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Monday, May 5, 2014

"Honey, I Shrunk the Battle"

By Jody Worsham

All rights and re-enactment reserved:  Texicans 68  Mexicans 34

I have a niece who is big into Civil War re-enactments.   She has trunks and trunks of reproduction costumes, dishes, silverware, tents and antiques of the period.  So this is the kind of scale I had in mind when I took the children to the San Jacinto Battle Re-enactment.  I’m thinking re-enactment on a Texas scale.

We arrived at the battle ground at 11:30 (see previous blog)  We walked through both the Mexican camp and the Texican camp.  The “re-enactors” as they were called were very knowledgeable about the battle.  There were only about twenty tents but I thought that was ok.  The other Mexican soldiers were probably on the other side of the rise.  In the Texican camp there were men and women melting lead for bullets, a demonstration of starting a fire with steel and flint, a yoke of long horned steers used to pull a wagon.  

The embankments were lined with hundreds of people waiting for the battle.  The children squeezed in toward the front and I stood toward the back of the crowd.  The bright orange vested pyro-techs were still setting charges on the battlefield so that took away the element of surprise but I am sure they were just following OSHA guidelines.  Sam and Santa didn’t have to bother with safety regulations 178 years ago.

At 3:00 the announcer began thanking the sponsors and I got my first hint that this was not going to be a Texas size battle.  He talked of a “mini” re-enactment of a “portion” of the battle.  Now the actual battle only took 18 minutes so are we now going to see… what ten minutes?  Half a battle?

At 3:05 two horsemen on either side of the 600 yard long battlefield rode by yelling “Run for your lives.  Santa Anna is coming!”  Then there was a long pause.  I later realized that this was to give the horsemen time to ride back so they could play the settlers “fleeing for their lives.”

At 3:15 the settlers, all 15 of them, the yoke of long horned steers, and the same horsemen traversed the length of the battlefield and back as they fled for their lives.  That took a while. Longhorn steers only move fast in a stampede and when they are not pulling a wagon.

At 3:30 the announcer explained that Santa Anna tried to draw the Texicans out in the open by firing their one cannon at them.  The Texicans returned fire with two cannons called the Twin Sisters given to them by the people of Cincinnati, Ohio.  I don’t know why Tennessee didn’t send them the Dolly Parton’s but they didn’t. 

The pyro-tech chargers went off.  For the next ten minutes each side pulled their cannons closer to each other.  More charges went off catching the grass on fire.  Then the battle had to be halted while the orange vested pyro-tech guys ran onto the battlefield with fire extinguishers to put out the fires.  The crowd applauded and yelled. It was the most exciting thing that had happened up to that point.

3:35 Now it was time for the Calvary.  I was expecting to see fifty or sixty people on horseback, swords flashing, horses charging, but I had forgotten this was a “mini” re-enactment of a “portion” of the battle.  Instead four Mexican soldiers rode out to do battle with six Texicans.  Wooden swords were clacking, horses were slowly turning in circles until everybody turned and rode back to camp. 

3:40  More narration while everybody got ready for the final skirmish.  The Texicans lined up on one end of the battlefield waiting for Sam Houston’s signal.  Santa Anna had sent his men back to take a nap.  The Twin Sisters were fired; the men fired their guns.  Then in true re-enactment, the men paused for like ten minutes to reload their guns.  They would have been better protected if they had just thrown the bullets at the enemy.

Finally at 3:45, Sam Houston was shot in the leg, the Mexican army surrendered, all 34 of them to all 68 Texicans.  According to history, Sam Houston was considerably outnumbered by Santa Anna’s men but I guess today nobody wanted to wear the hot woolen long sleeved Mexican uniforms.

At 3:50 the announcer said “That concludes our re-enactment.”  And a small child just down from me called out “Thank goodness” followed by a lot of adult “Amens.”

An eighteen minute battle took 55 minutes to re-create.

On the way home I tried to put a happy spin on the day.

“Well, I said today was going to be an adventure so what did you like the most?” I asked.

“The most fun was when I got to pet the horse,” said the nine-year-old.

“I liked it when we were lost and you were talking through your teeth to the On Star guy for the fourth time,” came from the twelve-year-old.

“You didn’t like the battle or the exhibits or going to the top of the monument?”  I was grasping at straws here.

“Well the fire was pretty cool,” said my youngest.

“You mean watching the man use flint and steel instead of matches to start his campfire?”  Hope springs eternal.

“No, when the grass caught on fire and they had to stop the battle to put it out.”

Next time I will just rent the movie “Gone to Texas.”  It’s cheaper, I don’t need On Star to tell me where the TV is, and I can hit pause when Dr. Hubby sets the woods on fire and we wait for the fire department.


Joanne Noragon said...

That is a disappointment. They could have done a micro-enactment of one scene more effectively. The children would so have enjoyed the real deal.

Sharon said...

Loved it, Jody, especially the Dolly Parton references. Living here in the Historic Triangle I studiously avoid the reenactments, but I love talking to and watching the costumed interpreters. If I remember right, by 1836 they should have been using rifles, a few were available during the Revolutionary War. The downside was that their parts were not interchangeable like the matchlock muskets.