The San Jacinto Battlefield Memorial

As early as the 1880s, supporters were wanting to place a memorial to those Texans who were killed in the Battle of San Jacinto.  On August 10, 1881, about forty-five years after the historic battle, the New Orleans Times-Picayune carried a story stating that such a monument had been completed by Messrs. A. Allen and Co.  The monument was complete except for the proposed engraving to be placed on it.  It was described as a plain square spire made of blue American marble, fifteen and a half feet high and was to be set on a two foot foundation, making the whole structure just under eighteen feet tall.

It was decorated with eight stars, representing eight of the fallen Texas soldiers, those whose identities were known when the construction of the monument began.  A ninth name was added after the initial eight stars were placed.  The actual number of Texans who died or were mortally wounded is currently thought to be as many as eleven or twelve, but nine was the accepted number as of 1881.  The engraving was to include the names of the nine on one side with quotes from Sam Houston and T. J. Rusk on two other sides and the adornments on the fourth side.  In the newspaper accounts of the day, it was actually referred to as the San Jacinto Monument, although we now use that name to refer to the more recent (1939) and much larger 567.31 foot column that now sits on the battlefield.

Houston’s quote was said to have been taken from a letter to his friend Henry Raguet prior to the battle, “This morning we are in preparation to meet Santa Anna. It is the only chance of saving Texas. From time to time I have looked for reinforcements in vain.  We will only have about seven hundred to march with, besides the camp guard. We go to conquer. It is wisdom growing out of necessity to meet the enemy now. Every consideration enforces it. No previous occasion would justify it. The troops are in fine spirits, and now is the time for action.  We shall use our best efforts to fight the enemy to such advantage as will insure victory, though the odds are greatly against us.  I leave the results in the hands of a wise God, and rely upon His Providence. My country will do justice to those who serve her.  The rights for which we fight will be secured and Texas free.”

The quote from Rusk reads, “The sun was sinking on the horizon as the battle commenced, but at the close of the conflict, the sun of liberty and independence rose in Texas, never, it is hoped, to be obscured by the clouds of despotism.  We have read of deeds of chivalry, and perused with ardor the annals of war; we have contemplated, with the highest emotions of sublimity, the loud roaring thunder, the desolating tornado, and the withering simoon of the desert, but neither of these nor all, inspired us with emotions like those felt on this occasion.  There was a central cry which pervaded the ranks.  ‘Remember the ALAMO.  Remember La BAHIA.’  These words electrified all.  Onward was the cry.  The unerring aim and irresistible energy of the Texan army could not be withstood.  It was freemen fighting against the minions of tyranny and the result proved the inequality of such a contest.”  The quotation is thought to have been condensed from Rusk’s handwritten account of the battle from April 22, 1836.


(Image: uncredited)

The marble used in the monument was later described as being constructed of the best Rutland, Vermont variegated marble.  The names of the nine individuals engraved on it are Lemuel Stockton Blakey, Benjamin Rice Brigham, Mathias Cooper, John C. Hale, George Lamb, Thomas Patton Fowle, Junius William Mottley, MD, Ashley R. Stephens and Olwyn J. Trask, all of whom were believed to have been killed or mortally wounded on the day of the battle.  The monument is alternatively referred to as the Brigham Monument. According to the comments of Louis W. Kemp written between 1930 and 1952 on the San Jacinto Museum website, when the monument was being developed (as of 1881) the simple grave markers for the deceased had deteriorated to the extent that Brigham’s was the only one still clearly identified.  For that reason, the monument was placed at his known grave site.  Coincidentally, Benjamin Rice Brigham was the son of Asa Brigham, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.  The monument is located due south of the Battleship Texas on the west side of Independence Parkway South, the road leading into the State Historic Site.  A small cemetery grew up around it and includes just over five dozen names.

The monument is now part of the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife, which includes the battlefield, museum and the much larger  and better known obelisk monument.  Located at 3523 Independence Parkway South, La Porte, Texas, it is open generally from about 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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