Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)

Back when I was growing up, April 21st meant a day off from school to celebrate Texas’ most important holiday – my mother’s birthday. And of course it is also commemorates the most important military victory for Texas – the Battle of San Jacinto. Monday, like every year before it, I will celebrate two of my favorite things: my mother and Texas. Even if I don’t get the day off anymore.

It was 172 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 1600 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 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. However, General Sam was not the quitting type and was he would not give up his fight for freedom so easily.    

The battle for Texas would take place on the marshes of San Jacinto River. On the afternoon of April 21st, General Sam’s battle plan called for a charge the next day at dawn, but after discussions with his troops 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 over 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, sometimes referred to as the “Yellow Rose of Texas.” Most of the enemy were 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 2nd, 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.

We may not get Monday off anymore, but this weekend would be a great time to take your family out to the Battlegrounds, visit the majestic San Jacinto Monument and honor our state’s traditions, heroes and independence. For me, I will call my mom and wish her happy birthday and thank my lucky stars I’m from Texas. God Bless Texas. 

And that’s just the way it is.