The Battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1836

Editor: Michael Spilling and Consultant Editor: Chris McNab

American Battles and Campaigns – The Battle of San Jacinto (San Jacinto River), April 21, 1836

As commander-in-chief of the Texas settlers’ revolution against Mexico, Sam Houston kept his force in readiness and awaited his opportunity to strike against Mexico’s final great effort to crush the rebellion at the Battle of San Jacinto. The ranks of the Texas Army were gradually increasing in reaction to Mexican slaughters of the rebels at the Alamo and Goliad. Houston’s forces shadowed the Mexicans as Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna moved up the Texas coast in a campaign directed at strongholds and centers of the rebellion.

Battle of San Jacinto

The Battle of San Jacinto 1836. Image is taken from the book American Battles and Campaigns

On 21 April, Houston’s scouts located an unwary Santa Anna and his army bivouacked on the Texans’ side of the namesake river, near modern Houston. Houston with some 900 men moved stealthily against Santa Anna’s fortified camp; 1360 Mexicans were caught taking their noonday meal while Santa Anna and his officers were engaged in making plans to attack and annihilate the Texans.

With two light cannon sent from Ohio, Houston’s army initiated a headlong assault, with the Texans’ cavalry on the flanks as they moved swiftly towards the Mexican encampment, the Texans’ numbers and movements screened by riverside trees. ‘Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!’ was the first warning the Mexicans had of the onslaught, Santa Anna driven into flight without time to don his artificial leg. In a mere 16 minutes, 630 Mexicans had perished in disordered rout, with 200 more wounded, compared with only nine Texans falling. The pursuing Texans captured an additional 700 of the broken army over the next day, among them Santa Anna. The Texans forced the captured Santa Anna to sign a treaty recognizing Texas’s independence, which Mexico later repudiated, but took no further military action to reconquer the rebel territory.

Battle of San Jacinto

The Battle of San Jacinto-1895 painting by Henry Arthur McArdle (1836–1908). By Henry Arthur McArdle. Image is in the public domain via Wikimedia.com


Dr. Chris McNab is the editor of AMERICAN BATTLES & CAMPAIGNS: A Chronicle, from 1622-Present and is an experienced specialist in wilderness and urban survival techniques. He has published over 20 books including: How to Survive Anything, Anywhere — an encyclopedia of military and civilian survival techniques for all environments — Special Forces Endurance Techniques, First Aid Survival Manual, and The Handbook of Urban Survival. In his home country of Wales, UK, Chris provides instruction on wilderness hunting techniques and he is also an experienced martial arts instructor.

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