On April 21, 1836, the independence that had been hastily declared some eight weeks earlier was decisively achieved on the fields of San Jacinto.
It might not have been. There were those who wanted to continue fleeing the massive Mexican army in search of a better battlefield. Others hoped to flee ignobly into Louisiana and leave Texas behind. Some even wanted to sue for peace and hope the butcher of the Alamo would show mercy.
They feared what they saw: a sorely out-numbered, rag-tag band of Texians going head-to-head against the better-gunned and professionally trained Mexican Army under the command of the self-styled “Napoleon of the West,” Antonio López de Santa Anna, Mexico’s president.
Yet on the fields of San Jacinto, the Texas militia demonstrated a bold, courageous commitment to their cause by exhibiting a shrewd willingness to exploit Santa Anna’s arrogance.
It was a high-stakes gambit, with only two possible outcomes. Independence would be secured through victory, or Texas would be lost in a disastrous defeat. There would be no draw.
So in broad daylight, with Sam Houston himself leading the infantry, the Texians charged on the napping Mexican army. Before firing their first shots and charging on the Mexican position, the afternoon silence was broken by men shouting “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!”
To simply note that the battle lasted less than 20 minutes doesn’t do justice to the scale of the victory. Nearly 700 Mexican soldiers were killed, another 200 were wounded and some 700 were taken prisoner – including the president of Mexico, Santa Anna. By contrast, the Texians lost just nine men and saw only 30 wounded.
What was true in 1836 is true today: freedom doesn’t come in timid nibbles, but through bold actions. Never in history has liberty been expanded in a gradual series of small steps over time; that’s how tyrannies take hold.
Instead, liberty is born from boldness. When people decide they are willing to lose everything rather than live as serfs, that is when tyrants quiver and fall.
Sam Houston and the militia at San Jacinto knew their odds and took bold action. For the Lone Star State to shine even brighter in the years ahead, we must continually re-commit to doing likewise.