During the writing of THE YELLOW ROSE – The Runaway Scrape, my studies of Texas history at Texas A&M University taught me that Sam Houston was not a coward. At least, shame on me if I dare write that he was, right?
One hundred and seventy-eight years ago, General Sam Houston fled from a large army commanded by General Antonio de Padua Maria Severino Lopez de Santa Anna y Perez. The government of Texas, the Texian soldiers, and the people of Texas were shouting that he was a coward the entire time he fled in the direction of the Sabine River. A lot of thought and research goes into writing creative historical nonfiction. I had to ask myself, “Was the victory at the Battle of San Jacinto a result of military genius or was General Houston’s victory an accident?
One piece after another in the puzzle in answering this question continued to pop up in my writing of the women and children trying to reach the Sabine ahead of Santa Anna. When I started writing this third novel in the Faith Chronicles, I must be honest, I didn’t know how to characterize Sam Houston whatsoever. But after a comprehensive study of his escape and the adversities he faced, I began to really understand what Sam Houston experienced those several weeks during the runaway scrape.
General Sam Houston lacked the support from most of the Texas people. Many did not want to fight. Many deserted. Many did not follow orders (they were, after all, volunteers). Sam Houston only had seven hundred men, and just a few days before the Battle of San Jacinto, one of his not so ardent supporters left Houston’s army and took four hundred men with him!
I firmly believe that it was fate and not military genius, with later planning on Houston’s part, that led to the success of the Battle of San Jacinto. I need to paint a picture for you here. How many are familiar with the Treaty Oak in Austin, Texas? How many are familiar with the numerous tanker trucks full of spring water that parked under the tree and intravenously fed the water to the poisoned oak? Did you ever stand under the massive oak and stare at its majestic and magnificent arms reaching out? I did!
A tree just like this stood outside Tomball, Texas in a small community called New Kentucky. Sam Houston and his army pulled up to the tree and two massive arms of the tree were held up and pointing in two different directions. One of the arms pointed to the east leading by the Trinity and to the Sabine River where US forces would be waiting for him to help, if he were to get that far. The other long drawn out arm of the oak tree pointed in the direction of Harrisburgh. Where does fate come into the equation? Sam Houston, with his officers stood under the tree, backed up a few steps, and looked at the tree. “Men, this old oak tree has been standing here for two hundred years. It continues to stand here proud!” One of the arms is longer and larger than the other and pointing in the direction of Harrisburg. “Men, we go thataway!” One of the volunteers turned and faced his fellow Texian. “Do you believe that? The General just looked at that tree, asked himself “whichaway’ and decided to go to Harrisburgh, just because one of those limbs is larger than the other.
This tree, which not much is written, has been referred to as the Whichaway Tree in history writings. It still stands today outside of Tomball, Texas and is every bit as majestic as it was one hundred and seventy-eight years ago.
I honestly believe that Sam Houston deserves the credit for the Battle of San Jacinto as being one of the top ten most decisive battles in the world’s history. Some have it in the eight position.