been made for a potential siege. One group of Texians scrambled to herd cattle into the Alamo, while others scrounged for food in the recently abandoned houses. [45] Several members of the garrison who had been living in town brought their families with them when they reported to the Alamo. Among these were Almaron Dickinson, who brought his wife Susanna and their infant daughter Angelina Bowie, who was accompanied by his deceased wife's cousins, Gertrudis Navarro and Juana Navarro Alsbury, and Alsbury's young son [46] and Gregorio Esparza, whose family climbed through the window of the Alamo chapel after the Mexican army arrived. [47] Other members of the garrison failed to report for duty most of the men working outside Béxar did not try to sneak past Mexican lines. [48]

response of José Bartres to Texian requests for an honorable surrender, as quoted in the journal of Juan Almonte [49]

By late afternoon Béxar was occupied by about 1,500 Mexican soldiers. [50] When the Mexican troops raised a blood-red flag signifying no quarter, Travis responded with a blast from the Alamo's largest cannon. [51] Believing that Travis had acted hastily, Bowie sent Jameson to meet with Santa Anna. [49] Travis was angered that Bowie had acted unilaterally and sent his own representative, Captain Albert Martin. [52] Both emissaries met with Colonel Juan Almonte and José Bartres. According to Almonte, the Texians asked for an honorable surrender but were informed that any surrender must be unconditional. [49] On learning this, Bowie and Travis mutually agreed to fire the cannon again. [52] [Note 9]

Skirmishes

The first night of the siege was relatively quiet. [53] Over the next few days, Mexican soldiers established artillery batteries, initially about 1,000 feet (300 m) from the south and east walls of the Alamo. [54] A third battery was positioned southeast of the fort. Each night the batteries inched closer to the Alamo walls. [55] During the first week of the siege more than 200 cannonballs landed in the Alamo plaza. At first, the Texians matched Mexican artillery fire, often reusing the Mexican cannonballs. [56] [57] On February 26 Travis ordered the artillery to conserve powder and shot. [56]

Two notable events occurred on Wednesday, February 24. At some point that day, Bowie collapsed from illness, [58] leaving Travis in sole command of the garrison. [58] Late that afternoon, two Mexican scouts became the first fatalities of the siege. [59] [Note 9] The following morning, 200–300 Mexican soldiers crossed the San Antonio River and took cover in abandoned shacks near the Alamo walls. [55] [59] [60] Several Texians ventured out to burn the huts [60] while Texians within the Alamo provided cover fire. [61] [62] After a two-hour skirmish, the Mexican troops retreated to Béxar. [55] [62] Six Mexican soldiers were killed and four others were wounded. [55] No Texians were injured. [63]

A blue norther blew in on February 25, dropping the temperature to 39 °F (4 °C). [56] Neither army was prepared for the cold temperatures. [64] Texian attempts to gather firewood were thwarted by Mexican troops. [56] On the evening of February 26 Colonel Juan Bringas engaged several Texians who were burning more huts. [65] According to historian J.R. Edmondson, one Texian was killed. [66] Four days later, Texians shot and killed Private First Class Secundino Alvarez, a soldier from one of two battalions that Santa Anna had stationed on two sides of the Alamo. By March 1, the number of Mexican casualties was nine dead and four wounded, while the Texian garrison had lost only one man.

Reinforcements

Santa Anna posted one company east of the Alamo, on the road to Gonzales. [55] [68] Almonte and 800 dragoons were stationed along the road to Goliad. [69] Throughout the siege these towns had received multiple couriers, dispatched by Travis to plead for reinforcements and supplies. [51] [70] The most famous of his missives, written February 24, was addressed To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World. According to historian Mary Deborah Petite, the letter is "considered by many as one of the masterpieces of American patriotism." [71] Copies of the letter were distributed across Texas, [72] and eventually reprinted throughout the United States and much of Europe. [59] At the end of the first day of the siege, Santa Anna's troops were reinforced by 600 men under General Joaquin Ramirez y Sesma, bringing the Mexican army up to more than 2,000 men.

