By Jay Holmes
In 1820, the Mexican government offered a land grant to Moses Austin that encompassed an area about half the size of modern-day Texas. In return, Austin was to finance the settlement of American pioneers into Mexico to create a viable economy in northeast Mexico.
The plan might seem like an odd arrangement today, but it worked quite well. Moses Austin died before he could complete his end of the bargain, but his son, Stephen Austin, brought over 300 families to Texas to establish ranches and farms. Mexico welcomed more American families to the region, and within a few years, American families outnumbered Mexican families—a situation that is the complete opposite of what we have today in Los Angeles and San Diego. Before long, American settlers moved into other parts of the sparsely populated Northern Mexico.
In 1829, the Mexican government decided to raise property taxes, ban slavery from Northern Mexico, and institute high tariffs on goods from the USA. The Texans rebelled at these measures.
In 1834, Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana took over as the dictator of Mexico and prepared to recapture the rebellious region of Texas.
The Alamo at Night, image by Dallas Gibson, wikimedia commons
Stephen Austin, and the residents of Texas decided in 1836 that, rather than tolerate the Mexican government, they would simply declare their independence. Santa Ana and his well-trained 6,000 man army surrounded a small force of Texas rebels at the Alamo. The rebels refused to surrender, and after a stubborn resistance, they were defeated on March 6, 1836. Santa Ana’s forces murdered the surviving rebels.
Ten days later, the right wing of Santa Ana’s army, under Mexican General Urrea, accepted the surrender of approximately 350 Texas rebels at Goliad. On March 27, Santa Ana ordered that those captives be executed. Unfortunately for Santa Ana, the delay that the rebels inflicted at the Alamo and at Goliad allowed a man named Sam Houston and the Texans—now both ex-American and ex-Mexican—to organize an army to face Santa Ana. Volunteers from the USA went to Texas to reinforce Houston’s small army.
Santa Ana pursued Houston eastward toward Louisiana, and as he did so, he had to divert some of his forces to protecting his supply lines from Mexico against roving rebels. By April 21, Santa Ana and his 1,500 troops had “trapped” Houston and his 900 men in a pocket of low ground surrounded on three sides by a meandering river at San Jacinto. That day, Houston decided that, given the lack of a dependable position, his only chance to avoid annihilation was to take the initiative and attack the Mexican forces before they could concentrate their soldiers for their own attack.
Battle of San Jacinto, image US Public Domain
At 4:30 p.m. on April 21, a rebel named Deaf Smith burned the Vince’s Bridge, thereby preventing easy retreat or reinforcement by either side. The first American “cage fight” ensued. The overconfident Santa Ana had neglected to post pickets or man outposts, and the Texas rebels were able to advance through the woods to within close range of the Mexican positions. The rebels charged with screams of “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad.” The surprise was complete and effective, and Santa Ana’s line collapsed.
One of the things Texans despised about Santa Ana was his practice of having his troops search out the area and capture pretty women to be used for his sexual pleasure. According to legend, at the time of Houston’s attack, Santa Ana was busy raping a pretty mulatto woman who his minions had brought him. If nothing else, his habit allowed him to easily discard whatever was left of his uniform.
Having shed his ornate, Gadhafi-style uniform and his rape victim, Santa Ana escaped the field of battle. A search party pursued him. They captured Santa Ana out of uniform, and, although the majority of the Texas rebels and perhaps many of the 700 captured Mexican soldiers preferred to hang him, Houston insisted on sparing his life. That’s because Houston was the smart one in the crowd. Santa Ana was the dictator of Mexico, and Houston wanted a treaty. If he killed Santa Ana, there would be no treaty.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, image US Public Domain
On May 14, Santa Ana signed the Treaties of Velasco. The new Mexican junta in Mexico City quickly disowned him, but no Mexican army attempted to retake Texas until 1846, ten years after the Treaties.
After the rebel victory at the battle of San Jacinto, Texas remained a republic until it became an American state on December 29, 1845. While these years are often ignored in basic USA history courses, they were actually an action-packed era full of intrigue, espionage, pay-offs, and all the other usual international political devices.
England and France, and to a lesser extent Russia, were competing for colonial acquisitions throughout the world, and the competition often turned into armed conflict in one form or another. In the USA, the issue of slavery remained divisive. The Democratic Party strongly favored slavery, and the Whig Party, popular in the Northeast and North, opposed slavery. Slavery was legal in Texas, and so the Whigs opposed the incorporation of independent Texas into the USA. The Texans and the Democrats won the argument, and Texas was annexed to the USA in 1845. Mexico broke off diplomatic relations with the USA.
To be continued. . . .
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*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.
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