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Day by Day with the Armies to San Jacinto

History in Our Backyard:
The Battle of San Jacinto
David Pomeroy
Harris County Historical Commission

Headquarters, Camp at the head of a little bayou, Sunday, April 17, 1836:

Dear Fellow Texians,

We continued to march along the muddy road to Harrisburg, resting for the night at the head of a little bayou about six miles from Harrisburg. The days are now rather hot and quite uncomfortable with all of the water around. We are close to a forced march, as we believe that we are on an intercept course with the enemy.

As of this writing I have no confirmation of a report given by a civilian that Santa Anna himself has taken a small force and has rushed to Harrisburg to catch the new Texian government. The government had moved there from Washington, but had then departed for Galveston by way of Morgan’s point before Santa Anna‘s arrival. In an effort to catch the government, the Mexican army then proceeded to New Washington on Col. Morgan‘s point on Galveston Bay. The main body of the Mexican army is still on the Brazos at Thompson’s ferry. This is perhaps the opportunity we have been looking for, to confront the enemy while vulnerable with a decisive battle. The spirit of the men has risen to a higher pitch than I have witnessed on this whole campaign.

Respectfully yours, An Observer and aide-de-camp

Meanwhile the Mexican Army: After putting the town to the torch, Santa Anna left Harrisburg at 3 p.m. for New Washington. After a difficult crossing over Sims Bayou the army encountered Vince’s Bridge over Vince’s Bayou. The bridge was too shaky to handle the Mexican cannon so second in command Castrillion and a company of infantry were sent with the cannon around the headwater of Vince's. A terrific rainfall that evening so Santa Anna camped in or near William Vince’s cabin. Still no word from Gaona but should be approaching San Felipe. Urrea camped on the outskirts of the woods on the San Bernard river.

The Interim Government: President Burnet boards the Flash and is taken, with the rest of the cabinet, to Galveston where they will remain for the duration of the war..

Route of the Twin Sisters: Travelling with the Texian Army.

View a map showing the location of the armies

Headquarters, Camp opposite Harrisburg, Monday, April 18, 1836:

Dear Fellow Texians,

We arrived opposite Harrisburg about noon and witnessed the smoking ruins of the city. The army established camp down river about 800 yards. Deaf Smith with Henry Karnes crossed over the river, called Buffalo bayou, and set out to spy on the enemy. They returned jubilantly with captured couriers and a report confirming the location of Santa Anna at New Washington. This is less than a day’s march from this spot. With only 500 men, Santa Anna is in a most vulnerable position. General Houston, with the council of Secretary War Rusk, is busy at work on a plan of action.

Although General Houston and Secretary Rusk put out a General Appeal to the people of Texas to rally to the cause, it is too late to wait for additional supplies and volunteers. Victory goes to the swift. The camp has been put on alert that we cross the Buffalo tomorrow and will march to our destiny.

The army has moved quickly to this point and many men are sick and infirm. Without proper transport, the crossing of the bayou will be difficult. The army can not be burdened with supply wagons during this final assault, but must arrange to carry the cannons across. A rear guard camp will be established with sufficient effective men to protect the infirm and baggage. Those men selected to move forward were instructed to travel light and prepare rations to carry. The night was passed in anticipation.

Respectfully yours, An Observer and aide-de-camp

Meanwhile the Mexican Army: Santa Anna arrived at New Washington/Morgan’s Point about noon. General Woll arrived at Old Fort. Gaona has no doubt reached San Felipe and is marching on through to get to Old Fort with the rest of the Mexican Army. Urrea in the woods along the San Bernard.

The Interim Government: There being no accommodations on Galveston Island for the cabinet members and their wives and families, they stayed on boat the ship.

Route of the Twin Sisters: Travelling with the Texian Army.

View a map showing the location of the armies

Headquarters, Camp south of Buffalo bayou, Tuesday, April 19, 1836:

Dear Fellow Texians,

This morning the army began crossing Buffalo bayou about a half mile below the remaining rear guard camp. An old ferryboat was repaired using the flooring from a nearby cabin that was owned by Isaac Batterson. It’s main use was to transport the cannons across, weapons and ammunition, and what men that did not swim or ride their horses across. The landing on the opposite shore was a few paces below the mouth of Sims’ bayou. The crossing took the greater part of the daylight and the army was on the move by dusk. Near the bridge over Vince’s bayou Santa Anna had camped a few days earlier and his extinct campfires were in evidence. The march continued along the very wet, muddy plain, following the tracks of the enemy, for another couple of miles. The army was allowed to rest at a small ravine in the open prairie. While it was not a camp in the conventional sense of the word, some of the men took the opportunity to set fires and cook what game and cattle could be conveniently had nearby. Others cleaned their weapons while I composed this report. Few slept.

Ahead of us is the despotic serpent of Mexico. Behind us is the balance of his merciless army. There is no turning back from this course of action. Blood will flow. Our just cause, and a passion for vengeance, will give us the strength to strike this blow for freedom. All will be gained, or lost, soon.

Respectfully yours, An Observer and aide-de-camp

Meanwhile the Mexican Army: Santa Anna still at New Washington. He sent Capt. M. Barragan with some dragoons to check out the Lynchburg Crossing. Meanwhile supplies were being loaded onto a boat to float to Lynch’s in anticipation of the Mexican Army crossing at that point. Colonel Almonte went to repair a boat at the house of Mr. Routh. Filisola was moving troops over at Old Fort to the east side of the Brazos River. Gaona arrived at Old Fort. Urrea camped on the San Bernard in anticipation of crossing and moving on Brazoria.

