|Colonel James Walker Fannin's Regiment at Goliad
by Garland Lively
The armed conflict of Texas Revolution began with the battle of Gonzales in October 1835 and concluded with the battle of San Jacinto on 21 April 1836. There were earlier clashes between the Mexicans and groups of Texas colonists beginning as early as 1826 during the Fredonian Rebellion. Additional conflicts occurred in 1832 at the battle of Velasco, and at the Battle of Nacogdoches. These conflicts were the result of deep seated differences in the social and political viewpoints of the Mexicans and the Anglo-American colonists of Texas. Further misunderstandings by the Mexicans were aggravated by mistrust of United States' intentions in Texas. In 1834 when General Antonio Lopez de San Antonio rescinded the 1824 constitution and declared that Mexico was not ready for a democracy, making himself a dictator, the Texans were caught up in the Federalist opposition to Santa Anna's Centralists government. All of these preceding events led to the decisive moment at Gonzales in October of 1835, when the citizens opposed the Mexican Army with an armed insurrection. While the previous conflicts had been quickly resolved the "Battle of Gonzales" provided the spark that ignited the flames of the smoldering Texas Revolution.
Shortly afterward, on 11 December 1835, a large force of Texans gathered at San Antonio and forced General Martin Perfecto de Cos to surrender at the Alamo and retreat back across the Rio Grande in humiliation. The capture of San Antonio was a major victory for the Texans, and won at relatively little cost. It was a decisive victory that marked the end of Mexican authority over Texas and encouraged the Texans to later declare their independence from Mexico.
In December 1835 after Austin's "Army of the People "captured San Antonio from the Mexicans, most of the Texan volunteers left the Army and returned home. Stephen Austin, however, feared the Mexicans would mount a
spring offensive to crush the rebellion. Texas defenses at this time consisted of three forts blocking the main approaches from Mexico into Texas: Presidio La Bahía at Goliad, Presidio San Patricio, and the Alamo at San Antonio. James Walker Fannin, Jr. was appointed to command the small detachment at La Bahia near Goliad, and San Patricio was commanded by Dr. James Grant and Francis W. Johnson. James Clinton Neill was placed in command of the San Antonio garrison at the Alamo.
Simmering over the humiliation of Cos’s defeat, Santa Anna began to plan for a full scale invasion of Texas to crush the rebellion. On 25 January 1836, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna conducted a Grand Review of his 6000 Mexican forces at his garrison and crossed the Rio Grande at Matamoros and invaded Texas. On 2 March 1836 during a meeting of the Convention of 1836 at Washington on the Brazos the Texans formally voted for independence. The convention also appointed Sam Houston as a major general in the Texas Army and designated him as Commander in Chief of all Texas forces. Houston formally assumed command at Gonzales and Austin assumed a purely political role.
General Santa Anna fully understood the importance of securing the coastal region of Texas as a supply base for his invasion force. In order for the Mexican Army to sustain itself while advancing from the Rio Grande, they had to control the port of Copano as a Mexican port to enable supplies to be transported to the interior of Texas. After learning of the Texans’ plan to capture Matamoros, Santa Anna directed General Jose de Urrea with 250 soldiers of the Cuautla Permanete Cavalry Regiment plus two auxiliary companies to march toward Matamoros, while the Yucatan Activo Battalion was marched northwards from Tampico to Matamoros. Santa Anna with a larger force proceeded towards San Antonio. The Texan Matamoros Expedition had depended heavily upon support from Mexican Federalists Rebels, but en route to Matamoros, Urrea pursued them aggressively and captured many of them, incorporating them within his ranks. When Urrea arrived in Matamoros on 31 January 1836 he linked up with the Yucatan Battalion. By the time Urrea had assembled all his forces he had nearly 900 soldiers consisting of the following; 320 Infantry troops consisting of Mayan Indians from the Yucatan, 320 Dragons (mounted infantry or cavalry), 200 men that he left in Matamoros, and one 4 pound cannon. On 17 February 1836 Urrea departed Matamoros and swept along the coastal plains with his force of approximately 550 soldiers towards San Patricio. Santa Anna’s strategy was clear. He intended to have Urrea capture the base of the Texas triangle at San Patricio and Goliad and to secure Matamoros, the port of Copano, and the coastal plains, while Santa Anna advanced on San Antonio from the southwest to crush the rebels in the Alamo.
Colonel James Walker Fannin, who had commanded the Brazos Guards at Gonzales on 2 February 1836, was still at Refugio when on 6 February 1836 he received word from Captain Placido Benavides that General Urrea had defeated the Federalists rebels in Mexico and had arrived in Matamoros where he was supporting Santa Anna in an invasion of Texas. At this point Colonel Fannin abandoned all thoughts of advancing to Matamoros and dispatched Captain Cooke's Company to reinforce Johnson and Grant at San Patricio. He then quickly dispatched a series of messages urging the Texans to take action. An extract of his message to acting Governor James W. Robinson on 7 February 1836 follows:
"You will readily discover the great difference between this information and that contained in my report of the 3d instant. The first was then supposed to be entitled to credit, and accordingly made the subject of a communication:-I cannot now question the correctness of the last. Not the least doubt should any longer be entertained, by any friend of Texas, of the design of Santa Anna to overrun the country, and expel or exterminate every white man within its borders. May I be permitted to ask of them in sober earnestness, "Why halt ye between two opinions. Your soil is again to be polluted by the footsteps of the hirelings of all unprincipled Despot! Will the freemen of Texas calmly fold their arms. and await until the approach of their deadly enemy compels them to protect their own firesides? Can it be possible that they-that any American-can so far forget the honour of their mothers wives, and daughters, as not to fly to their rifles, and march to meet the Tyrant, and avenge the insults and wrongs inflicted on his own country-women on the Rio Grande? What call be expected for the Fair daughters of chaste white women, when their own country-women are prostituted by a licensed soldiery, as an inducement to push forward into the Colonies, where they may find fairer game?"
Colonel Fannin was elected as Colonel of the Provisional Regiment of Volunteers at Refugio on 7 February 1835. Fannin had been promoted to the rank of colonel in the Texas Army by General Houston on 13 November 1835 and placed in charge of the ill conceived Matamoros expedition. When the Matamoros expedition was cancelled by Houston, he resigned his commission in honor of the tradition of the Texas frontiersmen of electing their own officers. When Fannin learned of Urrea's presences in Matamoros he decided to retreat to Goliad, and on 11 February 1836 he departed Refugio and marched to Goliad, arriving there on 13 February 1836. Upon departure from Refugio, Fannin dispatched Captain Thomas K. Pearson's company to march to San Patricio on the Neuces to join Colonel Francis W. Frank Johnson and Doctor Grant's small group of independent volunteers. He also dispatched Captain Chenoweth's Company to Copano.
Fannin then established his 420 man regiment at the Presidio La Bahia near Goliad which he referred to as Fort Defiance. Captain Phillip Dimmitt had captured the old mission in during the Cos invasion of 1835 and it was currently commanded by Captain Ira J. Westover who had a small garrison and several cannons. In accordance with instructions from the fledgling Texas Government, Westover handed over command of the garrison to Fannin. Colonel Fannin's regiment consisted of two battalions. The First Battalion, known as the Georgia Battalion of Permanent Volunteers was commanded originally by Colonel William Ward and the Second Battalion, known as the LaFayette Battalion, commanded by Major Benjamin C. Wallace. In addition to the volunteers Fannin also had Captain Westover's company of regulars and Captain Hugh McDonald‘s Militia Company. His 11 pieces of artillery were commanded by Captain Stephen D. Hurst after the departure of Captain Guerra and his company of Mexicans. Joseph M. Chadwick was
Sergeant Major, and John Sowers Brooks served as Adjutant. David I. Holt was regimental Quartermaster and James Hughes was Commissary. The surgeons were James Fields and James H. Barnard. Later Major William Ward was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and designated as second in command and Major Warren Jordan Mitchell was placed in command of the Georgia Battalion. About a week after Fannin occupied Goliad Captain John "Jack" Shackelford and his company of Alabama volunteers, who were all dressed in red pants and known as the "Red Rovers," arrived and joined Fannin's regiment.
