Monday, April 21, 2014

178 Years Ago Today

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter."
2 Thessalonians 2:15

An AWESOME letter on the Battle of San Jacinto from TPPF's Brook Rollins, reprinted in full:
Juan Seguin had more reason than most to be discouraged.

As a youth, Seguin's father had traveled from the dangerous Texas frontier to the capital at Mexico City, and helped draft the liberal Mexican Constitution of 1824. Ten years later, as a man of 28, he saw that hopeful charter of relative liberty repealed by the dictator Santa Anna, and replaced with an autocratic order that offended his values as a free man. The next year, he was on the battlefield with the rebelling Texians, casting his lot with the Anglo settlers. They were newcomers versus the native-born Tejano and his deep San Antonio roots — but they fought for liberty, and that was enough.

Juan Seguin, a man of charisma and means, soon found himself in the embattled Alamo. His name entered the roll of heroes, but he was not among the dead. In the fortress’s final desperate days, he was entrusted with the last appeal from William Barret Travis — “Victory or Death!” — and so when the garrison fell, he was in central Texas, trying to scrape together what men he could for Sam Houston and the Alamo’s relief. Then he joined Houston on the Runaway Scrape, as the Texians uprooted themselves before the victorious dictator’s armies, and fled north and east from Santa Anna’s vengeance.

This was Juan Seguin’s life and experience on the morning of April 21st, 1836. He had seen his father’s work for liberty eradicated. He had seen his own life as a free citizen ended. He had seen his comrades in arms exterminated. He had seen his native land, his Texas, conquered and despoiled. He had seen a great flight of an entire nation. And he himself had fled with them.

On that morning, one hundred seventy-eight years ago today, that was what Juan Seguin knew. A lifetime of fighting for liberty — and losing. And he was with an army of Texians with largely the same experience. There were no rational grounds for hope. There were no reasonable expectations of victory. There were no decent prospects for Texas. “Victory or Death” was, by any calculation, now “Death or Exile.”

On that evening, one hundred seventy-eight years ago today, Juan Seguin knew something radically different. He and his Tejanos, shouting “Recuerden el Alamo!” had joined Houston’s Texians in one last desperate charge — and won. On that field at San Jacinto, whose fight we remember now, it was one last expression of bravery, one last exertion of courage, one last show of will, one last gesture of defiance that transformed defeat into victory. Juan Seguin woke up that morning a beaten man in a beaten cause. He slept that night a free citizen of the Republic of Texas.

And when Santa Anna’s garrison yielded the ruins of the Alamo a few weeks later, it was Juan Seguin who accepted the surrender.

On this 178th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, we remember Juan Seguin and the band of brave Texians who won a nation on a small field against long odds. His name is one among many whom we rightly recall as having secured the liberty that is our birthright as Texans today: Houston, Rusk, Burleson, Lamar, Smith, and so many others. As a battle, it was significant beyond its scope. Visitors to the San Jacinto Monument today can read the historical consequences inscribed upon the stone:

"Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here led to annexation and to the Mexican-American War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. Almost one-third of the present area of the American Nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty.
That’s one way to measure it. But to assess San Jacinto from a political or even a historical standpoint is to miss its true significance. The Battle of San Jacinto, in the end, is not an episode of history for history’s sake. The story of Juan Seguin and his fellow Texians and Tejanos illustrate its true significance: it was a culminating moment in the hearts of men who burned for liberty, for themselves and for those they loved. They fought, and lost, and fought, and lost again — until they won.

If we understand San Jacinto, then, it is not a memorial of what we did yesterday. It is an instruction on what we should do today. We, the inheritors of Texas, if we are Texans, "worthy of all they had been and meant,” must look backward to their relentless endurance and steadfast heroism — and see our future.

Brooke L. Rollins 
President and CEO

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