San Jacinto Day, 2019

Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna, disguised as a Mexican Private, is captured and presented to a wounded Sam Houston following The Battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1836.
An artist’s rendition of The Battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1836.

By Tara Ross

On this day in 1836, Texans win the Battle of San Jacinto. The battle was won in only 18 minutes! The decisive victory would ultimately ensure independence for the Republic of Texas.

It also avenged the blood that had been shed at the Alamo and at Goliad.

The Texans (then “Texians”) had accomplished their goal with a swiftness that would surely make George Washington’s Continental Army a bit jealous. Texas declared its independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. Within a matter of days, Sam Houston had been appointed “Commander in Chief of all the land forces of the Texian Army, both regulars, volunteers and militia,” and he joined the Texian forces then gathered near Gonzales.

It wasn’t long before he received word that the Alamo had fallen. Mexican forces were headed his way. Houston knew that the Texians weren’t ready for a clash with a large Mexican force—at least not yet. An immediate retreat was imperative if the cause for independence was to survive.

Some Texian families had already been fleeing from the Mexican Army. Now the Texian forces fled, too.

Perhaps retreat doesn’t come naturally to Texans!? Volunteers began flocking to join Houston. They’d heard about the Alamo, and they were ready to fight! By March 19, the size of the army had roughly tripled, and the army was starting to get antsy. Why were they retreating so far? When would they turn and fight?

Some Texians got so disgusted with the inaction that they left, but Houston was determined to pick his spot.

In the meantime, Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna had decided to personally join the pursuit of Houston. There was no way he was going to let some other Mexican general take credit for ending the Texian uprising!

Perhaps Santa Anna should have stayed behind. When the two sides finally met near San Jacinto in mid-April, Santa Anna made a few rookie mistakes. Houston chose to camp in a wooded area that hid his army’s full strength of about 900 men. By contrast, Santa Anna’s larger army made camp in a more vulnerable position. The choice was criticized by Colonel Pedro Delgado who noted that the spot chosen “was in all respects, against military rules. Any youngster would have done better.”

On the night of April 20, the Mexican Army built breastworks and fortified its position. In the meantime, Houston had already issued an appeal for a final round of volunteers. “We view ourselves on the eve of battle,” he’d written. “We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. . . . Be men, be freemen, that your children may bless their fathers’ names.”

How strange it must have been when the next morning dawned—and nothing happened! The Mexican Army received reinforcements, but still didn’t attack. The Texians destroyed a bridge to prevent more Mexican reinforcements from arriving, but Houston didn’t order an attack, either.

Santa Anna’s soldiers relaxed their vigilance, just for a bit. They even took a siesta!

At 3:30 p.m., the Texians made their move. Shielded by high grasses and a rise in the land, they covertly approached the Mexican position. When they were about 200 yards away, they fired the first cannon. Texians were soon swarming over the Mexican breastworks. Within about 18 minutes, Houston later reported, “we were in possession of the enemy’s encampment.” The battle was over, but Texians continued to pursue the fleeing Mexicans for hours afterwards.

Chants of “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” echoed among the victorious Texians. It was basically a slaughter. Hundreds of Mexicans were cut down.

Santa Anna would be captured the next day. A little over three weeks later, a treaty was signed, requiring all Mexican forces to leave the Republic of Texas. #DontMessWithTexas

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If you are enjoying the daily dose of history, please don’t miss the note in the comment string, below. Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2019 by Tara Ross. More on that below, too. 🙂

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Guest author, Tara Ross, is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.

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Oklahoma Tragedy Anniversary

Oklahoma Firefighter Chris Fields carries infant Baylee Almon who died in the blast. Pultizer Prize-winning photograph by Charles Porter.
The Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial and reflecting pool was dedicated five years later on April 19, 2000.

Today, April 19, 2019, is the 24th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK.

The bombing at 9:02 a.m. that morning killed 168 men, women, and children, and injured at least 680 others.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were both eventually caught and charged with the bombing. Michael and Lori Fortier were later identified as accomplices.

