The Battle of San Jacinto, which takes its name from San Jacinto River, took place on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas. Part of the Texas Revolution of 1835–36, it was fought between a Mexican army led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna and the Texian force of Sam Houston. In one of the most one sided battles in history, the Texian soldiers crushed Santa Anna’s men in 18 minutes ensuring the success of the revolution. Know about the cause, events, outcome and significance of the Battle of San Jacinto through these 10 interesting facts.
#1 Battle of San Jacinto was part of the Texas Revolution
Following the Mexican War of Independence (1810 – 1821) against Spain, Texas became a part of Mexico. Due to influx of immigrants from the United States, soon the Americans outnumbered the resident Mexicans in the region. In the 1830s, under President Santa Anna, the Mexican government shifted away from federalism and towards centralism. The 1824 Constitution of Mexico was repealed and a provisional centralist system was established. This angered the federalists in Texas leading to unrest in the region which the Mexican authorities blamed on the U.S. immigrants. In October 1835, Texians attacked the Mexican troops thus initiating the Texas Revolution.
#2 It was preceded by Texian defeat at the Battle of the Alamo and the Goliad massacre
On March 6, 1836, a Mexican army led by Santa Anna recaptured the Alamo, located in present day city of San Antonio in Texas. The Alamo had been previously captured by the Texians and Santa Anna had vowed revenge and ordered his troops to take no prisoners. All 182 to 257 Texians involved in the Battle of the Alamo were killed but they did provide brave resistance before falling. Also, on March 27, the Goliad massacre took place in which around 350 Texian captives, who had surrendered at Battle of Coleto, were killed by the Mexican Army under orders from Santa Anna.
#3 Texian forces at the Battle of San Jacinto were led by Sam Houston
On March 2, 1836, the interim government of Texas, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. During this convention, Samuel “Sam” Houston was selected Commander-in-Chief of the Texian forces and it was he who would lead them at the Battle of San Jacinto. Sam Houston was an American military leader and politician who had served in the War of 1812 against Great Britain and also as the Governor of Tennessee. The cruelty of Santa Anna and heroic resistance of the Texian forces at the Battle of the Alamo inspired many Texians to join the army and by March 19 volunteer ranks swelled to around 1,400 men.
#4 Sam Houston’s unit was the last hope for the Texas Revolution
The survivors of the Alamo brought news that the Mexican army was marching towards Texian settlements. This led to the Runaway Scrape in which the army, interim government of Texas and much of the civilian population fled eastward to avoid the Mexican troops. As Sam Houston and his army retreated along with the civilians, he learned about the defeat of the Texian forces led by James Fannin at the Battle of Coleto. He thus knew that his army was the last hope for the success of the Texas Revolution and the independence of Texas.
#5 Santa Anna pursued the retreating Texian army to end the revolution
Sam Houston was aware that his ill trained force was capable for only one good battle and thus he continued to avoid engagement as his army retreated. Many in his ranks wanted to get involved in combat and thought he was a coward. Meanwhile, Santa Anna left only a small force to hold the Alamo and marched to capture the interim Texas government but his effort came a few hours after the Texian officials had escaped. With the Texas government forced off the mainland, Santa Anna believed it was an ideal opportunity to put a decisive end to the revolution and became determined to block the Texian army’s retreat.
#6 The battle takes its name from the San Jacinto River
On April 18, a Mexican courier, who was carrying intelligence on the locations and future plans of all the Mexican troops, was captured by the Texians. Sam Houston thus came to know that Santa Anna was not far away and was commanding only a small force. He gave a rousing speech to his men, urging them to “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad”. His unit then raced towards Santa Anna’s force and on April 20, the two camps were around 500 yards (460 m) apart. The site was along the San Jacinto River, near present-day Houston, Texas. The terrain, which had many thick oak groves separated by marshes, was more suited to the Texians than the alien Mexicans.
#7 The Mexican force outnumbered the Texian by more than 400 men
On the morning of 21st April, 540 Mexican reinforcements arrived taking the number of men under Santa Anna to more than 1,300. The Mexican force now outnumbered the Texian unit, whose strength was around 900. Not long after the Mexican reinforcements arrived, Sam Houston ordered his men to destroy Vince’s Bridge, which was located 5 miles (8.0 km) away. The measure was taken to slow down any further reinforcements from joining the Mexican ranks.
#8 The Battle of San Jacinto lasted for just 18 minutes
Around 4 p.m. on April 21, the Texian force began to creep quietly through the tall grass towards the Mexican unit. The first Texian cannon were fired at 4:30 initiating the Battle of San Jacinto. In a surprise attack, the Texian soldiers broke ranks and swarmed over the Mexicans shouting “Remember the Alamo!“ The battle lasted for just 18 minutes after which the Mexican soldiers abandoned their campsite and fled for their lives. In what has been called “one of the most one-sided victories in history”, 650 Mexican soldiers were killed and 300 captured. In comparison only 11 Texians died while 30 others, including Houston, were wounded.
#9 The Battle of San Jacinto was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution
Santa Anna escaped towards Vince’s Bridge during the battle. However, as the bridge was destroyed, he hid in the marsh and was captured the following day. Although the Texian soldiers demanded his immediate execution, more was to be gained from negotiation. After weeks of negotiations, in the middle of May, Santa Anna signed a peace treaty, which in exchange for his freedom, dictated the Mexican army to leave Texas; and he also secretly promised to persuade the Mexican Congress to acknowledge the independence of Texas. Success in the Battle of San Jacinto thus ensured the success of the Texas Revolution.
#10 San Jacinto Day is an official holiday in Texas
Intermittent conflicts between Texas and Mexico continued in the 1840s till the Republic of Texas was incorporated into the United States as the 28th state on December 29, 1845. The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. It includes the 570 ft (170 m) San Jacinto Monument, which was built in 1939 and is the world’s tallest masonry column. April 21 is celebrated as San Jacinto Day and it is an official holiday in the State of Texas. An annual festival, which includes a re-enactment of the battle, is held at the site of the Battle of San Jacinto during the celebration.