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On this day in history, April 21, 1836, Texans rout Mexican army on San Jacinto River: 'Remember the Alamo!'

In the Texan War for Independence, Texas militia, led by General Sam Houston, launched a surprise attack on this day in history, 1836, against the forces of Mexican General Santa Anna on the banks of the San Jacinto river.

“The Mexicans were thoroughly defeated and hundreds were taken prisoner, including General Santa Anna himself,” according to History.com. 

The events of the historic battle are archived in records. 

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“Nine hundred and 10 Texas troops under Gen. Sam Houston attack approximately 1,200 Mexican troops under President Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, located at the bend of the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou, in present-day La Porte. Nine Texans are killed and 30 wounded,” according to the archives of the University of Texas at Arlington. 

The conflict between Texas and Mexico was complicated, historians have noted.

After gaining independence from Spain in the 1820s, Mexico welcomed foreign settlers to sparsely populated Texas, according to History.com. 

The Alamo in Texas

Tourists gather in front of the chapel of the Alamo Mission, known as the “Shrine of Texas Liberty,” in downtown San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 23, 2023.  (Daniel SLIM / AFP via Getty Images)

A large group of Americans, led by Stephen F. Austin, settled along the Brazos River. 

“The Americans soon outnumbered the resident Mexicans, and by the 1830s, attempts by the Mexican government to regulate these semi-autonomous American communities led to rebellion,” the same site also notes.

By March 1836, “in the midst of armed conflict” with the Mexican government, Texas “declared its independence from Mexico,” the site also shares.

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Initially, the Texas volunteers suffered defeat against the forces of Santa Anna; General Houston’s troops were forced into an eastward retreat and the Alamo fell, History.com also says.

The Texans soon rallied, however, and prepared to launch another attack.

“We view ourselves on the eve of battle,” Houston said, according to the Sam Houston Memorial Museum and Republic of Texas Presidential Library.

Gen. Sam Houston

Shown here, General Sam Houston, who led an outnumbered militia to victory on the banks of the San Jacinto River in Texas. (Apic/Getty Images)

Houston continued, “We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid: None is at hand. We must now act or abandon all hope! Rally to the standard and be no longer the scoff of mercenary tongues! Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father’s name.”

On April 21, 1836, Houston’s army surprised a Mexican force at San Jacinto, and Santa Anna, leader of the Mexican forces, was captured — bringing an end to Mexico’s effort to subdue Texas. 

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In the surprise attack, Houston led 900 troops to fight Santa Anna’s 1,600 men. 

Shouting, “Remember the Alamo!” the Texas Army won the battle at San Jacinto “in 18 minutes” and “secured Texas independence from Mexico,” according to History.com.

Texas remained independent for nearly 10 years, becoming a state in 1845, that site notes.

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“In exchange for his freedom, Santa Anna recognized Texas’s independence; although the treaty was later abrogated and tensions built up along the Texas-Mexico border,” reports History.com.

Soon after, General Houston was elected president of the Republic of Texas, according to the Library of Congress.

The Alamo

The Texan defenders of the Alamo fighting Mexican soldiers within the walls of the fortress. Davy Crockett (1786-1836), center right, with his rifle above his head, died in the siege.    (MPI/Getty Images)

He continued to serve as senator and governor of the state after Texas became part of the United States.

In 1845, the U.S. Army began using the Alamo for quartering troops and storing supplies, according to Britannica.com. 

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“In 1883, the state of Texas purchased the Alamo, and in 1903 it acquired the title to the remainder of the old mission grounds,” says the site.

The Alamo and its adjacent buildings have been restored and are maintained as a state historic site.

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In 2015, the Alamo, along with four other 18th-century Spanish missions nearby and a historic ranch to the southeast in Floresville, Texas, were also collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Britannica also notes.

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