by Julia Hayden
Goliad - The Other Alamo
The Texas war for independence from Mexico kicked off 175 years ago - but that it barely lasted six months, and crammed the most spectacular events into a period of about seven weeks means that the commemorative events are similarly crammed. The first weekend in March took me to the Alamo . . . and the last weekend will take me to the Goliad, or La Bahia del Espiritu Santo. Of all those places the Texas revolution happened, La Bahia is the only one which still looks much like it did in 1836.
In the matter of retaking Texas, Santa Anna had detached General Don Jose Urrea, with a force of about a thousand soldiers to guard his eastern flank and to mop up the Anglo-Texan resistance along the coastal plains. Colonel James Fannin with 500 men - the largest portion of what military the Texian rebels possessed - were at Goliad, which commanded the strategic route from the coastal port at Copano. Meanwhile, spurred by the knowledge that they must either fight or go under, a convention of Texian settlers at Washington-on-the-Brazos declared independence on March 2. In double quick-time, they had drafted a constitution, elected an interim government, and commissioned Sam Houston as commander of what army was left. Houston went to rally the settlers' militia at Gonzales, intending to relieve the Alamo; on the day of his arrival news came that the Alamo had fallen.
Houston sent a message to Fannin, ordering him to fall back towards the east, but Fannin had sent out a small force to protect Anglo-Texan settlers nearby, and refused to leave until he heard from them. When he did finally move out, Urrea's column had already made contact. Fannin and his force were caught in the open a little short of Coleto Creek. They fought in a classic hollow square, three ranks deep for a day and a night, tormented by lack of water. Finally, Urrea brought up field guns, and raked the square with grapeshot. Fannin surrendered, believing that he did so under honorable terms.
The survivors were brought back to Goliad and held for a week. They all assumed they would be disarmed, paroled and sent back to the United States. Urreas' officers had assumed the same, and were appalled when Santa Anna ordered that the prisoners be executed. Urrea had asked for leniency and the commander left in charge of Goliad was personally horrified, but the orders were obeyed. On Palm Sunday, 1863, those of Fannin's garrison able to walk - about three hundred of them - were divided into three groups, and marched out of town in three different directions, before being shot down by their guards.
Forty wounded were dragged into the courtyard in front of the chapel doors and executed as they lay on the ground. Fannin himself was shot last of all, knowing what had happened to his men. Many bodies were dumped into a trench and burnt, although most were left where they lay. A handful of Texians survived by escaping into the brush during all the confusion, and another handful were kept out of the fatal march - concealed by sympathetic Mexican officers or rescued by Francita Alavez, the Angel of Goliad.
There will be a reenactor's encampment within the walls of the presidio this weekend, March 26 and 27, 2011 and a number of scheduled events, in addition to a memorial service on Sunday. More is at the linked website.
Presidio La Bahía is located one mile south of Goliad, Texas on U.S. Highway 183 (77A). Presidio La Bahia was established at this location in 1749, with Mission Espíritu Santo
26th ANNUAL GOLIAD MASSACRE LIVING HISTORY PROGRAM
SCHEDULE FOR THE EVENT - 2011
SATURDAY, March 26th
9:00 GATES OPEN
10:00 1ST SKIRMISH
10:30 LIVING HISTORY AT CAMPSITES
10:30 CAVALRY PRESENTATION AT AMPHITHEATER
11:00 LECTURE IN CHAPEL
12:00 SHOWING OF VIDEO "PRESIDIO LA BAHIA AND ITS PLACE IN THE
HISTORY OF TEXAS" IN CHAPEL
12:30 Concert by K.R. Wood and the Gone to Texas Band in chapel.
1:30 2ND SKIRMISH
2:00 LIVING HISTORY AT CAMPSITES
2:15 LECTURE IN CHAPEL
3:00 BATTLE OF COLETO CREEK
3:30 LIVING HISTORY AT CAMPSITES
5:00 GATES CLOSE
7:00-9:00 CANDLELIGHT TOUR - ENTER AT SOUTH GATE
SUNDAY, March 27th
9:00 GATES OPEN
9:30 ISAAC HAMILTON - A PRISONER BY DENNIS REIDESEL
10:00 DEATH MARCH FROM CHAPEL TO ACTUAL MASSACRE SITE
Followed by ISAAC HAMILTON - A SURVIVOR BY DENNIS REIDESEL
Followed by EXECUTION OF FANNIN AND THE WOUNDED TEXIANS
Followed by MEMORIAL SERVICE STARTS IN CHAPEL FOLLOWED BY A
PROCESSION TO THE FANNIN MONUMENT FOR THE CONCLUSION
OF THE MEMORIAL SERVICE.