There is the Yellow Rose of Texas ....Legend, Myth

History often is remember as some personnel recollection. Sometimes even exaggerated. However, there is the myth of the Yellow Rose of Texas. Some truth to the story but remember more likely for its legend than those of actual facts.

According to the legend, Sam Houston sent an attractive mulatto (half white-half black) female named Emily Morgan into the Mexican camp prior to the Battle of San Jacinto. The intent was to distract Santa Anna's attention away from the war and Texas Militia while the Texans made ready for an attack. Santa Anna was known to be fond of attractive women and according to legend, Emily found her way to Santa Anna's Tent keeping him preoccupied as Sam Houston's Army made ready their planned attack. With Santa Anna's guard let down, the Texans rushed the Mexican Army in a battle that lasted 18 minutes before the Mexicans surrender. Emily Morgan played a vital role to aid a Texas victory at the expense of her virtue.

The story gained popularity in the 1950s with the revival of the song The Yellow Rose of Texas. Historians, however, doubt the facts behind the legend. Historian Margaret Swett Henson points out that Emily Morgan was actually Emily D. West, a free woman of color under contract to James Morgan. Mexican troops seized Emily along with several other servants from Morgan's warehouse at New Washington on the Brazos River. Henson contends that although Emily West was at Santa Anna's camp on the banks of the San Jacinto River, she had not gone there willingly nor had she been sent by Sam Houston. It appears that Emily West returned to New York, her permanent place of residence, shortly after the revolution.

However, the legend of Emily as the Yellow Rose of Texas is so well remembered. Although truth be said; It is not known if she in fact was in Santa Anna's tent. Although, Santa Anna did travel accompanied by women of pleasure. What history does know is Sam Houston never sent her into the camp because she had been taken as a prisoner several days prior to the battle.

The Mexican Army after a long morning March settle down resting on the afternoon of April 21st, 1836. Santa Anna on that afternoon failed to post guards and sentries outside the camp as the Mexican Army siesta late afternoon. Additionally, he believe that Houston was corner with no escape nor the ability to defeat the larger Mexican Army. His troops sleeping while few out gathering fire wood and the Calvary bringing up water from the river was completely unready.

At 4:30pm Deaf Smith announced the burning of Vince's Bridge, which cut off the only avenue of retreat for both armies without having to cross water of about ten feet in depth. Sam Houston's Army of Texan militia had large trees to assist hiding the Texas advance. Houston leading his infantry double lined quietly advanced towards the enemy camp. Using the trees and then crawling through the high grass. The Texans were able to sneak up and surprise the Mexican Army crying out "Remember the Alamo" "Remember Goliad". Santa Anna escaped the battle but was captured the following day. It is legend that he was so surprised by the attack, that his uniform was left in his tent missing only the long johns and boots. Santa Anna was caught with his pants down...surprised and ran. Did Emily truly seduce the general"? Likely not the seduction of Emily Morgan, but perhaps one of Santa Anna's soldaderas "Women of Pleasure". Nevertheless, there does remain a Yellow Rose of Texas regardless how Legends lead us to believe.

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In Search of the "Yellow Rose of Texas"

Texas history is full of legend and lore. One such tale is the "Yellow Rose of Texas" a legend commemorated in song. But is there such a rose? And if there is, which rose is it?

Originally conceived as a folksong in early Colonial Texas history, the first recorded copy of the "Yellow Rose of Texas" was handwritten on a piece of plain paper circa 1836. Historical records indicated this copy was most probably transcribed either shortly before or just after General Sam Houston lead his brigade of Texas loyalists against the army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

The folksong's lyrics tell of a black American (presumably a soldier) who left his sweetheart (a "yellow rose") and yearns to return to her side. "Yellow" was a term given to Americans of mixed race in those days - most commonly mulattos. And "Rose" was a popular feminine nineteenth century name; frequently used in songs and poems as a symbolic glorification of young womenhood.

The original transcription was poorly mad and full of spelling errors. This would indicate that the transcriber was somewhat uneducated but possibly influentail, as it was signed with three embellished initials. This copy is now housed in the archives at the University of Texas in Austin.

Although no name is given as the song's coposer in any of the records, a hint may come from the fourth line in the chorus which infers the soldier si from Tennessee. Unfortunately, many men from Tennessee moved to (or were brought to) Texas during its colonization and war of independence.

In 1858, the first copyrighted edition of the song was published in New York. The cover states the song was "Composed and Arranged Expressly for Charles H. Brown by J.K" It was common in the nineteenth century to keep "ghost" composers secretive, especially if the songs had slave folksongs origins. Hence, we don't know who "J.K." was, nor are we certain he was even the composer. And we're not likely to find out.

Soon after it was published, the song increased in worldwide popularity and was sung by minstrels both in this country and Europe. As the American Civil War began, it was adopted as a marching song by soldiers everywhere - most often, as you might expect, by those soldiers from Texas. But since it referred to (and was to be sung by) a black American soldier, the song's lyrics were changed. By the early 1860's, the term "dark" was replaced with "soldier," and the first line of the chorus was changed to "She's the sweetest little flower....."

Finally, in 1864 with the end of the war nearing, a fourth stanza was added to reflect the dismay and hopelessness of General Jon B. Hood's retreating Texas Brigade after its disastrous Tennessee campaign. Some of his troops were so disoriented after the loss, they actually thought the war was over and started returning home - singing, of course, "Yellow Rose of Texas."

So then, who was Yellow Rose? The answer comes from historical records which tells the song's oringinal title was "Emily, the Maid of Morgan's Point."

South Texas Cowboy, I enjoyed the history on the "Yellow Rose of Texas" Thanks!

The Yellow Rose of Texas

The song so does indicate your point made. When reading Martha Anne Turner, The Yellow Rose of Texas: Her Saga and Her Song (Austin: Shoal Creek Publishers, 1976), she points out the many facts that indicate what you stated as fiction rather than fact. However, the folk lore and myth remains unsolved except that Emily had already been take captured by Santa Anna on April 16th. Historians have deep rooted the legend an conclude that Sam Houston had no knowledge of her capture, nor would have been able to send a secret message to her of their battle plans. Although, the gesture that she gave her all piece by piece is a romantic thought that makes the search even more worth investigating. However, sometimes, the lore is so rich, that the truth would never match the heroic tale with anything more than disappointment. I'm glad you took time to also research the other side of Emily Morgan which makes for superb reading.....However, April 21, 2010 will be our 174th year since the Battle of San Jacinto. I love that someone takes note to research and share their knowledge and points. Thank you Cowgirl-at-Heart for your input.
For more information, The Texas Handbook archive is available on line for reading again, Thank you.

Yellow Rose

Thanks for the link, I read over it, there was some interesting points about Emily that I didn't know or had forgotten. thanks for taking the time to read my interpretation on the subject. Take care Cowgirl at heart.

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