Other Narrations by Creed Taylor:
The Battle of San Jacinto
The morning of April 21 dawned bright and crisp. It was to be a great day for Texas. From their crude pallets the boys sprang up as if for a joyous holiday. Merry jests went the rounds, and the camp wits spared neither high private nor officers. "If you get bumped off, Bill, won't you will me your coonskin cap?" Tomlinson said to a comrade: "You can take the cap now; I'll wear a Mexican officer's hat on parade tomorrow,"' rejoined the confident comrade. And he was as good as his word, for he did wear a dead Mexican officer's uniform the next day.
The night preceding the battle was a restless one to many of the boys, but General Houston slept soundly, as if nothing out of the ordinary was to take place on the morrow. As the first beams of the morning sun touched his eyelids, he rose from his blanket, walked to the bay nearby and bathed his face. At the moment a raven was seen flying across the field from the direction of the Mexican camp interpreted by Houston as a good omen, heralding the dawn of the natal day of free Texas. The day was to be a memorable one in the history of Texas and a most eventful one in the life of Sam Houston. More than twenty years before as a young ensign, Houston led his men over the breastworks of a savage foe at Tohopeka---to win his first laurels as a soldier, but at the cost of severe wounds. Today be would lead his men over the breastworks of another equally bloodthirsty enemy, to win great military renown and added wounds.
As the forenoon wore away the hilarity subsided, giving place to anxiety and impatience. The boys expected to be led into battle at an early hour. Why this delay? Ten o'clock, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock came, and no forward movement. During the noon hour, however, a number of officers approached General Houston, where he was reclining under a tree. I was not close enough to hear what was said, but observed by their gestures that some of them were intensely excited. I saw Houston rise up and with vehement motions of his clinched fists, address the party. Pretty soon the leather-faced old scout, Deaf Smith, with Jim Reeves, Mose Lapham, and one or two others, rode up to the general's headquarters, and after a short conversation dashed away at full speed. No one knew their orders or destination, but all knew that something was going to happen soon and the excitement was at high pitch.
And here is opportunity to correct another error that has crept into history---to the effect that General Houston suggested the destruction of Vince's Bridge. That idea was first advanced by John Coker, a private in the cavalry corps; and in this way. As he was talking with a group of his comrades about reinforcements reaching the enemy he remarked that the destruction of the bridge over Vince's Bayou, some eight miles west of camp, would halt their advance. All agreed that the idea was a wise one, and Deaf Smith was requested to place the matter before General Houston. The general thought the suggestion a good one and ordered Smith to select a few trusty helpers, evade the enemy, and proceed at once to the crossing and destroy the bridge. The structure was not chopped down, as stated by some of our historians but was fired and burned away. A larger force would have been required to cut down the massive and lengthy structure in so short a time. Santa Anna himself states that in his attempt to escape, his flight was baited when he found the bridge over the bayou was burned. Pvt. John Coker should have credit for suggesting the burning of Vince's Bridge.
As Scout Smith and his little party dashed away the excitement increased. As the boys began to gather about headquarters, the general mounted his horse which stood saddled nearby, and made a short speech, telling them to prepare to fight; that they were brave soldiers and would win the battle and all would be captains' that the enemy was hemmed in and could not escape or receive reinforcements---Vince's Bridge was being destroyed---but that it would take some tall fighting to whip them.
This was the trend of the talk the General made as he rode among us with uplifted sword frequently pointing towards the enemy's camp, and it certainly inspired and nerved everyone to a high pitch and everyone was ready and anxious for the struggle. Going into battle of course carries serious feelings for most men; but I know I was not scared. I thought only of fighting, and I believe every man was anxious for the fray. Somehow I felt that we would win. When our line was formed and just before the order to advance was given, I looked up and down the ranks to see if anyone looked scared. The boys had remarked about the nervous state of mind of some of the officers and some believed them unduly excited. As I looked into the faces of these men I could see no signs of uneasiness. On the contrary, there was a spirit of cheerfulness, and levity that was remarkable under such conditions. Captain Karnes did not dismount and walk excitedly back and forth before his company as has been reported. He sat during the few minutes we remained in line on his horse directly in front of us and replied in his own dry, droll way to the jests of his men in the ranks.
