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I'm a 40-something therapist living in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I'm also the chief critter-wrangler in a household that currently includes Abby the Border Collie, Collin the Aussie, Chance the Persian, Lizzie the Tortie, Mouse the Manx mix, and Jeffrey the husband. >^..^< I've been described as a bleeding heart liberal hippie do-gooder. Probably a pretty accurate description. :)

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NOVEMBER 24, 2008 4:07AM

Historic Texas: Goliad, in Words and Photos

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The Presidio La Bahia near Goliad, Texas, is the site of one of the most important battles in the Texas War of Independence against Mexico.

The Texans succeeded in taking the Presidio from the Mexican army in October, 1835. Their victory was fairly short-lived, however, and in March of 1836, the Mexicans came to take it back.

Colonel Fannin, who commanded the Presidio at the time, had only a small force there--fewer than 400 men--at his disposal. The rest of his men, as well as many carts and horses and all their cavalry, had been dispatched to Refugio to help evacuate settlers who were in the path of the Mexican army. This force was surrounded, surrendered, and  executed. A small group managed to escape to Victoria, where they were supposed to join up with Fannin and his men; but instead they walked into the Mexican Army, and were immediately captured and returned to Goliad. 

During this time, Sam Houston ordered Fannin to retreat to Victoria. However, due to the Refugio campaign, Fannin had few carts and horses, and no cavalry to help move the weapons and supplies out of the Presidio, or to ride guard. He waited several days for the return of his force from Refugio, not knowing that all his couriers were intercepted by the Mexican army, and that the Refugio force was already dead.

Fannin finally made the decision to retreat, but the company traveled only as far as Coleto Creek (about six miles) before being surrounded by the superior force of the Mexican army, which numbered about 1200 soldiers. The Mexicans suffered higher casualties than the Texans during the battle that afternoon, despite their superior force.

Fighting stopped at nightfall. Fannin could probably have escaped with his uninjured soldiers during the night, but he refused to leave the injured men behind. 

The next morning, seeing that another 100 or so Mexicans had arrived at the camp, Fannin made the decision to surrender on terms; the Colonel accepting his surrender told him that no soldiers taken on such negotiated terms had been killed. Fannin did not know that Santa Ana had already decreed that all captured rebels were to be executed. 

The next day, Fannin and his men were marched back to Goliad, where they were imprisoned. The men captured at Victoria were jailed with them on their arrival back at the Presidio. All believed that they would be freed within a matter of weeks, as agreed in the terms of the surrender. The Colonel who accepted the surrender left the Presidio, not wanting to be part of the execution, and in fact petitioned Santa Ana in writing to spare the Texans; but Santa Ana replied, in triplicate, that the Texans were to be executed. 

And so, on Palm Sunday (March 20, 1836), a week after their capture, the 324 Texan survivors were marched out of the Presidio onto three nearby roads. The Mexican soldiers then lined up 2 deep and opened fire, from 3 paces, on the unarmed prisoners (some accounts  state that the Mexicans fired over the heads of the prisoners, as they themselves were disgusted by the action). The wounded and dying were then clubbed and stabbed; those who escaped the initial shooting were run down and killed by Mexican cavalry. Men who had been wounded at the Battle of Coleto were bayoneted on their pallets. Fannin was the last to be executed, after being forced to witness the deaths of his men. The bodies were then stacked in piles, and burned. 

Several Texans did escape the massacre, by feigning death, or by other means--there is a tale that a local woman, the Angel of Goliad, helped several of them to escape.  

Following so closely on the heels of the massacre at the Alamo, Goliad helped to inflame the Texans' determination to win their independence.  Several survivors of the Goliad Massacre were able to join Houston at the final battle of the war at San Jacinto in April 21, 1836, where they won a decisive victory against the Mexican army and accepted Santa Ana's surrender.

The Fannin Memorial marks the burial site of Fannin and his men, just outside the Presidio.

Goliad, TX Summer '04

Detail: 

Goliad, TX Summer '04

The Presidio La Bahia is the kind of place where you can feel history surrounding you. The feeling seems stronger here than it did at the Alamo, despite the Alamo's fame. 

Goliad, TX Summer '04

 

Goliad, TX Summer '04

 

Goliad, TX Summer '04

 

Goliad, TX Summer '04

The Mission Espiritu Santo is its own compound inside the walls of the Presidio.

Goliad, TX Summer '04

The Chapel inside the Mission is not as ornate as the Mission itself.

Goliad, TX Summer '04

But it too has been beautifully restored. 

 Goliad, TX Summer '04

 

Goliad, TX Summer '04

And it provides a lovely view out onto the now-peaceful grounds of the Presidio La Bahia, long removed from the time of the  Goliad Massacre.

