The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texas militia engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican forces in a fight that lasted just eighteen minutes. The Texan militia moved quickly and silently across the high-grass plain, and then, when they were only a few dozen yards away, charged Santa Anna's camp shouting "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!," only stopping a few yards from the Mexicans to open fire. The Texans achieved complete surprise, and achieved one of the historically most decisive and unequal victories of any battle between regular soldiers and volunteer militiamen. About 630 of the Mexican soldiers were killed and 730 captured, while only nine died of the roughly 900 Texans who fought.
Santa Anna, the President of Mexico, was captured the following day and held as a prisoner of war. Three weeks later, he signed the peace treaty that dictated that the Mexican army leave the region, paving the way for the Republic of Texas to become an independent country.
One of the key lessons of this critical battle is the way Houston held back his troops until just the right moment. After the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad his men were clamoring to engage the Mexican troops immediately and without tactical planning. Houston knew that if he had yielded to their demands, they would have been wiped out just like the defenders at the Alamo and Goliad had been. So he led them in a tactical retreat, while keeping track of the movements of the Mexicans. When Santa Ana camped without posting sentries or otherwise preparing for an attack, Houston seized the opportunity for a decisive victory.
Although the Texas troops are often referred to as an "army", they were not enlisted for fixed terms for pay, and thus were militia, rather than army, forces. Only a few of the men were appointed to have military rank, or had formal backgrounds as soldiers in any regular army.
For more on the Battle of San Jacinto:
Battle of San Jacinto, Wallace L. McKeehan
Texas State Library and Archives
San Jacinto Museum of History
Texas State Historical Association
The Battle of San Jacinto, YouTube, from the movie The Alamo)
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