The order was then given by the company leaders to "arm and line." As the different companies formed and were drawn up they were briefly addressed by their respective captains. I remember hearing Mosley Baker as he harangued his men in loud, unmistakable terms. The speech attracted the attention of General Houston as he rode up and down the lines, and he halted and sat quietly on his horse, listening interestedly and approvingly. Captain Baker told his men neither to ask for nor to give quarter; that now was the chance to even up the scores and avenge the murder of their comrades at San Antonio and Goliad; and as a reminder he proposed that the company carry a red flag. This met with approval and a large red handkerchief was hoisted on a pole and carried into battle.
Engrossed in the movements of my own company, I noticed but little of the formation and movements of the other bodies of troops, except those under Col. Ed Burleson, which took place in front of our camp. They stood rank and file two deep, and I well remember seeing the Colonel mounted on a large bay horse, riding up and down in front of the line as he addressed his men. But evidently he did not need to encourage them, for they seemed only too eager for action---swaying forward and out of line at points where the under officers were not holding them back by the flat part of their swords. Once again I noticed Colonel Burleson---just before the yell was raised to charge, and as he galloped over for some purpose to Sherman's line. As he dashed back across the plain, his blue flannel shirt fluttering in the breeze and his sword glistening in the sun, the spectacle was truly inspiring and we could not help cheering him. He was the picture of a real military hero. All, of course, noticed Colonel Sherman as he dashed about, wearing his bright blue silver-laced uniform. He was the only one thus supplied-even General Houston did not have a complete uniform.
Just then General Houston and two or three officers came along the line and our captain turned his horse and rode out a few steps to meet them. They did not halt but Houston said something to Karnes and I heard the Captain reply: "Depend on that, General." Houston had not gone far down the line when I saw him rein his horse, turn to the men, draw his sword and point toward the Mexican encampment. Immediately came the command, "Forward, my brave men! Charge the enemy and give them hell." At last we were really going into battle.
We did not go off in a helter-skelter charge, as I have often heard related, but our gait for a short distance was a trot, our speed increasing as we neared the enemy. The music by which we marched upon the foe was the then familiar and popular melody, "Will you come to the bower I have shaded for you," and was played on a single fife and a badly battered drum. Here it might be added that except for the time when General Havelock marched to the relief of Lucknow to the music of "Annie Laurie" this was, so far as I know, the only time in history troops were led into battle to the strains of a love song. One thing I particularly observed as the lines first moved forward to the attack. Our artillery-two small brass cannons, the famous "Twin Sisters"---was drawn by horses, but when near the enemy the horses became excited and unmanageable and the guns then were drawn by men, two of whom I remember well, Clark Harmon and Tom Green. Both were powerful men. I have often heard Green (who later, by the way, became a famous Confederate general) tell how sore it made his muscles to yank the cannon around. Green and Harmon were the principal gunners. Ben McCulloch, afterwards a noted border chief and a gallant Confederate general, was in command of the guns. Young McCulloch, fresh from Tennessee, had arrived in Texas a little too late to join his neighbor, Davy Crockett, in the Alamo, but he attached himself to Houston's army to avenge, he said, his friend's tragic death. And he did, for the "Twin Sisters" spoke mid the rifles' sharp crack, the clashing of swords and the yell of men who fought on, but never turned back till the battle was won and won well.
As we came in full view of the Mexican breastworks, the music changed to the lively strains of "Yankee Doodle" but just at the moment something occurred far more inspiring and thrilling. Mud-spattered, and on foaming steed, the heroic Deaf Smith dashed up and along the lines, frantically waving an ax above his head, and shouted: 'Vince's Bridge is gone! No escape, boys! Fight fast and hard!" and then wheeling, the gallant old scout ran ahead and over the barricade. His horse, exhausted, stumbled and fell, throwing the rider among the enemy. Smith quickly arose and drawing his pistol, attempted to shoot a Mexican who was about to run him through with a bayonet. For once the scout's trusty pistol failed to fire, but he hurled the weapon at the head of his assailant. As the stunned Mexican staggered back Smith seized his gun and dispatched him. So, if it is worth anything to history, I can vouch for the fact that Deaf Smith began the fight and drew the first blood at San Jacinto. The Texan yell was the order to charge, and like a cyclone crashing through the forest, we went over the dirt and brush barricade without halting. A solid sheet of flame flashed from our rifles, and then, without waiting to reload, we bore down and closed in upon the surprised and frightened enemy with clubbed guns, pistols, and hunting knives. It was a hand to hand struggle; and now came the bloodstirring, cry, "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad."
