LA PORTE, Texas — On April 21, 1836, General Sam Houston and his army defeated Santa Anna and his Mexican troops to earn Texas its independence.
That freedom came at a price with hundreds of lives lost in earlier battles during the Texas Revolution.
Here are some key events that led to the Battle of San Jacinto:
- By 1830, thousands of Americans drawn to Texas by cheap land had become increasingly disillusioned with their lack of rights under the Mexican government.
- When Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna became president in 1834, he dissolved the constitution and began ruling Mexico like a dictator.
- That was the last straw for Texans of American and Mexican heritage who organized a rebellion against the Mexican government in October of 1835, launching the Texas Revolution.
- After defeating the Mexicans in most of the small skirmishes along the border, delegates gathered at Washington-on-the Brazos on March 2, 1936 to declare victory and sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. Believing the war was over, many soldiers returned home while the rest gathered at the Alamo Mission in Bexar.
- General Santa Anna wasn’t giving up. He sent three armies totaling some 5,500 troops northward to squash the rebellion.
- After defeating the outnumbered Texas armies at several settlements, Santa Anna attacked the Alamo. Most of the Texas defenders – estimates range from 190 to 250 -- were killed, the youngest said to be only 16.
- It was even worse in the battle of Goliad on March 27, where more than 300 captured Texans were executed after surrendering.
- Santa Anna’s lack of mercy inspired other Texans to join the army but some frightened soldiers quit and headed home to protect their families.
- General Sam Houston led his men east and spent early April training the new recruits.
- They got a break when intercepted documents revealed that Santa Anna and a few hundred troops were heading their way. Houston anticipated that Santa Anna would cross the San Jacinto River where it joins Buffalo Bayou at Lynch’s Ferry. On April 20, he and his men set up camp to wait for them.
- The next day, they were stunned on April 21 when Santa Anna’s army more than doubled with reinforcements. But the Texans caught them off-guard that afternoon thanks, in part, to a woman named Emily West – later dubbed the Yellow Rose of Texas – who was sent by Houston to distract Santa Anna. It worked. Santa Ana was with West while his men ate and napped that afternoon when Houston’s troops surprised them in a bold daylight attack.
- With shouts of “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” the smaller Texas army defeated the Mexicans in a battle that lasted only 18 minutes. Nine Texans died in the Battle of San Jacinto, compared to more than 600 members of Santa Anna’s army.
- Santa Anna, and what was left of his army, began withdrawing from Texas. But he was captured the next day, disguised as a private.
The San Jacinto Monument, the world's largest column memorial, was completed on April 21, 1939.
Dozens of Texans typically gather at the monument each year to re-enact the battle, but this year it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.