The bombers were tried and convicted in 1997. Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, and Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison in 2004. Michael and Lori Fortier testified against McVeigh and Nichols. Michael Fortier was sentenced to 12 years in prison for failing to warn the United States government, and Lori Fortier received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.

The bombing of the federal building was planned to coincide with the second anniversary of the burning of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993, and the 220th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which began the American Revolution.

Michael Fortier testified against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for immunity from prosecution for his wife, Lori. He was sentenced to twelve years and served ten and a half years before being released on January 20, 2006. He was given a new identity and transferred to the Witness Protection Program where he resides today.


Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination Anniversary

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

Today, April 15, 2019, marks the 154th anniversary of the death of the 16th President of the United States, President Abraham Lincoln.

President Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC, the previous evening, while he and Mrs. Lincoln and guests watched a performance of the comedy, Our American Cousin. His assassin was a Southern sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, who shot the President in the back of the head with a small Derringer pistol.

Following the fatal shot, Lincoln was carried across the street to a boarding house, where he died at 7:22 a.m. Saturday, April 15, 1865.

Booth died in a barn about two weeks later as he was surrounded by Union troops.

Rest In Peace, President Abraham Lincoln.


Exploits of Our Fledgling Navy

The commissioning of Commodore Esek Hopkins’ ship, the USS ALFRED

by Tara Ross

On this day in 1776, the Continental Navy captures the HMS Bolton. The Bolton was the second British ship to be captured in only two days.

The episode marked the first time that an American ship had been able to take an armed British ship. What a moment that must have been! If only the Americans could have maintained their momentum.

Instead, they suffered an embarrassing loss the very next day at the hands of the HMS Glasgow.

Commodore Esek Hopkins’s newly created fleet of Continental Navy ships was then returning from its maiden voyage to the Bahamas. The voyage had been a smashing success! The Americans had completed a daring raid on Nassau, and they’d taken a huge stash of ammunition for American forces.

At first, it seemed that the trip home might produce even more naval successes for the Americans. On April 4, Hopkins’s fleet spotted and captured a British ship near Long Island: the 6-gun Hawke. The next day, Americans captured the 12-gun Bolton.

Unfortunately, those victories would come at a cost.

Hopkins could not keep the British ships as prizes without also moving some of his sailors to the two captured ships. Of course, he didn’t really have enough men to begin with. So while the British captures increased the size of his fleet, now his ships were badly undermanned, too.

It wouldn’t be long before the American fleet would feel the effects of the move.

Just after midnight on April 6, a portion of Hopkins’s fleet crossed paths with the HMS Glasgow. Could Glasgow be a third prize ship? A signal was given and five of Hopkins’s ships were soon gathered, ready to attack.

The battle that followed lasted for more than two hours. The Glasgow was smaller than the American flagship, but her men were well-trained and efficient. By contrast, the Americans were not used to working together, and their ships were undermanned to begin with. “Two hours had passed,” historian Tim McGrath notes, “before three American ships were in a position to fight in unison.”

Only then did the Americans begin to get the better of Glasgow, prompting the British ship to withdraw. The Americans took off in pursuit, until Hopkins came to a startling realization: Glasgow was leading him straight toward a squadron of British vessels. There was no way that the battered American ships could withstand a second, larger battle. Hopkins turned his ships around.

All in all, the episode was a bit of an embarrassment for the new Continental Navy. How could Americans lose to a British ship when they’d outnumbered it so badly?!

Fortunately, the Navy’s story does not end there. Perhaps the sailors would have been encouraged if they could have seen what would eventually happen to their fledgling Continental Navy.

After all, that little navy was a predecessor for a far more powerful fighting force: the United States Navy!

P.S. The painting is of Hopkins’s ship, the Alfred, being commissioned in 1775.

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Editor’s Note:

The guest author of today’s article is one who frequently contributes here: Tara Ross. Ms. Ross is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! You can follow her for information on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.


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