The Georgia Battalion was organized with the following Companies; Captain Amon Butler King's company, Captain Uriah Irwin Bullock's Company, Captain Isaac Ticknor's Company, Captain William A. O. Wadsworth's Company, and Captain James C. Winn's Company. The Lafayette Battlion was organized with the following companies; Captain David N. Burke's Mobile Greys, Captain Burr H. Duval's Kentucky Mustangs, Captain Samuel Overton Pettus' San Antonio Greys, Captain Benjamin F. Bradford‘s Alabama Greys, Captain Ira J. Westover's Company of regulars, and later Captain Jack Shackleford's "Alabama Red Rovers.
Goliad had been chosen by Fannin as his headquarters because of it's defensible position and it's strategic location near the Texas Gulf Coast. The old mission was on high rocky ground overlooking the San Antonio River and consisted of a square compound covering about 3 ½ acres surrounded by a stone fence about ten feet high. The barracks were located on the south and west sides of the mission with the church located in the northeast corner. The mission's position provided overland lines of communications to the interior settlements as well as the key Texas coastal positions. Fannin established his own supply depot at Dimmitt's landing on Lavaca Bay and after inspecting La Bahia he found it sorely lacking as a defensive position and set his chief engineer, John Sowers Brooks, to work improving the defenses. He strengthened the walls of the fortress and dug trenches and erected parapets where he mounted his artillery and made the old mission as defensible as he could. He also had his Quarter Master to bring in large supplies of beef, corn, flour, sugar, and coffee. In addition he increased his stockpile of arms and ammunition. Although initially well supplied by 10 March 1836 he was experiencing critical shortages.
Colonel Francis White Johnson and Doctor James Grant had originally been at Refugio with Fannin with about 200 men and a large store of supplies. Johnson and Grant were originally leaders of an ill conceived plan to invade Mexico and seize Matamoros. When General Houston later arrived at Refugio on 21 January 1836 and convinced them that the expedition was sheer folly, most members of the command joined Houston's Army leaving Johnson and Grant in charge of a small group of independent Texans who were not under the control of either Fannin or Houston. As equals in command they disagreed on the best course of action since Johnson still favored an advance on Matamoros while Grant felt they needed additional preparations. They eventually agreed to advance 50 miles to San Patricio, on the Nueces River, about 100 miles from Matamoros. The command was ill prepared to launch an attack against Matamoros or Urrea's forces as desertions had reduced their strength to about 100 men. Grant and Johnson learned that Captain Nicolas Rodriguez who was operating out of Fort Lipantitlan with a small detachment of 26 Mexican soldiers was in the area of Sandia gathering horses for the Mexican Army. Grant and Johnson departed San Patricio with most of their forces and ambushed Rodriguez on 30 January 1836. Rodriquez, upon discovering that he was greatly out numbered surrendered and the Mexican prisoners and their horses were taken to San Patricio. Grant was inspired by his success and still believed that the local Federalist Mexicans would join the Texans in great numbers and that they could capture Matamoros "without firing a shot."
Grant left Major Robert C. Morris with Captain William Gordon Cooke's company to guard the Mexicans and the artillery at San Patricio, while he and Johnson conducted another foray to the south to obtain additional horses. Within a few days Captain Rodriguez and his men escaped with their horses. When Fannin, still at Refugio, learned of Grant and Johnson's departure on 9 February 1836, he dispatched Captain Burr H. Duval's company on 11 February 1836 to proceed with teams to San Patricio to recover the artillery.
Grant and Johnson proceeded to Rancho Santa Rosa where they captured a large number of horses. They then proceeded onwards to the Arroyo Colorado and the Rio Grande. During the expedition they had bought or captured about 300 horses and they departed to return to San Patricio. While en route to San Patricio they learned that a another large number of horses were located at a rancho near Carmargo. Grant wanted to continue onwards to Carmargo, but Johnson decided to return to San Patricio with 35 men and the 300 horses they had collected. The remainder of the party of about 22 men including Placido Benevides continued with Grant to Carmargo.
Both Johnson and Grant tended to discount Benavides' message from Matamoros, as they had recently been informed that General Francisco Vital Fernandez, the leader of the Federalists rebels in Tamaulipas, would join them on the Rio Grande with 1,800 Federalists troops. While at Patricio Johnson later sent Captain Pearson to deliver a group of the horses to the ranch of Julian de la Garza about four miles south of San Patricio. The men split up for the night with Captain Pearson and eight men camping on the public square and the rest in three separate houses.
Through his network of spies, Urrea had maintained knowledge of the Texans' movements. On 25 February 1836 he proceeded towards San Patricio with his cavalry with his infantry commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Nicolas de la Portilla following. At 11:30 P. M. he arrived at Santa Gerturdis with his cavalry and camped in the nearby woods. At dawn the following morning on 26
February 1836 his infantry arrived just as a cold rain began to fall. He left his forces camped near Santa Gerturdis and proceeded on to Fort Lipantitlan with a small escort where he was informed that the forces of Grant and Johnson were split. He then proceeded on to San Patricio where he arrived at 03:00 A. M. on 27 February 1836 and joined the reminder of his cavalry forces. When he learned that Captain Pearson was at the Garza ranch he immediately dispatched Captain Rafael Pretalia with 30 cavalry troops to attack Captain Pearson while Urrea ordered the main body of his forces to attack San Patricio. Captain Pretalia attacked Captain Pearson's detachment and killed four of them and captured eight.
At San Patricio, Urrea ordered 40 of his cavalry to dismount and divided them in three groups to launch the attack. The remainder of his mounted cavalry were positioned to protect the advance of his infantry. Under the cover of a heavy rain, Urrea's cavalry attacked Johnson's small force at San Patricio at 03:30 A. M. in the morning on 27 February 1836. Johnson's men were camped in five separate groups and were asleep with no pickets posted. The Texans were caught completely by surprise and had no chance to offer any resistance. Thee battle was over in a matter of minutes with only 1 Mexican dragoon killed and 2 wounded. Sixteen Texans were killed and 24 captured. Six, including Johnson managed to escape during the confusion. Urrea sent patrols to search for Grant's party and scout Fannin's position at Goliad.
Scouts soon reported that Grant was returning from Carmargo and Urrea departed San Patricio with 80 cavalry troops to intercept him. Grant's forces were returning across the prairie and on 1 March 1836 they camped on the Agua Dulce Creek where they spent the night, unaware of Urrea's presence. The following morning the Texans arose and leisurely began preparing their breakfast aware that they were only about 20 miles from San Patricio. Urrea's forces had arrived undetected at the crossing of the Agua Dulce Creek, about 20 miles west of San Patricio, late in the evening of 1 March 1836. Urrea divided his cavalry into 6 groups and had them conceal themselves in the trees. Following their breakfast the Texans mounted and proceeded towards San Patricio with Grant, Placido Benavides, and Reuben Brown riding about a mile ahead of the others with Major Morris leading the main party. The Mexicans allowed Grant and the other two to pass unmolested, but at 11:00 A. M., on 2 March 1836, as Grant's main body attempted to cross the stream, Urrea's cavalry troops easily surprised and defeated the 22 Texans. The Mexican cavalry surrounded the Texans and charged into them with their lances.
Doctor Grant may have survived but after ordering Placido Benevides to ride to Goliad to warn Fannin, he raced back to the ambush site with Reuben Brown to assist his men. As they approached the Mexican ranks opened and they joined in the fight. Many of the men had already been killed, including Major Morris. Reuben Brown had his horse shot from under him but he quickly mounted Morris' horse. The horses then stampeded and Grant and Brown managed to escape through the Mexican lines among the stampeding horses. They were pursued for about seven miles when they decided to dismount and make a final stand. A cavalry soldier charged into them and pierced Brown's arm with his lance, but Grant managed to shoot and kill the Mexican. Several more soldiers then killed Grant with their lances and swords. Brown was roped, dragged to the ground, and bound with ropes. He was later marched to Matamoros with the other prisoners from San Patricio. Doctor Grant and 11 of his men, including Major Morris were killed, 5 were captured and 6, including Captain Placido Benavides managed to escape.
The Mexicans then returned to San Patricio and began preparations to march on Goliad. When Urrea reported to Santa Anna that he had captured prisoners at San Patricio and Aqua Dulce, Santa Anna ordered him to execute the prisoners and Urrea issued execution orders. Father Thomas J. Malloy, a local Irish priest intervened and pleaded with Urrea to spare the Texans. Urrea defied Santa Anna's orders and on 12 March 1836 had the 21 prisoners marched to Matamoros instead. During the march to Matamoros one of Grant's men managed to escape. On 7 March 1836, while at San Patricio, Urrea was reinforced with the 200 soldiers he had left in Matamoros and by the time he departed on his march to Goliad on 12 March 1836 he had his full complement of nearly 900 troops.
