One of the most interesting parts of my job is hearing from our citizens ... sometimes when we do something right, most of the time when we get something wrong. On rare occasions we hear from citizens when they have story ideas or need to bring something to our attention.
In this case, a longtime subscriber pointed out that though Cinco De Mayo is an important date and should be honored, perhaps another crucial date in Texas history should be pointed out and its history shared with our readers. That date is April 21, 1836, otherwise known as the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto.
For those who may need a Texas History refresher course, (it’s been a long time since fifth grade for many), the Battle of San Jacinto took place during Texas’ war for independence from Mexico. According to the History Channel, the Texas militia under Sam Houston launched a surprise attack against the forces of Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, which was fought near present day Houston.
The Mexicans were thoroughly defeated and hundreds were taken prisoner, including Santa Anna. In exchange for his freedom, Santa Anna signed a treaty recognizing Texas’ independence.
If you remember anything about Texas history, you may recall having to build an Alamo out of paper mache or a clay-like substance. Where does the Alamo play into the history? Well, in March 1836, the Alamo fell as a group of Texas volunteer soldiers were defeated by General Santa Anna’s forces and Sam Houston’s troops were forced into an eastward retreat.
As time moved on, the battle of the Alamo became a symbol of heroic resistance, so much so, that on April 21, 1836, when Sam Houston and 800 Texans defeated Santa Anna’s Mexican force of 1,800 men at the Battle of San Jacinto, shouts of ‘Remember the Alamo!’ and ‘Remember Goliad!’ rang out.
The treaty for Texas’ freedom was signed by Santa Anna in mid-May at Velasco, Texas. However, the treaty was later abrogated and tensions built up along the Texas-Mexico border, according to information provided by the History Channel.
As time moved on, the citizens of the Lone Star Republic elected Sam Houston as president and endorsed the idea of Texas becoming part of the United States. But the likelihood of Texas joining the Union as a slave state delayed any formal action by the U.S. Congress for more than a decade. In 1845, President John Tyler put forth a compromise that would allow Texas to join the U.S. as a slave state. On Dec. 29, 1845, Texas entered the U.S. as the 28th state, which directly led to the start of the Mexican-American War in 1846.
Why was the Battle of San Jacinto important? Well, first of all, most likely we wouldn’t be part of the U.S. without it. It also opened the door on continued westward expansion of the U.S.
When looking back on dates and history, many may wonder why April 21 isn’t Texas Independence Day. The official Texas Independence Day is March 2, which is when Texas’ Declaration of Independence was signed. It also happens to be Sam Houston’s birthday.
As we mark the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, may we remember those who helped us gain our independence and become the great state of Texas. Another fun fact? The San Jacinto Monument is actually 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument, making it the world’s tallest war memorial. See? Everything really is bigger in Texas.