From Refugio by Hobart Huson
(Based on lectures entitled Colonel Fannin's Execution of General Houston's Orders to Evacuate Goliad, delivered at the battlefields in and around Goliad 4 Apr 1943 to the officers of the 21st Battalion, Texas Defense Guard. Huson's footnotes are indicated in brackets in the text with links to the full text source where available. Current editor's additions are noted with "WLM"; Q = The Southwestern Historical Quarterly)
In 1836 there was no town or community between those along the Rio Grande River and a line traced from Bexar to San Patricio, thence down the Nueces River to its source. In the intermediate area there was an occasional ranch or hacienda, but generally the country was wild and waterless and infested by Indians - "a trackless waste," as some Mexican officers describe it. The principal and practically the only port nearest the Nueces and the capital town of Bexar was the landing place known as El Copano at the head of Copano (or as it was then known Aranzazu) Bay.
Bexar, the modern San Antonio, has been favored by military men since the earliest times as a strategic military base, both for offensive and defensive operations. The site of La Bahia was selected in 1749 by General Jose de Escandon as one of the best military positions intermediate between Bexar and her nearest port, and, accordingly, a presidio was established here. The arc of Bexar, Goliad and Copano was considered from 1749 to 1846 as a military line of primary importance, and one to be taken or defended at all costs. The three points were often referred to as the "Keys to Texas," because those who held the three contemporaneously dominated or were in a position to dominate Texas. The primary importance of these points has now passed with the opening of the port of Corpus Christi and the creation of a network of rail and highway lines between San Antonio and the Rio Grande. However, there is no reason why the old arc of San Antonio, Goliad, and Copano might not again become an important military line, if the line pivoted on Corpus Christi should be broken by attack from the south.
The emphasis on the strategic importance of Goliad is made in fairness to Colonel Fannin, who had been ordered originally to hold Goliad at all costs and whose first order to the contrary was General Houston's order of March 12, 1836, which forms the basis for the discourse which follows. Fannin understood the military importance of Goliad and, therefore, was reluctant to abandon it. Although a military position may be strong and defensible under one certain condition, it may become vulnerable and a trap with a change of those conditions. Such was the case with Goliad. Prior to the Fall of the Alamo, the Texian army held all three of the Keys of Texas, and Goliad was an important and defensible position. With the fall of the Alamo, the right flank of the Gohad position became exposed. With the fall of Refugio-Copano, the left flank became exposed. With no relief to be hoped for, the logical expected result was the envelopment and isolation of Goliad, with its consequent siege and surrender.
General Sam Houston, from his headquarters at Gonzales, wrote on March 11, 1836, to Colonel Fannin, at Goliad, notifying him that he, Houston, had that afternoon received information "that the Alamo was attacked on Sunday morning (March 6) at the dawn of day, by about 2,300 men, and carried a short time before sunrise, with a loss of 521 Mexicans killed, and as many wounded," and gave some of the details as they had been given to him, including the information that Santa Anna was expecting a reinforcement of 1500 men. The commander-in-chief concluded, "I have little doubt but that the Alamo has fallen-whether the above particulars are all true may be questionable. You are therefore referred to the enclosed order." [Yoakum, History of Texas, 11, 471-472; Williams, Writings of Sam Houston, I, 362, 364]
The foregoing letter and order were written at Gonzales between the afternoon and the midnight of March 11, and were entrusted for delivery to Captain Francis J. Dusanque, a capable and reliable officer. Thirty hours was the time required for the transmission of this express (Goliad to Gonzales being by the usual route about 100 miles in distance). [Smith, J. W. Fannin, Jr., in the Texas Revolution, 23 Q 276]
That General Houston considered the order of transcendent importance is indicated by the fact that he committed its delivery to an officer of rank instead of an ordinary courier. Captain Dusanque delivered the message to Colonel Fannin, but the time of its delivery has been a matter of considerable dispute. Yoakum, Johnson, Bancroft, Davenport, and Wortham, on the authority of Captain Shackelford, who wrote from memory, give the date of delivery as the morning of the 14th, while Brown, Duval, Captain Holland, Dr. Barnard, Abel Morgan, Ehrenberg, and others state that Fannin received the order on the afternoon of the 13th, which would have been on schedule time.
[Yoakum II, 87; Shackelford's Account in Foote, Texas and the Texans, II, 229; Johnson, Texas and Texans, I, 428; Bancroft, North Mexican States and Texas, I, 226; Davenport's The Men of Goliad, 43, Q. 24; Wortham, History of Texas, III, 239; Field, Three Years in Texas has no comment; Brown, History of Texas, 1, 488; Duval, Early Times in Texas, 37; Holland, Account in Frankfort Commonwealth, June 1 1836, Huson, Reporting Texas, 25-33; Barnard, Journal, 13-14, also Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas 150; Morgan, Account of Battle of Coleto, MS; Bartholomae, Ehrenberg, 145-149; See also Kennedy, Texas, 565; William L. Hunter says Fannin received two dispatches, Lamar, V, 376]
Duval states that before Ward had been sent to Refugio it was rumored that the order to evacuate Goliad had been received and that "at any rate Colonel Fannin showed no disposition to obey the order, if he received it---on the contrary---he dispatched Major Ward with the Georgia Battalion . . . to King's assistance," and Abel Morgan states, "Fannin said he would take the liberty to disobey the order and risk a battle."
