The Goliad Massacre, set in the town of Goliad on March 27, 1836, was an execution of Republic of Texas soldier-prisoners and their commander, James Fannin, by the Mexican Army. Despite the protests for clemency by General José de Urrea, the massacre was reluctantly carried out by Lt. Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla under orders of the President of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
Santa Anna sent General José Urrea marching into Texas from Matamoros, to make his way north along the coast of Texas. On February 27, 1836, Urrea's advance patrol surprised Frank W. Johnson and about 34 men, initiating the Battle of San Patricio, where they killed about 10 and took 18 prisoners. Johnson and five others escaped and rejoined James Fannin's command at Goliad.
On March 2, at the Battle of Agua Dulce, James Grant was killed, as were 11 other men under his command. Six Texians were taken prisoners and were marched to prison in Matamoros. Six Texians escaped, five were recaptured and marched to Goliad.
On March 19, General Urrea had quickly advanced and surrounded 300 men in 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 would receive overwhelming reinforcements and heavy artillery. In this critical predicament, Colonel James Fannin and his staff voted to surrender the Texian forces on March 20. Led to believe that they would be released into the United States, they were returned to the fort at Goliad, now their prison.
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, they were chased off and escaped, however 18 of the group were captured and marched back to Goliad.
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.
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.
The Mexicans took the Texians back to Goliad, where they were held as prisoners at Fort Defiance (Presidio La Bahia). The Texans thought they would likely be set free in a few weeks. General Urrea departed Goliad, leaving command to Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla. Urrea wrote to Santa Anna to ask for clemency for the Texians. Under a decree 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. 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.
The next day, Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, Colonel Portilla had the 303 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, and any survivors were clubbed and knifed to death.
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. Colonel Fannin was the last to be executed, after seeing his men executed. Age 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. The soldiers took his belongings, shot him in the face, and burned his body along with the other Texians who died that day.
Fortunately, due to the intervention of Francita Alavez (the "Angel of Goliad") and the courageous effort of Colonel Francisco Garay, 20 more men were spared to act as doctors, interpreters, or workers, including Dr. Jack Shackelford.
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. The Texans won later that year
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After the executions, the Texians' bodies were piled and burned. Their charred remains were left in the open, unburied, and exposed to vultures and coyotes. Nearly one month later, word reached La Bahia (Goliad) that General Lopez de Santa Anna had been defeated and surrendered. The Mexican soldiers at La Bahia returned to the funeral pyres and gathered up any visible remains of the Texians and re-burned any evidence of the bodies.
The site of the massacre is now topped by a large monument containing the names of the victims.
- O'Connor (1966), pp. 147–148.
- Hardin (1994), pg. 173
- 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.
- Castaneda (1970), p. 19.
- 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.
- Hardin (1994), pg. 174
- Hardin (1994), pg. 237
- 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.
- Castaneda, H.W. (1970), The Mexican Side of the Texas Revolution, Texas: Graphic Ideas, ASIN B003M0PG1S
- Hardin, Stephen L. (1994), Texian Iliad – A Military History of the Texas Revolution, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, ISBN 0-292-73086-1, OCLC 29704011
- Davenport, Harbert; Roell, Craig H. "GOLIAD MASSACRE". Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 27 November 2010.