It was only later that I came to find out the holiday also represented the most important day and most important military victory in Texas history, one that is studied in military schools throughout the world. It occurred near what is now Houston, Texas. It was a unique holiday for southeast Texas called ``San Jacinto Day.''
After Santa Anna, the Dictator of Mexico, invaded Texas with his massive army, and then stormed over the Alamo walls, killing William Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and the other Texas Volunteers on March 6, 1836, he went looking for the rest of the Texans that wanted independence from Mexico.
General Sam Houston had been building the Texas Army, and Santa Anna's three armies were giving chase. The Texas army and their families fled east in what historians call the ``runaway scrape.''
Finally, near the San Jacinto River and the Buffalo Bayou at Lynch's Ferry, Sam Houston stopped to fight. He and his army of 700 faced Santa Anna and his army of over 1,600 on the marshy plains of San Jacinto, Texas.
Scout Deaf Smith was ordered to burn the only escape bridge, thus trapping both armies between the river and the marshes.
It was April 21, 1836. General Sam wanted to charge into battle the next day at dawn, but decided not to wait any longer. So in the middle of the afternoon, General Sam and the Boys marched in single line in broad daylight with little cover towards the Mexican army.
The outnumbered Texans were an odd, terrifying-looking bunch. Without regular uniforms, they were dressed in buckskins, with pistols in their belts, bowie knives, long muskets, and tomahawks. They came from every State in the United States and from Mexico. The Tejanos, Mexicans loyal for Texas independence, were led by Captain Juan Sequin. So as not to confuse the Tejanos with Santa Anna's army, General Sam had Sequin put a playing card in the headband of each Tejano so they could be easily recognized.
This was General Houston's first Texas battle. Santa Anna's veteran army had yet to lose any battle. The Texans charged, yelling, ``Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!'' They carried a flag of a partially nude Miss Liberty, and the fife played a bawdy house song called ``Come to the Bower.''
Santa Anna army's, caught napping, was routed. Most of the enemy were killed or wounded. The rest were captured or disappeared. The victory was stunning. Only a dozen Texans were killed. Santa Anna was captured, disguising himself in a private's uniform.
Texans wanted Santa Anna hung because of the Alamo and for murdering Colonel Fannin and his 300 volunteers at Goliad after they had surrendered to the Mexican army. Wise and politically astute General Sam Houston would have none of the lynching and spared Presidente Santa Anna for later bartering power.
Texas became a free and independent nation that day and claimed what is now Texas, and parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and even Wyoming. It was one of the largest land transfers in world history as a result of just one battle. The latter land was sold to the United States to pay Texas' war debts. Texas was a republic for over 9 years, and then it was admitted to the Union in 1845 by 1-vote margin. Some now wish the vote had gone the other way.
In 1936, Texans built the San Jacinto Monument to honor the Texas War of Independence and General Sam's Victory. It looks exactly like the Washington Monument, but it has a star on top, and, of course, it is bigger.
Today, the bugles are silent and the battlefield is surrounded by petrochemical plants. Not much is said nowadays about Texas independence or San Jacinto Day. It is not even a school holiday anymore. But tomorrow, proud Texans will be at the San Jacinto Battleground to honor the few brave Texans and Tejanos that made Texas a new, free, independent nation.
We remember our past knowing we were a nation once, and sometimes we still act like an independent people and country. And the rest, they say, is Texas history.
I will fly the Lone Star flag proudly on San Jacinto Day, and I will take my mom a bunch of flowers, remembering that this glorious day was once a school holiday to celebrate my mother's birthday.
And that's just the way it is.