San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy (SJBC) has executed a contract to purchase 4.28 acres of vacant land for $175,000 at the San Jacinto Battleground. Closing date is March 31, 2014. This property abuts a 19.054 acres tract purchased by SJBC in 2010
These adjoining properties are located on the south bank of Buffalo Bayou (Houston Ship Channel), just south and west of the current location of the Lynchburg Ferry, operated by Harris County.
Historical significance of the acreage:
Archival evidence and research indicate that the acreage under contract as well as that acquired in 2010 qualifies for inclusion within the San Jacinto Battlefield National Historic Landmark. Situated between the Texan camp and the Lynchburg Ferry, the tract is part of the battlefield landscape and because of its location, is critical in explaining and interpreting this episode in Texas history.
The 4.28 acres is slightly south of Lynch’s ferry which was the tactical focal point for both the Mexican and Texan army, and served as the escape route for Texan colonists during the “Runaway Scrape.” In 1836, the main route to Lynch’s ferry from the east and south was the Harrisburg-Lynchburg road running close to this tract.
On March 13, 1836, Sam Houston ordered a retreat of the Texan army from Gonzales to the east and ordered civilians to leave their homes in what is called the “Runaway Scrape.” Dilue Rose Harris, a participant in this exodus, recorded in her diary that more than 5,000 civilians traveled along the route of the Harrisburg-Lynchburg road where they waited up to three days to cross the San Jacinto River on Lynch’s ferry.
On April 16, 1836, prior to the battle of San Jacinto, Mexican Colonel Juan Almonte and 50 cavalrymen took the Harrisburg-Lynchburg route from Harrisburg to Lynch's ferry in a failed attempt to capture the Texan cabinet and secure boats to cross the San Jacinto River. (Almonte raced from Lynch’s ferry to New Washington the same day, but the rebel cabinet escaped minutes before the arrival of Almonte’s dragoons, sailing on to Galveston Island.)
On April 20, the Texan army under Sam Houston marched to Lynch's ferry, which would have taken them across this tract or very nearby, before backtracking to a wooded area on Buffalo Bayou for their campsite. A detachment of the Texan army captured a flatboat loaded with flour and several Mexican soldiers as the boat approached Lynch's ferry. While there, the Texans saw the Anglo-Tories across the San Jacinto River on what is now called Tory Hill. (The hill was largely flattened by a new industrial facility built in 2003.) The Texans brought the boat around to the main Texan army campsite on Buffalo Bayou and used the flour for food that day.
After the battle, the Texan colonists would have most likely crossed this acreage to visit the Texan camp, see the Mexican prisoners, and visit the graves of the slain Texans. Dilue Rose Harris noted in her diary on April 26, 1836, “We stayed on the battle field several hours. We visited the graves of the Texans that were killed in the battle but there were none of them that I knew. The dead Mexicans were lying around in every direction. . . . Father worked till the middle of the afternoon helping with the ferry boat and then he visited the camp. . . .We left the battlefield late in the evening. We had to pass among the dead Mexicans, and father pulled one out of the road. The prairie was very boggy, it was getting dark, and there were now twenty or thirty families with us. We were glad to leave the battlefield for it was a gruesome site.” The route through the property took the colonists south and west toward their previously abandoned homes.
Re-establishing a natural setting:
With the acquisition of this 4.28 acres, SJBC hopes to work on a restoration project of the north shoreline of the lands on the ship channel with the help of state agencies and other partners. We have been told by TPWD that the upland areas are suitable for reconstruction of the riparian forests of cypress, pine and hardwoods, which lined Buffalo Bayou and the river before they were cut for lumber in the 1840s and 1850s.
The Conservancy realizes that the exact 1836 topography and environment of this tract has suffered from subsidence, irregularly offset by the disposal of dredge spoil, erosion, the State Highway, and other factors which have altered the landscape. However, we believe that a more natural setting can be reconstructed, which enhances the biological value of the area and conveys the sense of the wild natural vista that surrounded the battleground in in the 19th century.