As news of the siege spread throughout Texas, potential reinforcements gathered in Gonzales. They hoped to rendezvous with Colonel James Fannin, who was expected to arrive from Goliad with his garrison. [73] On February 26, after days of indecision, Fannin ordered 320 men, four cannons, and several supply wagons to march towards the Alamo, 90 miles (140 km) away. This group traveled less than 1.0 mile (1.6 km) before turning back. [74] [75] Fannin blamed the retreat on his officers the officers and enlisted men accused Fannin of aborting the mission. [76]

Texians gathered in Gonzales were unaware of Fannin's return to Goliad, and most continued to wait. Impatient with the delay, on February 27 Travis ordered Samuel G. Bastian to go to Gonzales "to hurry up reinforcements". [77] According to historian Thomas Ricks Lindley, Bastian encountered the Gonzales Ranging Company led by Lieutenant George C. Kimble and Travis' courier to Gonzales, Albert Martin, who had tired of waiting for Fannin. A Mexican patrol attacked, driving off four of the men including Bastian. [Note 10] [78] In the darkness, the Texians fired on the remaining 32 men, whom they assumed were Mexican soldiers. One man was wounded, and his English curses convinced the occupiers to open the gates. [Note 11] [79]

On March 3, the Texians watched from the walls as approximately 1,000 Mexicans marched into Béxar. The Mexican army celebrated loudly throughout the afternoon, both in honor of their reinforcements and at the news that troops under General José de Urrea had soundly defeated Texian Colonel Frank W. Johnson at the Battle of San Patricio on February 27. [80] Most of the Texians in the Alamo believed that Sesma had been leading the Mexican forces during the siege, and they mistakenly attributed the celebration to the arrival of Santa Anna. The reinforcements brought the number of Mexican soldiers in Béxar to almost 3,100. [81]

The arrival of the Mexican reinforcements prompted Travis to send three men, including Davy Crockett, to find Fannin's force, which he still believed to be en route. [82] The scouts discovered a large group of Texians camped 20 miles (32 km) from the Alamo. [83] Lindley's research indicates that up to 50 of these men had come from Goliad after Fannin's aborted rescue mission. The others had left Gonzales several days earlier. [84] Just before daylight on March 4, part of the Texian force broke through Mexican lines and entered the Alamo. Mexican soldiers drove a second group across the prairie. [83] [Note 12]

Assault preparations

On March 4, the day after his reinforcements arrived, Santa Anna proposed an assault on the Alamo. Many of his senior officers recommended that they wait for two 12-pounder cannons anticipated to arrive on March 7. [85] That evening, a local woman, likely Bowie's cousin-in-law Juana Navarro Alsbury, approached Santa Anna to negotiate a surrender for the Alamo occupiers. [86] According to many historians, this visit probably increased Santa Anna's impatience as historian Timothy Todish noted, "there would have been little glory in a bloodless victory". [87] The following morning, Santa Anna announced to his staff that the assault would take place early on March 6. Santa Anna arranged for troops from Béxar to be excused from the front lines so that they would not be forced to fight their own families. [87]

Legend holds that at some point on March 5, Travis gathered his men and explained that an attack was imminent, and that they were greatly outnumbered by the Mexican Army. He supposedly drew a line in the ground and asked those willing to die for the Texian cause to cross and stand alongside him only one man (Moses Rose) was said to have declined. [88] Most scholars disregard this tale as there is no primary source evidence to support it (the story only surfaced decades after the battle in a third-hand account). [89] Travis apparently did, at some point prior to the final assault, assemble the men for a conference to inform them of the dire situation and giving them the chance to either escape or stay and die for the cause. Susannah Dickinson recalled Travis announcing that any men who wished to escape should let it be known and step out of ranks. [90]

The last Texian verified to have left the Alamo was James Allen, a courier who carried personal messages from Travis and several of the other men on March 5. [91]

Exterior fighting

Initial Mexican troop deployment [92] [93]
Commander Troops Equipment
Cos 350 10 ladders
2 crowbars
2 axes
Duque/Castrillón 400 10 ladders
Romero 400 6 ladders
Morales 125 2 ladders
Sesma 500 cavalry
Santa Anna 400 reserves

At 10 p.m. on March 5, the Mexican artillery ceased their bombardment. As Santa Anna had anticipated, the exhausted Texians soon fell into the first uninterrupted sleep many of them had since the siege began. [94] Just after midnight, more than 2,000 Mexican soldiers began preparing for the final assault. [95] Fewer than 1,800 were divided into four columns, commanded by Cos, Colonel Francisco Duque, Colonel José María Romero and Colonel Juan Morales. [92] [93] Veterans were positioned on the outside of the columns to better control the new recruits and conscripts in the middle. [96] As a precaution, 500 Mexican cavalry were positioned around the Alamo to prevent the escape of either Texian or Mexican soldiers. Santa Anna remained in camp with the 400 reserves. [93] [97] Despite the bitter cold, the soldiers were ordered not to wear overcoats which could impede their movements. [93] Clouds concealed the moon and thus the movements of the soldiers. [98]

