From the Annals of the Republic – In 1836, the convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos which was comprised of delegates from the seventeen Mexican municipalities in Texas and the settlement of Pecan Point voted for Texas independence from Mexico. On March 1, George C. Childress presented a resolution calling for independence, and the chairman of the convention appointed Childress to head a committee to draft a declaration of independence. In the early morning hours of March 2, the convention voted unanimously to accept the resolution. After fifty-eight members signed the document, Texas became the Republic of Texas. Actual independence required some fighting.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1835, Texians and a Mexican Army contingent met at the battle of Lipantitlán on the east bank of the Nueces River three miles above San Patricio in San Patricio County, directly across from Fort Lipantitlán. A Texas force of around seventy men under Adjutant Ira J. Westover engaged a Mexican force of about ninety men under Capt. Nicolás Rodríguez. Reports were that the battle lasted thirty-two minutes, leaving twenty-eight Mexicans dead, including Lt. Marcellino García, second in command. The Texans suffered only one casualty, when a rifle ball cut off three of the fingers on William Bracken’s right hand. Red always questions these lop-sided reports of results, but then again the victors write history.
From the Annals of the Dictators – In 1876, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna passed away in Mexico City. Known as the Eagle and perhaps derisively called the Napoleon of the West, Santa Anna rose to power on numerous occasions and suffered as many falls from grace. As a young officer in the Spanish Army Santa Anna quickly distinguished himself as a capable fighter and leader and then played an important role in the Mexican war for independence from Spain. In 1833, he won election to the presidency by an overwhelming popular majority. Unable to resist his megalomaniac tendencies he proclaimed himself dictator in 1835. That move gave the nascent Texas revolution the impetus it needed to finally take hold. Texians took advantage of Santa Anna’s overthrow of the Mexican Republic as an opportunity to break away and form an independent Republic of Texas.
Determined to crush the Texas rebels, Santa Anna took personal command of the Mexican army and on a long march through barren country facing unusually cold weather including a surprise blizzard. His forces were already depleted when they stormed the Alamo. Some historians believe they were further demoralized by the brutal execution of 400 Texan prisoners at Goliad. On the Texian side, “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” became the rallying cries for a reinvigorated Texan army. Santa Anna then made a crucial mistake by dividing his forces and penetrating too deeply into Texas territory. Convinced that the Texians would not attack even though they were encamped less than a mile away at San Jacinto, the contingent of his army under his direct command was destroyed and Santa Anna was captured. He ransomed himself by agreeing to order the majority of his army still in the field (and under competent command) to retreat below the Rio Grande.
One might think that a humiliating defeat such as San Jacinto would end a career, but political instability in Mexico over the next 20 years allowed Santa Anna to repeatedly regain-and lose-dictatorial power. Santa Anna’s standard modus operandi was to seize power and then retreat to his hacienda allowing others to do the dirty work of governance. All told, he became the head of the Mexican government 11 times. Overthrown for the last time in 1855, he spent the remaining two decades of his life scheming with elements in Mexico, the United States, and France to stage a comeback. It was not to be. He died in poverty and obscurity in Mexico City at the age of 82.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, Texian forces under the command of Gen. Sam Houston defeated part of the Mexican Army encamped at San Jacinto under the command of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Santa Anna overextended his troops by crossing the San Jacinto River without his full field artillery and isolating his unit from the larger commands of General Filosola and Urea. Houston would likely not have attacked but for learning that Santa Anna had divided his army and only had about 1200 troops at San Jacinto. It was as close to a chance at an even fight as Houston would ever have. Convinced that the Texians would not attack even though they were less than a mile away, Santa Anna incredibly failed to take necessary precautions and the Mexicans were routed in a surprise attack that lasted only about 18 minutes. Had Santa Anna attacked the Texians in battle formation, they likely would have been routed and the idea of an independent Texas would have been dead for years to come. Santa Anna was captured after the battle. Houston realized that his chances of defeating the rest of the Mexican Army were not good and that Santa Anna was his best bargaining chip. He resisted calls to execute “El Presidente” and to save his life, Santa Anna ordered the remainder of the still overwhelming Mexican forces in Texas to return to Mexico. If Urea and Filosola had refused to obey the order they likely would have been Mexican heroes for generations and Texas independence would have been problematic at best. But the generals grudgingly complied and withdrew.
From the Annals of the Republic – In 1848, Sam Houston dedicated the Monument Hill cemetery just south of La Grange on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River. Those to be buried there had died in the Dawson Massacre and other conflicts between the Republic of Texas and Mexico in the years after independence. On September 18, 1842, Capt. Nicholas Dawson and his fifty-eight volunteers fought a losing battle against 500 irregular Mexican cavalrymen and their two cannons. The Texans were slaughtered. A few escaped, and fifteen were carted off to Perote Prison. Nine survivors from the brutal imprisonment were eventually released. The dead were later transferred to Monument Hill.
Photo from Texas Parks & Wildlife.