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The day of San Jacinto by Joseph Francis…

The day of San Jacinto

by Joseph Francis Tolbert

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Tolbert's "Day of San Jacinto" is an engaging description of the titular battle, including the days leading up to and immediately after the battle. Tolbert starts off his narrative briefly discussing the events of the early revolution, then jumping to Santa Anna's conduct of the Texas Campaign. He uses many first person accounts of the Runaway Scrape, the battle, and actions afterward. Tolbert then wraps up the book by giving brief treatments of the lives of prominent actors including Santa Anna, Houston, Burnet, Lamar, Deaf Smith, and others.

Tolbert is rather disdainful of Santa Anna's military capabilities and often sends snide remarks his way, such as "Santa Anna loved quick, cheap victories like the one at Zacatecas. After such triumphs, he could watch the firing squads at work." However, he sometimes almost comes across as admiring Santa Anna and his ability to continually come out on top of the Mexican political scene.

Urrea gets the adulation commonly seen in texts on the war. I'm not sure that Urrea deserves his accolades since there wasn't a lot to compare him to during the war, and he did manage to be the first to run out of Texas, but I digress.

Tolbert includes many details in his account that I, personally, have not come across before, such as the common referral of the two sides as "Santanistas" and "Soldados God Dammes", for Santa Anna's supporters and the profane Texans respectively. He also details the many sordid controversies of the time, such as Houston's alcoholism and womanizing, the near rebellion of the Texas Army as it retreated, and the accusations against Commissary General John Forbes for graft and killing a woman on the battlefield.

Tolbert's tale is well written and amusing. One of my favorite lines deals with the French invasion of Mexico in 1838. Speaking of Santa Anna's actions in the Mexican-French "Pastry War," he writes, "His Excellency also lost the battle, but his defeat was not much publicized because the French got bored and left the country."

Tolbert's engaging writing and details make this book an enjoyable read even 50+ years later. The book has footnotes after the text, but it is by no means a scholarly effort. For a general discussion focused on San Jacinto, this is a readable and useful book. Recommended. ( )
  devilyack | Oct 24, 2009 |
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