At 5:30 a.m. troops silently advanced. Cos and his men approached the northwest corner of the Alamo, [96] while Duque led his men from the northwest towards a repaired breach in the Alamo's north wall. [99] The column commanded by Romero marched towards the east wall, and Morales's column aimed for the low parapet by the chapel. [99]

The three Texian sentinels stationed outside the walls were killed in their sleep, [100] [101] allowing Mexican soldiers to approach undetected within musket range of the walls. [100] At this point, the silence was broken by shouts of "¡Viva Santa Anna!" and music from the buglers. [95] The noise woke the Texians. [101] Most of the noncombatants gathered in the church sacristy for safety. [102] Travis rushed to his post yelling, "Come on boys, the Mexicans are upon us and we'll give them hell!" [100] and, as he passed a group of Tejanos, "¡No rendirse, muchachos!" ("Don't surrender, boys"). [94]

In the initial moments of the assault, Mexican troops were at a disadvantage. Their column formation allowed only the front rows of soldiers to fire safely. [103] Unaware of the dangers, the untrained recruits in the ranks "blindly fir[ed] their guns", injuring or killing the troops in front of them. [104] The tight concentration of troops also offered an excellent target for the Texian artillery. [103] Lacking canister shot, Texians filled their cannon with any metal they could find, including door hinges, nails, and chopped-up horseshoes, essentially turning the cannon into giant shotguns. [100] According to the diary of José Enrique de la Peña, "a single cannon volley did away with half the company of chasseurs from Toluca". [105] Duque fell from his horse after suffering a wound in his thigh and was almost trampled by his own men. General Manuel Castrillón quickly assumed command of Duque's column. [23]

Although some in the front of the Mexican ranks wavered, soldiers in the rear pushed them on. [103] As the troops massed against the walls, Texians were forced to lean over the walls to shoot, leaving them exposed to Mexican fire. Travis became one of the first occupiers to die, shot while firing his shotgun into the soldiers below him, though one source says that he drew his sword and stabbed a Mexican officer who had stormed the wall before succumbing to his injury. [103] Few of the Mexican ladders reached the walls. [106] The few soldiers who were able to climb the ladders were quickly killed or beaten back. As the Texians discharged their previously loaded rifles, they found it increasingly difficult to reload while attempting to keep Mexican soldiers from scaling the walls. [23]

Mexican soldiers withdrew and regrouped, but their second attack was repulsed. Fifteen minutes into the battle, they attacked a third time. [23] [103] During the third strike, Romero's column, aiming for the east wall, was exposed to cannon fire and shifted to the north, mingling with the second column. [23] Cos' column, under fire from Texians on the west wall, also veered north. [107] When Santa Anna saw that the bulk of his army was massed against the north wall, he feared a rout "panicked", he sent the reserves into the same area. [108] The Mexican soldiers closest to the north wall realized that the makeshift wall contained many gaps and toeholds. One of the first to scale the 12-foot (3.7 m) wall was General Juan Amador at his challenge, his men began swarming up the wall. Amador opened the postern in the north wall, allowing Mexican soldiers to pour into the complex. [106] Others climbed through gun ports in the west wall, which had few occupiers. [109] As the Texian occupiers abandoned the north wall and the northern end of the west wall, [106] [109] Texian gunners at the south end of the mission turned their cannon towards the north and fired into the advancing Mexican soldiers. This left the south end of the mission unprotected within minutes Mexican soldiers had climbed the walls and killed the gunners, gaining control of the Alamo's 18-pounder cannon. [98] By this time Romero's men had taken the east wall of the compound and were pouring in through the cattle pen. [109]

Interior fighting

Last words of Texian defender Almaron Dickinson to his wife Susanna as he prepared to defend the chapel. [107]

As previously planned, most of the Texians fell back to the barracks and the chapel. Holes had been carved in the walls to allow the Texians to fire. [107] Unable to reach the barracks, Texians stationed along the west wall headed west for the San Antonio River. When the cavalry charged, the Texians took cover and began firing from a ditch. Sesma was forced to send reinforcements, and the Texians were eventually killed. Sesma reported that this skirmish involved 50 Texians, but Edmondson believes that number was inflated. [110]

