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American Latino Heritage
San Jacinto Battlefield
La Porte, Texas
The Texans won the final and decisive engagement with Mexico in the Texas Revolution on April 21, 1826 at the Battle of San Jacinto. While the battle only lasted 18 minutes, its ramifications were great. The victory at San Jacinto gave Texas its independence from Mexico and opened the door for the continued westward expansion of the United States. The United States annexed Texas in 1845, which led directly to the Mexican-American War. When that ended, Mexico ceded the American Southwest and California to the United States. Today, San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site and Monument preserves the site of this important battle and commemorates the Texans’ victory over Mexico, as well as the battle’s lasting effect on the history of the United States. San Jacinto Battlefield is a National Historic Landmark.
Following Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821, the newly formed Republic of Mexico encouraged American immigrants to settle in Texas, which was part of the Mexican State of Coahuila y Tejas. The Mexican government offered settlers from the United States land at cheap prices. By 1830, the American population of Texas grew to around 25,000 people, significantly outnumbering the Mexican population and thus causing the Mexican government to become increasingly concerned about protecting its claims to the frontier land in this region. Tensions between the Mexican government and settlers from the United States began to rise as the Mexican government forbade further American immigration to Texas in 1830.
By October of 1835, Texans of American and Mexican heritage organized a rebellion against the Mexican government – launching the Texas Revolution. Five months later, on March 2, 1836, delegates signed the Texas Declaration of Independence (which reflected American democratic principles and paralleled the United States Declaration of Independence) at Washington-on-the-Brazos, formally declaring the independence of the Republic of Texas from Mexico.
Realizing that his army was small and had only meager provisions, Houston slowly retreated to the east throughout the month of March. He spent the end of March and beginning of April training recruits into a semblance of a disciplined army. By April 18, Houston began to move strategically when documents captured from a Mexican courier revealed that Santa Anna had isolated himself from most of his troops and only had about 750 men (slightly smaller than Houston’s 820 men). The intercepted documents also revealed that Santa Anna planned to move east in pursuit of interim Texas President David G. Burnet and other Texas government officials. These officials had avoided Santa Anna in Harrisburg (a no longer extant town about 11 miles west of the San Jacinto Battleground).
Houston was dismayed at Santa Anna’s reinforcements and ordered the destruction of the bridge crossing the Brazos River to prevent further swelling of Mexican troops. This also prevented retreat by both the Mexican and Texan armies. By that afternoon, Houston had a plan for battle. He sent out three forces – the main frontal force advanced quietly, hoping to take the Mexican army by surprise, as two other forces circled around the left and right flanks of the Mexican camp. Houston’s men got within 200-300 yards of the Mexican camp before the Mexicans detected them.
As the Texans attacked they chanted, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” At the end of the violent battle that lasted only 18 minutes, the Mexican Army surrendered. Caught off guard by the bold broad-daylight attack, the Mexican Army hardly had time to respond. Nine Texans died and only 30 more suffered wounds, while the Mexican losses totaled 630 killed, 208 injured, and 730 taken prisoner.
Santa Anna ordered his troops to withdraw from Texas. The Texans captured Santa Anna disguised as a Mexican private the following day. On May 14, 1836, Presidents David G. Burnet and Santa Anna signed the public and private treaties of Velasco, confirming Mexican retreat and declaring an end to the war. Mexico did not formally recognize Texas independence, however, until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848.