Goliad massacre

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Coordinates: 28°38′51″N97°22′59″W / 28.6476°N 97.3830°W / 28.6476; -97.3830

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Goliad Massacre
Part of the Goliad Campaign of the Texas Revolution
Goliad Executions By Norman Price From Texas State Archives And Library Commission.jpg
"Goliad Executions" by illustrator Norman Mills Price
Location Goliad, Coahuila y Tejas, Centralist Republic of Mexico (territory claimed by Republic of Texas), present-day Goliad, Texas, US
Coordinates 28°38′51″N97°22′59″W / 28.6476°N 97.3830°W / 28.6476; -97.3830
DateMarch 27, 1836
Attack type
Mass murder by firing squad and wounded being clubbed and knifed to death
Deaths425-445 Texian Army prisoners of war under the command of Colonel James Fannin who was also killed
Perpetrators Mexican Army under orders of General and President of the Centralist Republic of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna were not treated as soldiers but given no quarter as rebels
Presidio La Bahia National Historic Site where soldiers of the defeated Texian Army were executed en masse by forces of the Centralist Republic of Mexico Presidio La Bahia.jpg
Presidio La Bahía National Historic Site where soldiers of the defeated Texian Army were executed en masse by forces of the Centralist Republic of Mexico

The Goliad massacre was an event of the Texas Revolution that occurred on March 27, 1836, following the Battle of Coleto; 425-445 prisoners of war from the Texian Army of the Republic of Texas were killed by the Mexican Army in the town of Goliad, Texas. Among those killed was commander Colonel James Fannin. The killing was carried out under orders from General and President of Mexico Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Despite the appeals for clemency by General José de Urrea, the massacre was reluctantly carried out by Lt. Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla.

Texas Revolution military conflict

The Texas Revolution was a rebellion of colonists from the United States and Tejanos in putting up armed resistance to the centralist government of Mexico. While the uprising was part of a larger one that included other provinces opposed to the regime of President Antonio López de Santa Anna, the Mexican government believed the United States had instigated the Texas insurrection with the goal of annexation. The Mexican Congress passed the Tornel Decree, declaring that any foreigners fighting against Mexican troops "will be deemed pirates and dealt with as such, being citizens of no nation presently at war with the Republic and fighting under no recognized flag." Only the province of Texas succeeded in breaking with Mexico, establishing the Republic of Texas, and eventually being annexed by the United States.

Battle of Coleto battle

The Battle of Coleto, also known as the Battle of Coleto Creek, the Battle of the Prairie, and the Batalla del encinal del Perdido, was fought on March 19–20, 1836, during the Goliad campaign of the Texas Revolution. In February, General José de Urrea led a branch of the Mexican army up the Gulf Coast of Mexican Texas toward Goliad, where a large contingent of soldiers from the Texian Army were garrisoned under Colonel James W. Fannin. Simultaneously, Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna led a larger force into the Texian interior, where on March 6 his troops won the Battle of the Alamo. After learning of the Alamo's defeat, Texian general Sam Houston ordered Fannin to retreat from Goliad and join the rest of the army in Victoria.

Texian Army Army that fought for the independence of what became the Republic of Texas

The Texian Army, also known as the Army of Texas and the Army of the People, was a military organization consisting of volunteer and regular soldiers who fought against the Mexican army during the Texas Revolution. Approximately 3,700 men joined the army between October 2, 1835, during the Battle of Gonzales through the end of the war on April 21, 1836, at the Battle of San Jacinto. After gaining independence the Texian Army would be officially known as the Army of the Republic of Texas. In 1846, after the annexation of Texas by the United States, the Army of the Republic of Texas merged with the US Army. Sam Houston became the new commander in chief of the new Texas army.


After Santa Anna learned a force of Texas rebels was heading toward Matamoros, he sent General Urrea to make his way north to Matamoros and then to march north along the coast of Texas to stop them. [1] Urrea arrived in Matamoros and worked to secure cooperation from the local inhabitants on January 31, 1836. [1] Meanwhile, Sam Houston had persuaded all but 70 to 100 men and their leaders, Frank W. Johnson and James Grant, to give up on the expedition and to defend locations in Texas, principally Goliad. [2] On February 12, 1836, Colonel James Fannin took most of the men to defend Presidio La Bahía at Goliad, which he renamed "Fort Defiance". [3]

The Matamoros Expedition was a planned 1836 invasion of the Mexican port town of Matamoros by rebellious Texians. As the Mexican government transitioned from federalism to a centralized government in 1835, many federalists offered armed opposition. In Mexican Texas, settlers launched a full rebellion, known as the Texas Revolution, in October. By the end of the year, the Texians had expelled all Mexican soldiers from their territory. Confident that there would be no more fighting within their lands, Texans began looking for ways to extend the fight.

