This week, we discussed the Battle of San Jacinto, one of the most decisive military confrontations in Texas history and certainly the shortest, at just 18 minutes!
San Jacinto, located in modern-day La Porte, was the site of the final battle of the Texas Revolution. Texan forces were, as always, vastly outnumbered, by the Mexican forces; however, this did not mean that they underperformed. Led by General Sam Houston, 900 men fighting as the Texan army made camp behind a thick oak grove along the bank of Buffalo Bayou. This location hid them from the Mexican army’s view but left no room for retreat, though Houston was not worried. See, despite his officers’ vehement protests, General Santa Anna of the Mexican army positioned himself on a plain bordered by woods and marshes near the San Jacinto River; this vulnerable location cost them the battle.
The Battle of San Jacinto consisted of two confrontations. Using the Twin Sisters, cannons gifted to the Texans by the people of Cincinnati, Ohio (and the only cannons owned by the Texan army), Texan forces won the first skirmish, though they disobeyed Houston’s orders by rushing onto the field. Mexican troops toiled throughout the night, as they had seen how powerful the Texan army was; only in the early afternoon of the next day did Santa Anna allow time for a siesta. This was a prime opportunity for the Texans: the cavalry was dispatched to the far left of Mexican forces and the artillery straight forward.
Taken by surprise, the groggy Mexican forces jumped up to fight, and hand-to-hand combat ensued, as the Texan forces advanced further and further, until they took possession of the fortifications made by the Mexicans. All of this transpired within 18 minutes; Mexican forces fled for their lives, and among them was Santa Anna, who, contrary to popular belief, was not fleeing out of cowardice, but to recover his men.
Santa Anna had donned the uniform of a private and escaped towards the now-destroyed Vince’s Bridge (another preemptive measure taken by Sam Houston to prevent escape). Upon realizing that he had nowhere to go, he hid in the thickets; the next day, he was captured after Mexican prisoners shouted “El Presidente!” in recognition of their commander.
Santa Anna was rescued from calls for his execution by Houston, who was badly wounded, and ordered his troops to retreat.