Tuesday, April 6, 2010

There's a Yellow Rose of Texas

History is often remembered as some personnel recollection, exaggerated at times.  However, there is the myth of the Yellow Rose of Texas. Some truth to the story, though remembered more likely for its legend than those of actual facts.

According to the legend, Sam Houston sent an attractive mulatto (half white-half black) female named Emily Morgan into the Mexican camp prior to the Battle of San Jacinto. The intent was to distract Santa Anna's attention away from the war and Texas Militia while the Texans made ready for an attack. Santa Anna was know to be fond of attractive women and according to legend, Emily found her way to Santa Anna's Tent keeping him preoccupied as Sam Houston's Army made ready their planned attack. With Santa Anna's guard let down, the Texans rushed the Mexican Army in a battle that lasted 18 minutes before the Mexicans surrender. Emily Morgan played a vital role to aid a Texas victory at the expense of her virtue.

The story gained popularity in the 1950s with the revival of the song, The Yellow Rose of Texas. Historians like Margaret Swett Henson  doubt the facts behind the legend.  She points out that Emily Morgan was actually Emily D. West, a free woman of color under contract to James Morgan. Mexican troops seized Emily along with several other servants from Morgan's warehouse at New Washington on the Brazos River. Henson contends that although Emily West was at Santa Anna's camp on the banks of the San Jacinto River, she had not gone there willingly nor had she been sent by Sam Houston. It appears that Emily West returned to New York, her permanent place of residence, shortly after the revolution.

While the legend of Emily as the Yellow Rose of Texas is so well remembered, truth be said; It is not known if she in fact was in Santa Anna's tent. The general did travel accompanied by women of pleasure.

The Mexican Army after a long morning March was settled down resting on the afternoon of April 21st, 1836. Santa Anna that afternoon had failed to post guards and sentries outside the camp as the Mexican Army siesta late afternoon. Additionally, he believed that Houston was corner with no escape, nor the ability to defeat the larger Mexican Army. Most of the Mexican Army sleeping, some gathered fire wood as the Calvary was bringing up water to the camp from the river. They were completely unready.

At 4:30pm Deaf Smith announced the burning of Vince's Bridge, which cut off the only avenue of retreat for both armies without having to cross the river of about ten feet in depth. Sam Houston's Army of Texan militia had large trees to assist hiding the Texas advance. Houston leading his infantry double lined quietly as they advanced towards the enemy camp. Using the trees and then crawling through high grass, the Texans were able to sneak up and surprise the Mexican Army crying out "Remember the Alamo" "Remember Goliad". Santa Anna escaped the battle but was captured the following day. It is legend that he was so surprised by the attack, that his uniform was left in his tent missing only the long johns and boots. Santa Anna was caught with his pants down...surprised and ran.

Did Emily truly seduce the general?"  Not likely at the seduction of Emily Morgan, though perhaps one of Santa Anna's soldaderas, "Women of Pleasure". Nevertheless, there does remain a Yellow Rose of Texas regardless how the legends lead us to believe.

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