On 25 February 1836 Fannin had received an urgent message from Colonel Travis at the Alamo, requesting that Fannin march to his aid.
"We have removed all our men into the Alamo, where we will make such resistance as is due to our honour, and that of the country, until we can get assistance from you, which we expect you to forward immediately. In this extremity, we hope you will send us all the men you can spare promptly. We have one hundred and forty-six men, who are determined never to retreat. We have but little provisions, but enough to serve us till you and your men arrive. We deem it unnecessary to repeat to a brave officer, who knows his duty, that we call on him for assistance."
The following day Colonel Fannin left Captain Westover's regulars and Captain Guerra's company in garrison at Goliad and sent word for Captain King's company on outpost duty to join Westover and Guerra at Goliad and dispatched Captain Chenoweth with all the mounted men to cover his crossing of the Cibolo. Fannin then departed with all his other forces of 350 men and marched along the San Antonio Road. He had advanced only about 200 yards when one of his wagons broke down, creating a delay. A few hundred yards further two more wagons broke down just as the approached the ford at the San Antonio River The river was swollen and his men had great difficulty getting their artillery across, leaving them exhausted. By early afternoon Fannin established a camp on the far side of the river and took stock of their situation. They had advanced only about a half of a mile. They still had all their equipment, but had to leave their ammunition on the opposite bank for fear of losing it in the swollen river. During the night his oxen strayed off and his men had to round them up the next morning which took all day to accomplish. Fannin had been on the march for two days and was still less than a mile from Goliad. He conducted a council of war and after learning that a shipment of his supplies had just landed at Matagorda Bay.
He decided it was best to return to Goliad where he could secure his supplies and continue rebuilding his fortification at Presidio Bahia.
When General Santa Anna, who was besieging the Alamo in San Antonio, received word that reinforcements from Goliad were enroute he dispatched General Sesma with the Delores Cavalry Regiment and the Allende Infantry Battalion to proceed south and intercept the Texans on 29 February 1836. Sesma positioned the Allende Infantry Battalion on the road south east of San Antonio, and dispatched his cavalry to search for the Texans reinforcements. When his cavalry rode as far as Tinaja Creek without detecting Fannin he and his forces returned to San Antonio and resumed the siege of the Alamo.
Captain Placido Benavides who had been dispatched by Grant, later arrived at Goliad and informed Colonel Fannin that the Mexicans had defeated Colonel Francis Johnson's and Doctor Grant's forces at San Patricio, just 50 miles from Fannin's position. Two days later Johnson arrived with John H. Love, John F. Beck, Edward H. Huffy, James M. Miller and Daniel J. Toler, the only ones to escape from San Patricio. Colonel Johnson confirmed Benavides's statements to Fannin. When Fannin learned of Urrea's advance it had a devastating effect upon the morale of his regiment.
The company of Mexicans commanded by Captain Guerra requested that Fannin allow them to leave Goliad and proceed to New Orleans, rather than being forced to face their fellow Mexicans. On 10 March 1836 Fannin granted them permission and they soon departed but were believed to have joined Urrea‘s forces. Faced with an attack by Urrea's superior forces Fannin requested permission to withdraw to Victoria.
On 10 March 1836 a merchant named Lewis Ayers arrived at Goliad and reported that beginning in early March Carlos de la Garza and about 80 Mexican rancheros who were serving as scouts for Urrea's cavalry, raided the village of Refugio, about 20 miles from Goliad, and began harassing the Texans in the area. Ayers stated that his family and others were being held captive at Refugio and that he feared for their lives. Fannin ordered Captain Amon Butler King from the Georgia Battalion to take his 28 man company to Refugio and assist the Texas settlers there in escaping to Goliad. Instead of returning to Goliad with the settlers Captain King decided to mount a punitive expedition against Garza and his rancheros before departing Refugio. King grossly underestimated Garza's strength and was forced to retreat back to Refugio and fortify himself in the church from which he sent a message to Fannin at Goliad requesting assistance.
Captain King's messenger
arrived at Goliad at 10:00 P. M. on 12 March 1836 and reported to Fannin that the rancheros were in far greater strength than anticipated and that he was under siege inside the old mission at Refugio and was running low on ammunition. Colonel Fannin then dispatched his second in command, Lieutenant Colonel William Ward, with the Georgia Battalion, along with Major Mitchell, and First Lieutenant Benjamin F. Bradford's company from the Fayette Battalion to render aid to Captain King. Colonel Ward quickly assembled his men prepared to depart. In less than an hour, Ward was conducting a forced march towards Refugio. His force of 120 men arrived at Refugio on 13 March 1836 and Ward dispatched Major Mitchell with a detachment with orders to cross the river and disperse the rancheros around the mission. Captain Ticknor was advancing with 14 men when he surprised the rancheros in their camp and after killing 8 of them the rancheros fled the area, thus successfully relieving the siege of Refugio.
King and Ward quarreled over the best course of action with King still desiring to launch a punitive expedition against the rancheros while Ward wanted to return to Goliad with the settlers. Over Ward's objections, King rode off with 28 of his men and 18 men from Captain Bradfords's company to attack the rancheros and retrieve Ayers' stolen goods. The departure of King left Ward with only 107 men to defend Refugio. Colonel Ward then occupied the old stone church of the Nuestra Senora del Refugio Mission, which was the only defensible position in the village, and made preparations to defend it until King's return. On one side of the church was an old cemetery surrounded by a stone wall and Ward positioned Captain Bullock's company of 35 men there. He positioned the remainder of his men in the church and punched loop holes in the walls through which his men could fire.
ugh which his men could fire.
On 13 March 1836, while camped on the Abras del Aguila, Urrea received word that Ward's men were at Refugio. Later the same day he received a message from San Antonio informing him that the Alamo had been captured. He assembled his troops and delivered an inspiring message to them, letting them know how pleased he was with their performance and imploring them to continue their exemplary performance in future actions against the Texans. He then dispatched a company of Mexican cavalry, accompanied by 30 rancheros commanded by Don Guadalupe de los Santos to proceed with haste to act as an advance guard to hold the Texans until his main force could arrive. Later in the day Urrea then proceeded on to the Arroyo Aransas and made preparations for his assault on the Texan garrison at Refugio. He then departed for Refugio with 100 cavalry and 180 infantry, leaving the remainder of his forces to follow later under the command of Colonel Don Francisco Garay.
At 2:00 A. M. on 14 March 1836 Pretalia's advance guard arrived at Refugio and by day light Urrea's reinforcements arrived. Urrea's forces then surrounded Ward and his men at the church while King was still chasing the rancheros. Urrea intended to lay seige to the mission during the day and launch his assault the following morning after Garay arrived with the remainder of his forces.
At about 10:00 P. M. on 14 March 1836, Ward dispatched 15 men with an ox cart to retrieve two barrels of water from the river about two hundred yards from the church. Seizing upon the opportunity, Urrea decided to not wait for Garay and launched his attack with his Yucatan infantry supported by his artillery cannon and his cavalry. The Mexican infantry forced the Texans to flee back to the church under heavy fire, losing about half the water in the process. Ward dispatched 30 men in front of the church to protect the detail attempting to retrieve the water. The Mexican infantry advanced to within 30 yards of the church but were exposed to the deadly accurate fire of the Texans and suffered numerous casualties forcing them to retreat to a house and corral near the church. Urrea attempted to inspire the Yucatan infantry to continue the advance but most of their native Mayan officers had been killed and they could not understand Spanish. The Mexicans had moved their cannon forward and when the infantry retreated they were left exposed and had to abandon the cannon. Urrea then ordered his Cuantla cavalry to dismount and reinforce the infantry, hoping their actions would inspire the Yucatan infantry. The Mexicans exerted a heroic effort to recover the cannon and finally managed to retrieve it after suffering considerable losses. The Texans repulsed another assault and taunted the Mexicans with great impunity, but at 04:00 P, M. they withdrew. During these initial assaults the Mexicans suffered 13 dead and 43 wounded, including 4 officers, mostly from the Yucatan, while the Texans only had 3 wounded.
