The FTHC supports the Commission in securing a key missing piece of the Texas revolution story
During the 2019 legislative session, the Texas Legislature transferred a set of historic sites from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Texas Historical Commission. Among these is the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in Harris County. This 1,200-acre site encompasses much of the area where the Texan and Mexican armies fought the final, decisive battle of the Texas Revolution on April 21, 1836. The Texan victory secured independence for the fledgling Republic of Texas. This site has been a place of history and remembrance since the first acreage was acquired by the State of Texas in 1883. Along with the other Texas Revolution historic sites owned and managed by the THC—San Felipe de Austin, Fannin Battleground, Washington-on-the-Brazos—the San Jacinto Battleground allows the THC to trace the larger story of the Texas Revolution across its historic sites, offering a more robust learning of the history of Texas.
In 2009, a survey was done of a 50+ acre, privately owned parcel to the south and east of the historic site’s current boundary. The results of the survey and artifacts discovered strongly suggested that this was the site where Colonel Juan Almonte and approximately 200 Mexican troops surrendered to the advancing Texian forces. This was the single largest surrender during the fight, in which half of the Mexican forces were killed. According to historians and experts in the history of the Texas Revolution, the “Almonte’s Surrender” site provides one key missing piece of the Texas Revolution story.
Almonte’s Surrender: On April 21, 1836, two small armies faced each other across a tall grass prairie on the coastal plain of San Jacinto. The Mexican force led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna had been reinforced with 500 troops that morning and the commander was feeling confident, dismissing the idea that the ragtag army facing him was a real threat. Expecting an attack at sunrise, the Mexican troops had spent the night throwing up a defensive breastwork, and by mid-afternoon Santa Anna sent his troops to rest, planning to attack the Texans the next morning. In the hot, late, lazy afternoon the quiet was broken by rifle fire on the Mexican right, causing confusion and a scramble for weapons. Just as the Mexican troops realized they were being attacked on the right, the main body of Sam Houston’s small force announced itself with artillery fire from the Twin Sisters, matching six- pound cannons, a gift of the City of Cincinnati. The confused and disoriented Mexicans withstood the Texan assault for 18 minutes before their lines collapsed and they retreated in a panic for survival.
For the next two hours, Texan soldiers took revenge for what happened at the Alamo and Goliad. Mexican soldiers who tried to surrender were killed outright, so most ran as hard and as fast as they could. As twilight neared, the frenzied chase slowed as exhaustion on both sides took effect. Colonel Juan Almonte, who was forced to flee like the rest, realized that groups of soldiers surrendering were being taken captive while individuals were not. Almonte worked to gather about 200 soldiers in the woods along Peggy’s Lake. The troops lined up in columns and surrendered to a dozen or so Texans and Secretary of War Thomas Rusk. Almonte’s surrender, the largest single surrender of troops, effectively ended the Battle of San Jacinto. Nine Texans were killed or mortally wounded during the attack, and over
600 Mexican soldiers lay dead or dying across more than a mile of marsh and prairie. This battle secured independence for the newly created Republic of Texas and set in motion a series of events that would allow the United States to grow into the nation that we know today.
The Texas Historical Commission is working on acquiring the 50 storied acres of the “Almonte Surrender” site, which will allow the agency to tell the full story of the Battle of San Jacinto. The Friends of the Texas Historical Commission is honored to partner with the Commission to raise funds for this time-sensitive acquisition.