Friday, March 27, 2015

The Goliad Massacre

Everybody remembers “The Alamo”, a decisive battle in the war for Texas Independence where a small number of defenders died to the last man rather than surrender. It has been the stuff of legends, inspiring stories, books and movies. 

But, what about "Goliad"? Have you ever even heard the name? Most people haven’t, and yet it was a massacre --every bit as terrible as the Alamo, and it took place only a few miles away, at about the same time. I have always been a little disappointed that the men who fought and died at Goliad never really got the attention or credit they should have. That is why I have decided to put this in my blog. It’s my way of spreading the word just a little bit. They deserve it. We need to know not only that they died for our freedom just as bravely as those valiant defenders of the Alamo -but also, and just as importantly, how they died. They made the mistake of trusting the word of tyrants and liars. They were promised food, medical attention and descent treatment. They received bullets and bayonets.

In 1826 Mexico had won it’s independence from Spain, but they had a problem. They were land rich but revenue poor. The area of Texas was practically uninhabited by anyone except various tribes of Native Americans (Kiowa, Cherokee, Apache, Comanche, among others). In order to settle the land and create a revenue flow from ranching and agriculture the Mexican government advertised in the United States and Europe offering free land and citizenship to anyone hoping for a new start. They put guarantees into their constitution for a representative government and the only real condition was a willingness to convert to the Mexican national religion, Catholicism (although there was no requirement to attend Catholic Churches or practice Catholic ceremonies) and to defend the new settlements against the Indians.

This strategy was very successful and by 1836 Texas had grown into a thriving and productive province.

Trouble s
tarted when a General named Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna became dictator of Mexico and threw out the constitution. He refused the new population in Texas any representation or say in their government. He began seizing choice parcels of land for himself and to give to political supporters. He stopped the immigration policies and refused to recognize many of the land grants given to American settlers. He then instituted new and heavy taxes. The Texans sent delegations to Mexico City appealing the treatment and seeking a return to the original guarantees, outlined in the constitution they had sworn allegiance too. They were ignored and some were even imprisoned. The Texans revolted and seized many of the new settlements they had so recently created. This set in motion the events that lead to the battles at the Alamo and at Goliad.

As part of the Mexican invasion of Texas in early 1836 to punish the rebels, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and his main force of at least 5000 men followed an inland route toward San Antonio and the Alamo. At the same time, Mexican General Jose Urrea with some 900 troops, left Matamoros and followed the coastal route into Texas.

Urrea came ac
ross several small groups of Texans and easily defeated them. Citizens of Refugio, a town in Urrea's path, were slow to evacuate. To provide assistance, James W. Fannin, commander of forces at Goliad, sent two relief forces. The first of these groups numbered about 30 men under Aaron King, followed by a larger group of some 150 men under William Ward. Both of these groups were killed or captured by the Mexicans and the captured prisoners were executed.
Meanwhile back in Goliad, Fannin and his remaining force of about 350 were called on to aid William Barrett Travis and the Alamo defenders. At about the same time, he also received orders from Sam Houston to retreat back to Victoria. Due to indecision and carelessness, he failed to accomplish either of these missions.

After a delay of about five days following receipt of Houston's order, Fannin finally began his retreat. It was not long, however, before the Texans found themselves surrounded on an open plain. Urrea and the Mexican force attacked several times and was repulsed each time by the deadly fire of the Texans. By dusk, the Texans had lost about sixty men killed or wounded against some 200 of the Mexicans. Still heavily outnumbered and with no water and running out of ammunition, the Texans agreed to a truce the following morning. Urrea promised that they would be taken captive and eventually returned to their homes if the Texans surrendered. On the morning of March 20 they decided to accept the terms. The were escorted back to Goliad as prisoners.

When news of their capture reached Santa Anna, however, he was furious that the Texans had not been executed on the spot. Citing a law he had recently proclaimed that all foreigners taken under arms would be treated as pirates and executed, Santa Anna sent orders to execute the Goliad prisoners.

On Palm Sunday, the 27th of March, Santa Anna's orders were followed. The prisoners were divided into three groups, marched onto the open prairie, and shot. The wounded prisoners were bayoneted in their beds. All of Fannin's command except a few that managed to escape in a nearby river and several physicians deemed useful by the Mexicans, were massacred, collected into piles, and burned.

Three weeks later, the Texans sought their revenge. Inspired by cries of "Remember Goliad" as well as the now famous "Remember the Alamo", the outnumbered Texans won one of history's most decisive victories at the Battle of San Jacinto and Texas became the independent "Republic of Texas".

Today's Reflection:
Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people. -Thomas Jefferson

Live Long and Prosper...

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