Just about the time that Urrea's dismounted cavalry retreated from the church with the cannon in tow, King's men arrived back on the scene. Urrea ordered Colonel Gabriel Nunez to deploy with a portion of the Guanajuato Cavalry Regiment that he held in reserve. Nunez intercepted King who was forced to make a stand in a grove of trees on the mission within site of Ward's group. King's group valiantly repulsed the Mexican cavalry from late morning until dark.
At this point Urrea dispatched an urgent message to Colonel Don Francisco Garay, who was still on the march from Arroyo Aransas to abandon all his equipment and baggage and proceed with great haste to Refugio. Colonel Garay arrived at Refugio at 05:00 P. M. Urrea ordered him to dislodge the Texans in the grove of woods, which he accomplished by nightfall during which 11 of the Texans were killed and 7 taken prisoner while Garay suffered 3 dead and 10 wounded. During the night King attempted to break out of the woods with his remaining men and escape, but they were pursued by a band of rancheros supporting Urrea. The following morning on 15 March 1836 the rancheros and the Mexican cavalry killed 16 of Kings men and captured 31 more of them, including King, after he was wounded and they ran out of ammunition. King and his men were taken as prisoners and marched back to the mission which was now occupied by the Mexicans. Urrea was not near as generous with King as he had been at San Patricio because he was infuriated at King for burning local Mexican ranches and shooting 8 Mexicans who had been sitting around their campfire. King and all of his men were executed except two Germans who were spared by German born Lieutenant Colonel Juan Jose Holzinger. Legend states that Captain King was lashed to a tree before he was shot because "he had fought like a bear and deserved to die like a bear. The following is Urrea's version of the executions:
"The many hardships endured by my division, and the rigor of the climate that was felt particularly by the troops accustomed to one more mild, made my position extremely difficult because of the necessity of properly guarding the adventurers that I had taken prisoners. I constantly heard complaints, and I perceived the vexation of my troops. I received petitions from the officers asking me to comply with the orders of the general-in-chief and those of the supreme government regarding prisoners. These complaints were more loud on this day, because, as our position was not improved, I found myself threatened from El Cópano, Goliad, and Victoria. I was obliged to move with rapidity in order to save my division and destroy the forces that threatened us. Ward had escaped with 200 men; the infantry was very poor and found itself much affected by the climate. I was unable, therefore, to carry out the good intentions dictated by my feelings, and I was overcome by the difficult circumstances that surrounded me. I authorized the execution, after my departure from camp, of thirty adventurers taken prisoners during the previous engagements, setting free those who were colonists or Mexicans."ting free those who were colonists or Mexicans."
The Mexican infantry had maintained their positions in front of the church during the night of 14 March 1836. The Texans had sustained few casualties but were becoming critically short of water and ammunition. When the Mexicans first attacked that morning Ward had dispatched James Humphries to Goliad to appraise Fannin of the situation. General Urrea's cavalry had maintained a position on the Goliad road and about midnight they captured James Murphy, a messenger from Fannin who was attempting to enter the church and deliver a message to Ward ordering him to evacuate his position and return to Presidio La Bahia at once. Murphy had been dispatched by Fannin when he learned of the capture of the Alamo to instruct him to abandon Refugio and meet him at Victoria. The Mexicans allowed Murphy to deliver the message after they decided it would discourage the Texans from mounting a determined defense. Murphy also relayed instruction from the Mexican that the Texans surrender. Upon receipt of Fannin‘s message, Ward left four volunteers from his men and a few civilians to care for his six wounded men and abandoned the mission on the night of 14 March 1836. Ward's wounded and their attendants were executed with King's men.
Urrea had posted sentries to prevent his escape but both he and King were aided by a cold heavy rain and they were able to slip past the sentries in the darkness of the rainy night. Ward traveled towards Copano through woods and swamps to avoid the Mexican cavalry and attempted to make his way to Victoria where he hoped to link up with Fannin. Ward and his men were without food for two days but on the third day, near the San Antonio River, they killed some cattle and feasted on roast beef. Ward and most of his men eluded the Mexicans for a week and managed to reach Victoria, but found it occupied by a large Mexican force from Urrea's Division.
After Fannin had surrendered at Coleto on 19 March 1836, General Urrea had departed Goliad on 20 March 1836 and marched his main force to Victoria with the Jimenez Battalion leading the way. He arrived at 0730 A. M. on 21 March 1836 and occupied the town. When Ward arrived, Lieutenant Wilson of Captain Wadsworth's company slipped up to a house to retrieve some food, but was shot and killed. Colonel Ward and his
men then retreated into the wooded area of the Guadalupe River bottom where they rested for several hours. Ward then proceeded on to the east in the hopes of linking up with Houston's forces. Ward continued to within two miles of Dimmitt's Landing on the Garcitas River where
his men concealed themselves and rested. When Urrea's scouts detected the Texans in the vicinity, on 22 March 1836, Urrea departed Victoria with 200 infantry, 50 cavalry, and 1 cannon. He arrived at 02:00 P. M. in the afternoon, just as Ward dispatched four men to scout Dimmitt's landing and determine if it was safe for them to proceed there. The four men were intercepted and captured by Urrea's forces. The Mexicans then surrounded Ward's position and Colonel Holzinger advanced with a white flag accompanied by one of Ward's men and demanded that Ward surrender. Colonel Ward, Major Mitchell, and Captain Ticknor then advanced to discuss terms of surrender with Colonel Holzinger. Urrea assured them that if they surrendered they would be treated as prisoners of war and marched to Copano where they would be placed on a ship and transported to New Orleans. Colonel Ward was opposed to surrender, but he put it to a vote and his exhausted men who were critically short of ammunition opted to surrender. Against his better judgment, Ward surrendered to Holzinger on 22 March 1836. Ward and his men were marched back to Goliad on 25 March 1836 where they shared the fate of Fannin and the rest of his men.
In the meantime Urrea had left a small detachment under the command of Colonel Rafael de la Vara to care for his sick and wounded at Refugio and proceeded on his march to attack Fannin at Goliad. On 17 March 1836, Urrea halted on the right bank of the San Antonio River at the San Jose Ranch and dispatched scouts towards Goliad, and Victoria. During the night, Captain Pedro Pablo Ferino and his two scouts rode into camp and informed Urrea that Colonel Juan Moreles was approaching on the road from San Antonio with reinforcements that included 3 cannons and 500 infantry from the Jimenez and San Luis Battalions. Urrea sent instructions to Moreles to assume positions on the Manahuilla Creek north of Goliad and wait for his arrival. Urrea then marched his forces to join Morales at Manahuilla Creek, skirting around Goliad in the process. By 17 March 1836 Urrea had positioned his forces around Goliad and was preparing for an attack on Fannin's position at La Bahia.
On 14 March 1836 Fannin had received permission to retreat to Victoria, which would place the Guadalupe River between him and Urrea's advance and place him in a more defensible position.. Fannin decided to wait the return of Ward'and Kings's forces from Refugio before conducting his retreat. On 17 March 1836 Colonel Albert Clinton Horton
- whose 52 mounted men from Matagorda had just joined Fannin the previous day from Matagorda, were patrolling the surrounding countryside
when they discovered that Colonel Morales was marching from San Antonio to join forces with Urrea.
Horton promptly reported thisto Fannin. On 18 March 1836 Horton detected a group of Mexican cavalry scouting near Goliad. Horton's men chased the Mexican cavalry away but they retreated to a wooded area where they were supported by infantry, and Horton had to retreat to Goliad. Captain Jack Shackleford volunteered to accompany Horton with his Alabama Red Rovers, infantry company and dislodge the Mexicans but when Fannin opened fire on the Mexicans with his artillery, they quickly withdrew.
When Fannin also learned of the status of Ward and King and deciding that he could not hold La Bahia with his small force and meager provisions he decided to abandon his position and departed on the morning of 19 March 1836. When Urrea discovered that Fannin had departed Goliad, he immediately set out with 360 infantry and 80 cavalry troops to over take Fannin, leaving his main force with the artillery and baggage under the command of Colonel Garay with instructions to occupy La Bahia.
