As our formatting has evolved over the years, we have tried to make the presentation readily predictable and understandable. Eclectic stylistics do little good for the original producer or the ultimate user of the product under consideration. The following submission is from the date indicated. It is brushed up to be more in conformity with the present general format that we are using.
Where we have amended or revised style, there will be little annotation. Where we have had to change the material in order to adapt to new facts or where we have changed opinion, the OROG will note that the print colour will change to blue. A explanation will be made concerning the why and wherefore of any such amendments.
These, indeed, are interesting times. With the Republic of Texas and the city of San Antonio and the County of Bexar joining hands with various foundations and private community service organisations to overhaul both the grounds and the remaining structures of the Mision del Alamo de San Antonio de Bexar, it is an excellent chance to remind oneself to always be open to a greater understanding of a Truth or a Lie or an Ignorance.
Truth we shall defend, Ignorance we shall enlighten, and the Lie we shall destroy.
Friday, 20 April 2012
(A Revisitation) San Jacinto Day was 21 April 1836. Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad. May they all Rest in Peace.
The gentleman pictured above was many things. He was a Spaniard with an Italian name. He was a veteran of the Napoleanic Wars, and a distinguished Spanish soldier. He came to New Spain late in the colonial period and served during the transition from Spanish to Mexican control of that area which now would include all of Mexico, Central America, western Canada, and most of what would become the western half of the United States of America. For a brief period during the rule of Emperor Agustin de Iturbide I of the Mexican Empire 1821 - 1823, General Vicente Filisola served his Emperor as Governor of Central America.
The good General served only briefly, however, due to the overthrow of the Empire and the establishment of the Republic of Mexico in 1824. He did provide for an orderly transition from Mexican control to local governance and order, and withdrew his Imperial Army back into Mexico and joined the re-organised Army as a brigadier.
It is said that Filisola was probably the one who inspired Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to think of himself as...."The Napoleon of the West"....because of Lopez de Santa Anna's fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte and the legends associated with that Corsican. Filisola was one of the few people in anyones army who had officer level dealings on a Napoleonic field of battle.
Vicente Filisola is important to Texans because he was one of those Generals immediately under the command of the all important, self-consumed, pompous Generalissimo Presidente Lopez de Santa Anna. Along with Filisola, and Perfecto de Cos, the Presidente's brother-in-law, and old Castrillon, and Ramirez y Sesma....all Spaniards by birth and world view, there was also Brigadier Jose' Urrea, the Indian Fighter, a Davy Crockett figure, at once both rough-cut, and aristocratic, and oddly one of only two Mexican general officers fighting in the Texas War of Independence who were born Mexicans.
The commander-in-chief Lopez de Santa Anna (highest ranking), and the lowest ranking general officer were the only Mexican-born Mexicans in the officers' corps at general officer level. Lopez de Santa Anna had moved three large elements from all parts of the country from January up to mid-February to do battle against a crafty bunch of scrappers in a place called "nowhere" by some and Texas by others. Urrea moved a third of the Army along the Texas Coast leaving Matamoros near the mouth of the Rio Bravo (Grande) during the early days of January, 1936 aiming to unify with the main body of the Army around a place called San Jacinto. Urrea also moved quickly, like an early form of blitzkrieg, although he had five major battles against Texian units numbering from 100 to 500 combatants in each case, and several significant skirmishes which tested his 2,400 effectives severely. He is best remembered, however, as the Mexican general who left orders to deal fairly and well with the Texian Colonel Fannin and the 440 Texian prisoners, only to have his orders countermanded by the Generalissimo Presidente. So while Urrea had moved up to near what is now Victoria, Texas near the Rio Guadalupe (historically lumped in and included as the area known as Bahia del Espiritu Santo, and/or Refugio) a few miles from Goliad, his subordinate received orders underlining the existing orders from the High Command that all found holding arms against the government would be executed for treason.
