March is an important month to people for several reasons: NCAA March Madness begins, it's the first calendar month of spring, and Texas declared its independence over 150 years ago.
Texas was no stranger to sovereignty. Over the course of 300 years, this region passed four time between 3 different nations: Spain for over 150 years, France for a brief 5 years before its ownership was rescinded back to Spain for another century until civil unrest yielded the nation of Mexico in 1821.
Mexico, perhaps much inspired by her northern neighbor, made great strides away from the monarchy that once ruled and established a Federal Republic. In 1825, the young nation began to colonize the remote province of Coahuila y Tejas. After a decade of targeted federal regulations and settlement auto-militarizations, the Texas portion of the province began its revolt in what would become the move toward an independent nation.
Stephen F. Austin, the spearhead for colonization, originally wanted Texas to be recognized as an independent state from Coahuila. After a year in prison, he published a document outlining his stance. However, in a few short months, dissent escalated in Mexico and Austin was freed in July, only to recant his stance. War was Austin's battle cry, and independence his spoils.
Rebels rallied to his cry while Mexican President Santa Anna sized control from the states. The clouds of war that had been brewing finally burst forth the Revolution with The Battle of Gonzales. "Come and Take It" was the rebels' mantra, a phrase that still echoes from the annals of history. President Santa Anna, in a token of good faith, had given settlers in the northwestern area of Coahuila y Tejas a cannon in 1821 - as means of protection against the Comanche. However, in attempt to curb the onset of war, federal forces were sent to retrieve the weapon. "Come and Take It!" the rebel settlers cried and forced the Mexican military to retreat under a rain of bullets and cannon fire.
Blood flowed across the land in skirmish after skirmish as the war raged on. Texians gained land and support over the course of the next six months. President Santa Anna, a general first and politician second, rides for battle to turn the tides of war. On a Cold February afternoon, a day that started in celebration ended in siege as Santa Anna's forces fell upon a small Catholic Mission.
Nearly a week into the Siege of the Alamo, as standing commander of the garrison William B Travis rallied his mere 200 troops against an army of thousands, The Texas Declaration of Independence is signed. The Republic of Texas is born. David Burnet is interim Commander in Chief and Sam Houston as Commander General. Much gained, and much lost. The Alamo falls within a few days, and with her fall patriots William B Travis, David Crocket, and Jim Bowie.
Victory is on the horizon, but to whom she belongs is yet to be seen. Texas rebels and Mexican militants both had their wins and losses. Santa Anna assembles his war council to plan a final assault. Rebel forces, after receiving the Alamo's distress cry, flock to her aid. The force led by Colonel James Fannin, as they dispatch from Goliad, are ambushed and overwhelmed by General Urrea in the Battle of Coleto. Over 300 Texan rebels are captured, marched back to Goliad, and imprisoned. Nearly 400 prisoners of war are held at Fort Defiance.
In a cruel twist of fate, the Mexican government had enacted a law at the onset of war that "any foreigners taken in combat were to be treated as pirates and executed. As it so happens, the mass of POWs held were Anglo immigrants from the North. General Urrea had left Goliad in the command of Colonel Portilla. Urrea saw these rebels for what they were - as soldiers, men just like him, fighting for what they believed at the behest of their leaders. He wrote vehemently to President Santa Anna for clemency, who wrote back with equal fervor to comply with the law. Unable to stop Colonel Portilla from carrying out his duty, over 300 Texians were marched to their death on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, better known as The Goliad Massacre.
Santa Anna, who had conquered first for Spain, then conquered Span itself to help bring Mexico to fruition, had dealt a great blow and sent Texas reeling. The Texas army drew forces east in an effort to amass them all at a central point. Sam Houston was mocked as a coward, urged to move west and meet the Mexicans in open battle. Santa Anna was not called the Napoleon of the West. Emboldened by the retreat, he pursued the Texan forces to San Jacinto River, setting the stage for what would be his Waterloo.
Small skirmishes took place for a few days between scouting parties as both armies probed for each others forces. Drunk on confidence, Santa Anna maintained very relax defenses around his encampment, disregarding the need for sentries and lookouts. On the dreamy afternoon of April 21, the tides of battle came crashing down on the Mexican forces in a flurry of gunfire and artillery shells.
"Remember The Alamo!" the rebels cried, storming hastily built fortifications constructed from packs and baggage. "Remember Goliad!" the shrieked, pouring over sleeping Mexican army like the tide reclaims the beach. Much like their siesta, the lives of Mexican Soldiers were cut short this day. Though outnumbered, the Sam Houston's bold gambit to lead an attack in broad daylight had paid off. Although Santa Anna far outnumbered the rebel forces, hubris and traditional ranked tactics cost him the war.
The Battle of San Jacinto was a landslide victory. Texas suffered only 9 casualties, while half of the Mexican forces were slaughtered and the rest taken captive, among them Santa Anna himself. The Battle was won. The War was ended. Texas was a sovereign nation all her own.