In the spring of 1836, things were not going well at all for the Texas Rebels.
The garrison in the old mission in San Antonio, the Alamo, had fallen after a thirteen day siege by the forces under General Santa Ana, the Mexican president, commander-in-chief and dictator.
All the defenders were then killed at his direction.
The only survivor was a Mrs. Dickinson, whose husband was one of the fallen.
She soon spread the word of the battle and the bloody aftermath.
At Goliad, the Texians, comprised of the Anglo-Texans and the Tejanos, the Mexican-Texans, had surrendered to a General Cos, one of Santa Ana’s lieutenants.
The men were then brutally massacred.
After declaring their independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, the fledgling civilian government fled to the east, all the while exhorting the remaining rebel forces under General Sam Houston to quit their long retreat across South Texas and to stand and fight.
But Houston had a plan.
If he could get the Mexicans to follow him with all of their forces, he could mount a successful counterattack when Santa Ana least expected it.
And that’s just what he did on the afternoon of April 21.
When Santa Ana set up camp at the small village of San Jacinto that day, he planned to rest his forces and attack Houston the next day, the 22nd.
The spot, just north of the great metropolis of today named for the Texas general and statesman, is still considered hallowed ground by most Texans, some 184 years later.
When the Mexicans were sleepily taking their afternoon siesta, the Texans attacked.
Although outnumbered about three to one, they routed Santa Ana’s army.
Suffering only a few casualties themselves, they inflicted severe losses on the Mexicans.
Incensed over the aftermath of the Alamo and Goliad, Houston’s men often shot Mexican troops that were simply trying to flee.
Trying to escape by disguising himself as a private soldier, Santa Ana was then captured the next day.
Although most of his men wanted to execute the dictator on the spot, Houston instead forced Santa Ana to sign a treaty releasing Texas from Mexico and then allowed him to return to Mexico City.
The revolution was effectively over.
But how was Santa Ana himself so unaware that his forces were being attacked?
Why didn’t he attempt to rally them early on?
The answer is that he was otherwise occupied.
Liking women almost as much as he liked power, the general was entertaining one Emily Morgan in his tent and she had kept him very busy and interested that afternoon.
The next day, Houston told his troops that Ms. Morgan had been a great help to their cause.
It is very difficult to separate fact from legend where Emily Morgan is concerned.
It is fairly well established that she was born a mixed race free womansomewhere in New York State in 1815.
Her last name was Wells at birth.
In 1835, she became an indentured servant to a man with the last name of Morgan and travelled with him to Texas where he soon became a supporter of the revolution.
Wells/Morgan was captured by the Mexicans along with several other women in February 1836.
The legend says that she had deliberately allowed herself to be taken, but that was never verified.
Was she a successful spy for Houston?
Another fact that is not known for sure but Houston did seem to have very good knowledge of where his enemy was and what he was planning.
After San Jacinto, the legend says that Emily Morgan was the object of the often heard ballad “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
Again, this may or may not be true.
In any event, she returned to New York after her period of indentured servitude ended in 1837 and lived a quiet life thereafter.
She died in 1891 at the age of seventy-six.
There are no official monuments to Emily Morgan but there is one very large commercial tribute. In present-day downtown San Antonio, there is a Greek revival themed medical office building of thirteen stories that opened in 1924.
The building was converted to a hotel in 1985 and named for this almost mythical person.
Extensively remodeled in 2012, the Emily Morgan Hotel is a now a standout luxury establishment.
Where is it located?
Directly across the street from the Alamo, where else?
Emily (West) Morgan, whatever the complete truth, certainly deserves to be known as a woman who changed history.