Instantly the appeal was caught up and repeated with more and more feeling. It seemed to nerve every Texan to fight with greater desperation and to fire with deadlier effect. It is little wonder that Santa Anna, attempting to excuse himself for his inglorious flight from the field, afterwards wrote: "So sudden and fierce was the enemy's charge that the earth seemed to move and tremble." Just inside the breastworks my horse fell and I thought he was shot. But he quickly regained his feet and after reloading my gun I mounted and dashed on into the thick of the fray. At this moment I saw Karnes kill a Mexican with his pistol and then throw the discharged weapon at another, knocking him over. As the Mexican was trying to scramble up, he was struck over the head with a rifle and killed. When we---I speak particularly of Karnes' company, as I could not see what was going on with the others---crossed the breastworks, all company formation and order was at an end. Every man was his own captain, fighting his own way with only one aim---to kill Mexicans. Orders given by cornmanding officers were drowned in the noise or little heeded. In fact, but little semblance of order existed after the fight began. It seemed that every fighter was transformed into a wild, furious beast with but one impulse, and that to slay. "No me mates" (do not kill me), was heard on every side, but our men gave no heed to these appeals. They used their heavy sheath knives with deadly effect. Some used their guns as they would a club. The Mexican guns had bayonets, and these were seized in many instances and the Mexicans were run through with their own weapons. From the first onslaught the fight was fast and furious. And what a terrible scene! The yells of the infuriated Texans, the shouts of the confused Mexicans, and the crack of firearms, making a veritable bedlam. Many of the terror-stricken Mexicans simply threw down their arms and begged for mercy. "Me no Alamo! Me no Goliad!" was heard on every hand. But the appeals of the poor fellows were in vain. The slaughter went on with relentless fury.
During the progress of the struggle, many acts of individual heroism and gallantry were displayed; and for one thing, it can be said that not one gesture of cowardice was displayed by a San Jacinto man. Dr. Motley, a young surgeon on Houston's staff, was about the first of our boys to fall. After receiving his death wound and with his dying breath he cheered his comrades on. This gallant martyr to Texan liberty was one of the signers of our Declaration of Independence, and his memory is perpetuated in the name of one of the counties of Texas. Perhaps the most conspicuous figure in the fight was the dauntless Captain Ware and his heroic band of eighteen select riflemen from the San Bernard. They were well to the front and under close fire, suffering more than some of the larger companies. One of the number, George A. Lamb, was killed and four others, Sgts. Will Winters and Albert Gallatin, and Privates Rector and Robinson, wounded. The ball which hit Gallatin first struck his powder horn, cutting through the shot pouch and entering the side, carrying the strap of leather into the wound. Captain Ware was wild and furious and when the charge was ordered he leaped to his place in front and shouted, "Come on, boys." It was almost a miracle that none of the balls hit the captain, for he was in the lead, standing in his stirrups, springing into the air and shouting at every jump.
From the moment we set up our yell and opened fire there was consternation in the Mexican camp. The enemy was completely surprised. Most of the officers evidently were asleep as some of them were found shot while they reposed on their cots, and it was apparent that the Mexican soldiers were just preparing their evening meal, as their tables were left spread when the assault came. It was about four o'clock and to add to their confusion the western sun was shining directly in the enemy's face. General Houston said he purposely had timed the attack so the sun would be in the Mexicans' eyes. But the Mexicans were not cowards and for a time fought desperately. However, as the onslaught increased and the Texans became more desperate, the foe lost spirit and fell back, finally running toward the center of their encampment where their brave officers tried to rally them to their colors. It was here (in his heroic efforts to rally his troops that the brave Colonel Castrillion fell.). But the rush was too fast for the Mexicans to escape the fury of the "diablos tejanos" (Texas Devils). Our men were avenging the death of their friends in the Alamo and at Goliad, and everyone was determined to take full toll.
