Deaf Smith was one of the most celebrated patriots in the Texas fight for independence. His greatest contribution in the war was his skill as a scout and spy that would influence the battles at Conception, the Grass Fight and most importantly, the Battle at San Jacinto.
Ironically, this soldier; who became the eyes and ears of the Texas Army was going blind and was nearly deaf.
Smith came to Texas in 1817 for his health, which improved in the Texas climate but his hearing and eyesight was affected. In 1822 he married a widow with three children, Guadalupe Reyes de Duran and the union enabled him to move easily between both cultures. His expertise in the Texas terrain and knowledge of Tejano culture would prove invaluable to Sam Houston.
At the outbreak of hostilities at Gonzales, Smith planned to remain neutral. However, during the siege at San Antonio the Mexican Army occupying the town had clamped down on security while he was out hunting. Upon returning he was forbidden from re-joining his family. He joined the Texans declaring indignantly, the Mexicans had treated him “rascally.”
After the Battle of the Alamo, Houston dispatched him to report on the fate of the defenders. Smith then escorted Mrs. Almeron Dickenson and the others to meet with Houston.
Just before the Battle of San Jacinto, Houston sent Smith and a group of hand-picked soldiers to remove and burn Vince’s Bridge thereby cutting off any reinforcements coming to the aid of Santa Anna’s army and blocking any chance for El Presidente from escaping. The Texans knew this also kept them from retreating. The message was clear, “Victory or Death.”
On the afternoon of April 21st, 1836 a grinning Houston told his men, “Victory is certain. Trust in God and fear not. The victims of the Alamo and the names of those who were murdered at Goliad cry out for vengeance. Remember the Alamo. Remember Goliad.”
At 3:30 PM, a small rag-tag band struck up a risqué Irish tune, “Will Ye Come to the Bower I Have Shrouded For You.”
The Texans; tired, hungry, dirty, angry and vastly outnumbered, routed Santa Ana’s army. In eighteen minutes his entire army was killed, captured or wounded. The Texans only lost six men and had twenty-five wounded.
Before Smith’s death in 1837 he raised a company of Texas Rangers and defeated a larger force of Mexican soldiers on the Rio Grande, nearly a year after Santa Anna had surrendered at San Jacinto. He died at the age of fifty, some nine months later.
Today a county in Texas is named for him as is, of all things, a brand of peanut butter from 1960 that was introduced in Deaf Smith County.
But mostly Deaf Smith is remembered as a hero from the storied Battle of San Jacinto and as one of the Lone Star Republic’s greatest patriots.