On the heavily wooded grounds of a Texas power plant, archaeologists have found the spot where Mexican troops under the command of Col. Juan Almonte surrendered to Sam Houston’s force of Texas irregulars along the San Jacinto River and effectively ended Texas’ war of secession.
The 1836 surrender “resulted in the loss of all Mexican territory west to California,” said archaeologist Roger Moore of Moore Archaeological Consulting in Houston, who led the team that found the site. “The whole continental expansion of the U.S. to the west coast hinged on this battle,” he said. The discovery was announced Thursday.
The Battle of San Jacinto occurred six weeks after the battle of the Alamo, in which Mexican forces led by Gen. Santa Anna besieged the fortress and killed all 350 secessionists inside, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.
Most of the locations of the battle are well known, but not the site of the actual surrender, which had been mismarked by veterans of the battle in 1890.
Some historians suspected that the actual location was in the middle of a 50-acre triangular plot of land on the ground of a natural gas plant owned by NRG Energy. The problem was that the site was so overgrown with imported Chinese tallow trees and local shrubs that it was virtually impassable.
With permission from NRG and $50,000 in grants, Moore was hired to check out the area. The conventional way to look for battlefield artifacts is with metal detectors, but the brush prevented that. The team instead went in with a device called a Woodgator, which is distinguished by a huge drum on the front that spins and grinds up trees and shrubs, reducing them to mulch.
After making several passes across the site, the team found two deposits of musket balls and other items. Linking them by chopping more wood, the team eventually uncovered an area about 130 yards long and 20 yards wide that was littered with piles of 10 to 20 unfired musket balls, uniform buttons and other metal artifacts – a total of several hundred in the small space.
Many of the musket balls were in piles, indicating that they had been thrown down in their pouches, a sign of surrender.
Moore and others will present the findings Saturday at the annual Battle of San Jacinto Symposium at the University of Houston.