REPORT OF THE BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO - SAMUEL HOUSTON, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF
by SAMUEL HOUSTON, Commander-in-Chief
The Battle of San Jacinto was fought and woii April 21, 1836, just 109 years ago. Many reports have been published of that noted battle, said to be one of the greatest battles ever fought in any land. As the anniversary of it approaches we deem it appropriate to give General Sam Houston's official report of that conflict, which won Texas' independence:
Head Quarters of the Army,
San Jacinto, April 25, 1836.
To His Excellency D. G. Burnet, President of the Republic of Texas.
Sir—I regret extremely that my situation since the battle of the 21st, has been such as to prevent my rendering you my, official report of the same previous to this time.
I have the honor to inform you that on the evening of the 18th inst., after a forced march of 55 miles, which was effected in two and a half days, the army arrived opposite Harrisburgh; that evening a courier of the enemy was taken, from which I learned that Gen. Santa Anna, with one division of his troops, had marched in the direction of Lynch's ferry on the San Jacinto, burning Harrisburgh as he passed down. The army was ordered to be in readiness to march early the next morning. The main body effected a crossing over Buffalo Bayou, below Harrisburgh, on the morning of the 19th, having left the baggage, the sick, and a sufficient camp guard in the rear. We continued the march throughout the night, and without refreshment. At daylight we resumed the line of march, and in a short distance our scouts encountered those of the enemy, and we received information that Gen. Santa Anna was at New Washington, and would that day take up the line of march for Anahuac, crossing at Lynch's. The Texan army halted within half a mile of the ferry, in some timber, and were engaged in slaughtering beeves, when the army of Santa Anna was seen approaching in battle array, having been encamped at Clopper's Point, 8 miles below. Disposition was immediately made of our forces, and preparation for his reception. He took a position, with his infantry and artillery in the centre, occupying an island of timber, his cavalry covering the left flank. The artillery then opened on our encampment, consisting of one double fortified medium brass 12-pounder.
The infantry, in columns, advanced with the design of attacking our lines, but were repulsed by a discharge of grape and canister from our artillery, consisting of two six-pounders. The enemy had occupied a piece of timber within rifle shot of the left wing of our army, from which an occasional interchange of small arms took place between the troops, until the enemy withdrew to a position on the bank of the San Jacinto, about three quarters of a mile from our encampment, and commenced a fortification. A short time before sunset, our mounted men, about 85 in number, under the special command of Col. Sherman, marched out for the purpose of reconnoitering the enemy. Whilst advancing, they received a volley from the left of the enemy's infantry, and after a sharp rencontre with their cavalry, in which ours acted well, and performed some feats of daring chivalry, they retired in good order, having had two men severely wounded, and several horses killed. In the mean time the infantry, under command of Lieut. Col. Millard, and Col. Bush's regiment, with the artillery, had marched out for the purpose of covering the retreat, if necessary. All those fell back in good order to our encampment about sunset, and remained without any ostensible action until the 21st at half-past 3 o'clock, taking the first refreshment which they had enjoyed for two days. The enemy, in the meantime, extended the right flank of their infantry so as to occupy the extreme point of a skirt of timber on the bank of the San Jacinto, and screened their left by a fortification about five feet high, constructed of packs and baggage, leaving an opening in the centre of the breastwork, in which their artillery was placed—the cavalry upon the left wing.
About 9 o'clock on the morning of the 21st, the enemy were reinforced by 500 choice troops, under the command of Gen. Cos, increasing their effective force to upwards of 1500 men, while our aggregate force for the field numbered 783. At half past 3 o'clock in the morning, I ordered the officers of the Texan army to parade their respective commands, having in the mean time ordered the bridges on the only road communicating with the Brazos, distant 8 miles from our encampment, to be destroyed, thus cutting off all possibility of escape . Our troops paraded with alacrity and spirit, and were anxious for the contest. Their conscious disparity in numbers only seemed to increase their enthusiasm and confidence, and heightened their anxiety for the contest. Our situation afforded me the opportunity of making the arrangements preparatory to the attack, without exposing our designs to the enemy. The 1st regiment, commanded by Col. Burleson, was assigned to the centre; the 2nd regiment, under the command of Col. Sherman, formed the left wing of the army; the artillery, under the special command of Col. G. W . Herkley, Inspector General, was placed on the right of the 1st regiment; and four companies of infantry, under the command of Lieut. Col. Millard, sustained the artillery upon the right. Our cavalry, 61 in number, commanded by Col. Mirabeau B. Lamar, (whose gallant and daring conduct on the previous day, had attracted the admiration of his comrades, and called him to that station,) placed on our extreme right, completed our line. Our cavalry was the main army continued until twilight. A guard was then left in charge first despatched to the front of the enemy's left, for the purpose of attracting their notice, whilst an extensive island of timber afforded us an opportunity of concentrating our forces, and deploying from that point, agreeably to the previous designs of the troops. Every evolution was performed with alacrity, the whole advancing rapidly in line, and through an open prairie, without any protection whatever for our men. The artillery advanced and took station within 200 yards of the enemy's breastwork, and commenced an effective fire with grape and canister.
