James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 21

The Fight at San Jacinto

By John Williamson Palmer (1825–1896)

  • The battle of San Jacinto was fought on April 21, 1836, between 1,600 Mexicans under Santa Anna, and 783 Americans under Sam Houston. Santa Anna was defeated and captured. This battle decided the independence of Texas.

  • “NOW for a brisk and cheerful fight!”

    Said Harman, big and droll,

    As he coaxed his flint and steel for a light,

    And puffed at his cold clay bowl;

    “For we are a skulking lot,” says he,

    “Of land-thieves hereabout,

    And the bold senores, two to one,

    Have come to smoke us out.”

    Santa Anna and Castrillon,

    Almonte brave and gay,

    Portilla red from Goliad,

    And Cos with his smart array.

    Dulces and cigaritos,

    And the light guitar, ting-tum!

    Sant’ Anna courts siesta—

    And Sam Houston taps his drum.

    The buck stands still in the timber—

    “Is the patter of nuts that fall?”

    The foal of the wild mare whinnies—

    “Did he hear the Comanche call?”

    In the brake by the crawling bayou

    The slinking she-wolves howl,

    And the mustang’s snort in the river sedge

    Has startled the paddling fowl.

    A soft low tap, and a muffled tap,

    And a roll not loud nor long—

    We would not break Sant’ Anna’s nap,

    Nor spoil Almonte’s song.

    Saddles and knives and rifles!

    Lord! but the men were glad

    When Deaf Smith muttered “Alamo!”

    And Karnes hissed “Goliad!”

    The drummer tucked his sticks in his belt,

    And the fifer gripped his gun.

    Oh, for one free, wild Texan yell,

    And we took the slope in a run!

    But never a shout nor a shot we spent,

    Nor an oath nor a prayer that day,

    Till we faced the bravos, eye to eye,

    And then we blazed away.

    Then we knew the rapture of Ben Milam,

    And the glory that Travis made,

    With Bowie’s lunge and Crockett’s shot,

    And Fannin’s dancing blade;

    And the heart of the fighter, bounding free

    In his joy so hot and mad—

    When Millard charged for Alamo,

    Lamar for Goliad.

    Deaf Smith rode straight, with reeking spur,

    Into the shock and rout:

    “I’ve hacked and burned the bayou bridge,

    There’s no sneak’s back-way out!”

    Muzzle or butt for Goliad,

    Pistol and blade and fist!

    Oh, for the knife that never glanced,

    And the gun that never missed!

    Dulces and cigaritos,

    Song and the mandolin!

    That gory swamp was a gruesome grove

    To dance fandangos in.

    We bridged the bog with the sprawling herd

    That fell in that frantic rout;

    We slew and slew till the sun set red,

    And the Texan star flashed out.