Battle of San Jacinto

From Academic Kids

Template:Battlebox The Battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution, took place on April 21, 1836. On that day, Texas forces led by General Sam Houston ambushed General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican forces in the area. Hundreds of Mexican soldiers died, while very few Texan soldiers died. Santa Anna himself was captured after the battle.

During the early years of Mexican independence, numerous Anglo colonists had settled in Texas, then a part of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. In 1835 they rebelled against the Mexican government of General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Besides capturing a number of outposts and defeating the Mexican army garrisons in the area, they formed a provisional government and drafted a Declaration of Independence. Early in 1836, Santa Anna personally led a force of several thousand Mexican troops into Texas to put down the rebellion. First, he entered San Antonio and defeated a Texan force at the Battle of the Alamo, then the right wing of his offensive, under General Urrea, defeated a second Texan force near Goliad. Santa Anna ordered that all prisoners be put to death.

Missing image
San Jacinto Memorial

Sam Houston, now in command of the main Texan army, retreated. Santa Anna pursued him and he devised a trap, in which three columns of Mexican troops would converge on Houston's force and destroy it. However, he diverted one column to attempt to capture the provisional government, and a second one to protect his supply lines. Meanwhile, he led the only remaining column against Houston. Santa Anna caught up to Houston on April 19. He established positions around the San Jacinto River, and Houston established his positions across a field from the Mexicans.

Santa Anna decided to rest his army on April 21, and then attack on the 22nd. Houston, however, pre-empted him. With his army of 910 men, he decided to attack Santa Anna, whose troops numbered about 1,200. Most of the attack would come over open ground, where the Texan infantry would be vulnerable to Mexican gunfire. Even riskier, Houston decided to outflank the Mexicans with his cavalry, stretching his troops even thinner. He did, however, have several things working to his advantage: first, the Mexican army had a swamp to its back and thus had nowhere to retreat; second, Houston decided to attack while the Mexican troops were taking a siesta.

On April 21, the Texan attack began. The Texan army charged across the plain, only stopping a few yards from the Mexicans to open fire. Confusion ensued. Many Mexican soldiers fled, thinking they were defeated, and ran into a marsh. Some of the Mexican army rallied and attempted to push the Texans back, mostly using hand-to-hand combat. During the battle, Sam Houston was wounded and Santa Anna escaped. In less than twenty minutes, the Texian army had won, taking 730 Mexican prisoners.

The inscription of the memorial
The inscription of the memorial

The following day, Santa Anna was captured. On 14 May he 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 Republic. 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) and finally taken to Washington, D.C.. There he met with President Jackson, before returning in disgrace to Mexico in early 1837. By then, however, Texan independence was a fait accompli, although Mexico did not officially recognize it until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

Today, the San Jacinto Battleground State Park of Texas commemorates the battle. The monument is in Deer Park, about 25 miles east of Houston.

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