Sam Houston nineteenth-century American statesman, politician, and soldier, namesake of Houston, Texas

Sam Houston was an American soldier and politician. An important leader of the Texas Revolution, Houston served as the 1st and 3rd president of the Republic of Texas, and was one of the first two individuals to represent Texas in the United States Senate. He also served as the 6th Governor of Tennessee and the seventh governor of Texas, the only American to be elected governor of two different states in the United States.

Frank W. Johnson Co-commander of the Texian Army

Francis White "Frank" Johnson was a leader of the Texian Army from December 1835 through February 1836, during the Texas Revolution. Johnson arrived in Texas in 1826 and worked as a surveyor for several empresarios, including Stephen F. Austin. One of his first activities was to plot the new town of Harrisburg. Johnson unsuccessfully tried to prevent the Fredonian Rebellion and served as a delegate to the Convention of 1832.

On February 16, 1836, Urrea crossed the Rio Grande with 188 cavalry and 205 infantry. [4] He recruited about 200 Tejano volunteers from the area, including some previously sympathetic to the Texians, to join him. [4]

At 3:00 a.m. on February 27, 1836, Urrea's advance patrol surprised Johnson and about 45 men, initiating the Battle of San Patricio, where Urrea's force killed 16 and took 24 prisoners. [5] Johnson and four others escaped in the darkness and rejoined Fannin's command at Goliad where they retold a story, which they first told at a ranch where they had taken refuge after the escape, that all the prisoners had been executed. [5] Urrea had sent 18 of the prisoners to Matamoros where they were sentenced to death but were later released. [5] This news persuaded Fannin to abandon any further attempt to send relief to the Alamo or to try to secure badly needed supplies waiting at Matagorda but to prepare Presidio La Bahía at Goliad for defense against the advancing Mexican Army. [6]

Battle of San Patricio 1836 battle in the Texas Revolution

The Battle of San Patricio was fought on February 27, 1836, between Mexican troops and rebellious immigrants from the Mexican province of Texas, known as Texians. The battle marked the start of the Goliad Campaign, the Mexican offensive to retake the Texas Gulf Coast. It took place in and around San Patricio.

Battle of the Alamo Major battle of the Texas Revolution

The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar, killing the Texian and immigrant occupiers. Santa Anna's cruelty during the battle inspired many Texians, both legal Texas settlers and illegal immigrants from the United States, to join the Texian Army. Buoyed by a desire for revenge, the Texians defeated the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, ending the rebellion.

Matagorda, Texas unincorporated community

Matagorda is a census-designated place in Matagorda County, located near the mouth of the Colorado River on the Upper Texas coast in the United States. In 2010, the population was 503. Matagorda is primarily a tourist town with commercial and recreational fishing being the top industries. There are 23 miles (37 km) of beach accessible by vehicle and 35 additional miles accessible only by boat. Matagorda is at the end of State Highway 60 and beginning of Farm to Market Road 2031, which runs over the Intracoastal Waterway and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

On March 2, at the Battle of Agua Dulce, Grant was killed, as were about 20 other men under his command. [7] [8]

Battle of Agua Dulce battle

The Battle of Agua Dulce Creek was a skirmish during the Texas Revolution between Mexican troops and rebellious colonists of the Mexican province of Texas, known as Texians. As part of the Goliad Campaign to retake the Texas Gulf Coast, Mexican troops ambushed a group of Texians on March 2, 1836. The skirmish began approximately 26 miles (42 km) south of San Patricio, in territory belonging to the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

On March 6, the Mexican force under Santa Anna stormed the Alamo and killed the garrison. [9]

On March 14, Colonel William Ward and 200 men, who had been sent to help Captain Amon B. King evacuate colonists at Refugio, were surrounded by Urrea's force. Although Ward and his men fled that night during a blinding rainstorm, the Mexicans overtook part of Ward's force, killing 18 and capturing 31. [10]

King and a group were executed on March 16 at Refugio, but some 15 to 18 prisoners were marched to Goliad to serve as blacksmiths or mechanics.[ citation needed ]

General Jose de Urrea (pictured), the commander of the victorious Mexican Army at Goliad vigorously appealed to Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to give clemency to the Texian Army prisoners of war but was overruled and ordered to massacre the unarmed Texians JOSE COSME URREA.jpg
General José de Urrea (pictured), the commander of the victorious Mexican Army at Goliad vigorously appealed to Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to give clemency to the Texian Army prisoners of war but was overruled and ordered to massacre the unarmed Texians

