San Jacinto Day is close to the heart of every good Texan. When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico inherited what is today’s Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Southern California. Mexico’s center of government remained in Mexico City, where New Spain’s (Mexico) capital was. Mexico began with a constitutional government but soon established a monarchy. However, in Texas, far from the capital of Mexico, settlers and Mexican nationals enjoyed a much freer life. 

Why Do We Proudly Fly Our Texas Flags on San Jacinto Day?

The Constitution of the Republic of Texas was signed on March 16, 1836, before the Texian’s victorious Battle of San Jacinto. The Texians surrendered at the Battle of Coleto Creek, and Santa Anna executed the Texians that survived this battle, over 300 of General Fannin’s men from Fort Defiance in Goliad. 

By April 21, Santa Anna and Sam Houston’s army converged on the banks of the San Jacinto River. The Battle of San Jacinto lasted 18 minutes, and the Texians captured Santa Anna and his men. The Texians shot down the Mexican soldiers who tried to run, but they did not execute Santa Anna. 

And this, fellow Texans, is why we fly the Texas flag on April 21, San Jacinto Day.  

History of San Jacinto Day

General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, President of Mexico for 11 terms, became a military hero during the Mexican War of Independence from Spain in 1821. He played key roles in Mexican politics after its independence from Spain. Santa Anna abolished Mexico’s constitution in 1824 (with support), and this move kicked off a Mexican civil war and the movement for Texas’ independence from Mexico. 

These Texian independence sentiments boiled and bubbled up into the Texas War for Independence from Mexico in 1835. Stephen Fuller Austin is the “Father of Texas Independence”. Spain granted Moses Austin, Stephen’s father, land grants in Texas. When Mexico became a sovereign nation, Stephen renegotiated his father’s land grant contracts with Mexico.

In 1825, a year after Mexico became a monarchy and after much turmoil, the Mexican congress and the executive department approved Austin’s contract. Stephen received enough land grants to bring 300 U.S. families to Texas. Texas was an isolated, far northern state of Mexico and far away from the Mexican government’s center, Mexico City. Texians and Tejanos enjoyed more autonomy than Mexican citizens closer to the capital. 

The 1824 abolishment of the Mexican constitutional government resulted in the former Spanish provinces of Texas and Coahuila becoming one Mexican state. Texians and Tejanos, as Texas citizens were known at the time, felt abandoned and ignored. They had little help from and no voice with the Mexican government. 


The first uprising of Texas against the Mexican government came when the Fredonian Rebellion (December 21, 1826–January 31, 1827) members in Nacogdoches signed a Declaration of Independence from Mexico. Austin did not support this rebellion along with other prominent Texas politicians, and it did not last long, but it alerted Mexico’s officials that something unseemly was growing in Texas. 

Mexican General Manuel de Mier y Terán traveled to Texas to check out this circumstance, and recommended several policies which resulted in articles of laws that would greatly outrage Texians and Tejanos three years later, the Law of April 6, 1830. The primary law that riled up the Texians was one that prohibited immigration to Texas from the U.S. At this point, Stephen F. Austin’s relationship with Mexico relatively deteriorated. 

In 1832, Mexican Colonel Juan (John) Bradburn at Fort Anahuac imprisoned William B. Travis and his law partner after a dispute over slavery policy because Mexico did not legalize slavery. At Turtle Bayou, 42 miles southeast of today’s Houston, a group of men met to attempt a rescue of Travis on July 18, 1832. A skirmish occurred called the First Anahuac Disturbance. The Texians there eventually signed the Turtle Bayou Resolutions, claiming they supported General Santa Anna, who at the time, ironically, supported the Texas reform policies. 


The Turtle Bayou meeting led to the Convention of 1832, which made no declarations and shelved their sentiments to a future 1833 convention. No Tejano delegates attended for fear of imprisonment. General Santa Anna became the Mexican president on April 1, 1833, and the citizens of Mexico saw this as a victory for citizen freedoms, and especially the citizens of Texas. The people hoped Santa Anna would retract the restrictions of the Law of April 6, 1830.

Texian and Tejano delegates conducted the Convention of 1833 the same day Santa Anna took his presidential office. Sam Houston attended the convention. The convention delegates chose several items to present to the Mexican government. One of its demands was to split Texas from Coahuila, in which Texas would become a state with a separate government, and they picked Austin to advocate for their demands in Mexico City. 

Austin was able to persuade Vice-President Valentín Gómez Farías to allow foreign immigration to Texas, but Farias refused statehood to Texas. Austin, an experienced statesman and diplomat, uncharacteristically wrote a letter calling for Texian colonists to act on Mexico’s refusal of Texas statehood. The Mexican government intercepted Austin’s letter and arrested Austin on his way home to Texas and imprisoned him. 

