In 1820, Texas belonged to Mexico. It was sparsely populated by only a few thousand Mexicans, mostly near the southern border and a few hundred Americans who had illegally moved onto Texas lands. Moises Austin traveled to Mexico City and persuaded the Mexican government to allow him to legally settle several hundred American families on Texas land, further north and east of the border.
After being granted permission to bring 300 American families to Texas, Moises Austin died on his return trip to Texas. His son, Stephen Austin told the Mexican authorities that he would carry on his father’s mission.
By 1824, Stephen Austin had brought over 279 families to Texas and convinced the Mexican government to expand the program and provide thousands more acres. The Mexican authorities agreed with two conditions. All of the people moving to Mexico had to convert to Roman Catholicism and become Mexican citizens.
By 1830, Americans in Texas numbered 16,000. Concerns arose within the Mexican government that the ever increasing number of Americans moving to Texas would eventually lead to a revolution, backed by the US government. They stopped the migration of any more Americans into Texas, restricted trade with the US and began building forts to protect their interests.
In 1832, Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana became president of Texas. His presidency proved to be even less favorable towards the American settlers in Mexico.
In 1834, Stephen Austin traveled to Mexico City to meet with Santa Ana to discuss the grievances made by the American settlers. Santa Ana responded to the grievances by imprisoning Austin for a year.
In November 1835, American Texans formed their own government complete with a constitution, but held off in declaring their independence. Knowing war with Mexico was unavoidable, the new Texas government appointed Sam Houston to be the commander of their military, hoping to attract many to come to the call. By then, Texas independence had been declared and a revolution had begun.
While Houston was busy trying to recruit and train a military force, a force of less than 200 men, led by Colonel William Travis, had held up at the Spanish mission known as the Alamo. Santa Ana, leading a force of several thousand well trained Mexican troops arrived at the Alamo on February 23, 1836.
The 13-day battle at the Alamo is one of the most famous battles in American history. On March 6, 1836, Santa Ana’s forces stormed the Alamo for the last time. They breached the walls and killed nearly everyone inside left alive.
On April 13, 1836, hearing about the defeat and slaughter at the Alamo, most of the residents of Gonzales, including part of the Texas army fled their homes after setting the town ablaze.
In the meantime, Santa Ana divided his army into three forces, a coastal army led by General Jose Francisco Urrea, a northern army led by General Antonio Gaona and a central army led by Santa Ana and General Joaquin Ramirez y Sesma. Santa Ana set his sights on pursing part of the retreating Texas forces.
On April 16, 1836, Houston led his meager army in pursuit of Santa Ana’s forces in the direction of Buffalo Bayou.
On April 17 1836 the Texas army retreating from Gonzales crossed over the Colorado River.
On April 19, 1836, Houston’s troops arrived at Buffalo Bayou and then headed on to Lynch’s Ferry.
On April 20, 1836, Santa Ana’s forces were encamped at San Jacinto.
On this day, April 21, 1836, Houston sent Erastus ‘Deaf’ Smith to destroy Vince’s Bridge which was being used by the Mexicans to reinforce their numbers. In mid-afternoon, Houston took advantage of the Mexican siesta time and strategically placed his troops in a line around most of the Mexican troops.
Many reports state that with shouts of ‘Remember the Alamo’ and ‘Remember Goliad’, Houston’s troops launched a sudden attack. They charged down and caught the Mexican army completely off guard. The entire battle lasted about 20 minutes although a number of Texans continued to chase fleeing Mexicans and kill them.
When the battle was over, about 630 Mexican troops had been killed and around 730 captured. The Texans suffered only 9 fatalities and about 30 wounded. Among the wounded was Houston with a shattered ankle.
Among the Mexican’s captured was none other than General Santa Ana, who surrendered to Houston with the promise that all of the remaining Mexican troops would return to Mexico.
The battle of San Jacinto was a decisive victory which allowed Texans a taste of revenge for the massacre that took place at Alamo less than two months prior.
Sources for the above includes: The Texas Revolution; The 1836 Battle; The Battle of San Jacinto; The Battle of San Jacinto; The Battle of San Jacinto; San Jacinto, Battle of; General, led Texians to victory at San Jacinto; The Battle of San Jacinto; The Battle of San Jacinto; Battle at San Jacinto.