After capturing one of Fannin's messengers with dispatches that told of his plan to wait at Goliad then retreat after King and Ward returned, Urrea ordered the execution of 30 prisoners he decided were mercenaries, but freed over 20 others he determined to be Mexicans or colonists so he would not be hindered by taking prisoners along on his advance on Fannin's force. [11]

On March 19, Urrea had quickly advanced and surrounded 300 men of the Texian Army on the open prairie, near La Bahia (Goliad). The two-day Battle of Coleto ensued, with the Texians holding their own on the first day. However, the Mexicans received overwhelming reinforcements and heavy artillery. In this critical predicament, Fannin and the majority of the men voted to surrender the Texian forces on March 20. [12] Led to believe that they would be paroled and released into the United States, they were returned to the fort at Goliad, now their prison. [13]

Albert Clinton Horton and his company had been acting as the advance and rear guards for Fannin's company. Surprised by an overwhelming Mexican force, most were chased off and escaped, but 18 were captured and marched back to Goliad. [14]

The 75 soldiers of William Parsons Miller and the Nashville Battalion were captured on March 20 and marched in on March 23. They were kept separate from the other prisoners, as they had been unarmed and surrendered without a fight.[ citation needed ]

On March 22, William Ward and the Georgia Battalion (80 men plus Ward) surrendered after escaping from the Battle of Refugio. About 26 men were retained at Victoria as laborers, but 55 of the prisoners were marched into Goliad, on March 25. [15] [16]


The Mexicans took the Texians back to Goliad, where they were held as prisoners at Fort Defiance (Presidio La Bahia). The Texians thought they would likely be set free in a few weeks. Urrea departed Goliad, leaving Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla in command. Urrea wrote to Santa Anna to ask for clemency for the Texians. [17]

Under a decree pressured by Santa Anna and passed by the Mexican Congress on December 30 of the previous year, armed foreigners taken in combat were to be treated as pirates and executed. Urrea wrote in his diary that he "...wished to elude these orders as far as possible without compromising my personal responsibility." Santa Anna responded to this entreaty by repeatedly ordering Urrea to comply with the law and execute the prisoners. [17] He also had a similar order sent directly to the "Officer Commanding the Post of Goliad". This order was received by Portilla on March 26, who decided it was his duty to comply despite receiving a countermanding order from Urrea later that same day. [13] [18]

Colonel James Fannin the commander of the captured Texian Army at Goliad asked for humane treatment for himself and his Texian soldiers but his request was abruptly denied. Fannin would be tortured and then shot in the head and most of his men were brutally murdered JamesWFannin.jpg
Colonel James Fannin the commander of the captured Texian Army at Goliad asked for humane treatment for himself and his Texian soldiers but his request was abruptly denied. Fannin would be tortured and then shot in the head and most of his men were brutally murdered
Herman Ehrenberg of the New Orleans Greys in the Texian Army was one of the few survivors of the Goliad Massacre Herman Ehrenberg.png
Herman Ehrenberg of the New Orleans Greys in the Texian Army was one of the few survivors of the Goliad Massacre

The next day, Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, Portilla had between 425 and 445 Texians marched out of Fort Defiance in three columns on the Bexar Road, San Patricio Road, and the Victoria Road, between two rows of Mexican soldiers; they were shot point blank, wounded survivors were clubbed and knifed to death. [13] [19]

Forty Texians were unable to walk. Thirty-nine were killed inside the fort under the direction of Captain Carolino Huerta of the Tres Villas battalion, with Colonel Garay saving one, Jack Shackelford. Fannin was the last to be executed, after seeing his men killed. Aged 32, he was taken by Mexican soldiers to the courtyard in front of the chapel, blindfolded, and seated in a chair (due to his leg wound from the battle). He made three requests: that his personal possessions be sent to his family, to be shot in the heart and not the face, and to be given a Christian burial. [20] The soldiers took his belongings, shot him in the face, and burned his body along with those of the other Texians who died that day. [20] [21]

The entire Texian force was killed, except for 28 men who feigned death and escaped. Among these was Herman Ehrenberg, who later wrote an account of the massacre, [22] William Lockhart Hunter, also of the New Orleans Greys, who would survive despite being bayoneted and clubbed with a musket, [23] and four members of Shackelford's Red Rovers- Dillard Cooper, [24] Zachariah S. Brooks, Wilson Simpson, and Isaac D. Hamilton, [25] who would escape after days on the run.