War On The Horizon

With Austin’s imprisonment, an impending war loomed on the collective minds of Texians and Tejanos. President Santa Anna soon left his presidential duties up to Farias so that he could play using his newfound power that afforded him 24/7 leisure. Farias supported freedom for Mexican citizens, but wealthy Mexican Centralists hated Farias for their diminished powers. Santa Anna had to go back to work. He listened to his supporters, ousted Farias from office, and dismissed his congress. 

This new congress, wealthy elites, gave Mexico’s president emergency powers, and this completely severed Mexico’s federalist system. This congress created the Federal Militia Reduction Act that limited militias to one militia soldier per every 500 citizens on March 31, 1835. This act required the citizen militias to move all cannons to a central site, which decidedly destroyed local and state militias. The central location for the cannons in Texas was Béxar de San Antonio, today’s San Antonio, and the home of the Alamo. 


States all over Mexico burned with rage at the Militia Reduction Act. The Mexican state of Zacatecas rebelled in 1835. Santa Anna rode in and decimated the Zacatecan militia. The news of Santa Anna’s brutality there quickly spread to Texas. Texians were not in unison supporting an uprising against Mexico. Although, a powerful sector of Texians was ready to fight, including Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis.

Soon after in 1835, the Mexican government arrested a merchant in Anahuac, Texas, on a customs charge. At this time, the Mexican government depended solely on customs duties for revenue. Travis and Texian volunteers took off to Fort Anahuac from Mexico in what was the Second Anahuac Disturbance. This angered the Mexican government and some Texian sectors, but primarily, the Second Anahuac Disturbance spurred on the Texas Revolution. 

Imprisoned by the Mexican government for 28 months, Austin arrives back in Texas on September 1, 1835. Texian ideology had drastically changed in Texas in the two years Austin was absent. Previously, Austin, an excellent Ben Franklin diplomatic equivalent, without a doubt, promoted peace with Mexico. Austin’s Mexican prison experience embittered him. Now, Austin publically advocated for freedom from Mexico.  


Only one month later, on October 2, 1835, the Battle of Gonzales officially began the Texas Revolution (Texas War for Independence). So here we are, six to seven months later after the Militia Reduction Act; negotiations between Mexico and Gonzales Texians fail. Mexico sends Second Lieutenant Castañeda to confiscate the less than three foot long cannon with strict orders to avoid a skirmish. Gonzales, Texas, told Mexico to “Come and Take It!” and fired off their cannon. 

It was an easy victory for Gonzales. Then, Castañeda and the Gonzales Texians were on the move towards each other’s forces. The Texians couldn’t protect themselves from the Indians without their cannons. Indian raids happened frequently on the Texas frontier back then. The Europeans threatened centuries-old ways of life and cultures of the Indians. The Indians instinctively had to defend their lands.

The North and South American Continents had already changed forever for the Indian’s ways and were turning into lands of sophisticated European systems of law and order. The Gonzales Texians crossed the Guadalupe River under cover of darkness, landed on the west bank, and marched towards Castañeda’s new camp. When daylight fell, they attacked the Mexican camp, and Castañeda retreated behind a hill, obeyed his orders, and then retreated to Béxar de San Antonio.

All Texas Highways Lead to San Antonio de Béxar and the Alamo

The road to the Siege of the Alamo was now paved, leading to imminent murderous, horrific, and catastrophic results. Two defining events that won Texas her independence came only seven months after the Battle of Gonzales, the Siege of the Alamo followed by the Battle of San Jacinto. The Texas Revolution was quickly successful as wars go, but certainly not without grave consequences.

The Battle of San Jacinto is the reason every citizen in Texas who owns a Texas flag should run it up their poles on April 21. The battles and events after the Battle of Gonzales that led up to the Alamo are as important as the Siege of the Alamo beginning on February 23rd, 1836, and the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. (skip over these bullets if timelines bore you)

Major Texas Revolution Events Lead to the Siege of the Alamo

In 1835

  • October 2: The Battle of Gonzales
  • October 23: Mexico abolishes its Constitution of 1824 
  • October 28: The Battle of Concepción
  • November 3: The Consultation creates a provisional government of Texas
  • December 5-9: The Battle of Bexar