The occupiers in the cattle pen retreated into the horse corral. After discharging their weapons, the small band of Texians scrambled over the low wall, circled behind the church and raced on foot for the east prairie, which appeared empty. [107] [109] [111] As the Mexican cavalry advanced on the group, Almaron Dickinson and his artillery crew turned a cannon around and fired into the cavalry, probably inflicting casualties. Nevertheless, all of the escaping Texians were killed. [111]

The last Texian group to remain in the open were Crockett and his men, defending the low wall in front of the church. Unable to reload, they used their rifles as clubs and fought with knives. After a volley of fire and a wave of Mexican bayonets, the few remaining Texians in this group fell back towards the church. [110] The Mexican army now controlled all of the outer walls and the interior of the Alamo compound except for the church and rooms along the east and west walls. [112] Mexican soldiers turned their attention to a Texian flag waving from the roof of one building. Four Mexicans were killed before the flag of Mexico was raised in that location. [Note 13] [113]

For the next hour, the Mexican army worked to secure complete control of the Alamo. [114] Many of the remaining occupiers were ensconced in the fortified barracks rooms. [115] In the confusion, the Texians had neglected to spike their cannon before retreating. Mexican soldiers turned the cannon towards the barracks. [106] As each door was blown off Mexican soldiers would fire a volley of muskets into the dark room, then charge in for hand-to-hand combat. [115]

Too sick to participate in the battle, Bowie likely died in bed. Eyewitnesses to the battle gave conflicting accounts of his death. Some witnesses maintained that they saw several Mexican soldiers enter Bowie's room, bayonet him, and carry him alive from the room. [116] Others claimed that Bowie shot himself or was killed by soldiers while too weak to lift his head. [117] According to historian Wallace Chariton, the "most popular, and probably the most accurate" [118] version is that Bowie died on his cot, "back braced against the wall, and using his pistols and his famous knife." [117]

The last of the Texians to die were the 11 men manning the two 12-pounder cannons in the chapel. [113] [119] A shot from the 18-pounder cannon destroyed the barricades at the front of the church, and Mexican soldiers entered the building after firing an initial musket volley. Dickinson's crew fired their cannon from the apse into the Mexican soldiers at the door. With no time to reload, the Texians, including Dickinson, Gregorio Esparza and James Bonham, grabbed rifles and fired before being bayoneted to death. [120] Texian Robert Evans, the master of ordnance, had been tasked with keeping the gunpowder from falling into Mexican hands. Wounded, he crawled towards the powder magazine but was killed by a musket ball with his torch only inches from the powder. [120] Had he succeeded, the blast would have destroyed the church and killed the women and children hiding in the sacristy. [121]

As soldiers approached the sacristy, one of the young sons of occupier Anthony Wolf stood to pull a blanket over his shoulders. [120] In the dark, Mexican soldiers mistook him for an adult and killed him. [Note 14] [122] Possibly the last Texian to die in battle was Jacob Walker, [123] who attempted to hide behind Susannah Dickinson and was bayoneted in front of the women. [124] Another Texian, Brigido Guerrero, also sought refuge in the sacristy. [120] Guerrero, who had deserted from the Mexican Army in December 1835, was spared after convincing the soldiers he was a Texian prisoner. [122] [125]

By 6:30 a.m. the battle for the Alamo was over. [124] Mexican soldiers inspected each corpse, bayoneting any body that moved. [122] Even with all of the Texians dead, Mexican soldiers continued to shoot, some killing each other in the confusion. Mexican generals were unable to stop the bloodlust and appealed to Santa Anna for help. Although the general showed himself, the violence continued and the buglers were finally ordered to sound a retreat. For 15 minutes after that, soldiers continued to fire into dead bodies. [126]

Casualties

According to many accounts of the battle, between five and seven Texians surrendered. [Note 15] [127] [128] Incensed that his orders had been ignored, Santa Anna demanded the immediate execution of the survivors. [129] Weeks after the battle, stories circulated that Crockett was among those who surrendered. [128] Ben, a former American slave who cooked for one of Santa Anna's officers, maintained that Crockett's body was found surrounded by "no less than sixteen Mexican corpses". [130] Historians disagree on which version of Crockett's death is accurate. [Note 16] [131]

