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VINCE'S BRIDGE

VINCE'S BRIDGE. Controversy has surrounded Vince's Bridge since the battle of San Jacinto, when observers and participants gave conflicting accounts of the location and destruction of the bridge. Recent investigation supports the statements of earlier writers who believed the bridge was located on Sims Bayou, on the survey of Allen Vince, and not on Vince's Bayou, on the property of William Vince. Allen Vince built and owned the structure, and no record shows that he ever owned land in the William Vince sitio; contemporary references to the "Vince Bridge" or to the bridge "on the bayou of that name" reflect the confusion caused by the adjoining lands of the two brothers and the close proximity of the two streams. Théodore Frédérick Gaillardetqv, an early observer of Texas events, wrote in 1839 that the "bridge over Sims Bayou was the only means of retreat which lay open to the Mexicans" and that General Houston's first command was to destroy it. Other early historians accepted Vince's Bayou as the site, but some later historians, after observing the location of the present historical marker at Vince's Bayou, have called the entire episode a myth. Vince's Bayou was hardly deep enough-despite heavy rains-or long enough to delay reinforcements reaching the Mexican Army, but Sims Bayou is a larger body of water and would take longer to head if the bridge were down. Santa Anna, in his attempted escape, came to a burned bridge on what he thought was the headwaters of Buffalo Bayou, and his secretary thought it was on the Brazos. Both could hardly have mistaken a small stream such as Vince's Bayou for much larger streams. Santa Anna was captured after being delayed by the burned structure, and Amasa Turner's account states specifically that Santa Anna was captured near Sims Bayou, although most accounts place his capture at Vince's Bayou. The idea for destroying the bridge has been credited to several participants, but mainly to Erastus (Deaf) Smithqv and to General Houston, who credited himself with the idea in a speech before the United States Congress. Houston's version was contradicted, however, by Moseley Baker, and by most accounts the idea was originally that of Deaf Smith. It is probable then that Smith proposed the idea, that after some debate Houston authorized it, and that Smith and others attempted to cut the span with axes. Since nearly every witness after the battle relates that the bridge was burned, it is also probable that Smith, with little time and few men, finally had to set fire to it. The strategic importance of Vince's Bridge is more easily explained by its location on Sims Bayou. Its destruction prevented reinforcements from reaching Santa Anna by keeping news of his defeat from Gen. Vicente Filisola, his second-in-command, and also from Gen. José de Urrea, who had a division on the west bank of the Brazos River. In addition, the escape of nearly all of the Mexican survivors was prevented, including that of their commander. Further, if the destruction of the bridge was announced to the Texans just before the battle, as related in many accounts, they knew that there was little hope for retreat by either army.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

George L. Charlton, "Vince's Bridge: Question Mark of the San Jacinto Campaign," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 68 (January 1965). Frédéric Gaillardet, Sketches of Early Texas and Louisiana, trans. James I. Shepherd III (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966). John H. Jenkins, ed., "Amasa Turner's Account of the Texas Revolution," Texana 1 (1963). Chester Newell, History of the Revolution in Texas (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1838; rpt., New York: Arno Press, 1973).

Phillip L. Fry

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Phillip L. Fry, "VINCE'S BRIDGE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/rtv01), accessed April 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.