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In 1836, the Mexican army was massing on the Texas border. It was a military force that had been preparing for war for years, earning it the nickname “The Iron Fist”. On June 26th, 1836, Major General Antonio López de Santa Anna, the commander of the Mexican army, issued his first ultimatum to the Texan president, Sam Houston. He ordered Houston to surrender or face invasion. Houston responded the next day with an ultimatum of his own, and the combined forces of the Texan army and the Texan navy responded with a force of more than 12,000.

Colonel William Barrett Travis became more concerned as the Mexican force expanded by hundreds, then thousands, day by day. He had been entrusted with defending the Alamo, an almost untenable sprawl of low structures and open land, with a force of less than 200 men. Travis, seeing the futility of his position, sent out a barrage of frantic letters asking for help. He sent some of them to Col. James Walker Fannin Jr., who was in charge of the garrison at Goliad, about 90 miles to the southeast.

Goliad was formerly known as La Baha, a Spanish mission town. Both names were popular at the time, but the latter was often mispronounced as “Labadie” by Anglo Texians. The presidio had been dubbed “Fort Defiance” by Fannin, but both the name and the garrison would be short-lived. “He wants to become famous without following the necessary procedures to achieve greatness,” one of his men wrote of the 32-year-old former Georgia slave dealer and West Point dropout.

By the middle of February 1836, Fannin had assumed command at Goliad. The garrison quickly expanded to over 400 regulars and volunteers. The colonel left on the 26th with 320 soldiers and four guns to relieve the Alamo. He didn’t make it more than a mile before concluding he wasn’t well-equipped. It would be his last chance.

“As soon as [the Alamo] falls, we would be encircled by 6,000 hellish Mexicans,” Fannin reasoned, so he decided to garrison Goliad. Following the fall of the Alamo on March 6, the colonel got news that a strong Mexican army led by Gen. José de Urrea was on its way. Fannin was ordered to retreat to Victoria immediately by Texas Army commander Sam Houston, but the indecisive colonel remained stuck in place.

After his repeated appeals for assistance went unanswered, Fannin marched his troops out of Goliad on March 19. The Mexican army apprehended them on an open plain within hours. Fannin surrendered the following morning after a brief, tense battle. Urrea delivered the prisoners to Goliad, where Fannin negotiated a fair deal.

The Bloodiest Massacre of the Texan Revolution The Fannin Memorial Monument is located near the Presidio La Baha’s Our Lady of Loreto Chapel. Image Credit: Alamy

It was a false optimism, since Mexican ruler Antonio López de Santa Anna had ordered the death of all such “pirates” who had rebelled against him only months before. When Urrea requested mercy for his captives in a letter to Santa Anna, the general was reprimanded and ordered his deputy, Lt. Col. José Nicolás de la Portilla, to carry out his instructions.

Nearly 100 Texans were spared by Portilla, including craftsmen, interpreters, and physicians who might be helpful to his troops, as well as dozens of freshly arriving volunteers who had been caught earlier. On Palm Sunday, March 27, Mexican infantrymen and lancers organized three columns of 300 prisoners and marched them out of Goliad, purportedly to the seashore and freedom.

However, within a mile of the objective, each column’s guards lined up their wards and shot them at point-blank range. Any captives who continued to move were bayoneted or impaled on the lances of the cavalry. Twenty-eight Texans were able to flee into the bush beside the highway. The Mexicans went back to Goliad and slaughtered all 39 injured soldiers, including the garrison commander.

Fannin was one of the last to pass away. According to a Texian witness who was spared because of his language skills, Fannin gave the firing squad officer coins and his gold watch in exchange for a promise that the watch would be returned to his family, that he would be shot in the heart rather than the face, and that his remains would be buried in a Christian cemetery. The officer made his pledge, then pocketed the watch and ordered his troops to kill the colonel in the face and throw his corpse into a ditch on top of his men’s bodies.

The corpses were subsequently piled on layers of cordwood and lit afire, much as they did at the Alamo. However, the corpses were only partly burnt, and they spent the following two months exposed to the weather and carrion animals. Their remains were eventually interred in a single unmarked grave with honors.

Goliad lacked two characteristics that would have allowed it to claim the Alamo’s legendary status. The “holy triumvirate” of Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie was one of them. The other was the fact that the Alamo defenders perished in battle while Goliad’s men were executed.

Nonetheless, the Palm Sunday murder was the worst atrocity of the Texas Revolution, and the sacrifice of the victims inspired retribution. When Houston and his Texans eventually defeated Santa Anna’s troops at San Jacinto, they cried out, “Remember the Alamo!” Labadie! Goliad!”

The Fannin Memorial Monument, on the location of the mass grave near the Presidio La Baha, commemorates the battle and slaughter. MH

Military History magazine published this piece in their July 2022 edition. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for additional updates:

The Bloodiest Massacre of the Texan Revolution

During the Mexican-American War, the Battle of San Jacinto was one of the bloodiest massacres in modern American history. There are several accounts of the battle, but the most well-known one describes Col. James W. Fannin, American commander, rushing the Mexican Army in Caney Creek near the San Jacinto River, Texas with a few hundred men, but they were completely outmatched. The Mexicans had over 1,000 men and were much better equipped. Fannin had no chance of surviving the battle.. Read more about what was the name of the incident that happened at the goliad presidio? and let us know what you think.

Q: Who are the members of the Council of"}},{"@type":"Question","name":"How did the Goliad Massacre change the Texas Revolution?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":" The Goliad Massacre was a pivotal moment in the Texas Revolution, led by the Mexican Army. In this massacre, they took the lives of 189 Texian fighters and their families, including their leader Colonel James Fannin. This, in turn, caused the Texian Army to go on the offensive"}},{"@type":"Question","name":"How many died in the Texas Revolution?","acceptedAnswer":{"@type":"Answer","text":" The Texas Revolution started when a small band of men fought for Texas independence from Mexican rule. In this conflict, they were victorious. During the revolution, the number of soldiers killed were estimated to be 100, while the number of civilians killed were 188.

Q: Who killed Jim Bowie?

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Frequently Asked Questions

How did Colonel Fannin die?

Colonel James Walker Fannin (June 14, 1803 – March 27, 1836) was a Texan who was killed during the Goliad massacre. He was executed for defending Texans during the time of the Runaway Scrape. Q: Who are the members of the Council of

How did the Goliad Massacre change the Texas Revolution?

The Goliad Massacre was a pivotal moment in the Texas Revolution, led by the Mexican Army. In this massacre, they took the lives of 189 Texian fighters and their families, including their leader Colonel James Fannin. This, in turn, caused the Texian Army to go on the offensive

How many died in the Texas Revolution?

The Texas Revolution started when a small band of men fought for Texas independence from Mexican rule. In this conflict, they were victorious. During the revolution, the number of soldiers killed were estimated to be 100, while the number of civilians killed were 188. Q: Who killed Jim Bowie?

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • who won the battle of goliad
  • texas revolution
  • goliad massacre
  • texas independence
  • goliad battle
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