Texas Road Trip – Presidio La Bahia
Posted by Admin SATXProperty on Saturday, July 16th, 2011 at 10:45pm.
Texas Road Trip - San Antonio - Presidio La Bahia
The presidio of La Bahia is just outside present-day Goliad, about two hours drive south of San Antonio; another one of the Spanish-era military or mission complexes, star-scattered across Texas and the Southwest. The Presidio was built in the mid-18th century, on the advice and under the supervision of a very able Spanish colonial administrator, Lieutenant-General Jose de Escandron. The chapel of Our Lady of Loreto was constructed in one corner of the 3-acre quadrangle; it was intended to minister to the souls and spiritual needs of the soldiers stationed there, and in the village huddled on the hilltop – very like a little Spanish town, under the protection offered by the local castle’s sheltering walls.
The chapel remained the only portion of the compound still whole and more or less complete by the 20th century; the original compound walls having been reduced to little more than regular lines of rubble. In the 1960s, the site was excavated, and the circuit of walls – and the barracks and quarters erected against them were faithfully and purposefully reconstructed. The old Spanish presidio was built to appear as it did in 1836 – that fateful year when La Bahia, and another mission-garrison of Texian rebels - the Alamo - became legend.
At least as strategic, and in better repair than the Alamo, it was garrisoned against invasion by Santa Anna’s grand army by a scratch Texan army of volunteers. On Palm Sunday of 1836, those Texians and volunteers still able to walk after a crippling battle and surrender at Coleto Creek and a week of imprisonment in the Loreto Chapel were divided into three groups by their captors.
They were marched out of town in three different directions before being executed in cold blood by their guards, on the orders of General Santa Anna himself. Forty wounded Texians were dragged into the courtyard in front of the chapel doors and executed as they lay on the ground. Those deaths became a rallying cry, when Santa Anna was decoyed farther and farther into Texas in pursuit of Sam Houston and his ragged army. When Houston turned and fought, the battle cry of his army was “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!”
Of all the battlefields and scenes of history and tragedy in the Texian war for independence, the citadel of La Bahia at Goliad is the only one today looking anything like it did in 1836. The Alamo has had a modern city has grow up around it, subsuming the original compound under modern buildings. The battlefield at San Jacinto little resembles what it looked like 170 years ago.
Only La Bahia looks anything like it did way back when – a classic quadrangle, lined with barracks and towers at each corner, on a gentle rise above the river. Below the walls are empty fields and groves of native trees and narrow roads leading towards little towns just beyond the horizon. I am told that the commemorative encampments within the circuit of walls are breathtakingly evocative; tents and bonfires and lamplight, within and no electric light, no city noises. It’s enough to raise the hair on the back of the neck of those susceptible to atmosphere. The candle-light tours of the citadel – including the Loreto Chapel, conducted every year on the eve of that fatal Palm Sunday are extremely popular.
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