Goliad, TX Summer '04

 

 



 

 

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Christine, I wasn't familiar with this event and it seems like the Alamo clearly gets much more of the attention. Thanks for this great photo essay! I learned something new about the early history of Texas today.
Designanator (I have to keep stopping myself from shortening that to Desi, so sorry if I slip at some point!)--thanks for the as-always gracious comment. Texas is not my cup of tea for living in, but it does have a tremendous amount of history. The Alamo gets all the attention, I think, because the soldiers who died there died "with their boots on," so to speak--that is, most of them were killed during hand-to-hand battles inside the Alamo. Fannin and his men, however, surrendered, so that didn't have quite as much "oomph" for people. I think it's important, though, simply for the fact that Goliad showed Santa Ana's cruelty and helped to rally the remaining troops as they no longer felt they were fighting an "honorable" enemy.
Very well done C. Being a resident, now on 28 years, and still not calling myself a Texan, I can attest to the rich history of this state, in many ways that are glossed over or not visited at all in texts outside the state. It takes some research, and some art in delivery as you have shown, to make it come alive.

My bride's family came to Texas before it was a state and had a few thousand acres southeast of Dallas. The Becker homestead is still there. I have it on my list of blogs to complete to tell the story of the homestead, though I've hinted at it in some other posts with a few pictures. The patriarch, who is interred in the Becker cemetery with many subsequent extended family members, was born in Germany around the turn of the century--1800 that is.

Beautifully done, and a very enjoyable read. Thanks.
Having had most of my public school education in Texas, I had many Texas history courses. Your version of the massacre at Goliad is so much better than the history books. Your photos take you there. I love your photo of the chapel. Thank you for this interesting post.
Hey, Christine. This was a very nice pictorial essay. My wife and I have driven through Goliad several times in recent years, always in a hurry or in the rain, so we have never stopped. One day we will. Thanks for retelling this important story!
I remember this from junior high. It was very sad. To the Mexicans back then though the rebels were Americans trying to steal their land and they had little tolerance for that sort of thing. It is all perspective. I wonder what Mexican school kids learn about this battle.
Thanks y'all for stopping by and for your very nice comments! I just find this history so fascinating, and it always gets overshadowed by the Alamo. I was stunned when we were there and started learning the history. I think one reason that the history and events seem so much more real at Goliad than the Alamo is that hardly anybody (in comparison anyway) goes to Goliad. It's more peaceful and quiet and almost like a cemetery. I'm thinking Jodi could have some good ghost-hunting adventures there.

Barry, I look forward to reading about your wife's family history. I think it's amazing when people can trace their family lines back that far, I can't imagine having that much of a sense of place and self.

Julie, wow, what a nice thing to say! I love history but so often it's presented in such a dull, time-line kind of way. I like to put myself there and try to imagine what it was like for the people who lived it.

Rich, you really should stop in. It's one of those little towns with enormous old live oaks everywhere that just give it that ancient, history-laden feel. There's also a very, very cool old house on the edge of town going up toward Victoria, it was in process of being restored when we were there; and a very interesting family/estate cemetery that we spent most of an afternoon at. History on the hoof. Maybe I'll post that cemetery story some time.

Change Agent, I understand exactly what you're saying. It's human nature to see history from your own peoples' perspective, but of course the Mexican government felt it was within their rights to keep Texas under their control. Looking back further, though, Mexico had invited US citizens to settle in Texas, promised them certain conditions for doing so, and then reneged, which of course pissed the Texans off royally. It amazes me that the war was so short--6 months; and that the final battle was so decisive and so SHORT (18 minutes!).

A couple of asides, just 'cause I find weird little trivia interesting:

Alamo is the spanish word for Cottonwood.

"The Yellow Rose of Texas," long considered one of the defining songs about the state, per legend refers to a free "mulatto" (which of course today would be termed biracial), meaning she was light-skinned, and because of this was called "yellow" (or high yellow). She is supposed to have been kidnapped by the Mexican army in Galveston and carried along with them to the battle site at San Jacinto, where legend says she seduced Santa Ana (although it is much more likely that if she was with him, it was a force situation). Because he was supposedly still with her when the Texan army attacked, and not prepared for battle, he escaped without weapons or armour, and was easily captured the next day.

The earliest known version of "The Yellow Rose of Texas," by the way, is a truly noxious song by modern standards. At least that has changed over the years.
Wow. Could I possibly have used the word "history" any more in that comment? And I call myself a writer, mutter mutter mutter....
I enjoyed this post. The pictures are great, and what a cloud formation in that first one! I have visited Presidio la Bahia, and I agree that you sense the history of the place much more so than you do at the Alamo. It is a much more serene place, not overrun with the crowds that visit the Alamo (although the Alamo is certainly worth visiting, a must for anyone in San Antonio).

There is a lot more to Texas history than cowboys. Thanks for showcasing a small part of it.
Procopius, it's nice to hear from someone else who's been there and felt that "history happened here" feeling. It's such a beautiful place for such terrible things to have happened.

The cloud formation was pretty cool. It was the daily SE Texas summer mid-afternoon thunder storm ramping up. :)