The Mexican artillery was soon silenced. It was around the artillery park that the fiercest fighting and most desperate hand-to-hand struggles occurred; in fact, the greater number of the enemy were killed around their cannon. I could have walked over a large circle on their dead bodies. Here in this bloody angle the struggle was terrific, the Texans using their heavy hunting knives as cleavers wielded their guns as clubs to knock out the brains of the Mexicans. Here was the bloodiest battle scene on all the field. And now presented an exciting scene. In the midst of the melee and when the fighting was fiercest, I heard someone shout, "Look! Look! Yonder goes old Santa! He's running away! Let's catch him." Looking across the prairie, I saw a small body of gaily uniformed horsemen riding rapidly from the field. It was the Mexican chief and his bodyguard, who, realizing that all was lost was seeking safety in wild flight. It was the terrifying Texan yell and the headlong charges of our cavalry that so frightened the Mexicans and put them into wild flight. On our right the glorious Lamar commanded the cavalry and performed many acts of heroism, charging down upon the enemy and driving them before him. With him were such intrepid fighters as Walter P. Lane, Deaf Smith, Henry Karnes, Peter H. Bell, Wash Secrest, Olin Trask---as brave and determined men as ever rode in line of battle. His position brought him in front of Santa Anna, and it was the desperate charge of Lamar that caused the Mexican general to abandon his army and flee for life.
Santa Anna was mounted on a coal black charger, which later proved to be the noted "Old Whip," Allen Vince's fine stallion stolen by the Mexicans the day before. A few of Lamar's cavalry men at once gave chase and soon the escort was overtaken and slain. But Santa Anna, being mounted on a swift steed, outdistanced his pursuers. Reaching the bayou and finding the bridge gone, he plunged into the mire and was unable to extricate himself. But the fugitive "Napoleon of the West" managed to scramble out, and hid in the brush and high grass bordering the stream until night. Thus afoot and bewildered, he wandered around, but made little further progress toward escape. The manner in which he was captured the next day by a party of our scouts, will be told at another time.
Once the order to charge was given and the furious fight began, all semblance of order had ceased. The respective commanders were simply unable to direct or control their men. Even the commander-in-chief himself was virtually as a private. Although wounded early in the action, the ball shattering his ankle and penetrating his horse, General Houston displayed unusual bravery and calmness throughout, as he rode here and there encouraging the men and endeavoring to direct operations. His wounded horse, covered with foam and blood, finally fell, but the general quickly remounted another and spurred forward into the thick of the ray shouting, "Come on, my brave fellows. Your general leads you." Houston's enemies accused him of cowardice at San Jacinto; that he was unduly excited, and that he became a hero by accident. I observed the general on the field several times during the fight, and I can say truthfully that in every instance and in every way, he appeared cool and collected. I can never forget his magnificent and commanding appearance as he dashed from point to point over the field. He certainly looked and acted every inch a military chieftain.
It was the great Napoleon, I believe, who said "quarter hours decide the destinies of nations." And so it was at San Jacinto. The battle was soon won but the slaughter continued in the different directions until it was quite dark. It is said that the battle lasted only fifteen or twenty minutes. It seemed longer than that to me, but admitting the statement to be true, one can form some idea of the desperation of the boys when he considers the number killed in that brief time. General Almonte rallied a considerable number of his fleeing men and surrendered. These would have been killed had not our officers prevented their slaughter. They used every means to stop the killing of the panic-stricken and fleeing Mexicans, but it was some time before the men gave any heed to their commanders. When the firing did cease our boys were wild with delight. General Houston rode over the field with blood dripping from his stirrup and tried to establish order by urging the men to get into line and fall back to camp. But he only met with goodnatured raillery, whereup the general is said to have exclaimed, "Boys, I like your courage, but damn your manners."
