Tuesday, 21 April 2015

As the dust settles in and around the junction of Bayou Le Bufalo and the Rio San Jacinto

     Much,   very much, was made by the elements of the Texian Army due to the "fair treatment" rendered to Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna by Samuel Houston, Commander, Army of Texas.  Were I to have been there, as an erstwhile Episcopalian, a non-Scottish Rite Mason of any degree, and a bumped and bloody survivor of the Battle of San Jacinto....I would certainly have been distressed at the courtesies and deferences allowed to the criminal despot Presidente de Mexico.

     The other problem was, and remains, that the Texians had two "generals" in the field that day.  Houston, obviously, and conveniently for the surface-dwelling researchers.   For those who like to do a bit of trenching in their archaeological and historical works, it is best to point out that another fellow, General Somervelle.
     Somervelle  was not a general yet, but he would become one later, based upon his service in the engagement under analysis here and now.   The Texas Almanac quickly summarises his curriculum vitae more or less thusly:
SOMERVELL, ALEXANDER (1796–1854). Alexander Somervell, entrepreneur, soldier, and leader of the Punitive Expedition of Laredo in 1842.
      Alexander was born in Maryland, June 11, 1796.    As a young man, he determined to move to the new plantation country in Louisiana in 1817.   There he bought tract of usable land and dedicated himself to the life of a planter in St. Landry Parish.
      Wanderlust moved him to seek other challenges and fortunes, so in the early 1820s he moved to Missouri where he became a merchant and wholesaler, at or near the community of Cape Girardeau.
      In 1833, he moved to Texas and was granted a tract in Stephen Foster Austin's second (and last) colony.    Somervell engaged in the mercantile business at San Felipe with a fellow with whom he had been in business earlier.   In October 1835 Somervell joined the volunteers marching from Gonzales to Bexar and was elected major. He participated in the military action against the forces of Perfecto de Cos, the commander of the detachment in the city of San Antonio de Valero.  The Texians prevailed in this affair, and Cos was allowed to retreat with his detachment back to beyond the Rio Nueces and even the Rio Bravo (Grande).
      After learning of the fall of the Alamo, he enrolled in the Texas army on March 12, 1836, and on April 8 was elected lieutenant colonel of the first regiment of Texas Volunteers, succeeding Sidney Sherman. He participated in the Battle of San Jacinto, essentially as XO immediately under Sam Houston.   It is fair to say that Somervelle gained a great deal of respect the day of the Battle because Houston was wounded with a particularly painful musket-ball to the ankle.  This wound rendered Houston essentially helpless, and left Somervelle  in command of the moment by moment events to come.  So, a lot of folks associated the victory with Somervelle and not Houston.
     On the second day, after considerable opium, Houston was almost able to think straight.    and remained in the army until June 7, 1836. He served briefly as secretary of war in President David G. Burnet's cabinet. Somervell represented Colorado and Austin counties in the Senate of the First and Second congresses, October 3, 1836, to May 4, 1838. By the time he was elected brigadier general on November 18, 1839, he was living in Fort Bend County.   Many other assignments were given to him during the rest of his relatively short life in Texas.
     Somervell died in February 1854 under mysterious circumstances. His body was found lashed to the timbers of the capsized boat in which, carrying a considerable amount of money, he had started from Lavaca to Saluria.