Fannin dismantled his fortifications and burned most of the buildings, then sent Captain Albert Clinton Horton and his company of mounted men to ride about a mile ahead of the main force. Fannin took nine of his cannons with him which created great difficulty in crossing the steep slopes of the San Antonio River exhausting his men and oxen. It took Fannin over an hour to cross the river and his rear guard did not cross until after 10:00 A. M. One of his carts broke down and it's load had to be distributed among the other wagons, creating further delay. Fannin continued his march proceeding as fast as his plodding oxen would allow until after crossing Manahuilla Creek, then after marching only six miles he halted his forces to allow his animals to graze and his men to eat breakfast and rest.
Captain Jack Shackelford, Captain Burr H. Duvall, and Captain Westover all objected over the impromptu delay and pressed Fannin to proceed onwards five more miles to Coleto Creek where they could establish effective defensive positions. Fannin refused Shackelford's advice as he did not believe that the Mexicans were in pursuit. After resting for an hour, Fannin's men resumed the march and were only about two miles from the woods along Coleto Creek when Urrea's cavalry attacked them out in the open at 3:00 P. M. on 19 March 1836. Jack Dobell, one of the few survivors, describes the scene:
"At length after a halt of perhaps an hour and a half on the prairie, and just as we were about to resume our march for the Coletto, a long dark line was seen to detach itself from the timber behind us, and another at the same time from the timber to our left. Some one near me exclaimed, "Here come the Mexicans!" and in fact, in a little while, we perceived that these dark lines were men on horseback, moving rapidly towards us. As they continued to approach, they lengthened out their columns, evidently for the purpose of surrounding us, and in doing so displayed their numbers to the greatest advantage. I thought there were at least ten thousand (having never before seen a large cavalry force), but in reality there were about a thousand besides several hundred infantry."
The Texans scrambled for the safety of the tree line and Fannin ordered Captain Stephen Hurst and Captain Benjamin Holland to move their artillery to the rear of the column to deliver covering fire. Fannin continued to advance for about a mile but their ammunition cart broke down and when they stopped the cavalry cut off their escape. Urrea directed Colonel Morales' infantry to assume positions in the tree line. At 1:00 P. M. Fannin formed his men in a square in a slight depression on the open prairie and placed his artillery at the corners in defense against the onslaught of the cavalry. He placed Shackleford's Red Rovers and the New Orleans Greys in front with Captain Duval's Mustangs securing the rear and the remainder of the companies forming the sides. Colonel Horton's advance column was alerted to the battle by the sounds of Fannin's cannon fire and he galloped back to rejoin Fannin but when his men observed that Fannin had been completely surrounded by the Mexicans they were reluctant to attack. The Mexicans had occupied the road and Horton had to retreat. The Mexican cavalry pursued Horton across the Coletto, but all of his men were well mounted and managed to escape to Victoria. Twelve of Horton's men dismounted and scrambled to join their companions in Fannin's square. Urrea's men later rounded up some of Horton's stray horses to compensate for his losses.
The Mexican cavalry advanced to within a half miThe Mexicans cavalry advanced to within a half mile of Fannin and formed into three columns with one remaining stationary and the cavalry moving to the right and left flanks of the Texan's position. Urrea describes his attack:
"At half past one in the afternoon, I overtook the enemy and succeeded in cutting off their retreat with our cavalry, just as they were going to enter a heavy woods from where it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to dislodge them. They were marching in column formation and carried nine pieces of artillery. Seeing themselves forced to fight, they decided to make the best of it and awaited our advance with firmness, arranging their force in battle formation with the artillery in the center. My troops, though fatigued by the rapidity of the march, were filled with enthusiasm at seeing the enemy, for they thought that to overtake them and defeat them was all one. Although our force was inferior and we had no artillery, the determination of our troops made up the disparity. Expecting the artillery and our munitions to reach us soon, agreeable to instructions given, I decided to engage the enemy at once."
"Our fire was immediately returned by their rifles and cannons. I ordered the brave Col. Morales to charge the left with the rifle companies; the grenadiers and the first regiment of San Luis, under my immediate command, to charge the right; the remainder of the battalion of Jiménez, under the command of Col. Salas, to form itself into a column and charge the front; while the cavalry, commanded by Col. Gabriel Núñez, was to surprise the enemy's rear."
Colonel Fannin continued firing on the Mexicans with his cannon and managed to momentarily disrupt their formations. When they were in position the Mexicans, with bugles blaring and banners waving, charged the Texans from all three sides Fannin calmly ordered his men to hold their fire until the Mexicans had advanced to within one hundred yards of his position at which time Fannin ordered the men to open fire on the charging cavalry with their rifles and grape and cannister shot from his artillery with devastating effect. Morales' infantry advanced with fixed bayonets and managed to reach the perimeter of Fannin's square where they nearly penetrated their ranks but the deadly fire from the Texan's rifles and muskets forced them to fall back in confusion, leaving the ground littered with their dead. In addition to their Kentucky rifles most of Fannin's men also had several muskets equipped with a bayonet to protect against cavalry charges. Fannin bravely stood in the open, directing his men and was wounded in the thigh. Jack Dobell was also armed with a Mexican blunderbuss shotgun that he had loaded with "blue whistlers" for use in emergency situations as he considered its use nearly a dangerous as the receiving end. When he fired it at the charging Mexicans he tumbled "heels over head" through the rear ranks. He promptly discarded the weapon.
The Mexicans regrouped and charged the Texan's square two more times with the same results. Urrea himself personally led one of the cavalry charges with the same results. When Urrea realized that the cavalry could not penetrate the Texan's defenses, he had them to dismount and commence fire on the Texans, but their fire was mostly ineffective. Harry Ripley, only eighteen, was among those wounded when his thigh was shattered, but he had his companions prop him up in a cart and he continued firing until he was hit again in his arm and could no longer fire his rifle. The battle continued until about sunset when Fannin launched a counter attack against the dismounted cavalry forcing them to remount and retreat to a tree line to the left of the Texans. The Texans had lost ten men killed during the battle. Herman Ehrenberg describes the action:
"Their wild cries, with which they sought to intimidate us-because they could not do it with their guns-stood in clear contrast with the composure of our people, who waited for only the best opportunities to use their guns. The thunder of our artillery soon rolled peal upon peal and the balls flew devastatingly among the enemy. As the attack of the cavalry had so far been fruitless, all of his forces, since the infantry had just arrived, were now put into motion by the enemy, and we were attacked from all sides at once. Besides this, cooperating with the Mexicans, there were 300 Indians of the tribes of the Caranchuas and Lipans lying in the tall grass on the left of us toward the San Antonio River. We did not become aware of this contemptible enemy until a number of our people had been wounded by their bullets. Whereupon we sent a few loads of grape shot into the tall grass that freed us from them in a moment as they hastily fled in every direction."
"Meanwhile the enemy infantry, that had combined with the cavalry, advanced step by step with constant but irregular firing. We now also made use of our guns and sent well aimed shots into the advancing hosts. We were soon enveloped in such dense smoke that we were occasionally obliged to cease firing and to advance slightly on the enemy in order to see our sights. The whole prairie as far as one could see was covered with powder smoke, and thousands of lightening flashes quivered through the dark masses accompanied with the incessant thunder of the artillery and the clear crack of our rifles. Among them sounded the scattered bugle calls of the Mexicans, encouraging the men to battle."
As nightfall approached Urrea dispatched elements of his Yucatan infantry which were positioned in the high grass about thirty yards from the Texans and fired upon the Texans from close range. Fannin considered conducting a withdrawal to the wooded area along Coleto Creek. Fannin posed the matter to his men but he had suffered seven men killed and seventy of them, including Fannin, were wounded, All of their draft animals had been killed or stampeded and they had no means to transport the wounded The men did not want to abandon their companions so Fannin decided to remain in his current position. The loss of Horton's mounted men proved to be most devastating as his horses could have been used to transport the wounded to the Coleto. Fannin employed his men in digging trenches to improve his defensive position. The men then piled their dead animals and baggage on the outside of the trenches to afford further protection. Jack Dobell describes the night of 19 March 1836:
"I can never forget how slowly the hours of that dismal night passed by. The distressing cries of our wounded men begging for water when there was not a drop to give them, were continually ringing in my ears. Even those who were not wounded, but were compelled to work all night in the trenches, suffered exceedingly with thirst. Even after we had fortified our position as well as we could, we had but little hopes of being able to defend ourselves, should the Mexicans as we apprehended, receive reinforcements during the night, for we had but one or two rounds of ammunition left for the cannon, and what remained for the small arms was not sufficient for a protracted struggle."