In 1836

  • January 18: Colonel James Bowie arrives in San Antonio de Béxar (site of the Alamo) and resolves to stay. 
  • January 31: Santa Anna marches towards Texas with his army. Mexican General José de Urrea arrives in the town of Matamoros, Mexico (present day southern border of Texas). General Houston takes men and supplies from the Alamo and sends them to Matamoros. 
  • February 1: Santa Anna musters another company for his army and marches to Texas toward the stronghold of the Texians, San Antonio de Béxar. 
  • February 3: Colonel William B. Travis arrives in San Antonio de Béxar, knowing that Colonel James Bowie and Colonel James C. Neill had written to Texas’ Provisional Governor, Henry Smith, that they would rather “…die in these ditches than give up this post to the enemy.” Only about thirty men join Travis for a total of about 200 Texian soldiers stationed at the Alamo. Santa Anna’s troops arrive in Matamoros, 280 miles from San Antonio de Béxar.
  • February 5: General Sam Houston writes to Cherokee Chief Bowles asking that the Cherokee to remain neutral so Texians would not face two factions in war. 
  • February 8: Third Sergeant David Crockett arrives in San Antonio de Béxar and tells the men at the Alamo he wants to rank no higher than a private. In Tennessee, Crockett served as a Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel. 
  • February 11: Colonel James C. Neill, commander of the Alamo, leaves and promises to return in 20 days with troops and supplies. He leaves Colonel Travis in charge. Bowie has more experience, and Travis agrees to share command with Bowie, whom the men in the Alamo had elected Colonel.
  • February 16: General Santa Anna crosses the Rio Grande River from Mexico into Texas, only his second time to enter Texas since the Battle of Medina in 1813. 

The Siege of the Alamo Commences

February 23, 1836: Colonels Bowie and Travis do not expect General Santa Anna until mid-March. Texian scouts report that Santa Anna will arrive now. Santa Anna arrives and puts the Alamo under siege without a shot fired. He raises a red flag at the San Fernando Church. The Texians reply by firing a shot from their largest cannon, an 18-pounder. The Mexican army would bombard the Texians in the Alamo throughout the siege, but not heavily, until the last day…

February 24: Colonel Travis writes his famous “Death or Victory” letters asking for Texian troops because he knows he cannot hold the Alamo. Bowie falls gravely ill, takes to bed, and Travis leads his troops alone. Reinforcement troops do not arrive in time. Travis’ most famous letter closes with:

“If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country – Victory or Death.”

February 25: Texian Captain Juan Seguín sneaks past Santa Anna with a letter to Sam Houston, Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Army, from Colonel Travis. 

February 26: Colonel James Fannin, in Goliad at Fort Defiance, begins marching to Béxar de San Antonio. In just 24 hours, he could still see Fort Defiance (Presidio La Bahía). Fannin hears General Urrea is on his way to Goliad. He cannot leave Goliad without defense and turns back to Fort Defiance. The troops at the Alamo will never know that Fannin turned back. 

March 1: Except for Second Lieutenant James Butler Bonham on March 3, the only reinforcements appear. 32 men enter the Alamo in answer to one of General Travis’ letters. Bonham brings a letter containing outdated information that Colonel Fannin was on his way.

March 4: Santa Anna holds a Council of War, asks his officers for suggestions on a plan of attack. He expresses that his army should kill every soldier in the Alamo. His officers protest the massacre. Santa Anna ignores his officers. 

March 5-6: Santa Anna ups his bombardment on the Alamo against his officer’s advice. Before sunup on March 6, the last Texian soldier in the Alamo was dead. The Alamo falls to Mexico. Colonel Neill is on his way with 350 troops, but he does not make it in time. 

March 19: Battle of Coleto Creek. Colonel Fannin abandons Fort Defiance and heads for Coleto Creek in advance of General Urrea. General Urrea catches up with Fannin before Fannin reaches Coleto Creek. Fannin sets up a perimeter guarded by Fort Defiance cannons. After battling for a few hours, Urrea retreats, but more troops join him during the night. Fannin decides to stay with his wounded and surrenders to Urrea. 

* The Texian army was loosely organized. This army can be considered as a “nonexistent” army. Texas legally belonged to Mexico. The ranks of the Texian army leaders changed frequently depending on what role they played as military officers from the president of Texas to commander of the army to colonel, etc. The Texian leader’s military ranks changed frequently at different times in a short period of history. The research of the individual leader’s rank here is according to the most reliable sources.

Kendall Davis
Author: Kendall Davis

Author: Kendall Davis Company: Lumini Services Kendall currently lives on the shores of Lake Texoma in Texas. She traveled across two-thirds of the U.S. for many years camping at lakes, rivers, and three oceans before motels and hotels if at all possible, and she continuously saw God's presence in nature. Writing for Lakehub allows Kendall to share her experience with God's creations.

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