Do they still celebrate San Jacinto day in south Texas? When I was a boy – well, schools didn’t close but everything else did.
On April 21, 1836, the little Army of the Republic of Texas marched across the plain of San Jacinto and surprised Santa Anna’s Mexican Army. It was a rout. All over in eighteen minutes. And it was on that day the famous phrase first echoed across the prairie: “Remember the Alamo.”
The Battle of San Jacinto has been named as one of the most significant ones in American history, perhaps in the history of the world. It assured the creation of a separate Texas, and it accelerated the westward expansion of the United States. It gave legitimacy to the short-lived Republic of Texas, and made possible its eventual annexation to the US.
Controversies about that battle continue to entertain us. The “Yellow Rose of Texas” myth, for one. A dead woman on the battlefield? The ridiculous figure who turned out to be Santa Anna himself, disguised as common soldier to avoid capture. Sam Houston shot off his horse (Saracen?) and continuing to fight, wounded in his ankle – but his left or right ankle? My historian mother, Eugenia Baird Crossley, had an armful of exciting stories about San Jacinto.
A persistent question – what did Sam Houston have in mind, as he led his army on a frantic retreat across east Texas? Mixed among civilians in the "Runaway Scrape." His officers kept counseling him, “Stand and Fight!” He refused to do so, and until the end of his life Houston never revealed what his plans might have been. Did he intend to escape across the Sabine River into US territory? Was he seeking a suitable battlefield? My mother told me that the Texas army kept growing as it moved through the little towns. Maybe so.
And why, finally, did Houston attack there, at San Jacinto? What did he see, what made him decide to roll the dice at that place?
So many stories of the battle, one of the crucial ones in the western hemisphere. I recommend Stephen L. Moore’s history, “Eighteen Minutes,” for a good read on San Jacinto day. For a shorter version, try the Handbook of Texas Online with plenty of detail.
And please, in Texas, it’s “Jay-cinto” with a hard “J.” No soft “Hay-cinto” for us!
Remember the Alamo!
April 21, 2014.
“No good story is quite true.” – Seneca.