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Friday, April 18, 2014

‘Remember Goliad!’

Presidio la Bahía today. In 1836,
the Texians who died there called it Fort Defiance.
By Kathleen Rice Adams

Though the most infamous by far, the Alamo wasn’t the only massacre during the Texas Revolution.

On March 19 and 20, 1836, two weeks after the Alamo fell, Col. James Fannin and a garrison of about 300 Texians engaged a Mexican force more than three times as large on the banks of Coleto Creek outside Goliad, Texas. Without food or water and running low on ammunition, unwilling to flee and leave the roughly one-third of of their comrades who were wounded or dead, Fannin and his troops surrendered.

Led to believe they were prisoners of war and would be allowed to return to their homes within a couple of weeks, the Texians were marched back to Goliad, where they were imprisoned in their former fortress, Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía, which they had christened Fort Defiance. Unbeknownst to the Texians, on December 30 of the previous year, the Mexican congress had decreed any armed insurgents who were captured were to be executed as pirates.

Diagram of Fort Defiance by Joseph M. Chadwick,
March 1836. Tents mark the location where various
companies camped. Chadwick was among those
executed. The U.S. federal government reprinted
the map in 1856 with the locations of Fannin’s
and Chadwick’s executions marked.
On Palm Sunday, March 27, acting on orders from Mexican President Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Col. José Nicolás de la Portilla separated into three columns the 303 Texians who were well enough to walk. Sandwiched between two rows of Mexican soldiers, the men were marched out of Fort Defiance along three roads. There, they were shot point-blank. Any who survived the fusillade were clubbed or stabbed to death. Twenty-eight feigned death and escaped.

Inside the fort, the 67 who were wounded too badly to march, including Fannin, were executed by firing squad.

Fannin, 32, was the last to die, after watching the executions of the men who served under him. As the commandant of the garrison, he was allowed a last request. He asked three things: that his possessions be given to his family; that he be shot in the heart, not the head; and that he be given a Christian burial.

The soldiers took his possessions, shot him in the face, and burned his body along with the bodies of the other 341 executed prisoners.

The Goliad massacre further galvanized the Texians. Three weeks later, on April 21 — shouting the battle cry “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” — the ragtag Texian army, under the command of Gen. Sam Houston, captured Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. Disorganized, demoralized, and leaderless, the Mexican army retreated.

Presidio la Bahía chapel, date unknown.
Fannin was executed in the courtyard.
Urged to execute Santa Anna as revenge for the depredations at the Alamo and Goliad, Houston decided to let el presidente live. On May 14, Santa Anna ceded Texas to the Texians in the Treaties of Velasco.

Though Goliad was one of the seminal events of the Texas Revolution, more than 100 years would pass before the State of Texas erected a monument to the men who died. In 1936, as part of the Texas Centennial celebration, the state earmarked funds for a memorial. The monument was built over the mass grave of Fannin and his men, and dedicated in 1938. The pink granite marker, inscribed with the names of the executed Texians and their comrades who died during the Battle of Coleto, bears the sculpted image of the Goddess of Liberty lifting a fallen soldier in chains.

Though “Remember the Alamo!” is famous around the world, those with the blood of Texas in their veins still recite, with reverence, the whole battle cry: “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!”

This Monument marks the common grave where the charred remains
of the 342 Texians massacred at Goliad are buried


  1. I was aware of Goliad, but not the monument. A fitting monument for those who perished fighting for what they believed was right and just. May we never forget what those who came before did so that we can live the life we now have. Thank you for the nudge for we sometimes forget what happened, and those nudges are needed.

    Great post Kathleen! Doris

    1. Thanks, Doris! The history nerd in me enjoys writing posts like this, even though I can't say I "enjoy" these sad episodes in history. But you're right: May we never forget.

      As long as you keep writing about women in history, we'll never forget them, either! Remembering the past is the only way we'll forge a better path in the future. :-)

  2. I didn't know about the monument, either. I would love to see it, and I'm glad you told us what the image was--that is such a lovely, fitting tribute. There were some awfully brave men who fought those battes, and many of them came from places other than Texas--I wonder what must have been going through all of their must be the true measure of a man to stand up and look death right in the eye like that. Great post, Kathleen.

    1. You know, I often wonder about those same things. The Alamo defenders were pretty certain about the fate that awaited them. What made Goliad so tragic is that the men surrendered under the assumption they'd be treated humanely. Obviously, they were mistaken. The Goliad massacre soured U.S. diplomatic relations with Mexico and contributed to the Mexican-American War that took place about 10 years later.

      Yes, men of all faiths from all over the United States went to Texas's aid after the Alamo. While the federal government stayed out of the Texas Revolution, rank-and-file citizens didn't. Bless them all. :-)

  3. Kathleen, one thing for sure, Texan's have long memories and we don't give up. I never tire of hearing about the heroism of so many men in their efforts to be free. I've never seen this memorial. Next time I'm in the area you can bet it'll be on my list. Gotta see it!! Excellent post.

    1. Linda, the memorial is awe-inspiring. Like Cheryl said, the carving that tops it is just perfect. I think this ought to be another stop on the pilgrimage every Texan needs to make at least once in a lifetime. :-)

      As for Texans having long memories and not giving up? You betcha! :-D

  4. A very wrenching story. Thanks for bringing it to our awareness, Kathleen.

    1. You're welcome, Kristy. Texas history is one of my many passions -- much as Arizona history is one of yours. I always enjoy your posts about Arizona, which is my second-favorite state. If I didn't live here, I'd live there. :-)

  5. Wow Kathleen, I had never heard of this. The Alamo definitely, but never Goliad. Thanks for this post, even though it made me feel so sad. How awful for those brave men to think they would be treated well, It's impossible to imagine how they must have felt. It makes the heart ache for them.
    By the way, why do you say Texians, rather than Texans?

    1. Aha! Thanks for backing up my point about "Remember the Alamo!" being known worldwide, Ms. English Rose. ;-)

      "Texian" is the word the Anglo-American Texas settlers applied to themselves, along with "Texican" and "Texonian." Texian seems to be the one that stuck. (Today one occasionally hears Texans of Mexican descent called Texicans, though they prefer the term Tejano).

      People who write about Texas history and some Texans whose family histories stretch back to the Revolution still use the word Texian (with the stubborn pride one would expect of a Texas native ;-) ), but almost everyone else dropped the "I" during the latter half of the 19th Century. By the time of the Civil War, "Texan" was the more common word. (Robert E. Lee referred to Hood's Texas Brigade -- often called "the shock troops of the Army of Northern Virginia" because they were tough and tenacious -- as "my Texans.")

    2. Maybe I'll write about Hood's Texas Brigade in a future post. That was another sad chapter in Texas history. Of the more than 5,000 men (and a couple of sneaky women) who served in the brigade at its height, only 617 survived the war. Even though no significant battles took place in Texas, the War of Northern Aggression decimated the state's male population. :-(

  6. When I read about battles such as the Alamo, Goliad, Masada, Thermoplyae, the French Foreign Legion at the Battle of Camarón (We May Die, but Never Will Surrender), to name a few, I'm always humbled and awed that the people who fought there willingly gave their lives for what they believed in. It truly is the stuff of legends.

  7. It is, Kaye, and very humbling. It's immensely sad to me that the ultimate way people can demonstrate their convictions is to die for them. Imagine what all those warriors could have accomplished had they live.

    Thanks for commenting. :-)