One of the most important battles in Texas history occurred about 3:30 in the afternoon of April 21, 1836. The battle took place at the junction of Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River.
The Texans, led by General Sam Houston, formed a single line in the northwest area of the battleground. The Twin Sisters, two cannons, stood sentry in the middle of their line. The Texans’ attack surprised the Mexican soldiers because they thought the attack would take place in the morning. The Mexicans let down their guard and were taking siestas, or naps, in the southeast area of the battleground. The Texans charged, shouting, “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” The Mexicans had massacred the Texans at the Alamo and Goliad a month earlier.
The battle lasted only 18 minutes. Nine Texans died and about 630 Mexicans died. The Texans took 730 Mexicans prisoner. In the battle, a gunshot shattered Sam Houston’s ankle. Sometime during the battle, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna disappeared. Texans found him the next day, wet and dirty, hiding in the woods west of the battle site. The Texans did not recognize him until some of the Mexicans called him “El Presidente.” Sam Houston would not let his soldiers kill Santa Anna. Instead, Houston wanted to keep Santa Anna alive to ensure Texas’s independence.
Mrs. Margaret “Peggy” McCormick, a widow, owned the land upon which the battle was fought. She and her sons had evacuated their home before the battle began. Since Sam Houston and Santa Anna refused to bury the dead soldiers, Mrs. McCormick and her sons buried them.
While Houston was recovering from his injured ankle, David G. Burnet, the temporary president of the Republic of Texas, met with Santa Anna at Velasco. (Velasco is now Freeport, Texas.) They signed a treaty that ended the fighting between Texas and Mexico. The Treaty of Velasco provided for an exchange of prisoners. The treaty also called for all Mexican forces to leave Texas.
Several months later, before returning to Mexico, Santa Anna signed another treaty in which he promised to persuade the Mexican government to recognize Texas independence.
Today the battlefield is a Texas State Historical Park located two miles southeast of Houston in Harris County. A 570-foot tall monument topped with a 220-ton star stands on the site. It is the tallest stone column war memorial in the world, and is 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument. The monument was dedicated in 1936, one hundred years after the Battle of San Jacinto.