Following the recent publication in the Blanco County News and Johnson City Record Courier of a Mustard Seeds article entitled, “And Some in Disgust Walked Away,” I received an email from Denise Christopher who expanded on the aftermath of General Houston’s victory in the Battle of San Jacinto. With her permission I will quote from her correspondence, some of which is taken from the files of Texas A&M University. I do this because of the account’s close ties to the Blanco County Community:
“I was so excited to see the article in Mustard Seeds in the recent paper. I wanted to follow up with the person not mentioned who was responsible for the capture of Santa Anna, and with ties to Blanco. Joel Robison was my first cousin, four times removed and the nephew of Neill Robison, one of the early settlers of Blanco and founder of the Masonic Lodge there. I just thought you might be interested as history runs very deep and to know that one of the relatives of an early Blanco settler was so important to our history.”
Ms. Christopher went on to say that Joel Walter Robison (Also spelled Robinson in some records) participated in the Grass Fight and Siege of Bexar in 1835. He was at San Jacinto with Captain Heard’s company F Infantry, First Regiment and was with the group of men who captured Santa Anna, which he explained in his own words:
“I was with a detachment of thirty or forty men commanded by Colonel Burleson, which left the encampment of the Texas army at sunrise of the morning after the Battle of San Jacinto, to pursue the fugitive enemy. Most of us were mounted on horses captured from the Mexicans. We picked up two or three cringing wretches before we reached Vince’s Bayou, eight or nine miles from our camp. Colonel Burleson gave them a few lines in pencil stating that they had been made prisoners by him, and sent them back to our camp without a guard.
“Colonel Burleson with the greater part of our detachment went up Vince’s Bayou but six of us, to wit, Sylvester, Miles, Vermillion, Thompson, another man whose name I have forgotten, and myself, proceeded a short distance farther down the bayou, but not finding any Mexicans, turned our course toward camp. About two miles east of Vince’s Bayou, the road leading from the bridge to the battleground crossed a ravine a short distance below its source.
“As we approached this ravine we discovered a man standing in the prairie near one of the groves. He was dressed in civilian’s clothing, a blue cottonade frock coat and pantaloons. I was the only one of our party who spoke any Spanish. I asked the prisoner various questions, which he answered readily. In reply to the question whether he knew where Santa Anna and Cos were, he said he presumed they had gone to the Brazos. He said he was not aware that there were any of his countrymen concealed near him, but said there might be in the thicket along the ravine. Miles mounted the prisoner on his horse and walked as far as the road about a mile. Here he ordered the prisoner to dismount, which he did with great reluctance. He walked slowly and apparently with pain. Miles, who was a rough, reckless fellow, was carrying a Mexican lance, which he had picked up during the morning. With this weapon he occasionally slightly pricked the prisoner to quicken his pace, which sometimes amounted to a trot.
“At length he stopped and begged permission to ride saying that he belonged to the cavalry and was unaccustomed to walking. We paused and deliberated as to what should be done with him. I asked him if he would go on to our army if left to travel at his leisure. He replied that he would. Miles insisted that the prisoner should be left behind, but said that if he were left, he would kill him.
“At length my compassion for the prisoner moved me to mount him behind me. I also took charge of his bundle. He was disposed to converse as we rode along; asked me many questions, the first of which was, ‘Did General Houston command in person in the action of yesterday?’ He also asked how many prisoners we had taken and what we were going to do with them. When, in answer to an inquiry, I informed him that the Texian force in the battle of the preceding day was less than eight hundred men, he said I was surely mistaken, that our force was certainly much greater. In turn, I plied the prisoner with divers questions.
“I remember asking him why he came to Texas to fight against us, to which he replied that he was a private soldier, and was bound to obey his officers. I asked him if he had a family. He replied in the affirmative, but when I inquired, ‘Do you expect to see them again?’ his only answer was a shrug of the shoulders.
“We rode to that part of our camp where the prisoners were kept, in order to deliver our trooper to the guard. What was our astonishment, as we approached the guard, to hear the prisoners exclaiming, ‘El Presidente! El Presidente!’ by which we were made aware that we had unwittingly captured the ‘Napoleon of the West.’ The news spread almost instantaneously through our camp, and we had scarcely dismounted ere we were surrounded by an excited crowd. Some of our officers immediately took charge of the illustrious captive and conducted him to the tent of General Houston.”
Santa Anna thanked the Colonel very much for the kind and hospitable manner in which he treated him the preceding day. Supposedly, Santa Anna gave Joel Robison his gold braided vest in appreciation of the ride to the Texas camp and the vest was used many years by the young men of Fayette County in wedding ceremonies.
Sometime in the near future, Denise Christopher plans to move to Blanco County from her present home in Arizona. She is working on transferring her “at large” membership in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to the Blanco County Pioneer Chapter.