During that long night described by Jack Dobell additional Mexican infantry and artillery arrived. By the end of the day Urrea was almost out of ammunition and his forces had sustained heavy losses and were exhausted. He positioned his infantry about 200 yards from the Texans where they remained on guard during the night. He also maintained cavalry patrols to prevent the Texans from escaping during the night. He evacuated his wounded to the wooded area and anxiously awaited reinforcements.
At 6:30 in the morninorning on 20 March 1836, a relief column from Colonel Garay finally arrived with fresh supplies of ammunition, 100 infantry, and two 4 pound cannons. Urrea placed his artillery about 160 yards from the Texans, protected by a company of infantry. He placed the remainder of his infantry on his left with instructions to begin their advance when the cannon opened fire. When he opened fire, Fannin hoisted a white flag and he ordered a cease fire. Urrea directed Lieutenant Colonel Morales, Captain Juan Jose Holzinger, and his aide, Jose de la Luz Gonzalez to advance and parley with the Texans. Fannin sent Major Wallace and several other officers forward to meet the Mexican officers. The officers informed Wallace that General Urrea desired preventing further bloodshed and would guarantee to Colonel Fannin on his word as an officer and a gentleman that the Texans would be treated leniently if they surrendered at discretion. Colonel Fannin sent word that he would not surrender under such conditions as long as he had a man left to fire a gun. General Urrea himself then rode to the front with several of his officers and a soldier holding a white flag. Colonel Fannin and Major Wallace went out to meet them and Urrea assured Fannin that his men would be treated as prisoners of war and not be executed. When the terms had been agreed upon General Urrea and his secretary accompanied Fannin back to his position where the terms of surrender were written down and an English copy provided to Colonel Fannin and read aloud to his assembled men. Colonel Fannin then formally surrendered to Urrea. Urrea offers his version of the surrender terms:
"Addressing myself to Fannin and his companions in the presence of Messrs. Morales, Salas, Holzinger and others I said conclusively
"If you gentlemen wish to surrender at discretion, the matter is ended, otherwise I shall return to my camp and renew the attack."
In spite of the regret I felt in making such a reply, and in spite of my great desire of offering them guarantees as humanity dictated, this was beyond my authority. Had I been in a position to do so, I would have at least guaranteed them their life. Fannin was a gentleman, a man of courage, a quality which makes us soldiers esteem each other mutually. His manners captivated my affection, and if it had been in my hand to save him, together with his companions, I would have gladly done so. All I could do was to offer him to use my influence with the general-in-chief, which I did from the Guadalupe.
After my ultimatum, the leaders of the enemy had a conference among themselves and the result of the conference was their surrender according to the terms I proposed."
While the Mexicans were rummaging through the surrendered Texan position, Colonel Horton with his mounted Company and a small group of volunteers from Victoria suddenly appeared in the tree line. The Mexicans quickly scrambled to mount an attack and Horton hastily withdrew. Horton later wrote:
"But what fright took possession of us as we concluded the results of the fateful morning from the position of the Mexican troops! We stood in astonishment and were undecided (what) to do when suddenly the war-like bugle notes of the Mexicans sounded. No time was to be lost; quickly we had to counsel and just as quickly we were ready. If Fannin had so far forgotten his duty-as to surrender we were obliged to save ourselves for the Republic. Now was the time when Texas needed our arms and our guns. All of our volunteers were now either taken prisoners or were murdered. Consequently we turned our horses and speedily galloped back to Victoria to unite with Houston's troops at Gonzales."
After their surrender, The Texans were imprisoned at Goliad. On 25 March 1836 William Ward and 80 of his men who had surrendered with him after the battle at Refugio arrived at Goliad and rejoined Fannin's group. Another company of about eighty men known as the Natchez Volunteers, under the command of Major William P. Miller, who had been surprised and captured at Copano just after they had off loaded from their vessel were also imprisoned at Goliad. These men were kept separate from the rest, and to distinguish them, each had a white cloth tied around one of his arms. Urrea wrote to General Santa Anna and informed him that the Texans were prisoners of war and recommended clemency for them. On 23 March 1836, Santa Anna ignored Urrea's requests and ordered all the prisoners executed. Concerned over Urrea's ability to carry out the execution order, Santa Anna also sent a dispatch directly to Colonel Jose Nicolas de la Portilla, who Urrea had left in command at Goliad to execute the prisoners. On 26 March 1836 Colonel Portilla received Santa Anna' message, but two hours later he received another message from Urrea asking him to treat the prisoners with consideration and employ them in rebuilding the town. Portilla fretted over the conflicting orders but decided that he was duty bound to obey Santa Anna over Urrea and he ordered the prisoners to be executed at dawn. At sunrise on Palm Sunday on 27 March 1836, the unwounded Texans were formed into three groups under a heavy guard commanded by adjutant Agustin Acerrica, Captain Pedro Balderas, and Captain Antonio Ramirez. In a letter from Portilla to Urrea as recorded in his diary Colonel Portilla expressed his sentiments:
"I feel much distressed at what has occurred here; a scene enacted in cold blood having passed before my eyes which has filled me with horror."
The largest group of prisoners was comprised of the remnants of Ward's Georgia Battalion and Captain Burr H. Duval's Company was marched along the San Antonio Road towards the upper ford of the San Antonio River. The San Antonio Greys, Mobile Greys and others were marched along the Victoria Road towards the lower ford. Ira J. Westover's regulars and Captain John Shackelford's Red Rovers were marched towards the southwest on the San Patricio Road. Their guards were also to serve as executioners. The Texans were unaware of their fate as they had been told a variety of reasons for their movements. Dobell's group had been told that they were to be liberated and that arrangements had been made to transport them to New Orleans on board ships located at Copano. Fannin had remained cheerful and had informed his men that the Mexicans were making arrangements for their release. Optimistic to the end, the previous evening the Texans had engaged in an impromptu rendition of "Home Sweet Home."
At pre-selected positions along each of the three roads the prisoners were halted and the guards repositioned to the same side and upon a given signal opened fire at close range upon the helpless Texans. Those not killed by the gunfire were dispatched by bayonet or lance. The wounded prisoners were executed at Presidio Bahia by Captain Carolino Huerta of the Tres Villas Battalion. Colonel Fannin, was confined to his quarters by a wound he had received at the fight on the Coletto. Shortly after the massacre of his men, he was notified to prepare for immediate execution. He calmly replied that he was ready, as he had no desire to live after
the cowardly murder of his men. He was taken out to the square by a guard, where he was seated on a bench, and his eyes blindfolded. Fannin presented Captain Huerta his gold watch and requested that he be shot in the chest rather than the head and given a decent burial. A moment later the order to "fire" was given and Colonel Fannin was shot in the head and fell dead.. Among the others executed at Goliad with Fannin and his wounded men were; Lieutenant Colonel William Ward, Major Benjamin C. Wallace, Major Warren Mitchell, Joseph M. Chadwick (former sergeant major, then adjutant), Captain John Sowers Brooks, and Sergeant Major Gideon Rose. The bodies of those executed were dumped in a shallow ditch and covered with brush
in an unsuccessful attempt to burn the bodies. The charred bodies were left for the coyotes and vultures to pick over.
From the groups along the roads, those not killed in the initial volleys fled toward the woods and 24 including Jack Dobell, managed to escape. The group on the San Patricio Road was further from the trees and only 4 managed to escape. Jack Dobell, one of the few to survive the massacre describes the event:
"When about a mile above town, a halt was made and the guard on the side next the river filed around to the opposite side. Hardly had this maneuver been executed, when I heard a heavy firing of musketry in the directions taken by the other two divisions. Some one near me exclaimed "Boys! they are going to shoot us!" and at the same instant I heard the clicking of musket locks all along the Mexican line. I turned to look, and as I did so, the Mexicans fired upon us, killing probably one hundred out of the one hundred and fifty men in the division. We were in the double file and I was in the rear rank. The man in front of me was shot dead, and in falling he knocked me down. I didn't get up for a minute, and when I rose to my feet, I found that the whole Mexican line had charged over me, and were in hot pursuit of those who had not been shot and who were fleeing towards the river about five hundred yards distant. I followed on after them, for I knew that escape in any direction (all open prairie) would be impossible, and I had nearly reached the river before it became necessary to make my way through the Mexican line ahead. As I did so, one of the soldiers charged upon me with his bayonet (his gun I suppose being empty). As he drew his musket back to make a lunge at me, one of our men coming from another direction, ran between us, and the bayonet was driven through his body. The blow was given with such force, that in falling, the man probably wrenched or twisted the bayonet in such a way as to prevent the Mexican from withdrawing it immediately. I saw him put his foot upon the man, and make an ineffectual attempt to extricate the bayonet from his body, but one look satisfied me, as I was somewhat in a hurry just then, and I hastened to the bank of the river and plunged in. The river at that point was deep and swift, but not wide, and being a good swimmer, I soon gained the opposite bank, untouched by any of the bullets that were pattering in the water around my head."
