Texas Historical Documents

The Battle Of San Jacinto

April 21, 1836
Houston's Official Report April 25, 1836

From Sam Houston, Commander‑in‑Chief, San Jacinto, To his Excellency D. G. Burnett [sic], President of the Republic of Texas, April 25th, 1836 (MS; Archives, Texas, State Library, Austin).

Headquarters of the Army

San Jacinto, April 25th, 1836

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 fifty-five miles, which was effected in two days and a half, the army arrived opposite Harrisburg. ;That evening a courier of the enemy was taken, from whom I learned that General Santa Anna, with one division of his choice troops, had marched in the direction of Lynch's ferry, on the San Jacinto-burning Harrisburg as he passed down. ;The army was ordered to be in readiness to march early on the next morning. ;The main body effected a crossing over Buffalo Bayou, below Harrisburg, on the morning of the 19th, having left the baggage, the sick, and a sufficient camp-guard, in the rear. We continued to march throughout the night, making but one halt in the prairie for a short time, and without refreshments. ;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 General Santa Anna was at New Washington, and would that day take up the line of march for Anahuac, crossing at Lynch's ferry. ;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 discovered to be approaching in battle array, having been encamped at Clopper's point, eight 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, consisting of one double-fortified medium brass twelve-pounder, then opened on our encampment. ;The infantry, in column, advanced with the design of charging 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 fortification.

A short time before sunset, our mounted men, about eighty-five in number, under the special command of Colonel Sherman, marched out for the purpose of reconnoitring the enemy. ;While advancing, they received a volley from the left of the enemy's infantry, and, after a sharp rencounter with their cavalry, in which ours acted extremely 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 meantime, the infantry under the command of Lieut-Col. Millard, and Col. Burleson's regiment, with the artillery, had marched out for the purpose of covering the retreat of the cavalry if necessary. ;All then fell back in good order to our encampment about sunset, and remained without ostensible action until the 21st, at half past three 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 secured 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, their cavalry upon their left wing.

About 9 o'clock on the morning of the 21st, the enemy were reinforced by five hundred choice troops, under the command of Gen. Cos, increasing their effective force to upward of 1500 men, while our aggregate force for the field numbered 783. At half -past three o'clock in the evening, I ordered the officers of the Texan army to parade their respective commands, having in the meantime ordered the bridge on the only road communicating with the Brazos, distant eight 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 seemed only to increase their enthusiasm and confidence, and heightened their anxiety for the conflict. Our situation afforded me an 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. George W. Hockley, inspector-general, was placed on the right of the 1st Regiment and four companies of Infantry, under the command of Lieut.-Col. Henry Millard, sustained the artillery upon the right. Our cavalry, sixty-one 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 first despatched to the front of the enemy's left, for the purpose of attracting their notice, while an extensive island of timber afforded us an opportunity of concentrating our forces, and deploying from that point, agreeably to the previous design of the troops. Every evolution was performed with alacrity, the whole advancing rapidly in line, through an open prairie, without any protection whatever for our men. The artillery advanced and took station within two hundred yards of the enemy's breastwork, and commenced an effective fire with grape and cannister [sic]. 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, raised the war-cry, "Remember the Alamo," received the enemy's fire, and advanced within pointblank 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 our artillery having gallantly charged up within seventy yards of the enemy's cannon, when it was taken by our troops.

The conflict lasted about eighteen minutes from the time of close action until we were in possession of the enemy's encampment, taking one piece of cannon (loaded), four stand of colours, all their camp-equipage, stores, and baggage. Our cavalry had charged and routed that of the enemy upon the right, and given pursuit to the fugitives, which did not cease until they arrived at the bridge which I have mentioned before--Captain Karnes, always among the foremost in danger, commanding 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 four, and the pursuit by 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 two killed and twenty‑three wounded, six of them mortally. The enemy's loss was 630 killed, among whom was 1 general officer, 4 colonels, 2 lieutenant colonels, 5 captains, 12 lieutenants wounded 208, of which were 5 colonels, 3 lieutenant‑colonels, 2 second lieutenant- colonels, 7 captains, I cadet prisoners 730-President General Santa Anna, Gen. Cos, 4 colonels, aides to 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 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, illy supplied with rations and clothing yet, amid every difficulty, they bore up with cheerfulness and fortitude, and performed their marches with spirit 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 a 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 in the enemy: he bore himself gallantly, and continued his efforts and activity, remaining with the pursuers until resistance ceased.

I have the honor of transmitting herewith a list of all the officers and men who were engaged in the action, which I respectfully request may be published, as an act of justice to the individuals. 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 characterized 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 devasting [sic] our country.

I have the honor to be, With high consideration,

Sam Houston,
Commander - in - Chief

Other Resources

Read an account of the San Jacinto Battle by a member of Santa Anna's Staff, Colonel Pedro Delgado