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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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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The Battle for the Alamo Ends

Today’s post about the end of the Battle of the Alamo is authored by guest writer and Texas mother, author, and retired lawyer, Tara Ross from her daily historical posts:

By Tara Ross

On this day in 1836, the Battle of the Alamo is fought. Despite a valiant defense by the Texans (then called Texians), the Mexican Army is victorious.

Okay, so I already discussed the long siege and battle a few days ago. But can you ever really say too much about Texas?! Ha.  So, in that spirit, here are some random facts that you may not know about the Alamo.

When Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna arrived at the Alamo, he sent a courier with a demand that the Texians surrender. Do you want to take one wild guess as to how the Texians responded? They responded with a cannonball! The Texas spirit was born early, wasn’t it?

Three famous figures were killed at the Battle of the Alamo: William B. Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett. Travis was defending the north wall of the Alamo when he was killed, early in the battle, by a shot to the head. Bowie probably died in the Low Barrack. He was ill and confined to bed when the battle started. Crockett’s death is more of a mystery. He either died during battle or he was executed by Santa Anna afterwards.

The number of Texians who died defending the Alamo is also a bit of an unknown quantity: Depending on whose figures you believe, that number is as low as 150 or as high as 250. The youngest of these Texians was 16 and the oldest was 56.

Imagine that! No more than 250 Texians, defiantly refusing to give up the Alamo to the much larger Mexican force (as many as 1,800 soldiers) sitting just outside the Alamo’s walls. BRAVE. DETERMINED. And they inflicted heavy casualties on the Mexican force, although historians dispute the actual number of killed and injured among Santa Anna’s men.

Maybe one of the bravest acts at the Alamo? During the course of the siege, 32 men snuck past the Mexican lines and joined their fellow Texians inside the Alamo. They had to know that they were volunteering to go to their death. Yet they joined the Battle anyway.

Those men truly meant the words written by Travis during that 2-week siege: VICTORY OR DEATH!

P.S. The painting is of the death of Jim Bowie. It’s depicted as the artist imagines it, of course, since no one knows for sure how he died that day.

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The ‘Father of Texas’ is born, 225 years ago today

 

Stephen F. Austin

The ‘Father of Texas,’ Stephen F. Austin

By Tara Ross

On this day in 1793, Stephen F. Austin is born. He would come to be known as the “Father of Texas.”

Perhaps there is a twist of irony in that title? When Austin first heard of an opportunity to set up a settlement in Texas, he wasn’t so crazy about the idea.

To the contrary, it was Stephen’s father who originally wanted to go to Texas. Moses Austin’s personal finances had suffered following the Panic of 1819, and he was looking for new opportunities. He decided to seek land grants in Texas. Unfortunately, Moses passed away in the middle of the process. Thus, it was left to Stephen to take over where his father had left off.

It wasn’t easy! Ownership of Texas had changed. Although Moses had worked out a deal with Spain, the Mexican government did not want to honor it at first. Stephen traveled to Mexico City and lobbied in person, and he was eventually given permission to move forward. He was an “empresario,” with civil and military authority over the first Anglo-American settlements in Texas. More empresarios would follow, but Austin was the most successful of them, bringing as many as 1,500 families to the area. He was well-respected, and other empresarios sought his advice. As such, he found himself constantly mediating between Texan settlers and the Mexican government. You can imagine this got tricky! For instance, when Mexico banned further Anglo-American immigration into Texas in 1830, settlers were unhappy. Many had long thought that Texas would be purchased by the United States, but such a move now seemed less likely. They wanted the ban lifted. In fact, they generally felt that they should have a bigger say in their own governance. They wanted Texas to be its own state.

By 1833, matters were getting serious. Settlers wrote a list of grievances and a proposed Constitution for a new state of Texas; they elected Austin to take these items to Mexico City. Austin was worried that the move was too aggressive, but he went anyway. He ended up getting arrested for suspicion of trying to incite an insurrection. (Oops!) He wasn’t freed until July 1835.


‘War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country and our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.’


Austin was slow to get on board with the cause of Texas independence (he preferred conciliation with Mexico), but once he was on board, he did not turn back. As chairman of a Committee of Safety, he wrote: “War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country & our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.”

Austin commanded Texan forces during the Siege of Bexar, but he spent much of the (relatively short) 6-month Texas Revolution in the United States, seeking support for the “Texian” cause. When Austin returned home, he discovered that his influence had been eclipsed by that of Sam Houston, the victor at the Battle of San Jacinto. Both men were candidates in the first presidential election. Houston won. Austin came in a distant third.

Austin died only 8 months after Texas had won her independence, possibly weakened by a disease that he’d contracted during his imprisonment in Mexico. Upon hearing of Austin’s death, President Sam Houston declared: “The father of Texas is no more. The first pioneer of the wilderness has departed.”

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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! 

 

Remember Goliad!

Goliad Execution

Today is another dark day in the history of Texas. The Alamo had fallen just two weeks before and now Goliad fell on Palm Sunday, 1836, and all Texans within were executed.  But as Tara Ross says below, San Jacinto was just around the corner. Read now, Tara’s stirring account of the Battle of Goliad, and REMEMBER GOLIAD!

By Tara Ross

© 2013-2018 by Tara Ross

On this day in 1836, the Goliad Massacre takes place. Most of you have heard “Remember the Alamo!” Did you know that “Remember Goliad!” was another battle cry used by Texans?

The events at Goliad occurred just two short weeks after Texans were defeated at the Alamo.

Colonel James Fannin was then at Goliad, building reinforcements around the presidio there. When the Alamo fell, Fannin received orders from Sam Houston to withdraw. But Fannin was in a bit of a bind. Against orders, he had sent some of his soldiers to help with other expeditions. He awaited their return, and he seemed oblivious to the danger that was so quickly approaching him: Mexican General Jose de Urrea was marching toward his position with 1,000 men.

Fannin did eventually attempt a retreat, but he procrastinated too long—with fatal results.

As Fannin’s men attempted a go, they were met by Urrea and his men. A two-day battle ensued. The Texans took losses, but held their own on the first day. And to their credit, they did not attempt to escape in the middle of the night, when they could have, because they did not want to leave their wounded behind. But the next day, Mexican reinforcements arrived and the Texans were overwhelmed. Fannin surrendered on March 20, on the condition that his men be treated as prisoners of war.

Now Urrea was the one with a problem. He was not authorized to agree to such terms. The Mexican Congress had passed a law requiring that captured Texans be treated like pirates—i.e. they were to be shot. Fannin and his men were marched back to Goliad. Accounts vary, but apparently many of them thought that they would be treated honorably like prisoners of war.

Urrea wrote Mexican General Santa Anna, asking for clemency, but he apparently failed to mention that he’d agreed to Fannin’s terms. Santa Anna wrote back with an order that the Texans be executed. Not trusting Urrea to comply, he then ordered Col. José Nicolás de la Portilla to perform the execution.

Finally, on Palm Sunday, March 27, those Texans who could walk were marched out of Goliad. They were told various stories about where they were going. Less than a mile out, the guards stopped the captives and began firing at close range. Those who were too wounded to march were executed, separately, behind the presidio. Roughly 340 men were massacred that day. A little less than 30 men escaped. A few, such as doctors, were spared because of the services that they could provide.

Fannin was among the last to be shot. He had just a few requests: He did not want to be shot in the face, he wanted his personal belongings to be sent to his family, and he wanted a Christian burial. He was denied every one of these requests.

The Alamo and Goliad were dark days for the Texan effort. But the Battle of San Jacinto was just around the corner! Texans were mere weeks away from earning their independence.

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