Finally a semblance of order was established and the men began to perform the duties assigned to them: caring for the wounded, collecting the guns, ammunition and camp equipage left strewn about the field. Dead Mexicans lay everywhere and in every position, some officers on their cots, enlisted men lay dead across the campfires, slain while preparing the evening meal. It was a gruesome scene I can never forget. The dead Mexicans were not buried---Santa Anna evinced no desire to have that done---but allowed them to remain where they had fallen. The Mexican prisoners were gathered together and placed under guard around a big campfire. A guard was placed around Santa Anna's tent, where the army chest was found. General Houston had all monies found turned in and it was then equally divided among the boys. But the men were so joyful over the great victory that they cared but little for the spoils. The murder of their friends had been avenged and Texas was free from tyrannical rule. Among other things discovered in the Mexican camp was a great quantity of tallow candles which were brought out and distributed among the men. The old fife and drum again played, "Will you come to the bower," and, lighting their candles, the boys began a wild dance, each holding in his hand a blazing candle, as he sang, yelled, and whirled around the big campfire. They were intoxicated with the joy of victory and kept up the revelry until a late hour.
From the clear sky of that eventful night the stars actually seemed to shine brighter---as if taking cognizance of what had transpired.
The strife is o'er, the fight is done
The "Lone Star" of Texas arose in dim luster at Washington town, March 2, 1836. San Jacinto gave it effulgence---to shine with increasing radiance as the years roll by. It is the Star of Empire.
The first day of a free Texas was a glorious one. As the sun arose on the morning following the battle it seemed to me to shine with more splendor; all nature appeared more radiant and beautiful; the fields of bluebonnets lending an azure bue to the landscape, appeared even more brilliant and fragrant. We were all happy. By daylight the Texan camp and the nearby battlefield was a scene of activity. Groups could be seen about the campfires, preparing roast beef-about all we had for breakfast; the boys were jesting and laughing as if on a holiday jaunt, others looking after their hobbled horses that had strayed out on the prairies; and some saddling up for a scout up the bayou. After breakfast men were seen all over the battleground, gathering up arms, accoutrements, and articles of various kinds which the Mexicans had abandoned in their stampede the evening before, while some of the boys were amusing themselves by decorating the mules and horses with officer's sashes, ribbons, and gold tinsels.
I was told that a few days after the battle, a man was seen extracting the teeth of dead Mexicans, though the stench was something fierce. Be it known, however, that this enterprising fellow was not one of our comrades, but one of those who had flocked to the battlefield after the news of the victory. He was a dentist from the "States," and was supplying himself with the necessary adjuncts of his profession. No one disturbed him in his gruesome work. All the boys lamented the escape of the "big dog of the tan yard," as they called Santa Anna, and scouts were soon planned to scour the country for the fugitive. Early on the morning of the twentysecond, Si Bostick came to me and said he was going on a "still hunt" with two or three fellows and asked me to go along. Bostick and I were perhaps the youngest lads in the army and we were the best of chums. We were comrades together at Gonzales, Conception, in the Grass Fight, and at the siege and capture of Bexar, and we were very close friends. But the lack of a suitable mount---my horse had been shot from under me in the battle I declined to go. After the boys left I kept thinking that I might be missing some fine sport---I could imagine them flushing a covey of "greasers" and chasing them across the prairies.
The scouting party that captured Santa Anna was composed of Joel W. Robinson, A. H. Miles, Charles P. Thompson, Joseph Vermillion, and Siron R. Bostick, led by Color Sgt. James A. Sylvester, the gallant young man who bore the "Liberty or Death" flag through the Battle of San Jacinto, the only flag flown on the field by the Texans that day. In flushing the vicinity near Vince's Bayou, the Mexican general was discovered crouching in the tall grass along a small hollow. He was first sighted by Jim Sylvester who suddenly rode upon the fugitive. The Mexican had on a corporal's uniform and was barefooted. Sylvester at once signaled his men scattered around some four or five hundred yards away, and as they began dashing up and flourishing their guns, Santa Anna became excited, and it was at that moment that he first gave the Masonic sign of distress. Both Sylvester and Robinson were Masons and they understood what "them funny motions meant," and this no doubt accounts for the fact that the captive was not killed on the spot. The captive was ordered to march ahead on foot toward the camp, but soon be stopped and declared that because of his bare blistered feet he could go no further. Whereupon Miles drew his gun and threatened to fire if he didn't "step along lively." They proceeded some half a mile when the prisoner suddenly stopped and said: "Señor, I cannot walk barefooted any further, even though you kill me." Several of the boys leveled their guns and were ready to shoot, when Robinson interceded, saying, "Don't kill the poor fellow." He then reached down, took the hand of the prisoner and said, "Get up behind me." Si Bostick often said that be guessed that was about Santa Anna's closest call, a moment later be would have fired and the checkered career of the famous Mexican would have ended near the spot of his great downfall.
