General Santa Ana felt certain that Sam Houston was taking his little army of rebellious “Texicans” across the Sabine River and into Louisiana, United States territory where the Mexican army couldn’t reach them. The Mexican general wanted to capture Houston’s troops and punish them, as he’d punished the rebels at the Alamo a month previously. The Brazos River stood in Santa Ana’s way.
That stream was swollen from springtime rains. Houston’s army had been ferried to eastern bank at the Fort Bend Crossing. The ferry boat now stood moored on the far bank of the Brazos river. What was Santa Ana to do?
He sent his Colonel Juan Nepomuceno Almonte to stand on the riverbank and call across to the ferryman. Almonte’s early education was in New Orleans; he spoke perfect English and easily convinced the ferryman that he was a member of Houston’s army, left behind. When the ferry returned across the Brazos, Santa Ana captured it.
Almonte was destined for a distinguished career as a Mexican diplomat. He’d made an inspection tour of Texas two years previously, and warned the of the brewing rebellion. He had indeed led troops at the battle of the Alamo, and made only terse entries in his diary.
Sam Houston’s Texans defeated the Mexican army at the battle of San Jacinto a few days after Santa Ana crossed the Brazos. After Santa Ana fled the battlefield in disguise, Almonte organized whatever resistance he could manage and made the formal surrender to the wounded Sam Houston. He accompanied Santa Ana into captivity and served as his translator.
Juan Almonte, the son of a Catholic Priest and an Indian woman, rose to high office in Mexico. A life-long conservative, he fought against liberal factions and warned that Mexico might be taken over by the United States if left unchecked. Perhaps he got it backwards?
The town of Almonte, Ontario is named after Juan Almonte but for reasons I don’t understand. Almonte is the only town in Ontario named after a Mexican General. Or so I’ve read.
April 18, 2016.
“Soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Texas! I leave you one thought to take with you across the plain of San Jacinto and into the camp of Santa Ana. Remember the Alamo!” – General Sam Houston (according to my mother, Eugenia Baird Crossley).