Herman Ehrenberg's account:
"A terrible cracking interrupted him and then everything was quiet. A thick smoke slowly rolled toward the San Antonio. The blood of my lieutenant was on my clothing and around me quivered my friends. Beside me Mattern and Curtman were fighting death. I did not see more. I jumped up quickly, and concealed by the black smoke of the powder, and rushed down the hedge to the river. I heard nothing more and saw nothing. Only the rushing of the water was my guide. Then suddenly a powerful sabre smashed me over the head. Before me the figure of a little Mexican lieutenant appeared out of the dense smoke, and a second blow from him fell on my left arm with which I parried it. I had nothing to risk, but only to win. Either life or death! Behind were the bayonets of the murderers, and before me was the sword of a coward that crossed my way to the saving stream. Determinedly I rushed upon him. Forward I must go, and-the coward took flight in characteristic Mexican gallantry. Now the path was open, near was the point of my escape. Another few moments had passed. The smoke rolled like a black thundercloud over to the other side, and I stood with rapidly beating heart on the rocks and back of me the hangmen were pursuing."
Later studies indicated that 342 of Fannin's men were slaughtered while only 28 managed to escape. Captain Miller and his 80 men were spared because they had been captured soon after they landed from their vessel, and were unarmed. Twenty six men from Ward's battalion, who were all carpenters, were left at Victoria on Holzinger's direction, who indicated that he needed them in getting the artillery over the river. Due to the intervention of Colonel Francisco Garay, the surgeons, Doctor Joseph H. Barnard, Captain Jack Shackleford (a physician) , Doctor James Field, and their assistant, George Voss, were spared to attend the Mexicans wounded at the Battle of Coleto. Joseph Spohn, an interpreter was also spared.
Following the massacre at Goliad, General Urrea continued his campaign in southern Texas and participated in Santa Anna's three pronged pursuit of Houston's retreating army. After Houston defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto on 21 April 1836, the undefeated Urrea was infuriated when Santa Anna ordered his
army to withdraw back into Mexico. A debate continues over the terms under which Fannin surrendered but regardless of the terms of surrender the execution of nearly 400 represents a total disregard of the generally accepted rules of war among the civilized nations of the time. The fall of the Alamo and the subsequent execution of the Fannin's men at Goliad inflamed the Texans and "Remember the Alamo" and "Remember Goliad" became their rallying cries when they sought their retribution against the Mexicans at San Jacinto.
Show Footnotes and
Asbury, Samuel E., Samuel E. Asbury, Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, "Private Journal of
Juan Nepomuceno Almonte", Volume 48, Number 1, Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Barker, Eugene C. and Pohl, James W. "Texas Revolution" The Handbook of Texas
Boyle, Andrew A. "I Survived the Goliad Massacre," True West, June, 1958
Brown, John Henry, "History of Texas from 1685 to 1892" 2 vols., St. Louis. Daniell, 1893.
DaCorner, William, "John Crittenden Duval: The Last Survivor of the Goliad Massacre", Volume 001, Number 1, Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Davenport, Harbert, and Roell, Craig H., "Goliad Massacre", The Handbook of Texas
Davenport, Harbert, "Men of Goliad," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 43, July, 1939
Duvall, John Crittenden, "Early Times in Texas, or the Adventures of Jack Dobell", Austin, Gammel, 1892
Guthrie, Keith, "Battle of San Patricio" The Handbook of Texas
Guthrie, Keith, "Fort Lipantitlan", The Handbook of Texas
Hartman, Clinton P., "James Walker Fannin Jr." The Handbook of Texas
Hendrix, Don, "Francis White Johnson" The Handbook of Texas
Hunter, John Marvin, Editor, "The Tragedy of Agua Dulce", Frontier Times, Vol 12 No. 3, December 1934
Ohlendorf, Sheila M., "Jose de Urrea" The Handbook of Texas
Pohl, James W. and Hardin, Stephen L. "The Military History of the Texas Revolution: An Overview," Southwestern Historical Quarterly Volume 89, January, 1986.
Robertson, James M., "Captain Amon B. King", Volume 029, Number 2, Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Roell, Craig H. "The Battle of Coleto" The Handbook of Texas
Roell, Craig H., "The Battle of Refugio" The Handbook of Texas
Roell, Craig H. "The Goliad Campaign of 1835" The Handbook of Texas
Roell, Craig H., "Matamoros Expedition of 1835 - 1836" The Handbook of Texas
Roller, John E., "Capt, John Sowers Brooks", Volume 009, Number 3, Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Smith, Ruby Cumby, "James W. Fannin, Jr., in the Texas Revoution", South Western Historical Quarterly, Volume 23, Nos. 2 - 4
Tilloson, Cyrus Baird, "The Battle of the Agua Dulce" Frontier Times, Vol 25, No. 3, December 1947
Yeager, Marian, "Letter From Old Goliad" Volume 47, Number 3, Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Primary Source Documents
Brown, Samuel T. "Account of the Georgian Battalion at Goliad", Written for the Texas Almanac 1859
Casteneda, Carlo, "Surrender of the Force at Goliad under the Command of James W. Fannin" Translation by Carlos Casteñeda of the Centralista copy of the surrender document in the Archives of the War Department in Mexico City discovered by Dr. E. C. Barker.
Ehrenberg, Herman, "Ehrenberg. Account of the Battle of Coleto and the Goliad massacre.", 1843
Fannin, James W., "Fannin to James W. Robinson", February 7, 1836
Fannin, James W., "Fannin to James W. Robinson", February 16, 1836
Fannin, James W., "Fannin to James W. Robinson", February 21, 1836
Fannin, James W., "Fannin to James W. Robinson", February 22, 1836.
Fannin, James W., "Fannin to James W. Robinson", February 25, 1836
Fannin, James W, "Fannin to James W. Robinson", February 26, 1836
Fannin, James W., "Fannin to Joseph Mims", 28 February 1836
Fannin, James W., "Fannin to James W. Robinson", 28 February 1836
Fannin, James W. "F. W. Fannin to A. C. Horton", Fort Defiance, 14 March 1836
Fannin, James W. "Fannin to Desaque and Chenoweth", 1 March 1836
Fannin, James W., "Fannin to Mexia", 11 March 1836
Fields, Joseph, "Account of events at Goliad", From Three Years in Texas: A View of the Texas Revolution, 1836
Garay, Francisco, "Diary of Colonel Francisco Garay" Quoted in Filisola, Memorias para la historia de la guerra de Tejas, vol. II
Holland, Benjamin "Account of Goliad events of March 1836"
Holzinger, Juan Jose, "Juan Jose Holzinger to John A. Wharton: Report on the capitulation of James W. Fannin at Coleto, March 20, 1836", June 3, 1836.
Houston, Sam, "Houston to Fannin", 11 March 1836
Houston, Sam, "Houston Army Orders to Fannin", 17 Mar 1836
Huson, Hobert, "Fannin's fight and the massacre at La Bahia"
Morgan, Abel, "Account of the Goliad massacre"
Morris, Robert, "Morris to James W. Fannin", February 6, 1836
Portilla, Nicola de la, "Diary extract", March 26, 27, 1836
Rees, Thomas B., "Rees to Gerald Burch", March 8, 1836.
Robinson, James, "Robinson to Fannin", 6 March 1836
Robinson, James, "Robinson to Fannin", 13 February 1836
Santa Anna, Antonio Lopez, "Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to Jose Urrea", Bexar, 3 March 1836
Santa Anna, Antonio Lopez, "Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to Jose Urrea", 23 March 1836
Shackleford, Jack, "Massacre at Goliad--Captain Jack Shackleford's Account"
Urrea, Jose, "Diary of military operations of the division which under the command of General Jose Urrea campaigned in Texas February to March 1836", 1838
Urrea, Jose, "Urrea to the Mexican minister of war and marine", March 21, 1836.