Thus Santa Anna was captured and brought into the Texan army camp. As the party approached General Houston's headquarters, which was under a large live-oak tree, I hailed Bostick and asked: "Si! Who have you got there?" "Don't know Creed, but we think he's a big buck." This was only a few paces from the "dead line" where the Mexican prisoners were being guarded. No sooner had Bostick spoken than I saw several of the prisoners salute and heard them say, "Es el Presidente! Es nuestro General!" (It is the President! It is our general!). Hearing this I hastened to headquarters and I saw and heard everything that occurred in that great moment of our country's history. On reaching headquarters the captive quickly slid down from the horse and was immediately led to Houston. General Almonte was the first man to approach him and at once introduced him to General Houston, who, owing to his wound, did not rise to his feet, but did rise to a sitting posture and very cordially extended his hand which Santa Anna grasped as if it were that of an old friend. I could not see that Santa Anna was unduly excited, though he appeared quite serious. He bore himself with an air of a fearless---I might say, defiant-man, although at that moment the boys, with fury depicted in their faces, were gathering from every quarter and it was with an effort that the guards held them back.
I cannot recall all the conversation between the two generals; but that interview is of record, and a matter of familiar history. I do remember that Santa Anna did not appear "shaky," nor did he ask for an opiate. Meanwhile the crowd continued to gather, and threats, in an undertone, were heard on every side, and I believe that Santa Anna's being a Free Mason was all that saved him on that day. Houston, Sherman, and many others of our officers were Masons and while a number of them doubtless favored the execution of the red-banded monster, yet they were bound to observe their Masonic obligations. I offer this, however, as my opinion and this idea prevailed generally among the men. Comrade Bostick stood near Santa Anna, as if still guarding the captive, watching every movement and listening attentively to all that was said. "Something seemed to give Santa Anna confidence all at once," said Bostick, and I know now what it was. He and Houston were both Free Masons, and the prisoner made the sign of distress, which Houston, as a Mason, heeded. I was told that at the time by one of our men, who was a Mason also, and I am now certain it was the strong tie of fraternal brotherhood that saved Santa Anna's life."
One incident I distinctly remember. In the course of the interview, Santa Anna, casting his eyes about recognized Manchaca, who had so bravely fought on the Texan side with Captain Seguin's Mexican company, and at once appealed to him for favor and kind treatment. Manchaca was a man of wit and ready repartee and with a sardonic smile and a twinkle of the eye, he drew his hand across his throat and exclaimed: "Oh, yes! I know what you would do, if you had me as prisoner!" This attitude of the patriotic Manchaca, toward his countryman, of course, served to intensify the feeling against Santa Anna and he became more serious and somewhat agitated; and it was at this moment, as I have been reliably informed, that he gave the distress sign of a Master Mason. General Houston showed the distinguished prisoner the utmost consideration, even preventing the 'Texans from firing a salute celebrating the capture of the Mexican general; and this served to still further exasperate some of boys who were unfriendly to the Texas Commander and who were loudest in their demands for the Mexican captive's blood. Houston had Santa Anna's tent erected near his own, the Mexican general's bed with finest covering, placed therein---the only bed at San Jacinto---but the fallen chief slept little that night. The Texans including General Houston, reposed on the ground, but they slept well and happy. Santa Anna was allowed to choose his body servants and to use all the furnishings, of his fine marque.
