Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Battle of San Jacinto

From A Brief History of Texas

On the morning of the 19th of April, the Texan army crossed over and marched down the right bank of the Buffalo Bayou to within half a mile of its junction with the San Jacinto River. Here they formed in line of battle on the edge of a grove of trees, their rear protected by the timber, while before them was the open prairie.

A few days before this, the army of the young Republic had received two pieces of artillery as a gift from some of the citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio. These were named the " Twin Sisters," and were placed in position. On the morning of the 20th of April, and soon after General Houston had dispersed his forces, Santa Anna came marching up in battle array. A volley from the "Twin Sisters" brought him to a sudden halt, and falling back to a clump of trees a quarter of a mile distant, he formed in line of battle. In return for the feint of the evening, Colonel Sherman, at the head of his mounted men, made a gallant charge upon the Mexican army, which, although it did not accomplish any decisive result, seemed to inspire our men with fresh enthusiasm.

The 21st of April dawned bright and beautiful. It was felt by those who were to participate in its stirring scenes, to be the day upon which the conflict for Texas was to be decided.

On this side was arrayed the whole available army of Texas, embracing 750* men. On that, were the best troops of Mexico, to the number of 1,800, and commanded by an able and wily general. The men of Texas were aware that every thing for them depended upon the issue of the fight, and every heart was beating quick and every nerve well strung.

The men of Mexico were flushed with pride at recent successes, and felt secure of the result.

Early in the morning General Houston sent Deaf Smith, the celebrated Texas spy, with two or three men, to destroy Vince's bridge across the bayou over which the Mexican army had passed, thus cutting off their only available avenue of escape. The daring exploit was executed almost in the presence of the foe. It was now decided to be the moment to attack Santa Anna in his intrenchments. With the stillness of death the patriot army moved, in three divisions, to the charge. No music heralded the advance. No sound but the quiet tread of determined men broke the stillness of that spring morning. When within two hundred yards they received the volley of the enemy's advanced column without quailing, and then increased their pace to a " double quick."

The Battle of San JacintoThis IMAGE (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.This applies to the United States, where Works published prior to 1978 were copyright protected for a maximum of 75 years. See Circular 1 "COPYRIGHT BASICS" PDF from the U.S. Copyright Office. Works published before 1923 (in this case 1903) are now in the public domain.

This file is also in the public domain in countries that figure copyright from the date of death of the artist (post mortem auctoris), in this case Henry Arthur McArdle (1836-1908), and that most commonly runs for a period of 50 to 70 years from December 31st of that year.

When within seventy yards the word "fire" was given, and six hundred Texas rifles belched forth their deadly contents. Then the shout, "Alamo" and "Goliad," rang along the entire line, and they rushed forward to a hand to hand encounter. But Mexican valor had already given way before the impetuosity of that charge, and in a few minutes more the boastful legions of the " Napoleon of the West" were in full retreat. The rout soon became general. Finding the bridge destroyed, the Mexicans plunged into the bayou, where many were drowned or slain by their pursuers. Seven hundred dead Mexicans upon that day atoned for the butchery at the Alamo and Goliad; and seven hundred and thirty prisoners were in the hands of the victorious army.

Santa Anna in vain tried to escape. He was discovered, on the morning of the 22d, hiding in the long grass with a blanket thrown over his head, and was taken to the quarters of General Houston.

At the time Santa Anna was brought before him, Houston, who had been severely wounded in the battle, was lying on a mattrass under a tree which constituted his headquarters. The President of Mexico, bowing low before him, said, "I am General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, a prisoner of war at your disposal." General Houston requested him to sit down, which he did, at the same time asking for opium. A piece of this drug was brought him, which he eagerly swallowed. He then at once proposed to purchase his freedom, but was answered, "that was a matter to be negotiated with the government of Texas." He however persisted saying to Houston, "You can afford to be generous, you have conquered the Napoleon of the West."

General Houston asked him "how he could expect mercy after showing none at the Alamo?"

He replied, that "by the rules of war, when a fort refused to surrender, and was taken by assault, the prisoners were doomed to death." General Houston answered him that " such a rule was a disgrace to the civilization of the nineteenth century." He was then asked "by what rule he justified the massacre of Goliad?" He replied that "he had orders from his government to execute all that were taken with arms in their hands."

General Houston told him that "he was the government—a Dictator had no superior, and that he must at once write an. order for all his troops to abandon Texas and return home." This he did, and the dispatch was sent by a trusty messenger to his subordinates.

How to dispose of Santa Anna was a troublesome question. Among the soldiers the feeling existed that his life only could atone for the cruelties perpetrated by his order. But prudence as well as humanity dictated another course, and his life was spared. The following agreement was entered into between him and the President of Texas:

First. That he would never again take up arms against Texas.

Second. That he should order all Mexican troops in Texas to return home.

Third. That he should cause to be restored all captured property.

In consideration of the fulfillment of these conditions he was to be set free. When the time came for his release, the storm of popular indignation was so great, that President Burnet thought best to order his longer detention as a prisoner of war.

Santa Anna was liberated by President Houston, in January, 1837, and sent to Washington, D. C., whence he returned to Mexico.

TEXT CREDIT: A Texas scrap-book: made up of the history, biography, and miscellany of Texas and its people

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