Santa Anna reportedly told Captain Fernando Urizza that the battle "was but a small affair". [132] Another officer then remarked that "with another such victory as this, we'll go to the devil". [Note 17] [2] In his initial report Santa Anna claimed that 600 Texians had been killed, with only 70 Mexican soldiers killed and 300 wounded. [133] His secretary, Ramón Martínez Caro, later repudiated the report. [134] Other estimates of the number of Mexican soldiers killed ranged from 60 to 200, with an additional 250–300 wounded. [2] Most Alamo historians place the number of Mexican casualties at 400–600. [2] [3] [4] This would represent about one-third of the Mexican soldiers involved in the final assault, which Todish remarks is "a tremendous casualty rate by any standards". [2] Most eyewitnesses counted between 182 and 257 Texians killed. [135] Some historians believe that at least one Texian, Henry Warnell, successfully escaped from the battle. Warnell died several months later of wounds incurred either during the final battle or during his escape as a courier. [136] [137]

Mexican soldiers were buried in the local cemetery, Campo Santo. [Note 18] [133] Shortly after the battle, Colonel José Juan Sanchez Navarro proposed that a monument should be erected to the fallen Mexican soldiers. Cos rejected the idea. [138]

The Texian bodies were stacked and burned. [Note 19] [133] The only exception was the body of Gregorio Esparza. His brother Francisco, an officer in Santa Anna's army, received permission to give Gregorio a proper burial. [133] The ashes were left where they fell until February 1837, when Juan Seguín returned to Béxar to examine the remains. A simple coffin inscribed with the names Travis, Crockett, and Bowie was filled with ashes from the funeral pyres. [139] According to a March 28, 1837, article in the Telegraph and Texas Register, [140] Seguín buried the coffin under a peach tree grove. The spot was not marked and cannot now be identified. [141] Seguín later claimed that he had placed the coffin in front of the altar at the San Fernando Cathedral. In July 1936 a coffin was discovered buried in that location, but according to historian Wallace Chariton, it is unlikely to actually contain the remains of the Alamo defenders. Fragments of uniforms were found in the coffin and the Texian soldiers who fought at the Alamo were known not to wear uniforms. [140]

Texian survivors

In an attempt to convince other slaves in Texas to support the Mexican government over the Texian rebellion, Santa Anna spared Travis' slave, Joe. [142] The day after the battle, he interviewed each noncombatant individually. Impressed with Susanna Dickinson, Santa Anna offered to adopt her infant daughter Angelina and have the child educated in Mexico City. Dickinson refused the offer, which was not extended to Juana Navarro Alsbury although her son was of similar age. [2] Each woman was given a blanket and two silver pesos. [143] Alsbury and the other Tejano women were allowed to return to their homes in Béxar Dickinson, her daughter and Joe were sent to Gonzales, escorted by Ben. They were encouraged to relate the events of the battle, and to inform the remainder of the Texian forces that Santa Anna's army was unbeatable. [2]

Impact on revolution

During the siege, newly elected delegates from across Texas met at the Convention of 1836. On March 2, the delegates declared independence, forming the Republic of Texas. Four days later, the delegates at the convention received a dispatch Travis had written March 3 warning of his dire situation. Unaware that the Alamo had fallen, Robert Potter called for the convention to adjourn and march immediately to relieve the Alamo. Sam Houston convinced the delegates to remain in Washington-on-the-Brazos to develop a constitution. After being appointed sole commander of all Texian troops, Houston journeyed to Gonzales to take command of the 400 volunteers who were still waiting for Fannin to lead them to the Alamo. [144]

Within hours of Houston's arrival on March 11, Andres Barcenas and Anselmo Bergaras arrived with news that the Alamo had fallen and all Texians were slain. [145] Hoping to halt a panic, Houston arrested the men as enemy spies. They were released hours later when Susannah Dickinson and Joe reached Gonzales and confirmed the report. [146] Realizing that the Mexican army would soon advance towards the Texian settlements, Houston advised all civilians in the area to evacuate and ordered his new army to retreat. [147] This sparked a mass exodus, known as the Runaway Scrape, and most Texians, including members of the new government, fled east. [148]

Despite their losses at the Alamo, the Mexican army in Texas still outnumbered the Texian army by almost six to one. [149] Santa Anna assumed that knowledge of the disparity in troop numbers and the fate of the Texian soldiers at the Alamo would quell the resistance, [150] and that Texian soldiers would quickly leave the territory. [151] News of the Alamo's fall had the opposite effect, and men flocked to join Houston's army. [150] The New York Post editorialized that "had [Santa Anna] treated the vanquished with moderation and generosity, it would have been difficult if not impossible to awaken that general sympathy for the people of Texas which now impels so many adventurous and ardent spirits to throng to the aid of their brethren". [152]

