San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site

Location: La Porte, Texas

Webpage: Texas State Park

General Description: On March 6, 1836, General Santa Anna launched the final assault on The Alamo killing all the Texan defenders.  During the battle, Sam Houston was with the other delegates at Washington, Texas where they declare independence on March 2 and draft the constitution which was adopted on March 16.  While many of the delegates urged Houston to move his volunteers to reinforce those at the Alamo, he believed the constitution was more important.  After the fall of the Alamo, he did advance to Gonzales on March 13 where he received word that the Mexicans were on the march.  A hastily convened council of war voted to evacuate Gonzales and thus began “The Runaway Scrape.”  By March 28, the Texans had retreated 120 miles to the east.  While the defeat at the Alamo had swelled his ranks of volunteers to 1400, Houston refused to engage Santa Anna believing his troops were only good for one major battle.  Volunteers began to desert and those that remained branded Houston a coward.   On March 27, the Mexicans captured Goliad and even though James Fannin had surrendered as prisoners of war, he and his 400 troops were executed.  This further enraged the Texans and anger at Houston’s refusal to fight continued grow.  Believing the Revolution was in the final stage, Santa Anna broke his army into three parts to mop up the resistance and capture the leaders, who barely escaped New Washington taking boats to Galveston Island.  To block any retreat of Houston from joining the Texan government on Galveston, Santa Anna took a small force of about 700 soldiers towards Lynchburg.  Houston finally had what he had been waiting for as now his 800 soldiers were at about equal strength, so they quick marched eastward, arriving first at Lynch’s Landing along the Buffalo Bayou.  The area had many thick oak groves separated by marshes and when Santa Anna arrived a few hours later and battlelines were established on April 16, 1836.  The Texans made camp in a wooded area that hid their true strength, but also left them nowhere to retreat.  In his arrogance, Santa Anna choose to make camp in an open area below a slight ridge with woods on one side and marsh and lake on the other.  The two camps were about 500 yards apart separated by a grassy area and slight ridge.  There were a few brief skirmishes, but no major engagement that day.  Overnight the Mexicans constructed defensive breastworks out of anything they could find.  In the morning of April 17, Santa Anna was reinforced with an additional 540 soldiers so they now outnumbered the Texans.  Feeling secure in his situation, Santa Anna did not even post any sentries and allowed the troops to rest for the day.  During this time, Houston ordered Vince’s Bridge destroyed cutting off any retreat for the Mexicans.  In the afternoon, the Texan cavalry was ordered to the far left of the Mexican camp and the artillery advanced to within 200 yards of the Mexican breastworks without being spotted in the tall grass.  The infantry also advanced quietly through the grass to within a few yards of the breastworks.  At 4:30 the twin cannons opened fire signaling the start of the battle.  The Mexicans were caught completely by surprise and within 18 minutes the rout had began.  Many of the Mexican soldiers retreated through the marshes to Peggy Lake, but the Texans were having none of it.  After the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad, they were determined to take no prisoners and slaughtered the Mexicans.  By sunset the Mexicans had lost 650 and 300 were captured.  While Houston had defeated this contingent of the Mexican army, there were still over 4000 Mexican soldiers moving through Texas.  His greatest victory was in the capture of Santa Anna himself. Over the next several weeks, Santa Anna continued to negotiate with Houston thus effectively ending the Texan Revolution at establishing the new Texas Republic.  Today the battlefield is commemorated with a 567 foot tall monument built from 1936-1939 as part of the hundred year celebrations.  Being 13 feet taller than the Washington Monument it is the tallest stone monument in the world.  The column is an octagonal shaft topped with 34 foot Lone Star.  Within the monument is a museum to the Texas Revolution.  The battlefield can also be visited with numbered stops along a short driving tour.

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Impressions:

1) The San Jacinto Monument dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles around.  While itself an impressive structure, the museum within the monument is worth seeing as well.  In addition to the many exhibits about the history of Texas, there is also a very good film about the history of the Republic and San Jacinto Battle.  Be sure to take the ride to the top of the monument where an enclosed viewing platform gives impressive views of the surrounding marshes, the port of Houston, and the huge Shell and other refineries.

2) The short driving tour covers all the main locations of the battle, including the Texan and Mexican camps, location of the breastworks, and the marshes where the Mexicans attempt to escape.

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