San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site

In a brief skirmish at sunset, a detail of Texan cavalry almost met with disaster, stoking Houston's fears about his poorly trained, individualistic troops. As darkness fell, both armies settled into camp for the night. Houston ordered his men to eat and rest. Santa Anna, realizing that Houston's force was slightly larger, built fortifications using saddles, baggage, and anything else available, and hoped that reinforcements would soon arrive. Even though his men were exhausted, he kept them up all night on alert, believing that the Texans would attack at first light. On April 21, dawn came with no attack and Santa Anna relaxed. At about 9 a.m. about 500 more Mexican troops arrived, to the chagrin of Houston and his men. Houston sent a small detail to destroy Vince's Bridge to delay additional Mexican reinforcements. At noon he held a council of war, at which no decision was reached. That afternoon, Houston assembled his troops and laid out a plan of battle. The main force advanced quietly in a frontal assault, hoping for the advantage of surprise. Two other groups circled around to the left and right flanks of the Mexican camp. The Mexican troops had relaxed in the knowledge of their numerical superiority and many were eating and sleeping. The Texans had advanced to within 200-300 yards of the Mexican position before they were discovered and the alarm sounded. The main group of Texans charged the camp, screaming, Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo! A pitched battle quickly ensued, much of it hand-to-hand at the Mexican fortifications. The two other groups of Texans attacked the flanks, quickly overwhelming the Mexican camp. Houston was wounded, but fought on with his men. In less than 20 minutes, organized resistance ended, and many Mexicans were killed by revenge-driven Texans even as they tried to surrender. As the sun set to the west, the battle ended, the marshes stained scarlet with blood. Nine Texans and 630 Mexicans lay dead or mortally wounded, a tremendous defeat for the Mexican Army. Those with medical training did their best with minimal supplies to treat the Texan and Mexican wounded. The 700 uninjured Mexican troops were disarmed and placed under guard. A small number, including Santa Anna, escaped from the battle and headed westward to the several thousand troops waiting west of the Brazos River. Houston knew that if Santa Anna was able to reunite with the main body of his army, the war would continue, so he sent out scouts to search for the escapees the next day. By noon, Houston's men had captured Santa Anna, who was disguised as a private. Santa Anna ordered his troops to withdraw from Texas, securing independence for the Republic of Texas.