On this day in 1836, the Goliad Massacre takes place. Most of you have heard “Remember the Alamo!” Did you know that “Remember Goliad!” was another battle cry used by Texans?
The events at Goliad occurred at roughly the same time as the Battle of the Alamo.
By mid-February 1836, Colonel James Fannin was at Goliad, building reinforcements around the presidio there. In the meantime, two other efforts were underway: First, Mexican General Jose de Urrea was marching with 1,000 men toward Fannin’s position. Second, Santa Anna began his siege of the Alamo during the last week of February.
As Fannin’s men attempted a retreat, they were met by Urrea and his men. A two-day battle ensued. The Texans took losses, but held their own on the first day. And to their credit, they did not attempt to escape in the middle of the night, when they could have, because they did not want to leave their wounded behind. But the next day, they were overwhelmed when Mexican reinforcements arrived. Fannin surrendered on March 20, on the condition that his men be treated as prisoners of war.
Now Urrea was the one with a problem. He was not authorized to agree to such terms. The Mexican Congress had passed a law requiring that captured Texans be treated like pirates—i.e. they were to be shot. Fannin and his men were marched back to Goliad. Accounts vary, but apparently many of them thought that they would be treated honorably like prisoners of war.
Urrea wrote Santa Anna, asking for clemency, but he apparently failed to mention that he’d agreed to Fannin’s terms. Santa Anna wrote back with an order that the Texans be executed. Not trusting Urrea to comply, he then ordered Col. José Nicolás de la Portilla to perform the execution.
Finally, on Palm Sunday, March 27, those Texans who could walk were marched out of Goliad. They were told various stories about where they were going. Less than a mile out, the guards stopped the captives and began firing at close range. Those who were too wounded to march were executed, separately, behind the presidio. Roughly 340 men were massacred that day. A little less than 30 men escaped. A few, such as doctors, were spared because of the services that they could provide.
Fannin was among the last to be shot. He had just a few requests: He did not want to be shot in the face, he wanted his personal belongings to be sent to his family, and he wanted a Christian burial. He was denied every one of these requests.
The Alamo and Goliad were dark days for the Texan effort. But the Battle of San Jacinto was just around the corner!
P.S. The attached picture is of a flag made by an 18-year old girl, Joanna Troutman. The Sam Houston Memorial Museum website describes it as “one of the most inspirational symbols in the dark months between the defeat at the Alamo and the victory at San Jacinto.”
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