Annual Reenactment of San Jacinto Battle

Historic Event recalls critical battle leading to Independence of Texas from Mexico

Texans celebrate independence at San Jacinto Monument

By David Taylor
Managing Editor

For 20 years, Mark Hegman has been dressing up as a member of the Texan Army and fighting the Battle of San Jacinto every April out at the site of the San Jacinto Monument and battlefield in LaPorte, Texas. The former Channelview resident almost didn’t get to participate this year, fighting off pneumonia, but even that and his wife’s knee surgery didn’t keep either of them from being a part of the great history of Texas and her independence.

“Linda has been joining me for the last 15 years,” he said.

Hegman got swept into the re-enactment culture after obliging his son-in-law wearing a period costume for him at an event at Sam Houston State University.

His son-in-law, Mike Sproat, is the curator of collections at the Sam Houston Memorial in Huntsville, Texas and was already enthralled in the re-enactment culture when Hegman joined. Now it’s a family affair, and from Opah (Hegman) down to his grandchildren, all pitch a tent and camp at the San Jacinto Monument site during the weekend celebration of the battle.

The Hegmans, as re-enactors, interact with the public as they show them living history from the early days by cooking food, checking weapons, and the simple life of daily routines during the days leading up to the battle.

“There were crafts and daily life that included cartridge box making — Yellow Rose, Quill and Ink — that showed how letters and orders were written, bullet making, battlefield medicine, and battle beats, which was the music that inspired and lifted the spirits of the soldiers,” said Andy Smith, site manager for the historic battleground site.

Smith estimated the crowd for the day’s activities reached more than 5,000.

This year, the battle with re-enactors happened twice, once at 11 a.m. and again at 3 p.m.

“Everything went off safely and exciting,” he said, “and just a spoiler alert, Texas won again both times.”

The smell of gunfire from period muskets and the cannons revved up the crowd. More than 100 re-enactors participated.

“We also had our school day on Friday, which we added a few years back just to spread it out, and we had over 800 students come out,” he said.

The official ceremony on Sunday boasted more than 400 in attendance.

This year was also the first annual lecture series, four talks held throughout the day in the theater.

“Those were supported by the Humanity’s Texas grant that allowed us to pay speakers to come and be a part of the program. It was an exciting addition and we hosted over 400 for those talks,” he said.

It’s something they’ll revisit for next year’s event.

Scattered throughout the battlefield was the living history zones, the Mexican camp, the Texan camp, runaway scrape camp and groups from the Alamo, Washington on the Brazos, the Barrington Plantation, San Felipe, and others out here to tell the story leading up to San Jacinto, he said.

Visitors walk through the encampments and then head out to the battlefield to see the Battle of San Jacinto.

The drama is split into four scenes: the runaway scrape, the skirmish on April 20, the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, and it ends with the capture of General Santa Ana on April 22.

On Friday, they hosted another first: representatives from the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribe, including their chief.

After all the volleys of gunfire have ended and the tourists have all left for the day, nightfall comes, and Hegman says that’s his favorite time out on the battlefield.

“You get chills when you’re out there on the battlefield doing the reenactment. You know you are a part of history,” he said.

He ascended the ranks and played the part of General Sam Houston, and counted that a big privilege and honor.

But for Hegman, it’s the quiet time in the dark that holds special meaning.

“You look across the battlefield and you see the campfires glowing, the chatter of people preparing for bed or having fun, and then you look up and see that monument that’s lit up. It does give you chills remembering history and then being a part of it,” he said.

On Monday, after the crowds were gone and the celebrations over, Smith said he and the staff were finalizing the numbers and had one final thing to say:

“Book it for next year!” he smiled.

They will host the school day again on Friday, April 18, 2025, and the battle reenactment on Saturday, April 19, 2025.

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