   Another peculiar thing was the fact that Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna frequently referred to himself as " The Napoleon  of the West".   The Texian Cavalry, such as it might have been, on Santa Anna's left flank during the battle also had "The French Connection".   That connection came in the person of Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar who was the commander of cavalry, and whose XO was Captain Juan Seguin who actually rode in front of the column and did the leading in battle.  Lamar, unlike Houston, was wise enough to not seek glory, but remained "in-charge" and pressed just behind his charges, while his immediate subordinate did the sabre-flashing and exhorting.   They worked well together, although Lamar was noted for not being a fan of anything Spanish or Mexican.   He was Latin however, with considerable French and southern European genealogy.
     He met tragedy when his wife died in 1830 of the tuberculosis.  Then in 1834, his brother committed suicide, "from out of the blue".   Lamar, a newspaper publisher, and an accomplished writer and poet, sought solace in Texas and Mexico.   As his travels ended he struck up with an old friend, Fannin, in the Refugio area.  An accomplished slave-trader, Lamar struck up an illegal but openly practiced business of selling slaves to discreet buyers along the middle Texas Coast.   Although this was against the Mexican law concerning bonded servitude, Lamar was unimpressed with the hypocrisy when compared to the Mexican/Spanish system of peonage.   Under that system it was almost impossible to hope for manumission, and descendants inherited their parents' debts.
     In any regard, on the day before the actual Battle of San Jacinto, Lamar intervened in a skirmish between his cavalrymen and a unit of Mexican infiltrators who surprised the dismounted horsemen.   Lamar rode into the group of Mexican special force detail and whipped them from atop his mount until they finally fled.   For that display, the Mexicans in the bivouac area turned their gun sideways and shot a three volley salute to the enemy officer for his bravery and largesse.
     Later, after provisional President Burnet, and then the elected President Sam Houston, Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar became the  2nd popularly elected President of the Republic of Texas.  He founded, among other institutions, the public school system for the Republic.
JRP-SoW, S.jpg
William Joel Poinsett
1779  -  1851
  Lamar  and many other of the Texian Army  were puzzled as to why and how a man such as Lopez de Santa Anna had taken the oath and ceremony of membership in the Scottish Rite Lodge of Freemasons in Mexico.   This event occurred after one of the first ambassadors  (America had no ambassadors until 1896 or so. They were titled 'ministers' until that time) to the Mexico from the United States set about to help  found more Scottish Rite Lodges in Mexico.  This activity was seen to be obvious meddling in the interior political processes of Mexico and Poinsett had the honour of being the first "minister" of the United States to be kicked out of the country.   He did take several Noche Buena plants that he had nurtured, and as he returned to his native South Carolina, he supplied America is thousands of cuttings of the plant that we call the Poinsietta or Poinsettia.        In any regardMexico had evicted Agustin de Iturbide from the Throne of the Emperor of Mexico in 1823.  He had served as the first head of state immediately after Independence had been gained from Spain.   Before two years had past, political forces had determined that the Mexican body politic wanted to have a Republic and not a Monarchy.
     The Constitution of 1824 was drawn up and generally accepted by all save the most conservative elements in the society at the time.   The American Ambassador, William Poinsett, according to the interior political lore of Mexico, was active in the establishment of Scottish Rite Masonic  Lodges.  The liberal, republican elements of Mexico took to these lodges almost as if the actual lodges were churches.  The canons of Freemasonry ran a bit counter to the Roman Catholic Church's assumption of the scope of authority of the Bishop of Rome, so the argument commenced.
     Much of the Roman clergy was affiliated with the York Rite as were many of the wealthy conservative land-holders.  In the push and the pull of the contentions between these two groups, the conservatives (Yorken~os) finally won out.   Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had joined in with the Scottish Rite (Escoceses) until changing sides (typically treacherous) and becoming an adamant Centralist conservative and one who would take down and burn every Mexican tri-colour with the numbers 1 8 2 4 on its white field.  This he did in the Yucatan, in the Zacatecas matter, and San Luis Potosi, Coahuila, and finally in Texas.
     Once captured however, he invoked all of the symbolic mysteries and gestures and clasps of the Scottish Rite Masons and managed to save his hide from a noose or firing squad.   His immediate capture and his first encounter with Houston were surrounded with all kinds of Masonic symbolism.   In reality, however, it behoved the Texians to keep Antonio safe, well supplied with cocaine and old wine, and an emblem of the Texian side having "better angels". 
More what-if's and gee-whizzes later.   Thank one and all for the time and interest invested.
El Gringo Viejo