Texans Observe San Jacinto Day
April 21st is San Jacinto Day in Texas, commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. On this date in 1836, General Sam Houston and the Texas Army defeated Santa Anna’s Mexican troops, winning independence for Texas in a battle that lasted only eighteen minutes.
The Battle of San Jacinto is the most important in Texas history and many historians now view the battle as one of the most decisive in world history. By comparison with other great battles, the number of soldiers involved was very few and the battle very short, but the course of history was changed forever at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, and San Jacinto Day was made a legal state holiday by the 14th Texas Legislature in 1874.
San Jacinto Day is also a day to honor all who fought for the independence of Texas. They were “Texians”, native citizens and immigrant citizens speaking Spanish, English, German, and more, all with a common purpose of self-preservation and liberty and it was the Battle of San Jacinto that assured their success.
Many factors led to the battle and though the Texas Revolution actually began with the Battle of Gonzales in October of 1835, incidents had occurred earlier. Settler unrest had grown, particularly after changes were made to Mexican immigration laws in 1830, and the subsequent brutal dictatorship of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. In 1836, the Revolution progressed rapidly, and four days after independence was declared on March 2, the Alamo fell.
Settlers were terrified and fearful of Santa Anna’s cruelty, and many fled eastward in a move known in Texas history as the “Runaway Scrape.” Meanwhile, Sam Houston was serving as a delegate in the 1836 convention of the provisional government at Washington-on-the-Brazos. When news came of the Alamo, he quickly hurried to Gonzales to take command of the Texas troops. General Houston knew his army was outnumbered and no match for Santa Anna’s well-trained troops and he needed time to recruit and train more soldiers. From March 13 until April 20, he marched the “Texians” eastward and away from Santa Anna’s advancing army, plodding at times though mud and heavy rain, stopping at a site near the juncture of the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou.
Though weakened and frustrated, the “Texians” were anxious to fight, and on April 20 they camped near Lynch’s Ferry on a wooded ridge, less than a mile from Santa Anna’s camp. The next day, Thursday, April 21, 1836, was a clear and sunny day for the Texas Army of only 750 men. That morning, Sam Houston sent Deaf Smith with a couple of soldiers to destroy the nearby Vince’s bridge, thereby removing the only available escape route for Santa Anna and his army of 1,500 soldiers. At mid-afternoon, Houston gave the order to advance and the “Texians” did not hesitate. To shouts of “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” they attacked, and in less than twenty minutes, the battle for Texas was won.
The victory at San Jacinto marked the final military engagement of the Texas Revolution. Texans were free and embarked on their path as a new nation, the Republic of Texas. For almost ten years, Texas remained an independent country until becoming the twenty-eighth state in the United States of America. On February 19, 1846, the formal transfer of authority was made in Austin from the Republic of Texas to the new State of Texas.
The significance of the battle led to not only the annexation of Texas, but also to the Mexican War, resulting in the U.S. acquisition of the additional states of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming. Approximately one million square miles of territory, or almost one third of the present day U.S. nation changed sovereignty because of the victory at San Jacinto.
Celebrations in honor of April 21, 1836 have been held every year since the battle. The Texas Historical Marker #10692 in Sam Houston Heritage Park in Houston records the events of the first anniversary of the battle, “That muddy April saw the city hold its first big social event, the anniversary celebration of the San Jacinto victory, with parade, reception, and ball.”
Today, events are held throughout the state to celebrate San Jacinto Day. Best known are those at the San Jacinto Battleground State Park, which features a re-enactment of the battle and a festival highlighting Texas history. The 1,200-acre park site is located about 25 miles east of Houston and consists of the Battleground site, the Battleship Texas and the San Jacinto Monument that was dedicated on San Jacinto Day in 1939, and is the tallest column memorial in the world. The monument is topped with a 34-foot Lone Star and stands 567 feet tall which is 12 feet taller than the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.. For more information about the Park and activities, visit the website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/san-jacinto-battleground or call 281-479-2421.
San Jacinto Day is one of twelve Texas Honor Days designated by The Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The D.R.T. is the oldest women’s patriotic organization in Texas and is dedicated to the preservation and education of Texas history. For more information on Texas Honor Days and the work of the D.R.T., please visit the website at www.drtinfo.org .
The Llano Pioneers Chapter of the Daughters if the Republic of Texas meets the 2rd Monday of each month at 10 a.m. in the Llano County Library in Llano and visitors are always welcome. Anyone who is qualified to join the DRT or has any questions may contact President/Registrar Arlene Garey 830-598-7700 or Vice President/Secretary Patty Pfister 325-247-5024.
Sources: Texas Honor Days, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, website: www.drtinfo.org, Texas State Historical Association, “Battle of San Jacinto,” www.thaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qes04; Battle of San Jacinto, Sons of Dewitt Colony Texas, http://www.tamu.edu/faculty/ccbn/dewitt/batsanjacinto.htm;San Jacinto Museum of History, http://www.sanjacinto-museum.org; J.M Morphis, History of Texas from its
Discovery and Settlement, New York: United States Publishing Company, 1875; Ross McSwain, San Angelo Standard Times, “Out Yonder: San Jacinto battle’s significance flies under radar of U.S. historians,” April 28, 2012; Texas Historical Commission, Texas Historic Sites Atlas, Marker #10692; Texas State Library and Archives, “The Battle of San Jacinto,” www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/republic/sn-jacinto.html .