That sub-ordinate officer, Col. Nicolas de la Portilla, during a fighting absence by his commander, General de Brigada Urrea, over-rode the orders of Urrea and followed the orders of the Supreme Commander, Lopez de Santa Anna. Here, El Gringo Viejo enters a well-documented but rather neglected fact about the the issues of personality, strategy, tactics, honour, and the business of war that the Mexicans were undergoing even as they were winning, fairly easily against the insurrectionists. To wit:
Castrillon was Santa Anna's ally through much of their working relationship, but Castrillón often took exception to Santa Anna's decisions during the Texas Revolution. He opposed the hurried assault on the Alamo. Yet when he received his orders to lead the battle's first column of troops, he did so with expert efficiency.
A humane and honourable soldier, Castrillón also pleaded clemency on behalf of the seven Texian fighters who survived the Alamo siege. Castrillón's arguments for mercy were ignored, and the men were executed. Castrillón again stated his protest when Santa Anna ordered the execution of the Goliad prisoners.
Castrillón's compassion was a sign of kindness, not weakness. When the Texians roused Mexican forces from their afternoon siesta on 21 April 1836 at the Battle of San Jacinto, he was one of the few Mexican officers to stand his ground.
His bravery was recorded in the memoirs of Texian 2nd Lieutenant Walter Paye Lane:
"As we charged into them the General commanding the Tampico Battalion (their best troops) tried to rally his men, but could not. He drew himself up, faced us, and said in Spanish: 'I have been in forty battles and never showed my back; I am too old to do it now.'
He continues: "Gen. Rusk hallooed to his men: 'don't shoot him,' and knocked up some to their guns; but others ran around and riddled him with balls. I was sorry for him. He was an old Castilian gentleman, Gen. Castrillo (sic)."
Honoured on both sides of the Texas Revolution—except by Santa Anna, who blamed the loss at San Jacinto in part on Castrillón—he was even buried in the family graveyard of Lorenzo de Zavala, the vice-president of Texas.
So, all these major footnotes are added into the blog in order to celebrate the victory tomorrow, the 21st day of April, 1836 of the Battle of San Jacinto. Normally creditted to the efforts of Gen. Sam Houston, who truly was a bigger than life figure, the truth is that Houston was painfully wounded at the beginning of the battle, by a musket ball to the right foot. It was Gen. Somervell, commanding, and the surprize rush of the limited cavalry of the Texian force of a bit fewer than 700 men.....attacking on a Sunday morning. The head of the cavalry was Capt. Juan Seguin, an arch-enemy of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The resolve of the Texian force to gain Independence, avenge the atrocities of Goliad and the Alamo allowed the inferior force to pin into a peninsula surrounded by a snake infested bayou, and then essentially destroy the effective force of an Army of 2,500 with superior munitions, armament, artillery, cavalry, stores, and so forth.
Going back to Gen. Vicente Filisola, it was he who took control of the Mexican Army as it withdrew from San Jacinto. Lopez de Santa Anna remained under arrest and would later be tranferred to Washington D.C. as an oddity and war-trophy of sorts. He had been a capable general in the field, but also the one most prone to err through arrogance and hubris. Some say his membership in the Mason Scottish Rite order saved him from a rough and ready gallows at San Jacinto, since Houston and Somervell were both brother Masons.
Filisola was met with his columns by Urrea, who forced control from Filisola, and took command of the withdrawal. The two men would argue and write accusations against one another, and each would write interesting, if self-serving accounts of their experiences during the War. It is the opinion of El Gringo Viejo that Urrea was the better soldier and perhaps the best of several capable general officers and colonels and was truthful concerning his wishes for the good treatment of the Goliad prisoners of war.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna blamed both of them for everything; Urrea for arriving too late to San Jacinto, Filisola for not mucking through the mud with cannons and stores any faster (he actually moved 2,000 men, animals, and stores faster than Santa Anna had moved his Army away from San Antonio in pursuit of Houston's Army.) Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was a lot like Obama in his ability to blame everything on everybody but himself.
Committed to the dull truth, which always seems to wind up being far more interesting than the false legends or any fiction.....El Gringo Viejo resigns the evening and promises to return to more tales that interest him, and he hopes, the OROGs everywhere.
El Gringo Viejo