By Dr. Betty J. Edwards
President General of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas
On April 21, 180 years ago, General Sidney Sherman’s men led the left wing of Sam Houston’s Army into battle against Mexican Dictator Santa Anna’s troops at San Jacinto. These men carried the only banner the Texans had that day as they rushed to meet their fate in a life-or-death struggle for liberty.
The bedraggled volunteers had been outnumbered and on the run from Santa Anna’s army of trained soldiers for weeks after the massacres at Goliad and the Alamo. Their surprise attack on the Mexican Army shortly after 3:30 p.m. — during siesta — lasted just 18 minutes, but gave birth to the Republic of Texas.
The banner they carried into battle now hangs behind the speaker’s platform in the Texas House of Representatives. It was a gift from the Galveston Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
Preserving the history of the men who fought to create Texas that day, and honoring their heroic struggles, has been the core mission of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas from the very start.
Texas won its independence that day, and set into motion events that led to the United States acquisition of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma.
The Battle of San Jacinto changed world history. But it would be 37 years until the men who fought for their freedom that day would meet in Houston and form the Texas Veterans Association to pass their story along.
The DRT didn’t exist yet, but the 300 aging soldiers there took special effort to thank the women who forged Texas in the form of a resolution: Resolved — that the surviving pioneer women of the period we commemorate who were joint sharers in the trials and privations of that period, and whose patriotism was equal to the occasion, we tender our kindest regards and remembrances.
The Daughters of the Republic of Texas was organized until 56 years after the battle, when they began to meet jointly with the few remaining members of the Texas Veterans Association. The legacy of the old soldiers had been passed along, and was in good hands.
Texas acquired and preserved the San Jacinto Battlefield at the Daughters insistence. In 1902, the Daughters toured the battleground with a group of legislators and a San Jacinto battle survivor. They placed temporary, improvised monuments in a dozen locations, including the camp where Gen. Houston lay wounded under a tree on the bayou, the same spot where Santa Anna was delivered to him as a captive.
The San Jacinto Monument was raised with the help of the Daughters in 1939. At 567 feet, the monument remains the tallest masonry column in the world, and 12 feet taller than the Washington Monument.
The story of Texas independence is a story known around the world. It is the story of the men who fought for liberty 180 years ago today at San Jacinto. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas exist still today to tell their story.
“The hours, days and years of unfolding time shall never dim the spirit of liberty kindled on this field of battle,” reads the inscription of a sundial placed at the battlefield by the San Jacinto Chapter.
Keep that spirit of liberty kindled today, and fly your Texas Flag proudly every April 21 in remembrance.