Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
As I walked onto the battlefield in the hot Texas sun, I journeyed through a sea of buckskin uniforms, bowie knives and long muskets. I felt like I had died and gone to Heaven.
The men who portrayed Sam’s Boys had a certain swagger, a certain something that made them real members of the Texas Army. I even got my picture taken with Captain Juan Seguin, who led the Tejanos, Mexicans loyal for independence. So as not to confuse these Tejanos with Santa Anna’s army, General Sam had Seguin put a playing card in the head band of each Tejano so they could easily be recognized.
Seguin and his men were roaming around the battlefield. Cannons, battle cries and the sound of hooves surrounded me. I was like a little boy again.
Thousands of people came from far and wide to celebrate 175 years of Texas independence at the San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment. Children and senior citizens alike all gathered to travel back in time and see the reenactment of one of the most decisive battles in all history—and certainly the most decisive battle in Texas history.
Folks lined the battlefield with lawn chairs, umbrellas and water bottles to watch the reenactment of events that led to the Texas victory over the Mexican Army on April 21, 1836. I was reminded of how good it feels to be an American – particularly a Texan-American. As the wind blew, history unfolded right in front of our eyes. I felt like I stepped back in time to 1836.
It was 175 years ago that Texas became an independent nation. Like many folks, sometimes I wish that we still were. General Sam and his boys took on Santa Anna and an army of about 1,600 along the marshy banks of the San Jacinto River in the battle that resulted in one of the largest land transfers in world history and gave way to a new independent nation – the Republic of Texas.
After Mexican dictator Santa Anna stormed the walls of the Alamo, and ordered the massacre at Goliad, he felt the Texans had all but been defeated, and he set his sights on finishing the war with the Texans heading southeast in the “Runaway Scrape.”
During this time, panic spread across Texas and doubt loomed that General Sam Houston could stop the Mexican Army. But, General Sam was not the quitting type and he would not give up his fight for freedom so easily.
The battle for Texas took place on the marshes of the San Jacinto River. On the afternoon of April 21, General Sam’s battle plan called for a charge the next day at dawn, but after discussions with his troops he decided not to wait any longer.
Scout Deaf Smith was ordered to burn the only bridge and trapped both armies between the river and the marshes. In broad daylight, General Sam and the boys, 700 Texas freedom fighters, marched double-time in a single line to independence – taking on a professional army more than twice their size.
The Texans charged yelling, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” They carried a flag of partially nude Miss Liberty, and the fife played a bawdy house song called “Come to the Bower.” Santa Anna’s army, caught napping, was routed.
Tradition says Santa Anna was having a rendezvous in his tent with a lady that turned out to be a spy for Texas, Emily Morgan, who is sometimes referred to as the “Yellow Rose of Texas.” Most of the enemy was killed or wounded; the rest were captured or disappeared. The victory was stunning. The rest, as they say, is Texas history.
General Santa Anna’s life was spared to the dismay of many that had lost loved ones at the Alamo and Goliad. But General Sam, noting that Texas was now a free and independent nation, held Santa Anna as a prisoner of war until negotiations between the two countries could be made.
While Texas had declared her independence from Mexico a month earlier on March 2, it was at this moment that she actually became a Republic all unto herself and remained so for nine glorious years.
Texas claimed land as far north as the Canadian border and as far west as Colorado. These historic battlegrounds remain an important part of Texas history, and in 1936, the state of Texas honored the Texas War of Independence and General Sam’s victory by erecting a monument modeled after the Washington Monument, but naturally bigger.
I am proud to be a Texan-American. And that weekend, as I saw thousands of people celebrating the 175th anniversary of Texas Independence, I was reminded of how proudly we Texans hail. Because of men like Sam Houston, Texas is the great state that it is today. We must always remember that Texas was once a nation. Texas forever!
And that’s just the way it is.