On the afternoon of April 21 the Texian army attacked Santa Anna's camp near Lynchburg Ferry. The Mexican army was taken by surprise, and the Battle of San Jacinto was essentially over after 18 minutes. During the fighting, many of the Texian soldiers repeatedly cried "Remember the Alamo!" as they slaughtered fleeing Mexican troops. [153] Santa Anna was captured the following day, and reportedly told Houston: "That man may consider himself born to no common destiny who has conquered the Napoleon of the West. And now it remains for him to be generous to the vanquished." Houston replied, "You should have remembered that at the Alamo". Santa Anna's life was spared, and he was forced to order his troops out of Texas, ending Mexican control of the province and bestowing some legitimacy on the new republic. [154]

Following the battle, Santa Anna was alternately viewed as a national hero or a pariah. Mexican perceptions of the battle often mirrored the prevailing viewpoint. [155] Santa Anna had been disgraced following his capture at the Battle of San Jacinto, and many Mexican accounts of the battle were written by men who had been, or had become, his outspoken critics. Petite and many other historians believe that some of the stories, such as the execution of Crockett, may have been invented to further discredit Santa Anna. [131] In Mexican history, the Texas campaign, including the Battle of the Alamo, was soon overshadowed by the Mexican–American War of 1846–48. [155]

In San Antonio de Béxar, the largely Tejano population viewed the Alamo complex as more than just a battle site it represented decades of assistance—as a mission, a hospital, or a military post. [156] As the English-speaking population increased, the complex became best known for the battle. Focus has centered primarily on the Texian occupiers, with little emphasis given to the role of the Tejano soldiers who served in the Texian army or the actions of the Mexican army. [157] In the early 20th century the Texas Legislature purchased the property and appointed the Daughters of the Republic of Texas as permanent caretakers [158] of what is now an official state shrine. [159] In front of the church, in the center of Alamo Plaza, stands a cenotaph, designed by Pompeo Coppini, which commemorates the Texians and Tejanos who died during the battle. [160] According to Bill Groneman's Battlefields of Texas, the Alamo has become "the most popular tourist site in Texas". [159]

The first English-language histories of the battle were written and published by Texas Ranger and amateur historian John Henry Brown. [161] The next major treatment of the battle was Reuben Potter's The Fall of the Alamo, published in The Magazine of American History in 1878. Potter based his work on interviews with many of the Mexican survivors of the battle. [161] [162] The first full-length, non-fiction book covering the battle, John Myers Myers' The Alamo, was published in 1948. [163] In the decades since, the battle has featured prominently in many non-fiction works.

According to Todish et al., "there can be little doubt that most Americans have probably formed many of their opinions on what occurred at the Alamo not from books, but from the various movies made about the battle." [164] The first film version of the battle appeared in 1911, when Gaston Méliès directed The Immortal Alamo. [5] The battle became more widely known after it was featured in the 1950s Disney miniseries Davy Crockett, which was largely based on myth. [5] Within several years, John Wayne directed and starred in one of the best-known, but questionably accurate, film versions, 1960's The Alamo. [165] [Note 20] Another film also called The Alamo was released in 2004. CNN described it as possibly "the most character-driven of all the movies made on the subject". It is also considered more faithful to the actual events than other movies. [166]

Several songwriters have been inspired by the Battle of the Alamo. Tennessee Ernie Ford's "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" spent 16 weeks on the country music charts, peaking at No. 4 in 1955. [167] Marty Robbins recorded a version of the song "The Ballad of the Alamo" in 1960 which spent 13 weeks on the pop charts, peaking at No. 34. [168] Jane Bowers' song "Remember the Alamo" has been recorded by artists including Johnny Cash [169] and Donovan. [170] British hard rock band Babe Ruth's 1972 song The Mexican pictures the conflict through the eyes of a Mexican soldier. Singer-songwriter Phil Collins collected hundreds of items related to the battle, narrated a light and sound show about the Alamo, and has spoken at related events. [171] In 2014 Collins donated his entire collection to the Alamo via the State of Texas. [172] [173]

The battle also featured in episode 13 of The Time Tunnel, "The Alamo", first aired in 1966, and episode 5 of season one of the TV series Timeless, aired 2016.