Col. Sherman, with his regiment, having commenced the action upon our left wing, the whole line, at the centre and on the right, advancing in double quick time, rung the war cry "Remember the Alamo," received the enemy's fire, and advanced within point-blank shot before a piece was discharged from our lines. Our line advanced without a halt, until they were in possession of the woodland and the enemy's breastwork. The right wing of Burleson's, and the left of Millard's, taking possession of the breastwork; and our artillery having gallantly charged up within 70 yards of the enemy's cannon, when it was taken by our troops. The conflict lasted about 18 minutes from the time of the close of the action until we were in possession of the enemy's encampment, taking one piece of cannon, (loaded,) four stands of colors, all their camp equipage, stores and baggage. Our cavalry had charged and routed that of the enemy on the right, and given pursuit to the fugitives, which did not cease until they arrived at the bridge which I mentioned before. Capt. Karnes, always foremost in danger, commanded the pursuers. The conflict in the breastwork lasted but a few moments; many of the troops encountered hand to hand, and not having the advantage of bayonets on our side, our riflemen used their pieces as war clubs, breaking many of them off at the breech. The rout commenced at half past 4, and the pursuit by the the main army continued until twilight. A guard was then left in charge of the enemy's encampment, and our army returned with their killed and wounded. In the battle our loss was 2 killed and 23 wounded, six of whom mortally. The enemy's loss was 630 killed, among whom was 1 general officer, 4 colonels, 2 lieut. colonels, 7 captains, 12 lieutenants; wounded 280, of which were 3 colonels, 3 lieut. colonels, 2 second lieut. colonels, 7 captains, 1 cadet. Prisoners 730—President Santa Anna, Gen. Cos. 4 colonels, aides to Gen. Santa Anna, 6 lieut. colonels, the private secretary of Gen Santa Anna, and the colonel of the Guerrero Battalion, are included in the number. Gen. Santa Anna was not taken until the 22d, and Gen. Cos on yesterday, very few having escaped. About 600 muskets, 300 sabres, and 200 pistols have been collected since the action; several hundred mules and horses were taken, and near twelve thousand dollars in specie. For several days previous to the action, our troops were engaged in forced marches, exposed to excessive rains, and the additional inconvenience of extremely bad roads, ill supplied with rations and clothing; yet, amid every difficulty, they bore up with cheerfulness and fortitude, and performed their marches with speed and alacrity--there was no murmuring.
Previous to and during the action, my Staff evinced every disposition to be useful, and were actively engaged in their duties. In the conflict, I am assured that they demeaned themselves in such manner as proved them worthy members of the army of San Jacinto. Col. T. J. Rusk, Secretary of War, was on the field; for weeks his services had been highly beneficial to the army; in battle he was on the left wing, where Col. Sherman's command first encountered and drove the enemy; he bore himself gallantly, and continued his efforts and activity, remaining with the pursuers until resistance ceased.
For the Commanding General to attempt discrimination as to the conduct of those who commanded in the action, or those who were commanded, would be impossible; our success in the action is conclusive proof of their daring intrepidity and courage . Every officer and man proved himself worthy of the cause in which he battled, while the triumph received a lustre, from the humanity which characterised their conduct after victory, and richly entitles them to the admiration and gratitude of their General. Nor should we withhold the tribute of our grateful thanks from that Being who rules the destinies of nations, and has, in the time of greatest need, enabled us to arrest a powerful invader whilst devastating our country.
I have the honor to be, with high consideration,
Your obedient servant,
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