Second only to Santa Anna, General Cos was the object of supreme contempt and hatred to the men, more especially to those who had witnessed the sacrifice of Ben Milam and other comrades in San Antonio the preceding December, and had witnessed his surrender. Cos had surrendered as a prisoner of war and had never been exchanged. By the violation of this parole he forfeited all claims to leniency and I believe to this day that he should have been marched out in front of the Mexican prisoners and shot. General Almonte was one of the most attractive men among the prisoners. He was a man of fine appearance, genial and highly educated. He had visited Texas a few years before the outbreak of hostilities and he remembered many of his captors whom he had met before and for each of these he had pleasant words. I had it from good authority that "Almonte" was not his right name. I was told that his father was the insurgent priest who first raised the "grito" for Mexican Independence in 1810. At one time later during the ensuing war Hidalgo and the lad, with a small escort, were riding along the highway, when suddenly they found themselves almost surrounded by the Spanish troops under Calega. Hidalgo, seeing capture inevitable, shouted to the boy, "Al monte! Al monte!" (To the hills! To the hills!) The boy fled as directed and was ever afterward known as "Almonte." [In his narrative here, Taylor has confused Padre Hildalgo with Padre José Morelos--WLM]
One more little incident of San Jacinto and I will have done with my poor account of some of the things I saw there, although the event I am going to relate occured a day or so after I left, but it was told to me by several of the boys who were eyewitnesses. A large amount of ammunition had been captured, among which were quite a lot of cartridges gathered up loose and piled in a heap not far from Santa Anna's tent, which was guarded by a sentinel in front and one in the rear. Tom Nail was on duty that day as guard at the rear of Santa Anna's tent and no man ever breathed that hated the Mexican chief more than Tom. By some means during the day fire got out in the dry grass and reached the pile of cartridges with the result that there was a furious and prolonged explosion. It sounded like the continued rattle of musketry and produced quite an excitement in the camp. Hearing the uproar Santa Anna got the idea that there was an uprising of the prisoners and, rushing to the rear of his tent, he bent low to the ground and, raising the cloth, put his head out to see what was going on. Sentinel Nail was carrying a Mexican escopeta, with a fixed bayonet, and when he saw Santa Anna's head poked out, he made a vicious lunge at it with his bayonet which missing its mark, buried itself to the gun muzzle in the ground. Of course the general's head got back quicker than it came out, but until the day of his death Tom Nail cursed his ill luck in not pinning Santa Anna's head to the ground on that occasion.
Strange to say our histories of Texas say little or nothing about the disposition of the Mexican dead at San Jacinto and the question is often asked if they were buried. As stated, they were not buried but left to decay where they fell. But the sequel proved that these carcasses should have been buried or burned. Dead Mexicans lay everywhere and in every position. It was a ghastly sight I can never forget. Santa Anna evinced no desire to have his slain men interred, and of course we Texans were not concerned about the final disposition of these unfortunate "greasers." The fact is that immediate burial of so large a number of corpses was rendered impracticable by the great fatigue which the Texans had endured, and by the care of the prisoners and captured army property. Soon the bodies, drenched by the heavy rains and heated by the burning sun, presented a fearful, most ghastly sight, swelling to enormous sizes and decaying with a revolting stench. No one, of course, wanted to engage in the gruesome work. The boys saying that they came to kill, but not to bury Mexicans, and it was jocosely suggested that a dead "greaser" would turn to a mummy anyhow---that there was not vitality enough about them to cause decomposition; that at the Alamo and at Goliad our dead were burned, but that we would be more humane and leave the unfortunate Mexicans to rest in peace on the field. [Shields footnote: Colonel Delgado, complaining of the treatment of himself and his fellow prisoners of war, says, still more intolerable was the stench arising from the corpses on the field of San Jacinto, which they (the Texans) did not have the generosity to bury, after the time-honored custom, regardless of their own health and comfort, and those of the surrounding country.]
I have often heard the story of how a Mrs. McCormick, on whose estate the principal portion of the slain Mexicans lay, called at General Houston's headquarters and requested him to "have them stinking Mexicans removed from her land." The general, with mock seriousness, replied, "Madam, your land will be famed in history as the classic spot upon which the glorious victory of San Jacinto was won. Here that last scourge of mankind, the arrogant, self-styled Napoleon of the West, met his fate." "To the devil with your glorious history!" the madam replied, "Take off your stinking Mexicans." No buzzards or wolves came about them, and the odor exuding from the corpses which lay rotting south of our camp, became terrible, causing the army to move up to Harrisburg. After the flesh rotted off, the cattle pawed over and chewed the bones to the extent that their milk and meat was unfit for use. The citizens of the vicinity then gathered up and buried the bones, all except the skulls, which could not be chewed. The skulls lay on the ground and some of them could be seen many years later. Some of them were carried away as souvenirs; but I never had any desire for such relics.
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS