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Presidio La Bahia (Fort Defiance) in 1836. Click here to view larger image.
Presidio La Bahia "Fort Defiance" in 1836
Reenactors portray Col. José Nicolás de la Portilla, the commander at Goliad, agonizes over orders to carry out the congressional decree of December 30, 1835, that captured armed rebels must be executed as pirates.  Click here to view larger image.
Col. Portilla, agonizes over orders from Santa Anna
Reenactors march out of Presidio La Bahia, prior to the massacare.  Click here to view larger image.
Reenactors march out of Presidio La Bahia, prior to the massacre.
The Angel of Goliad saving the life of 15 year old, Benjamin Franklin Hughes, minutes before the Goliad Massacre, during the reenactment.  Click here to view larger image.
The Angel of Goliad saving the life of Benjamin Franklin Hughes
Locations in and around Presidio La Bahia. Click here to view larger image.
Locations in and around Presidio La Bahia today
Approximate Locations Of The Goliad Massacre. Click here to view larger image.
Approximate Locations Of Massacre Sites

Goliad Massacre Information
Letters Home Official Letters Fannin's Execution
Survivor Accounts
Lewis Washington Diverse Accounts
Above links to Sons of Dewitt Colony web site

Additional Information
Military Rolls of the Republic of Texas 1835 - 1845
Web site by: H. David Maxey
Fannin And His Men
By: Harbert Davenport, 1936

The Goliad Massacre
By: Handbook Of Texas Online

The Goliad Massacre

Around 6:00 a.m. on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, after being held captive for one week, Fannin's men were told to gather up their things. They thought that they were going to the Port of Copano and then on to New Orleans. They were happy and singing. They knew that Colonel Fannin had returned from the Port of Copano the previous day. What they didn't know was that at 7:00 p.m. the pervious evening, Colonel Portilla had received word directly from General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to execute the men. About an hour after Portilla received the execution order from Santa Anna, he received another order from General Urrea to "Treat the prisoners with consideration, particularly their leader, Fannin, and to employ them in rebuilding Goliad."

It was a foggy morning at sunrise. The able bodied men were formed into three groups, and under very heavy guard taken out of the fort. The Mexican troops were lined up on each side of the line of prisoners. One group was taken out on the San Antonio road, another on the Victoria road, and the other on the Copano road. The prisoners had little suspicion of their fate, because each group had been given a different story as to where they were going. One group was told that they were going to gather wood, another to drive up cattle, and the other group was told that they were going to the port of Copano. At selected spots on each of the three roads from one half to three-fourths of a mile from the fort, the groups were halted. After they halted, the guards on one side stepped through the ranks so that all the guards were on one side, they turned and fired at very close range. Those men that where not killed ran and were pursued by the cavalry.

The soldiers then returned to the fort and executed the wounded that were in the chapel. The wounded were taken out and laid in front of the chapel doors. There were about forty of them. They were then shot as they laid on the ground. Colonel Fannin was saved until last. (Note: Fannin's room was in the south extension of the chapel. The room was separated from the main chapel by a wall. A door from the room opened into the Quadrangle. Fannin's room is now known as the Flag Room. Today, the doorway has been sealed, but you can see the outline of the doorway.) Fannin was taken outside the chapel, blind folded and seated in a chair next to a trench by the watergate. He made three requests, not to be shot in the face, his personal possessions be sent to his family, and that he be given a Christian burial. He was shot in the face, an officer took his personal possessions, and his body was burned along with many of the other bodies. Not all bodies were burned, some were left where they died. There were 342 men who died in the Goliad Massacre, which is almost twice the number of men who died at the Alamo and San Jacinto combined. Twenty-eight men did escape from the three massacre sites and seventeen men's lives were spared. It is from the accounts of the men who escaped and were spared that we know what happened at Presidio La Bahia. Francita Alavez, the Angel of Goliad and the wife of General Urrea saved the lives of a number of the men.

Massacre Locations

(Above) Massacre locations overlaid on plat of the townsite of La Bahia filed in 1857 by Doctor Barnard. Today, the actual locations of the massacre are located on private property.

After the massacre, a shallow trench was dug, most of the bodies were gathered and burned. Other bodies were left where they fell in the fields near the fort.



After The Massacre

The clothes of those massacred were stripped off the dead bodies. The women took the clothes to the river and washed out the blood of the men killed, so they could be used by the Mexicans. Eye witness accounts of those spared from the massacre were filling up a water barrel as they watched the river turn red with the blood of their companions.

The bodies would be exposed to the elements and wild animals for over two months. Abel Morgan, one of the few men spared to care for the wounded Mexican soldiers wrote in his account of the massacre: "...Shirlock and I went down to the river after water and Shirlock observed me 'old man, they are going to make a clean turn of us in the morning.' About that time I felt as if it would not make much difference with me; for we were kept at work day and night and if we could have had time to sleep, who could have slept while there were hundreds of wolves and dogs eating the remains of our fellow soldiers, in our hearing?...

Note: Those that were spared from the massacre were given white arm bands to wear and were allowed to walk about freely. If they lost the arm band, they would be shot immediately, as the Mexican troops were still looking for those that had escaped the massacre and for any Texian troops that might be in the area.

During the massacre, Abel Morgan and several other men to be spared were placed in the Calaboose (Calaboose meaning "Jail". It is located next to the main gate). They heard the gun fire of the men being killed. Although, they did not actually witness the massacre. Later in the day, one of the Mexican officers and some of his men came inside the calaboose to eat. As they sat across from each other, a young Mexican boy offered his bowl of soup to the men. Reluctantly, they each took a few sips of soup.

The massacre impacted the Mexican troops in different ways. Some were elated and threatened to kill those that were spared. Others, like the Mexican officer sitting in the Calaboose with Abel Morgan broke down crying. 

After the battle of San Jacinto, a rumor circulated that General Santa Anna had been rescued from Sam Houston's army, and that Houston had surrendered. This rumor set the troops in the presidio into a celebration. One of the celebratory actions was to shoot at the chapel bells, and this went on for the entire day. Today, you can view one of the bells that was cracked from a gun shot. 

By the time it was realized that General Santa Anna had indeed surrendered, the troops in the presidio gathered up what few remains they could find of the men. At this time, almost month had passed and they tried to burn the remains again. The troops then abandoned the presidio and headed south. 

Formal Burial Of Fannin And His Men

More than two months after the March 27th massacre, Texas General Thomas J. Rusk, who established his headquarters at Victoria, was escorting second in command of the Mexican army, General Vicente Filisola and the remainder of the retreating Mexican army around Goliad. General Filisola came by Goliad, but did not dare enter it, as he feared the tempers of the very few remaining men there. This was about June 3rd, 1836.

In Goliad (the area around Presidio La Bahia), the ghastly remains of the massacred men of Fannin's Command were found in the partially covered trenches where they had been dumped and burned. Some bones, gnawed by coyotes and dogs were on top of the ground. General Rusk immediately gave orders for a formal military burial of the bones. Rusk issued the following order for the military funeral:

ARMY ORDER: June 3, 1836 A general parade of the army will take place tomorrow morning half past 3 O'clock A.M., The funeral is ordered at 9 O'clock A.M. Sherman will take command and conduct the procession in the following order: First Artillery, 2nd. Music, 3rd Maj. Morehou's Command, 4th 6 company officers---6 company officers, 5 Mourners. Those of Fannin's command who were in the army and who have so miraculously escaped will attend as mourners, 6. commander in Chief & Staff, 7. Medical Staff, 8. 2nd Regt. comd. by Major Wells, 9. 1st Regnt. Comd. by Lieut. Col. Summerville, 10. Regulars Comd. by Lieut Col. Millard, Major Poe will order a minute gun fired from the fort, commencing with the time the procession moves until it arrives at the grave. Major Morehouses' Command will fire 3 rounds of Blank Cartridges at the grave. Signed Thos J. Rusk Brigr. Gn Com. On reaching the grave General Rusk delivered a short, but feeling and eloquent address.

