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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happy San Jacinto Day

I doubt that you've ever heard of it...but this is the day that commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto 187 years ago, which meant that Texas was free of Mexican rule.

San Jacinto Monument, with bridge in background between La Port and Baytown, TX

The Battle of San Jacinto, TX followed the Alamo battle (loss of Americans to Mexicans) and the Goliad massacre (again, loss of 350 American prisoners being murdered by the Mexican army.)  Actually a few prisoners escaped and ran to Sam Houston to tell him what had happened, and this led to rescuing many families in the path of the Mexican army, on it's way to fight Sam Houston and his forces who continued to retreat.

A mention must be made of how the independent-minded and hard-working settler Texans had difficulty with many issues, whether to sue for peace, to fight on one front, or where, who to follow, and how. Americans were originally invited by Mexicans to settle the territory. Mexicans had a political mish-mash of many different Presidents, with as many ideas about how to treat Texans. Thus early Texas leadership was difficult at best, and the decisions were often made by the individual Texas men, (not a political leader or a military leader) as to who they would follow into battle.

Sam Houston was not very popular with many of the people who were trying to form an independent Texas, until he finally led his 900 men into this 18 minute battle which turned the tide.  He became a hero, though he had suffered an injury to his ankle, and lost 2 of the horses he was riding in the battle.

At San Jacinto, Mexican President and General, Santa Anna led a force of 1400 men. When Santa Anna was captured at San Jacinto, he was wearing a beggars clothes rather than his highly decorative uniform.  But one of the surviving Mexicans gave Santa Anna away, and he did surrender.  There were many Texans who had spent the hour after the battle was won, chasing the wounded Mexicans and making sure they had the same fate as the Mexicans had recently given to so many of their Texans' neighbors.

By the end of 1836, Texas was an independent republic, not yet a state belonging to the US.
On May 14, 1836, Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco, in which he agreed to withdraw his troops from Texan soil and, in exchange for safe conduct back to Mexico, lobby there for recognition of the new republic. There were two treaties, a private treaty and a public treaty. In the private treaty, Santa Anna pledged to try to persuade Mexico to acknowledge Texas' independence, in return for an escort back to Mexico. However, the safe passage never materialized; Santa Anna was held for six months as a prisoner of war (during which time his government disowned him and any agreement he might enter into—which he knew full well would happen) and finally taken to Washington, DC. There he met with President Andrew Jackson, before finally returning in disgrace to Mexico in early 1837. The independent Republic of Texas received diplomatic recognition from the United States, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Yucatán. Even after the Republic had joined the United States in 1845, Mexico still maintained claims on Texas until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War in 1848.
But I digress (or rather Wikipedia did).

As a young Texan, (age 4-7) I would go with my family from Houston to the Inn at San Jacinto for a Sunday dinner, about an hour's ride away.  The food was excellent, and it was in a huge dining room with wood floors, and we could all sit around a long dinner table (my grandparents, uncles, and cousins.)  I had no clue what the monument was about.  And I left Texas before learning state history.

I have read a lot, watched the movies, and just this week decided to review my Texas heritage.  Last night (April 20) I read about this battle, which has its anniversary today.  I thought that was enough of a push for me to share it with someone. (Incidentally, my family always said the hard "J" sound of an English speaking person, when saying San Jacinto, rather than the soft "H" sound of the Spanish "J")

On my last visit to the San Jacinto Inn and Restaurant,  my family was waiting to go upstairs for a lunch.  This visit was in the summer of 1978.

The terrain is still flood prone, with the bayous and the Houston shipping canal nearby.  (See the bridge behind the monument above)  And as you notice, the battle took place in the springtime flooding season.  This was an advantage to the Texans.

I seldom like to think of war and battles.  But as I've been looking at my genealogy, I see how many men were pulled in as volunteer soldiers, and many lost their lives fighting for what they believed in.  So today I celebrate the anniversary of this battle which led to the freedom of Texas.  That was a good thing.

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