Updated on June 9, 2011
Goliad Massacre – Texas Revolution
For those who hate history, or specifically hate Texas history, read no further. For those who like myself see the benefit of remembering key moments in history, read on…
On Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, under direct orders from General Santa Anna, nearly 400 Texas prisoners were executed by the Mexican Army.
What was the significance of this atrocity? It was one more egregious act on the part of Santa Anna that included the massacre of the Alamo’s defenders, as well as several smaller incidents throughout the Texas War of Independence. Here is a brief summary of the events surrounding the execution.
Colonel James Fannin, commanding about 500 men at Goliad had been summoned to the Alamo’s defense. He at first attempted to make the journey, but soon gave up trying to move men and cannon to San Antonio. A series of engagements led to his small army’s surrender and they were imprisoned at Goliad. They had surrendered under the assumption they were to be treated as prisoners of war, possibly ransomed back to families in the United States.
Conflicting orders kept the commanding officer, Col. José Nicolás de la Portilla from taking initial action. But direct orders from Santa Anna arrived on March 26, telling Portilla to immediately execute all prisoners. This contradicted previous orders of fair treatment made by junior officers.
At 8 am, all able-bodied prisoners were marched out in three columns in different directions. The men all assumed they would be eventually released. They were told they were going to be put to work gathering wood or some other tasks. A few miles outside of town, the Mexicans aimed their weapons and fired at point blank range killing many men instantly. The survivors were stabbed with bayonets. The bodies were gathered in heaps and burned.
Once they realized their fate, many men took off in various directions but were lanced by calvary or otherwise hunted down. Approximately 28 men escaped to describe the events at Goliad. Another 20 were assisted by the, “Angel of Goliad”, a beautiful lady by the name of Francita Alavez, who was a Mexican who interceded on behalf of some physicians and orderlies held captive.
On April 21, under the rallying cry of, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!”, a small Texas force under General Sam Houston routed the Mexican Army. They later captured Santa Anna dressed as a common soldier. Many Texans wanted to hang Santa Anna for his crimes, but Houston decided to treat him with the dignity that he failed to show fellow Texans.
The Battle of San Jacinto secured independence for Texas and ended the conflict. Texas would remain an independent country for several years before joining the United States.
The bodies of those executed at Goliad were gathered and buried with military honors on June 3, 1836. Many of the survivors attended the ceremonies.
The common grave remained unmarked until about 1858, when a Goliad merchant, George von Dohlen, placed a pile of rocks on what was believed to be the site. In April 1885 a memorial was finally erected, in the city of Goliad rather than on the site, by the Fannin Monument Association, formed by William L. Hunter, a massacre survivor. A massive pink granite monument was dedicated on June 4, 1938 and still stands today.
We owe are freedom to people like these. Men and women who are willing to stand against tyrants and possibly pay the ultimate price should never be forgotten.
Originally published March 27, 2007.