Owing to the intervention of Francita Alavez (the "Angel of Goliad") and the courageous effort of Garay, 20 more men were spared to act as doctors, interpreters, or workers, [26] including Shackelford. [20]

Also spared were the 75 soldiers of Miller and the Nashville Battalion. They were later marched to Matamoros. [27]

Spared men were given white arm bands, and while wearing them could walk about freely. They were advised not to take off the arm band, since Mexican troops were hunting for those few who had escaped from Coleto, Victoria, and the massacre itself.[ citation needed ]


This monument marks the location where the Texians from the Goliad Massacre were finally buried. Monument at Goliad Massacre.jpg
This monument marks the location where the Texians from the Goliad Massacre were finally buried.

The massive number of Texian prisoner-of-war casualties throughout the Goliad Campaign led to Goliad being called a "massacre" by Texian forces and fueled the frenzy of the Runaway Scrape.[ citation needed ]

After the executions, the Texians' bodies were piled and burned. [28] Their charred remains were left in the open, unburied, and exposed to vultures and coyotes. [28] Nearly one month later, word reached La Bahia (Goliad) that Santa Anna had been defeated and surrendered while trying to flee at the Battle of San Jacinto. [29]

General Thomas J. Rusk found the remains of the massacre victims in June 1836 and gave orders for a formal military funeral. The remains were interred at the location southeast of the Presidio la Bahia where the Fannin Monument now stands. The whereabouts of the gravesite was forgotten until years later when human bone fragments were discovered by a group of boys. [30]

The massacre is commemorated in Walt Whitman's poem Song of Myself , section 34, which features in his collected poems titled Leaves of Grass . [31]

In 1938, the monument to Fannin and his men was erected at the gravesite. It features an Art Deco relief sculpture and the names of the men who were slain. [32]

Historical Marker at Fannin Monument - La Bahia, Texas Historical marker at Fannin Monument.jpg
Historical Marker at Fannin Monument – La Bahia, Texas

See also


  1. 1 2 Roell, Craig H. (2013), Matamoros and the Texas Revolution, Denton, TX: Texas State Historical Association, p. 70, ISBN   978-0-87611-260-1 .
  2. Roell (2013), p. 64.
  3. Roell (2013), pp. 4, 76, 82.
  4. 1 2 Roell (2013), p. 71.
  5. 1 2 3 Long (1990), p. 201.
  6. Nofi (1994), p. 95.
  7. Nofi, Albert A. (1994), The Alamo and the Texas War of Independence, September 30, 1835 to April 21, 1836: Heroes, Myths, and History, New York: Da Capo Press, p. 94, ISBN   978-0-938289-10-4
  8. O'Connor (1966), pp. 147–148 gives the number of men killed with Grant as 11.
  9. Nofi (1994), pp. 107–123.
  10. Long (1990), pp. 273–274.
  11. Long (1990), p. 274.
  12. Long (1990), p. 278.
  13. 1 2 3 Hardin (1994), pg. 173
  14. Matthew Ellenberger, "HORTON, ALBERT CLINTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fho62), accessed June 09, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
  15. Castaneda (1970), p. 19.
  16. Long, 1990, p. 280 states that Ward and 120 men from his Georgia Battalion were captured by Urrea's force.
  17. 1 2 Long (1990), p. 280.
  18. Harbert Davenport and Craig H. Roell, "GOLIAD MASSACRE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qeg02), accessed February 02, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
  19. Long (1990), p. 284.
  20. 1 2 3 Long (1990), p. 285.
  21. Hardin (1994), pg. 174
  22. Long, 1990, pp. 284, 287–l290, 401.
  23. ROELL, CRAIG H. (15 June 2010). "HUNTER, WILLIAM LOCKHART". tshaonline.org. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  24. "COOPER, DILLARD". tshaonline.org. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  25. HAMILTON, LESTER (15 June 2010). "HAMILTON, ISAAC D." tshaonline.org. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  26. Hardin (1994), p. 237.
  27. Craig H. Roell, "MILLER, WILLIAM PARSONS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmi30), accessed April 03, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
  28. 1 2 Long (1990), p. 286.
  29. Long, (1990), pp. 309–318.
  30. "Massacre at Goliad". www.tamu.edu. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  31. Whitman, W. (1860). Leaves of Grass. Boston: Thayer & Eldridge.
  32. "Goliad State Park & Historic Site Goliad Area Historic Sites — Texas Parks & Wildlife Department". tpwd.texas.gov. Retrieved March 7, 2018.

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