Year
1836
Month Day
March 13

Houston retreats from Santa Anna’s army

Less than a week after the disastrous defeat of Texas rebels at the Alamo, the newly commissioned Texan General Sam Houston begins a series of strategic retreats to buy time to train his ill-prepared army.

Revolutionary Texans had only formally announced their independence from Mexico 11 days earlier. On March 6, 1836, the separatists chose Sam Houston to be the commander-in-chief of the revolutionary army. Houston immediately departed for Gonzales, Texas, where the main force of the revolutionary army was stationed. When he arrived, he found that the Texan army consisted of 374 poorly dressed and ill-equipped men. Most had no guns or military experience, and they had only two days of rations.

Houston had little time to dwell on the situation, because he learned that the Mexican general Santa Anna was staging a siege of the Alamo in San Antonio. Before Houston could prepare his troops to rush to aid the defenders, however, word arrived that Santa Anna had wiped them out on March 6. Scouts reported that Santa Anna’s troops were heading east toward Gonzales. Unprepared to confront the Mexican army with his poorly trained force, Houston began a series of strategic retreats designed to give him enough time to whip his army into fighting shape.

Houston’s decision to retreat won him little but scorn from the Texas rebels. His troops and officers were eager to engage the Mexicans, and they chafed at Houston’s insistence on learning proper field maneuvers. Houston wisely continued to organize, train, and equip his troops so they would be prepared to meet Santa Anna’s army. Finally, after nearly a month of falling back, Houston ordered his men to turn around and head south to meet Santa Anna’s forces.

On April 21, Houston led his 783 troops in an attack on Santa Anna’s force of nearly twice that number near the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River. With the famous cry, “Remember the Alamo,” the Texans stormed the surprised Mexican forces. After a brief attempt at defense, the Mexican soldiers broke into a disorganized retreat, allowing the Texans to isolate and slaughter them. In a stunning victory, Houston’s army succeeded in killing or capturing nearly the entire Mexican force, including General Santa Anna, who was taken prisoner. Only two Texans were killed and 30 wounded.

Fearful of execution, Santa Anna signed an order calling for the immediate withdrawal of all Mexican troops from Texas soil. The Mexicans never again seriously threatened the independence of the Lone Star Republic.

WATCH: How Slavery Is Connected to Texas's Independence

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Breonna Taylor is killed by police in botched raid

Shortly after midnight on March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician, is shot and killed by police in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment after officers busted through her door with a battering ram . Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, ...read more

"Paris is Burning" premieres in theaters

After more than five years of fundraising, shooting, and editing, the documentary Paris is Burning debuts in New York City on March 13, 1991. The groundbreaking look at the culture and characters surrounding the city’s drag ball culture changed the way many people thought about ...read more

This Day In History: William Herschel discovers Uranus, March 13, 1781

William Hershel discovers Uranus

The German-born English astronomer William Herschel discovers Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun. Herschel’s discovery of a new planet was the first to be made in modern times, and also the first to be made by use of a telescope, which allowed Herschel to distinguish Uranus ...read more

Czar Alexander II assassinated in St. Petersburg

Czar Alexander II, the ruler of Russia since 1855, is killed in the streets of St. Petersburg by a bomb thrown by a member of the revolutionary “People’s Will” group. The People’s Will, organized in 1879, employed terrorism and assassination in their attempt to overthrow Russia’s ...read more

U.S. Army launches K-9 Corps

On March 13, 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the United States Army begins training dogs for the newly established War Dog Program, or “K-9 Corps.” Well over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I, carrying messages along the complex network of trenches and ...read more

Eric Clapton leaves the Yardbirds

In and of itself, one man leaving one band in the middle of the 1960s might warrant little more than a historical footnote. But what makes the departure of Eric Clapton from the Yardbirds on March 13, 1965, more significant is the long and complicated game of musical chairs it ...read more

Disney names Robert Iger as new chief executive

On March 13, 2005, the board of directors of the Walt Disney Company officially announces that Robert Iger, Disney’s president and chief operating officer, will succeed Michael Eisner as the company’s chief executive officer (CEO). As Disney’s chief executive since 1984, Eisner ...read more

Black magic, voodoo and murder occurs at Rancho Santa Elena

Cult leader Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo sacrifices another human victim at his remote Mexican desert compound Rancho Santa Elena. When the victim didn’t beg for mercy before dying, Constanzo sent his people out to find another subject for torture and death. When they abducted ...read more

President Kennedy proposes Alliance for Progress

President John F. Kennedy proposes a 10-year, multibillion-dollar aid program for Latin America. The program came to be known as the Alliance for Progress and was designed to improve U.S. relations with Latin America, which had been severely damaged in recent years. When Kennedy ...read more

Confederacy approves black soldiers

On March 13, 1865, with the main Rebel armies facing long odds against must larger Union armies, the Confederacy, in a desperate measure, reluctantly approves the use of Black troops. READ MORE: 6 Black Heroes of the Civil War The situation was bleak for the Confederates in the ...read more