Lewis M. H. Washington. "Fannin and his Command: Comprising a brief sketch of the Organization, Military Operations and Massacre of Col. James W. Fannin and his Regiment, in the Revolutionary Struggle of Texas - 1835 and '36.", A literal and complete copy from: Washington, Lewis M. H., narrative, reprinted from the Georgia Citizen, Texas State Gazette, Austin: William H. Cushney, June 18, 1853.
. Jose de Urrea was born 1797 in Tucson, Sonora, Mexico, (now Arizona). He joined the Mexican Army as a cadet in 1809 and was promoted to Lieutenantt by 1816. He served in several campaigns in Mexico and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1831. He was promoted to the rank of General in July 1835 and participated in a campaign against the Comanches in Durango. Following Santa Anna's 1836 campaign he was named the Commandant General of Sinaloa and Sonora. In 1839 he was involved in an uprising in Durango and sentenced to Perote Prison. He later was rescued and fought in the Mexican war before he died in 1849. (Shelia M. Ohlendorf, the Handbook of Texas)
. James Walker Fannin Jr. was born 1804 in Georgia and enrolled in the Military at West Point on 1 July 1819. In 1834 he moved to Texas where he became an agitator for the Texas Revolution. He was appointed to the Committee for Safety on 20 August 1835 and on 2 October 1835 he was designated as Captain of the Brazos Guards. He participated in the battle of Concepcion and on 13 November 1835 he was offered the position of Inspector General but declined and raised a corps of volunteers and was commissioned with the rank of Colonel. with the rank of colonel in the Texas Army. On 9 January 1836 he began recruiting forces for an invasion of Mexico with the intent to capture Matamoros. (Clinton P. Hartman, the Handbook of Texas.)
. Captain Placido Benavides was from a prominent Mexican family from Victoria. He served as the alcalde of Victoria and in 1835 he raised a company of Mexican rancheros and participated with the Texan forces in the capture of Goliad and the siege of San Antonio. (Craig H. Roell, The Handbook of Texas)
. Placido Benavides received the message from the Alcalde of Matamoros which he delivered to Robert Morris in Grant's absence. Morris then wrote a letter to Fannin with the content of the message and had Benavides to deliver it to Fannin. (Morris, Robert, "Morris to James W. Fannin", February 6, 1836)
. Fannin was at this time the most senior officer in the field and he had a considerable force under his command for the Matamoros Expedition. He had set sail from Velasco on 24 January 1836 with about 200 men of the Georgia Battalion. He landed at Copano on 2 February 1836 and marched to Refugio.
. In October 1835 amid much controversy the Provisional Government of Texas devised a plan to invade Mexico and capture the port of Matamoros at the mouth of the Rio Grande River. It was hoped that it's capture would lead to a revolt of the Mexicans in Tampico and serve as a source of revenue for the Texas Government. Additionally, Matamoros was at a strategic location to prevent another Mexican invasion. A force of Texans soon assembled at Refugio, led by Colonel Fannin, Francis W. Johnson, and Doctor Grant. Sam Houston was deeply opposed to the campaign and lodged his protests with Governor Smith. He then made a personal visit to the area and attempted to persuade the commanders to abandon the campaign. After learning of Urrea's presence Fannin abandoned the Matamoros campaign. (Craig H. Roell, the Handbook of Texas)
. Although Burke was the commander of the Mobile Grays he was not present during the Battle of Coleto. He had been placed on furlough on 29 February 1836 and dispatched by Houston to New Orleans and Mobile to recruit more volunteers. (Thomas W. Cutrer, The Handbook of Texas}
. Doctor James Grant was a Scottish physician who had immigrated to Mexico and acquired a large estate in Coahuilla which he was forced to abandon when Santa Anna overthrew the Mexican Government and assumed power. He was a strong proponent of removing Santa Anna from power but was against Texas Independence as that would affect his holdings in Coahuilla. His primary objective of the Matamoros expedition appears to be the recovery of his property in Coahuilla. (Tilloson, Cyrus Baird, "The Battle of the Agua Dulce," Frontier Times, December 1947)
. Fort Lipantitlan was a wooden and earth fortress built in 1824. On 4 November 1835 after capturing Goliad, Captain Dimmitt dispatched his adjutant, Lieutenant Ira J. Westover with a 70 man detachment that captured the fort from it's defenders commanded by Captain Nicolas Rodriguez. The fort was soon abandoned by the Texans and Captain Rodriguez continued to use it occasionally as a base of operations. (Keith Guthrie, The Handbook of Texas)
. Robert C. Morris was Captain of the New Orleans Greys after Pettus. He participated in the Siege of San Antonio in 1835 during which he was promoted to Major. Captain William Gordon Cooke assumed command of the Company that became known as the San Antonio Greys. Morris joined Johnson and Grant's Matamoros Expedition as third in command. (Thomas W. Cutrer, Handbook of Texas)
. There are various conflicting accounts of the number of men with Grant. Urrea places it as 46 in one account and 47 in another. Some accounts list 25 while Davenport in "Men of Goliad" lists 22. The confusion likely stems from the possibility that there may have been several other Mexicans with Placido Benavides in the party that were not listed with the numbers of Texans. I have chosen Davenport's 22, as it appears the most accurate. (Davenport, Harbert, "Men of Goliad," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 43, July, 1939)
. On 1 December 1836, Reuben Brown and McNeely managed to escape from the prison at Matamoros and they made their way to Victoria on 1 January 1837. (Cyrus Byrd Tilloson, "The Battle of Augua Dulce" Frontier Times" December 1947)
. According to Harbert Davenport, after the intervention of Father Malloy, the prisoners were marched to Matamoros where two of them, Arreola and Zambrano being Mexicans, were released. The others appeared before a Military Court and ordered to be shot on 17 April 1836. General Fernandez and citizens of Matamoros arranged a stay of execution and the prisoners were finally released in January 1837. (Harbert Davenport, "Men of Goliad", "Massacre at Goliad")
. After learning that the Alamo had fallen and Houston had retreated, Johnson returned home in disgust and had no further role in the Texas Revolution. Love and Toler may have departed Goliad with Johnson prior to the Battle of Coleto as they are not listed among the dead. The other four of Johnson's were executed with Fannin's men. Of the six men from Grant's command that escaped with Placido Benavides, only Benavides and William Scurlock survived. The rest were executed with Fannin's men.
. It appears that Guerra honored his commitment to Fannin and proceded to New Orleans , although several of his men may have joined Urrea, he makes no mention of them.
. The story of King being lashed to a tree likely stems from the fact that he had been seriously wounded and may have been unable to stand.
. There have been numerous estimates of Urrea's forces at the battle of Coleto ranging as high as 1,500 cavalry troops. According to my best estimates the combined forces of Urrea and Morales on the first day numbered about 940 with only 80 of them cavalry forces. This still amounted to a substantial advantage especially so since the Texans were caught in the open. The following morning when Garay arrived with 100 reinforcements, Urrea's forces would have totaled 1,040.
. These were no doubt the Mayan Indians of the Yucatan Battalion and the Indians referred to by both Dobell and Ehrenberg and other eye witness accounts.
. There are several conflicting accounts of the surrender with Texan versions stating that the Mexicans first offered the white flag of truce and that Fannin surrendered with terms. The Mexican versions state that Fannin was the first to raise the white flag and surrendered at discretion. Regardless of the conditions Santa Anna's orders to execute the prisoners are inexcusable.
Copyright © 2008 Garland Lively.
Written by Garland Lively. If you have questions or comments on this article,
please contact Garland Lively at:
About the author:
Garland R. Lively is a retired United States Army officer with a keen interest in military history. He served two tours as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and later worked in various Department of Defense command and control systems positions. After retiring from the Army in 1986 Mr. Lively accepted a position with a Washington D. C. based DOD consulting firm as the head of their European operations where he continued his work in DOD and NATO command and control systems. After retirement in 1993 Mr. Lively moved to his farm on the Brazos River near Waco, Texas where he has pursued his life long passion for military history and genealogy. Mr. Lively has written fourteen genealogy books and numerous articles about southwestern history.
Published online: 08/30/2008.
* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent
those of MHO.