The Final Toll

The Texans, still enraged over the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad, showed little pity for the Mexicans. Many Mexicans tried to surrender, saying “me no La Bahía (Goliad), me no Alamo,” but it was no use. The worst part of the slaughter was at the edges of the Bayou, where fleeing Mexicans found themselves cornered. The final toll for the Texans: nine dead and 30 wounded, including Sam Houston, who had been shot in the ankle. For the Mexicans: about 630 dead, 200 wounded and 730 captured, including Santa Anna himself, who was captured the next day as he tried to flee in civilian clothes.


Houston’s soldiers surprised a napping army at San Jacinto

Only mopping up operations were left, Santa Anna thought, after his army reclaimed the Alamo and destroyed Texas forces at Goliad. He split his 6,000-man force into four parts and planned to make short work of Houston's ragtag army.

Sam Houston burned Gonzales and retreated, leaving a scorched earth behind him, while settlers trying to get away from the war fled in the Runaway Scrape.

Houston had 400 men, some without weapons, and most without training. They marched to the Colorado and crossed at Burnham's Ferry. Houston burned the ferry and they marched up the east bank to Beason's Crossing. Gen. Ramirez y Sesma, leading one of Santa Anna's armies, camped west of the rain-swollen river, which was too high to cross. The armies watched each other across the rushing stream.

A week later Houston's army pulled out at dusk, leaving campfires burning, and marched to San Felipe then to Groce's Plantation. The men wanted to stand and fight and were near the point of mutiny, but Houston was not going to get trapped between converging Mexican columns.

At Groce's, Houston drilled the army and tried to instill discipline among soldiers as likely to debate an order as carry it out. Houston was getting it from all sides. David Burnet, interim president, wrote a sharp reprimand: "You must retreat no further. The country expects you to fight."

Houston learned that Santa Anna was leading a detached regiment trying to capture Texas leaders, who had moved to Harrisburg. This was an opportunity to catch Santa Anna away from his main army.

Perhaps Houston intended to retreat to Nacogdoches, where the piney woods would provide ideal ground for Texas rifles and hamper Mexican cavalry. It would put him closer to support and succor from American friends. But when he came to a fork in the road he chose the one leading to Harrisburg. His men cheered, knowing they would run no more.

Santa Anna's 750-man special task force found Harrisburg deserted. Texas leaders fled to the coast and escaped across Galveston Bay in a small boat. Santa Anna turned back and made camp between Buffalo Bayou and San Jacinto River. It was a park-like area, with lush green grass, that lived up to its Spanish name, Jacinto, for hyacinth. Houston's army camped in woods 400 yards away.

Santa Anna ordered his men to build a makeshift breastwork and sent a courier urging Perfecto de Cos, who was 20 miles away with 500 men, to join him.

Cos arrived at 9 a.m. on April 21, 1836. Santa Anna had expected Houston to attack early that morning but when the Texans failed to show, he told his soldiers to get some rest. Cos's men were worn out after the forced march. Santa Anna also took a nap in his brown-and-white striped tent. (The tale that he had a private interlude in his tent with a young black woman named Emily has never been substantiated beyond one hearsay reference of doubtful veracity.)

About 3:30 that afternoon Houston ordered his men to form lines to attack. Houston rode in front on a charger named Saracen. The Texan artillery, the six-pounders called the Twin Sisters, anchored the middle. The Texans crept through tall grass and were within 200 yards of the Mexican camp before the alarm sounded. Santa Anna was caught napping.

The Twin Sisters ripped holes in the breastwork as a four-man Texas band played an old Irish folk tune, "Will You Come to the Bower?" The Texans broke into a wild charge, yelling "Remember the Alamo!" "Remember Goliad!" as they streamed over the breastworks and into the encampment, attacking with ferocity.

Mexican soldiers, confused and fleeing in panic, were shot, stabbed, or clubbed to death as they ran or tried to surrender. Mexican officers tried vainly to rally their men to their own defense. The battle lasted 18 minutes but the slaughter continued until dark.

In a blind and furious rage, the Texans killed everything that moved. Without mercy. Houston tried to stop them. "Gentlemen," he berated his men, "I applaud your bravery but damn your manners." The frenzied killing was done in the heat of battle, unlike the cold-blooded murder at Goliad, but it left a stain on the day's victory.

Col. Pedro Delgado, on Santa Anna's staff, made it to Buffalo Bayou before he was captured, with other bewildered Mexican survivors. They were marched to the woods where they saw a huge bonfire. Delgado thought they were going to be burned alive in retaliation for those Texas bodies burned at the Alamo. "We were relieved when they placed us around the fire to warm ourselves and dry out our clothes."

