Historical Articles

4. Battle of San Jacinto

By Bill Neeley

Texas Captain Juan N. Seguin reported to duty at General Sam Houston's headquarters at San Jacinto. The Tejano officer had just completed the crucially important mission of protecting the women and children in the Runaway Scrape as they fled Gonzales and other Texas towns from Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's Mexican assassins. Houston greeted Seguin warmly, but upset the Tejano captain with orders to guard the base camp and supplies while the Texas army geared up to fight the self-proclaimed "Napoleon of the West."

Seguin passionately urged Houston to let him and his twenty-two Tejanos fight against the Mexican tyrant who slaughtered and burned the bodies of the Alamo defenders, seven of whom were Tejano rancheros who had followed Seguin into the fortified mission. If Seguin had not been elected by his comrades in arms to ride for reinforcements, he, too, would have been killed. Revenge, therefore, was on the Tejano captain's mind as strongly as any man preparing for battle. Sergeant Antonio Menchaca spoke for all the Tejanos when he said to the general, "I did not enlist to guard horses and would not do such duty."" Seguin added that he wanted to be in on the kill.

Impressed, Houston relented. Knowing of the anti-Mexican sentiment among the Anglo-Celts under his command, the general suggested placing cardboard in their hatbands to help distinguish them from enemy soldiers. The Tejanos fought under newly arrived Colonel Sidney Sherman and his Kentucky riflemen. Armed with the same weapons as the Kentuckians, Seguin and his men were a part of the Second Regiment that formed the left flank of the Texas Army.

The Second Regiment, in fact, was the first to break the Mexican line. Having assured General Thomas Rusk that the Mexican soldiers would be taking a siesta after their long march from Harrisburg, which they had left in flames, the Tejano Captain's knowledge of the enemy greatly aided the Texans in their victory. The startled Mexican soldiers broke ranks on their right flank with Tejanos and Kentuckians in hot pursuit. It was victory or death as every man in the Texas Army that day knew full well what would happen to them if they fell into the hands of Santa Anna.

After firing one shot at the startled Mexican soldiers, Seguin and his men used their rifles as clubs as Mexicans turned to run. Captain Robert Calder of the First Regiment observed that Sherman's Second Regiment "had the honor of breaking the right wing of the enemy before we attacked the center."

Yelling "Recuerden el Alamo! Recuerden Goliad," Seguin and his small band of Tejanos captured two of Santa Anna's top officers: the dictator's brother-in-law Martin Perfecto de Cos, the officer who a few months earlier, had forced Juan's father Don Erasmo Seguin to walk from the post office in San Antonio to his ranch thirty miles to the south; and Colonel Juan N. Almonte.

Seguin's exploits were noted as far away as Alabama, where the Mobile Morning Chronicle in May 1836 wrote, "Captain (now Colonel) Juan Seguin, a native of Bexar and whom I have known from a boy, commanded 25 men, all natives from the same place, and performed wonders, every man conducted himself in the most distinguished manner."

As he led his prisoners back to camp to report to Houston, Mexican Lt. Augustin Sanchez showed Seguin where a large sum of money had been hidden. Houston, in pain from the wound in his ankle, congratulated Seguin, a true Texas patriot.

The above is excerpted from A Tejano Knight: The Quest of Don Juan Seguin by Bill Neeley. Copyright © 2017 Bill Neeley. All rights reserved.

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