"FELLOW SOLDIERS: In the order of Providence we are this day called upon to pay the last sad offices of respect to the remains of the noble and heroic band, who, battling for our sacred rights, have fallen beneath the ruthless hand of a tyrant. Their chivalrous conduct entitles them to the heartfelt gratitude of the people of Texas. Without any further interest in the country than that which all noble hearts feel at the bare mention of liberty, they rallied to our standard. Relinquishing the ease, peace, and comforts of their homes, leaving behind them all they held dear, their mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives, they subjected themselves to fatigue and privation, and nobly threw themselves between the people of Texas and the legions of Santa Anna. There, unaided by re-enforcement's and far from help and hope, they battled bravely with the minions of a tyrant, ten to one. Surrounded in the open prairie by this fearful odds, cut off from provisions and even water, they were induced, under the sacred promise of receiving the treatment usual to prisoners of war, to surrender. They were marched back, and for a week treated with the utmost inhumanity and barbarity. They were marched out of yonder fort under the pretense of getting provisions, and it was not until the firing of musketry did the shrieks of the dying, that they were satisfied of their approaching fate. Some endeavored to make their escape, but they were pursued by the ruthless cavalry and most of them cut down with their swords. A small number of them stand by the grave-a bare remnant of that noble band. Our tribute of respect is due to them; it is due to the mothers, sisters, and wives who weep their untimely end, that we should mingle our tears with theirs. In that mass of remains and fragments of bones, many a mother might see her son, many a sister her brother, and many a wife her own beloved and affectionate husband. But we have a consolation- yet to offer them: their murderers sank in death on the prairies of San Jacinto, under the appalling words, "Remember La Bahia." Many a tender and affectionate woman will remember, with tearful eye, "La Bahia." But we have another consolation to offer. It is, that while liberty has a habitation and a name, their chivalrous deeds will be handed down upon the bright pages of history. We can still offer another consolation: Santa Anna, the mock hero, the black-hearted murderer, is within our grasp. Yea, and there he must remain, tortured with the keen pain of corroding conscience. He must oft remember La Bahia, and while the names of those whom he murdered shall soar to the highest pinnacle of fame, his shall sink down into the lowest depths of infamy and disgrace.


Grave Site Almost Lost

Doctor Barnard Files A Plat Of The Townsite Of La Bahia In 1857:

A plat of the townsite of La Bahia was made and filed in Goliad County in 1857, from data furnished by Dr. Barnard. The plat located land owner's property boundaries, the "Old Fort" (Presidio La Bahia), and the location of the burial site of "Fannin's Men". Dr. Barnard is believed to have had first hand information as to the actual site of the burial, as he was one of the doctors spared at the Goliad massacre. He and the other medical personal spared from the massacre were sent to San Antonio to care for Santa Anna's wounded troops. The filing of the plat of the townsite of La Bahia would become critical seventy five years later. 

George Von Dohlen Marks The Grave Site Of Fannin's Men In 1858:

After the massacre on March 27, 1836 the bodies were burned, the remains left exposed to weather, vultures, and coyotes, until June 3, 1836, when Gen. Thomas J. Rusk, who had established his headquarters at Victoria after San Jacinto and was passing through Goliad in pursuit of Gen. Vicente Filisola's retreating army, gathered the remains and buried them with military honors. Some of the survivors of the massacre attended the ceremony.

The common grave (trench) 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. For many years this place remained unmarked and unprotected, until the very location was almost forgotten - almost, but not quite. 1

Two Acres Purchased In 1928:

In 1928, Judge J. A. White, Mr. W. E. Fowler, and Goliad Mayor Joseph Wearden, believing the story of rocks placed by George Von Dohlen in 1858, bought for the County of Goliad two acres of land from Manuel Cabrera, a descendant of early La Bahia natives. 

Fannin's Grave Located And Verified In 1930:

In 1930 some Goliad Goliad Boy Scouts found charred bone fragments that had been unearthed over the years by animals. The Boy Scouts reported the find to their families. This find created interest with some citizens of Goliad.

Goliad Citizens Visit Fannin's Men Grave Site In 1932:

On New Year's Day, 1932, Goliad citizens succeeded in attracting an investigation of the site by University of Texas anthropologist J. E. Pearce. The citizens found fragments of charred bones and teeth which a dentist, a member of the group, pronounced as undoubtedly human remains. This aroused interest in suitably marking the grave site. The authenticity of the gravesite was further verified by historians Clarence R. Wharton and Harbert Davenport. The plat of the Townsite Of La Bahia, filed by Dr. Barnard in 1857 was used as part of the verification of the site.

Monument Dedicated In 1938:

In 1936, in celebration of the Texas Centennial, money was appropriated to build a massive pink granite monument, dedicated on June 4, 1938. Harbert Davenport presented the address, which was published as "The Men of Goliad" in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly (1939).

The names of all of the men massacred is engraved on the monument face.

Monument and grave site of Fannin's men



1  Presidio La Bahia, by Katheryn Stoner O'Connor
2  The Sons of Dewitt Colony web site.

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