The Interim Government: The Interim Government is located at Galveston. Word was received that Houston had arrived at Harrisburg with the Texian Army in pursuit of Santa Anna. The business of the republic was conducted on the Cayuga, the temporary capitol. The Cayuga was an eighty-eight-ton side-wheeler, 96'11" long, 17'4" wide, and 5'4" deep. She had one deck, two boilers, a high-compression engine, a cabin on deck, a plain head, and a pointed stern.

Route of the Twin Sisters: Traveling with the Texian Army.

View a map showing the location of the armies

Headquarters, Camp at San Jacinto, Wednesday, April 20, 1836:

Dear Fellow Texians,

Scarcely were the fires set last night when the call to march was received. We marched into the rising sun and reached Lynch’s ferry to learn that the enemy had not crossed. We withdrew to a high wooded ridge about a half-mile back and set up camp. Our scouts encountered a contingency of lancers and banished them in gallant style. It was learned that Generalissimo Santa Anna has put New Washington to the torch and is headed in our direction.

Contact has been made with the villainous enemy that struck down our brothers at the Alamo and at Goliad. The main body of our army was concealed in the timber along Buffalo bayou so as to deny Santa Anna the knowledge of our true strength. Col. James Neill commanded our two cannons and from a forward position exchanged fire with the lone Mexican cannon of superior caliber. Col. Neill was wounded and the Mexican piece was damaged and one of her artillerymen wounded. Col. Sherman advanced with the cavalry in an attempt to capture the disabled Mexican cannon, but was driven back by Mexican Dragoons. Private Mirabeau Lamar made a valiant defense, which spared the life of our beloved Secretary of War, Thomas Rusk. General Houston honored Lamar by elevating him to commander of the cavalry. Since both Houston and Santa Anna declined to present their full armies to the engagement, the skirmish ended and the Mexican army withdrew to establish its camp.

The demand for vengeance and the small victorious moments today has elevated the spirits of the men. It will be hard to keep them calm tonight as surely a decisive battle will be waged tomorrow.

Respectfully yours, An Observer and aide-de-camp

Meanwhile the Mexican Army: Capt. Barragan brought the news to Santa Anna at 8 a.m. that Houston was in the area. The Mexican army was preparing to march and had torched the warehouse on the wharf & all houses. Santa Anna was surprised at the news about Houston and recklessly rushed to the head of the column, running over troops and pack animals. At 2 p.m. the Mexican Army came in sight of the Texian camp. The Texians were camped in a wooded area with only the two small cannon visible. The initial confrontation began as an artillery duel. Mexican skirmishers tried to engage the Texian troops but were unsuccessful. Realizing that there would not be a battle that day Santa Anna set up camp in what was determined to be an unsuitable location. Col. Delgado was left in charge of the cannon but his pack animals were confiscated to bring up the troops gear. The Texian cavalry attempted to capture the exposed cannon but the Mexican dragoons drove them off. About 5 p.m. the cannonade and the cavalry duel ended and the armies retired for the evening. Filisola and most of the other generals in the field were at Old Fort. Urrea marched from the San Bernard to the home of Mrs. Powell and camped there.

The Interim Government: The government continued its business at Galveston on board the Cayuga.

Route of the Twin Sisters: Traveling with the Texian Army. First time used in combat. Spent the afternoon dueling with the Mexican cannon. Texian artillery commander Lt. Col. Neill was wounded by grape shot and was removed to the makeshift hospital across Buffalo Bayou at the home of Vice President Lorenzo de Zavala. Ironically the Mexican artillery commander Captain Urriza was severely wounded and his horse killed. Both armies lost the service of their artillery commanders on the same day.

View a map showing the location of the armies


2ND Annual Meeting  Saturday March 16, 2014  9am
                 Reagan Masonic Lodge First Floor
                             1606 Heights Blvd
                          Houston, Texas 77008

Call to order & welcome - Janet K. Wagner, Chairman

        Introduction of guests & County Representatives

I.                    Reagan Masonic Lodge MemberWelcome & Current Events

II.                  Montgomery County Chairman, Larry Foerster,  Discussion: New Montgomery County Historical  Chronology Book   by MCHC & published by Montgomery County.

III.                Minutes: -Secretary Susan Armstrong & Area Cemetery News

IV.                Committee and Historic Updates

Ø  Chris Varela –Vice Chairman:  Marker Restoration

Ø  Jan DeVault – San Jacinto Events & Conservancy

Ø  Paul Scott, C.R.M., C.A. – State Markers

Ø  James E. Fisher – Harris County Marker Inventory  / Website Documentation

Ø  Debra Sloan - Marker Dedications

Ø  Dr. Gayle Davies - – Harris County Marker Program

Ø  Nancy Burch – Speakers Bureau

Ø   Ann Becker – HCHC website

Ø  Wally Saage – Museum Events

Ø  Frank Salzhandler – Natural Heritage Program & History Activities

Ø  Trevia Beverly – Calendar & Announcements

Ø  Barbara Eaves – News Announcements –

Ø  Ed Chen:  Chinese Texans and Civil Rights Marker dedication

Ø  Charles Duke –Potential of HCHC 501c3.

Ø  Dr. Kenneth Brown – Cemetery Preservation

V.                   Old Business

VI.                New Business

Bernice Mistrot:  THC Project: Texas Treasure Business Award 

VII.             Announcements

VIII.           Adjourn




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