Defeat usually begins in one of two ways: believing success to be impossible, or assuming your victory is assured.

On April 21, 1836, the Texians achieved independence at San Jacinto because they were willing to fight a last-chance, impossible battle against an enemy force certain it would never taste defeat.

Let us be clear about the state of the Texian military: No one would have been impressed. They were ill-trained, under-prepared, and poorly outfitted. They had been running in tactical retreats for several weeks. Their leader, Sam Houston, was a heavy drinker.

And let us be equally clear about the Mexican forces: No one would have doubted their superiority. They were disciplined, well-trained, and better armed. Their leader, General Santa Anna, was a ruthless butcher.

The Mexicans were complacent and the Texians knew they had nothing to lose.

And so 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. Either independence would be secured through victory, or the cause of Texas would be lost in a disastrous defeat. There would be no draw.

In broad daylight, the Texians began shouting “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” With Sam Houston himself leading the infantry, the Texians charged on the napping Mexican army.
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.

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 Texians at San Jacinto knew the odds and took bold action anyway. For the Lone Star State to shine even brighter in the years ahead, we must daily recommit to doing likewise.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."


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