Six hundred and eight Mexican soldiers were killed, 208 wounded, 730 captured. The Texans lost six killed and 26 wounded. It was one of the most lopsided battles ever fought.

Santa Anna was captured next morning, looking wretched in stolen clothes and still wearing red Moroccan slippers from his nap the afternoon before. How the mighty had fallen. So this was His Excellency, the generalissimo, the Napoleon of the West. He was brought before Houston, who was being treated for a gunshot wound in his ankle. Santa Anna asked for the opium from his tent and it was given to him.

The Texas soldiers would have liked nothing better than to have stood Santa Anna before a firing squad, but Houston shielded him, knowing he was more valuable alive.

In the battle of San Jacinto, Houston defeated one part of the Mexican army, leaving powerful contingents in the field, under more capable generals than His Excellency. The lopsided victory would not have ended the war except for Santa Anna's capture. Houston and Santa Anna conferred. Santa Anna agreed to order a withdrawal of Mexican forces to below the Rio Grande. That agreement and retreat did end the war.

At San Jacinto, the bodies of the Mexican soldiers lay unburied on the field of battle, becoming at one with the landscape, for all flesh is like the grass and the past buries itself. As Santa Anna said after the fall of the Alamo, it was a small affair — but one that changed the course of history.

(This is the last of eight columns on the battles of the Texas Revolution.)


The Battle of San Jacinto

Houston’s army marched to an area near present day Houston, called Lynch’s Ferry on April 20, 1836. This area was along Buffalo Bayou, a scenic location populated by thick oak tree groves separated by marshes and streams.

The Texian army of 900 men made camp along the Buffalo Bayou. This heavily wooded area allowed the Texans to hide their true number of soldiers. However, this area did not allow access to any retreat. The Texans had no intention of retreating.

Santa Anna’s army, composed of 700 men soon arrived and made camp on a plain along the nearby San Jacinto River. The two armies were now close to each other, only about 500 yards apart.

The Mexican Army received reinforcements of 540 men the morning of April 21st, raising their total strength to approximately 1,200 men. However, the reinforcements, marching for miles with no food were exhausted and barely able to stay awake. The original army was also tired after marching and building wood walls and breastworks to defend their new camp.

Experiencing no attack from the Texians for hours, Santa Anna allowed many of his men to sleep, eat and even bathe. This would prove to be a fatal mistake for the Mexican forces.

At 4:40 pm on the 21st, the Texans began the Battle of San Jacinto by firing their cannons into the Mexican camp. Texians rushed toward the Mexican camp, jumping over the breastworks and wood fortifications and savagely fighting the surprised and unprepared Mexicans in hand to hand combat.

Santa Anna and his generals shouted different and conflicting orders to their army in a vain effort to stop the Texan onslaught. Hundreds of Texans attacked from all sides, shooting, knifing and even clubbing the Mexicans. Frightened Mexican soldiers began deserting their defenses and fled. Texians fought with fury, shouting “remember the Alamo!” and “remember Goliad!”.

The battle was basically over in less than 30 minutes but the slaughter and killing lasted for hours. Texans continued shooting and killing any Mexicans they encountered and chased after the retreating Mexicans as they tried to escape.

The Texan victory was total and astonishing. Over 630 Mexicans were killed and around 300 captured, including Santa Anna himself. Texan losses were 11 dead and about 30 wounded, including Sam Houston who suffered a terrible and painful ankle wound.

After the battle, Santa Anna agreed to treaties that allowed for Santa Anna to return to Vera Cruz, Mexico, all Mexican troops would retreat to Mexico, south of the Rio Grande river, all prisoners of the two opposing armies were to be released and all Texan property would be restored.

There was still pressure within the Mexican government to invade Texas and General Jose de Urrea was prepared to launch his 6,000-man army into Texas from a base in Matamoros.

However, federalist rebellions scattered throughout Mexico forced Urrea to send his army to subdue these uprisings. The war was effectively over but it took until June of 1843 for Mexican and Texan leaders to sign an armistice.

Sam Houston was named the first President of Texas and the United States officially recognized the new Republic of Texas.

The Battle of San Jacinto was the key event in the Texas Revolution. Overwhelming victory by the Texians over the larger Mexican Army lead by the preeminent Mexican leader became the turning point in the war.


Watch the video: The Alamo 1960 - Santa Anna arrives at the Alamo (August 2022).

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