Texas History Update: The Odd Case of the Yellow Rose of Texas


The Yellow Rose of Texas was a popular Civil War era song about a woman who supposedly singlehandedly won Texas Independence from Mexico. Whether it is true or not the legend is indeed fascinating. Recently there has been another interesting tidbit added; could she have been the Vice President’s wife?

The Legend of the Yellow Rose of Texas (The Beautiful Emily West)

According to a couple of obscure bits of historically semi-accepted second-hand information (whew!) the Yellow Rose of Texas was a beautiful Mulatto woman. She supposedly seduced Santa Anna on the eve and morning of his defeat by Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto. This defeat won Texas’ Independence from Mexico. The mulatto woman was named to be Emily West. It has been proven that this woman of color had been contracted to be a servant to Colonel James Morgan a wealthy Texas landowner.

Emily West Captured By Santa Anna

Historians suggest there was an Emily West captured by Santa Anna’s troops as she and other Texas residents were fleeing the Mexican onslaught outside of the revolutionists’ Texas capital at Harrisburg (present-day Houston). The Yellow Rose of Texas legend purports she was presented to Santa Anna (a reportedly known womanizer and drug abuser) and he became enamored with her beauty.

It is because of this sexual (and possibly drug-induced) encounter, some historians believe, that Houston was able to defeat Santa Anna at San Jacinto. Observations of him hurrying out of his tent with his pants at his ankles were promoted. This unpreparedness could possibly explain why the ragtag group of Texans (who were vastly out-numbered and grossly-inexperienced) were able to defeat the Mexicans. It took Houston just a few minutes to overwhelm the surprised Mexican forces.

Thus it is understandable why the story of this beautiful dark-skinned woman and her escapade with Santa Anna have become a famous historical legend known as the Yellow Rose of Texas. There is evidence that Emily West was at the battlefield the morning of the surprise attack by Houston.

The Other Woman

At the time of the Texas Revolution Mexican Lorenzo De Zavala was the Vice President of the renegade Texas government. Earlier Zavala, who was a popular Mexican political figure, had abandoned Santa Anna because of the latter’s designs on becoming dictator of Mexico. At this point the two Mexican rivals became bitter enemies. Zavala shortly thereafter joined the Texas Revolution.

Before the revolution Lorenzo De Zavala and Santa Anna were political competitors when Mexico was entertaining the idea of emulating the United States’ path of democracy. Santa Anna was President of Mexico and Zavala was the governor of the state of Mexico. De Zavala was married to a woman named Emily West.

Santa Anna’s Crush On Emily West De Zavala?

Zavala asked Santa Anna to support a bill of his that would insure that Mexico also had a separation of church and state as did the United States. Santa Anna told Zavala he would support his bill so Zavala introduced it to the Mexican congress. However, in order to quell the rising popularity of Zavala, Santa Anna betrayed his trust and backed the clergy in their effort to stop the bill.

This created a chasm between the two former poltical contemporaries. During better times Emily and Lorenzo De Zavala would attend society balls and parties along with the Santa Annas. No doubt the Zavalas must have been aware of Santa Anna’s notorious womanizing at these functions. With Emily being so beautiful it’s not too difficult to imagine that Santa Anna must have desired her charms also.

Who Was Santa Anna Pursuing During the Texas Revolution?

Historians state that Santa Anna was pursuing Sam Houston and the fleeing Texas renegades in the pursuit across Texas. Is it too far-fetched to imagine he was actually mainly in pursuit of Emily West and Lorenzo De Zavala? Was he chasing Lorenzo because he wanted to eliminate his chief Mexican political rival and Emily because he wanted to pursue her charms?

Lorenzo De Zavala was a very cleverly intelligent and opportunistic man. Is it possible he and Emily (and possibly Houston) could have conspired to have Santa Anna capture her so Houston could surprise the Mexican forces while Santa Anna was preoccupied? Afterall the Zavalas knew Santa Anna as a womanizer and drug addict. Could it have been this Emily who Santa Anna captured at San Jacinto?

Is it legend or is it historical fact? Just who do you think was The Yellow Rose of Texas? What are the chances that Early Texas would have had two beautiful Emily Wests at the same time, knowing the same people, and at the very same location during such an important time in Texas history?

What Do You Think? Were There Two Emily Wests?

One more thing: remember Colonel James Morgan the wealthy Texas landowner who had Emily West as his indentured servant? He was business partners and good friends with Vice President Lorenzo De Zavala!

Such is the legend of The Yellow Rose of Texas.