Folklore adds color to history, and although often mythical, it highlights certain social elements of the time and refers to events with a root in truth. The Yellow Rose of Texas is one such legend that eventually inspired the popular ballad by the same name. So, what is the Yellow Rose of Texas?
The Yellow Rose of Texas is an African-American girl, Emily West. Mexican General de Santa Anna took her hostage in the Texan Revolution. She is credited with distracting the General so that his troops would be resting when the Texan Army struck at Jacinto. The Mexicans caught off guard, lost the battle.
The popular story of The Yellow Rose of Texas is not verified, although the Texan Revolution and the Battle of Jacinto are historically correct. Nonetheless, the version which includes Emily West is intriguing.
The Yellow Rose Of Texas Has Its Roots In American History
The account of the Yellow Rose of Texas is set against the backdrop of the Texan Revolution. Emily West is the story’s heroine, but she was only later thought to be the Yellow Rose of Texas. The belief is that yellow refers to her darker complexion, and rose refers to her beauty.
The Texan Revolution Sets The Stage For Yellow Rose Of Texas
History tells us that Texas was under Mexican rule, and many Americans lived in Mexican Texas. The Texans were disillusioned because the conditions under which they lived had changed significantly for the worse.
There were various reasons that Texans no longer wished to live in Mexico:
- When they arrived in Mexico, the 1824 constitution was in place, allowing Texans to govern themselves in the state of Coahuila y Texas.
- This constitution was abolished, and the new constitution gave Mexico federal powers over the State of Texas; this change pre-empted the war.
- Mexico City was in chaos, making it near impossible for Texans to negotiate with Mexican authorities.
- Texans had strong economic and trade ties with America.
Yellow Rose Of Texas Is The Story Of Emily West
Emily was an African-African from Connecticut, a free woman who worked for Colonel James Morgan in New Washington, a small settlement in Texas.
During the Texan Revolution, when the Mexican Army passed through New Washington, Emily West caught the attention of Mexican General de Santa Anna. He captured her and forced her to join him as his army continued on their mission to defeat the Texan troops.
Two Generals Featured in The Yellow Rose Of Texas Legend
Both the Texan and the Mexican armies had strong generals in charge. These two generals, with their troops, were at the coal face of the Texan Independence War, with the Texans desperate for Independence and the Mexicans hellbent on maintaining power.
General de Santa Anna Led The Mexican Forces
General de Santa Anna was renowned for flaunting his bold, opulent lifestyle, and during the revolution, he insisted on taking all his creature comforts with him.
The baggage his soldiers carried for him included his extravagant living quarters and a piano he had acquired when plundering on the warpath.
General de Santa Annas’ demands slowed his army down. The General’s requirements tired them so much that General de Santa Anna called for more soldiers to bolster his force, and an additional 500 Mexcian soldiers arrived.
General Samuel Houston Commanded The Texan Army
The Texan Army, under the leadership of General Sam Houston, had circumvented clashes with de Santa Anna’s men. General Houston was often criticized for his reluctance to engage with the Mexicans and was branded a coward.
He argued he would fight only battles he knew his troops could win and waited until his troops were fit and ready to enter into battle with the Mexican army.
Many volunteers from neighboring areas sympathetically joined the Texan forces, which added to their ranks; the Mexicans still outnumbered them.
The Texan Army Won The Landmark Battle Of Jacinto
In April 1836, Houston’s soldiers were ready to take on de Santa Annas’ armed forces, and they met the Mexicans in marshes and bayous around Jacinto. An exchange of artillery fire took place, but neither side claimed victory.
After an initial skirmish, Da Santa Anna decided to rest his troops. The Mexican leader anticipated an attack from the Texan Army the following day. When the Texans didn’t strike as he thought they would, de Santa Anna gave his soldiers another day of rest.
It was then that the Texans struck and were easily able to defeat the Mexican troops.
The Yellow Rose Of Texas Helped The Texans Win The Revolution
According to folklore Emily West was instrumental in keeping the Mexican General pre-occupied, allowing General Houston’s men to take the Mexicans by surprise.
One version of the story suggests that General de Santa Anna was in his silk shirt and underwear when the Texan troops attacked and could not muster up his forces in time to ward off the Texans. His troops were caught off guard and lost the battle.
General de Santa Anna was not killed in the battle and was seen several days later wearing one of his regiments’ uniforms. The Texan army captured him, but he was released after agreeing to Texas’ Independence.
Emily West escaped and went back to Connecticut. Some accounts of the story suggest that Emily West was a spy for the Texan Army and intentionally kept the Mexican General occupied so the Texans could claim victory.
Emily West Inspired The Ballad Of Yellow Rose Of Texas
The ballad, Yellow Rose of Texas, is thought to have been written about Emily West. However, some lyrics changed when it became a popular Confederate war song.
Although Emily West’s role in the Texan Revolution has never been verified, the Ballad Yellow Rose of Texas kept the story alive.
The song is written in the African-American Creole dialect, and the terms ‘Darkey’ and ‘Yellow’ refer to people of African-American descent at the time. It has strong ties to what is believed to be an account of Emily West and was written as a lamenting love story supposedly by Emily’s lover.
Yellow Rose FAQs
Is Emily West A Fictional Character?
Although the role of Emily West, the Yellow Rose of Texas, is not verified, there was, in fact, an Emily West who requested a passport to return to Connecticut.
Was Texas A State In Mexico?
Texas, known as Mexican Texas, was a Mexican state from 1821 to 1836.
When did Mexican Texas Gain Independence?
In 1836 Mexican Texas declared Independence.
When Did Texas Become An American State?
America annexed Texas in 1845 as the 28th state.
Why Were There Americans In Mexico?
The Mexicans persuaded the Americans to relocate to Mexico because they wanted a frontier line to ward off cattle thieves and hostile intruders.
What Enticed The Americans To Move To Mexico?
Aside from good fertile soil for cotton farming, thousands of Americans flocked to Texas from states that had abandoned the slave trade.
Is Houston Named After General Houston?
The Battle of Jacinto took place close to where Houston is today, and the city was named after the General to commemorate the Texan’s victory.
Is There A Flower Named The Yellow Rose Of Texas?
The Yellow Rose of Texas is a flower from the Rose family, also known as Harison’s Rose. This rose can be seen in gardens in and around Texas and on Oregon trails. It is sometimes referred to as Oregon Trail Rose.
- Emily West: https://www.history.com/news/who-was-the-yellow-rose-of-texas
- The Battle Of Jacinto: https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-San-Jacinto-1836
- Theories On The Yellow Rose Of Texas: https://www.historynet.com/the-yellow-rose-of-texas-a-growing-legend/