As we wrote in yesterday’s entry, it was March of 1836 that Santa Ana and his Mexican soldiers had defeated the forces at the Alamo in the war for Texas' independence from Mexico. Today, the story continues, and as we recount that story, pictures of a San Antonio hotel are presented. This hotel’s connection to this story will become clear.
By the afternoon of April 18, 1836, General Santa Anna had moved his men into position near the mouth of the San Jacinto River to attack the Texas rebels he knew to be nearby. This camp was near the property of James Morgan, an entrepreneur from Philadelphia, who had brought 16 slaves with him. However, Texas did not permit slavery, so to circumvent the law, he converted his slaves into 99-year indentured servants. As was the case with indentured servants, Emily had taken on the last name of Morgan’s.
Col. Morgan was assigned to the Port of Galveston to guard Texas refugees and fugitive government officials. He had left one of the indentured servants, Emily West, a 20-year-old mixed race woman, in charge of insuring that the flatboats on a strategic parcel of land named Morgan's Point in San Jacinto Bay were loaded with oranges, grains, and livestock for General Sam Houston's army.
Santa Anna arrived at Morgan's Point, and after his men helped themselves to the crops and cattle, he set about securing one more "spoil of war"—Emily. He captured her and a young boy named Turner loading yet another flatboat headed for Houston's army. General Santa Anna believed himself quite the ladies' man and saw Emily as a temporary replacement for his wife.
And so, ignoring the advice of his colonels, Santa Anna ordered the immediate setting up of his encampment on the plains of the San Jacinto. Emily convinced Turner to escape from Santa Anna's men and rush to Houston's camp to inform him of the Mexican general's arrival.
On the afternoon of April 21, the great final battle for the independence of Texas was engaged. The Mexican army was caught completely by surprise, and Santa Anna was literally caught "with his pants down."
Emily West Morgan survived the battle and told James Morgan of her ordeal and the outcome of the last great battle when he returned from Galveston. The colonel was so impressed with Emily's heroism, he repealed her indenture and gave her a passport back to New York, the final chapter of which we have no record.
We do know, however, Morgan made certain everyone knew of Emily's heroism, and from the accounts of those who were there indicate she was a loyal "Texian" who did what she could for the independence of Texas.
Which brings us to the song.
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 indicate this copy was most probably transcribed either shortly before or just after General Sam Houston led 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. And "Rose" was a popular feminine nineteenth century name; frequently used in songs and poems as a symbolic glorification of young womanhood.
The original transcription was poorly made and full of spelling errors. This would indicate that the transcriber was somewhat uneducated but possibly influential, as it was signed with three embellished initials. This copy is now housed in the archives at the University of Texas in Austin.
So then, who was Yellow Rose? The answer comes from historical records which tell us the song's original title was "Emily, the Maid of Morgan's Point."
Which brings us to the hotel—the Emily Morgan Hotel.
A plaque in the lobby reads: “This hotel is dedicated to the romantic legend of Emily Morgan, The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
The information above was found in tamu.edu/faculty/ccbn/dewitt/adp/archives/yellowrose