Picture of the Day: The Battle of San Jacinto, 175 Years Ago Today



April 21, 2011 marks the 175th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, the turning point of the Texas Revolution that led to Texas's de facto independence.

Sam Houston's army of settlers defeated Mexican General Santa Anna's forces in an 18-minute skirmish, surprising them during an afternoon siesta. The battle resulted in Santa Anna's capture and a treaty for an independent Texas, which Mexico rejected. Texas nevertheless won international recognition of sovereignty, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

As the U.S. pressed more extensive border claims in Texas, instability in Mexico led to the evacuation of some Mexican garrisons in 1832. Santa Anna led his forces back into Texas in 1835, and the Texas Revolution ensued.

In the top painting, Henry Arthur McArdle memorialized the battle of San Jacinto in 1895. In the lower one, McArdle depicted Sam Houston at the battle.

Here's how the Texas State Historical Association describes the Texas Revolution and the Battle of San Jacinto:

On the afternoon of April 21, Houston ordered his small force of perhaps 900 men forward. Santa Anna's army, numbering somewhere around 1,300 men, was resting. Santa Anna had concluded that the Texans were on the defensive, and he had decided to attack them the next day. Because of this costly miscalculation, Houston surprised and completely overran the enemy; the battle took only eighteen minutes. Shouts of "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!" filled the air, and in this charged atmosphere the killing continued for an hour after the issue was resolved. Virtually the entire Mexican army was killed, scattered, or captured, including Santa Anna, who managed to escape but was captured the following day. In effect, the Mexicans lost everything, and the Texans, by comparison, lost nine men. On Houston's command, Santa Anna ordered his second-in-command, Gen. Vicente Filisola, to withdraw all his troops from Texas, and the order was obeyed. If the Mexican army had remained in Texas, it is probable that the war would have continued. Many Texans wanted Santa Anna's life, but Houston, aware of the Mexican general's value alive, spared him.

The war was concluded by the two treaties of Velasco, one public, the other secret. The first was published as soon as possible, and its contents held conditions very favorable to Texas. By its terms, Texas independence was recognized, hostilities were ended, the Mexican army was retired beyond the Rio Grande, confiscated property would be restored, and prisoners would be exchanged. The secret treaty agreed to Santa Anna's release in exchange for his promise that he would do all he could to secure within the Mexican government all the provisions of the public treaty without exception, as well as the enforcement of them. Santa Anna agreed, as was his perceived prerogative, since by destroying the Constitution of 1824 he had assumed authority over Mexican foreign policy. The remaining Mexican government refused to accept these terms, however. Nevertheless, Texas became not only a de facto state but also a de jure state in the eyes of many nations.

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons