Battle of Refugio
|Battle of Refugio|
|Part of the Texas Revolution|
|Mexico||Republic of Texas|
|Commanders and leaders|
|José de Urrea
Juan José Holzinger
|Amon Butler King
|1,500 men||148 men|
|Casualties and losses|
|est.150 killed, 50 wounded||16 killed plus 15 executed, 107 captured, 10 escaped|
The Battle of Refugio was fought from March 12–15,1836, near Refugio, Texas. Mexican General José Urrea and 1,500 Centralista soldiers fought against Amon Butler King and his 28 American volunteers and Lieutenant Colonel William Ward and his approximately 120 Americans. The battle, a part of the Goliad Campaign of the Texas Revolution, resulted in a Mexican victory and splintered Texan resistance.
Colonel James Fannin and his men had improved the fortifications at the old Presidio La Bahía and renamed it "Fort Defiance." News of the fate of Texians under Frank W. Johnson at the Battle of San Patricio and James Grant at the Battle of Agua Dulce (both captured in earlier fights) created confusion rather than stirring the volunteers gathered at Goliad into action. Centralist sympathizers in the area that had gathered and raided Victoria earlier in the month. To make matters worse, Fannin learned that some colonists who supported the revolt were in danger from Urrea's advance.
On March 10, he sent William C. Francis on area patrol and sent Amon B. King with a small force and wagons to collect families and escort them back to Goliad. March 11 was spent gathering families and loading carts for the return trip. However, on the 12th, King decided to confront the Centralista forces of Carlos de la Garza and the rancheros who rode with him. The opposition forces proved to be greater than imagined and King asked Fannin to send help.
King and the Kentucky Mustangs took refuge in the old Nuestra Señora del Refugio Mission at Refugio on March 12. Receiving word, Fannin dispatched William Ward, commanding a group from Peyton S. Wyatt and the Georgia Battalion to assist King. Ward made his stand at the mission and a furious battle ensued. Although successful in breaking up the siege on the 13th, the arrival of Ward at Refugio led to a conflict over command between the two officers. This dispute caused the insurgents to break into several smaller detachments. King left and ventured to attack a nearby ranch, believed to be occupied by Centralistas, killing 8.
As more of Urrea's troops arrived, the fighting with Ward's men continued. The groups held their own on the 14th, repelling four assaults, killing 80 – 100 Mexican troops and wounding 50. The Texians suffered light losses, (about 15), but were now short on ammunition and supplies. King returned from his raid in the evening but could not get to the mission for safety. They had to fight from a tree-line across from it, near the Mission River, where they also inflicted heavy losses upon the Mexican army. Ward sent courier James Humphries to Fannin for orders. Edward Perry returned word from Fannin to fall back to Victoria, where Texian forces were to later regroup.
At night, the groups attempted the escape. The wounded and a few others would remain behind. Their flight seemed successful at first, but there were overwhelming numbers of Mexican troops in wait. Each group was subsequently defeated and its survivors captured by Urrea's troops. After battling for twelve hours and inflicting heavy casualties on their enemies, the last group of fleeing Texians only suffered one killed and four wounded. King and thirty-two men surrendered on the 15th because their remaining powder had become unusable after crossing the river. They were returned as prisoners of war to the Refugio Mission. On March 16, fifteen men were executed; King and the remnants of his company, and several of Ward's men. Juan José Holzinger, a German-Mexican officer, saw fit to save Lewis T. Ayers, Francis Dieterich, Benjamin Odlum and eight men from local families. The remaining fifteen men were spared to serve the Mexican army as artisans (blacksmiths, wheelwrights, mechanics).
Ward and the bulk of his men escaped toward Copano, then turned at Melon Creek and headed for Victoria, where he thought Fannin should be, hearing the gunfire on the Coleto Creek as they moved on. At Victoria, they found no time for rest; it was overrun with Urrea's troops. The group was forced to scatter after a short skirmish with Urrea's cavalry. Staying off the main roads, they moved toward Lavaca Bay, with ten of them eventually escaping. The remainder were captured on March 22 by Urrea, two miles from Dimmit's Landing. Informed of Fannin's surrender, Ward's group was marched back to Victoria, where Holzinger again saved twenty-six men, by conscripting them as laborers for Urrea. Urrea had left Colonel Telesforo Alavez, in charge of Victoria. Señora Francita Alavez intervened with her husband as well, to make sure the captive laborers' lives would be saved. The remainder were sent to Goliad by March 25.
Fannin learned of Ward and King's fate on the 17th and had finally left for Victoria on the 19th, which proved to be too late, as the right wing of the Spanish Army was now in place to capture Fort Defiance. Fannin and his command would never make it to Victoria.
Overview and outcome
The majority of Texian deaths (either in the series of skirmishes or by execution, some in the Goliad Massacre), occurred following the rift between King and Ward. Fannin had received orders from General Sam Houston while King and Ward were away that directed him to evacuate Goliad and retire to Victoria as soon as possible. Reluctant to leave before various detachments returned, Fannin failed to leave Goliad ahead of Urrea's advance, leading to the Battle of Coleto.
In the public square across the street from the county courthouse in Refugio, the King Monument stands as an honor to Captain King and his men. In the early 1900s, the square was owned by the State of Texas and was named King's State Park.
- Edmonson (2000), p. 379.
- Hardin (1994), pg. 164
- Todish (1998), p. 129.
- Davis (2006), p. 236.
- Harbert Davenport and Craig H. Roell, "GOLIAD CAMPAIGN OF 1836," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qdg02), accessed April 04, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
- Harbert Davenport and Craig H. Roell, "GOLIAD MASSACRE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qeg02), accessed April 03, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
- Craig H. Roell, "REFUGIO, BATTLE OF," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qer01), accessed March 30, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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