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September 25, 2018, 3:35 pm

THE BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO AND POLISH MEMORY

On April 21, 2006, Texas celebrated the 170th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. Poles have special reasons to remember that battle. The San Jacinto River is named for the medieval Polish saint, Jacek Odrowąż.

 

This was, as battles go, a rather small one. The earlier battles of the Napoleonic era had involved hundreds of thousands of troops. At San Jacinto, there were approximately 1,200 soldiers on the Mexican side, around 900 on the Texas side. Yet this battle would have an indelible effect on the future of North America. As is inscribed on the monument of the battle, “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 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.” The Battle of San Jacinto marked the culmination of the Texas Revolution against the government of President (and General) Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
This battle was a great victory for the Texans, but it had been preceded by two disasters, one at Goliad on March 27 and another at the Alamo on March 13. Both these battles might well be described as massacres, since the Mexican commanders took no prisoners.   Furthermore, contrary to Catholic canon law and against the protests of the local priest, Santa Anna had ordered that none of the 188 dead Texan fighters at the Alamo be given Christian burial. Instead, the corpses were burned. The cry of “Remember the Alamo!” was remembered again and again whenever Americans had been the subject of vicious unprovoked attack.
As to the Battle of San Jacinto which followed, the Texas commander, Samuel Houston, had served as a Major General in the Tennessee militia and was well versed both in conventional and partisan warfare. In the long retreat Houston had accumulated and trained his ragtag army. The professional soldiers on the Mexican side had become fragmented and their supply lines greatly over extended. Anticipating that the Texan attack would start early on the following day, they had indulged in an afternoon siesta, and were taken by surprise at 3:30 PM when the Texas storm broke upon them. Unable to form line, the Mexicans were unable to sustain individual combat with the much larger and more deadly Texas irregulars.
The Battle of San Jacinto took place at the intersection of the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou, only a few miles from Galveston Bay and from the final redoubt of the government of the Republic of Texas on Galveston Island. The San Jacinto River is named for the medieval Polish saint, Jacek Odrowaz. Why are there so many towns and cities throughout the Hispanic world named after this Polish saint?
St. Jacek (Hyacinth, Jacinto) was one of the early companions of St. Dominic. According to his vita written by monk Stanislaus in Kraków in the fourteenth century, he was ordained in 1221 by St. Dominic himself. St. Jacek’s father, Eustachius Konski, belonged to the noble family of Odrowaz. St. Jacek was born in 1183 at the castle of Łanka at Kamieƒ in Silesia, Poland. Called the Apostle of the North, St. Jacek carried out numerous missionary travels throughout the Slavic lands. Some claim his travels reached as far as China Owing to St. Jacek’s energy and dedication, Dominican monasteries were founded in the Polish cities of Gdansk (Danzig) in 1225, Chełm in 1233, Elblàg in 1236, and later at Torun, Riga in Latvia, Kiev and Halych in Ukraine, Dorpat (now Tartu) in Estonia, and Królewiec (later Köningsberg, now Kaliningrad) in the present-day Russian Federation. The Polish Dominican province was formed in 1226, and St. Jacek became its head. He died on 15 August 1257 in his home province of Kraków. He was canonized by Pope Clementius in 1594. It is undoubtedly his connection with St. Dominic that has made him so popular throughout the Spanish-speaking world. The Mexicans called the river by St. Hiacynth’s name, and the San Jacinto Battle’s name followed.
 
Sources: T.R. Fehrenbach, Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans [1968]
      Polish Dominicans on the Web (www.krakow2004.dominikanie.pl)
 

 


Dodano: 2009-12-17 | aktualizowano: 2009-12-17 16:13:50 | odsłon: 3591

James Thompson