If Fannin did dispatch Ward and the Georgia Battalion to Refugio after receiving General Houston's order, then he was prima facie guilty of a gross military fault. However, we will give the brave and chivalrous Fannin the benefit of the doubt, for the purpose of our discussion, and assume that he did not receive the order until the morning of the 14th, and that General Houston or Captain Dusanque was responsible for delay in delivery within the time of the usual schedule.
The total enrolled or paper strength of Fannin's regiment on the morning of March 14, 1836, was about 502 officers and men, not ncluding the Refugio Militia, nor the individual scouts, spies, or unattached individuals who might have been at Goliad, such as Captain Dusanque. [Davenport's The Men of Goliad, 43 Q 28-38; Barnard, 14-15] So as to keep the record clear as to strength and organizations of the command, it might be stated that at the time the regiment was originally formed there was a small artillery company composed of Mexicans who had been in the Mexican regular service but had gone over to General Mexia, a revolutionist, at the Panuco, in Mexico, in November, 1835. When Mexia's expedition was defeated, the general kindly took these deserters back to Texas with him to save them from a firing squad. The company was commanded by Captain Luis Guerra. A few days before March 14th, Guerra had advised Fannin that his men did not want to fight against their, countrymen, but desired to leave the country and take no part in the war. Fannin generously agreed to their departure and Guerra and his men left Goliad, but went over to Urrea's army at San Patricio and were in the enemy ranks at the Battles of Refugio. [Davenport's The Men of Goliad, 43 Q 28-38; As to Guerra's death at Refugio, see Huson, Refugio, MS; Washington--WLM]
Santa Anna, who had determined that Mexico should not lose Texas, was indefatigable in his efforts to reconquer that apparently lost province. Mexico was bankrupt, and Santa Anna raised the necessary finances for the campaign upon his own personal credit despite internal discord, he succeeded in raising an army of about 8,000 men for the invasion and won over a number of his political opponents, among them General Jose Urrea, to whom he gave command of the Mexican army division with which we will have to do in this discourse.
With most of the army and its equipment, Santa Anna marched to Saltillo, where he was joined by General Urrea and a contingent of Durango troops (Urrea being then governor of Durango). Santa Anna laid the plans for his reconquest of Texas. Without discussing the various plans proposed, he adopted the following one; Urrea was to take a body of troops to Matamoros, at which he would find other troops; and there organize his own division. The mission assigned to him was to march overland up the coastal road via San Patricio, Refugio, and Goliad, with the object to gaining and holding these points and the port of El Copano, thereby cutting off the Texians at Bexar and Central Texas with communication and supplies by sea. These points he would convert into bases for the Mexican army as it proceeded farther into the heart of Texas. Having secured these strategic points, Urrea was then to continue his march eastward, via Victoria and Texana to Brazoria, for the same purpose of depriving the Texans of access to the sea and providing the Mexican armies with further bases deeper into the enemy territory.
The main army under Santa Anna was to move upon Bexar, which was to be used as the principal interior base of operations and from which the main army was to fan out, Gaona with one division proceeding eastward via Bastrop with Nacogdoches as his ultimate objective; while contemporaneously with Gaona and Urrea, Santa Anna moved eastward with a central column from which the outside columns could be reinforced in case of necessity. The movement of the three columns was to be kept coordinated until the Brazos had been reached. By that time reinforcements and additional supplies were expected through the new bases which Urrea was to open along the line of his march; and from the Brazos the three columns would strike out for the Sabine, with Galveston as the principal base and depot. The columns were to be supplied and reinforced from the sea as they advanced, first through El Copano, next through Velasco, and finally from Galveston Island. Arrangements were made for the new troops, and additional supplies to be at these ports on fixed schedule and timed to keep up with the moving columns.
Urrea arrived at Matamoros on February 1, 1836, the same day that Fannin landed at El Copano. He organized his division and crossed the Rio Grande into Texas on February 17 and headed for San Patricio. Santa Anna's main army crossed the Rio Grande in two sections on or about February 12, one section crossing at San Juan Bautista and the other at or below Laredo. The two sections converged before reaching Bexar. Santa Anna's main army marshalled about 6,500 officers and men and a tremendous baggage train. [For plans of Mexican armies, see Filisola's Memorias de la Guerra de Tejas; Valades, Santa Anna y la Guerra de Texas; Urrea, Diario; Garay, Diario; Castaneda Mexican Side of the Texas Revolution; Williams, A Study of the Siege of the Alamo, 37 Q 8-9, and authorities cited; Reyes, Historia de la Ejercito Mexicana] sdct
Urrea's division was composed of about 1,000 infantry and 500 cavalry when its organization was completed at Matamoros. In addition thereto a sufficient body of presidial troops or militia remained at Matamoros to protect that place. Urrea in his Diario states that he invaded Texas with only 350 troops and that the remainder of his division, which did not join him until March 7, consisted of only 200 men, so that his entire division had a strength of only 550 men (320 infantry from Yucatan and "other places" and 230 dragoons from Cuatla, Tampico, Durango and Guanajuato) and 1 piece of artillery, a 4-pounder. [Urrea, Diario, in Castaneda, Mexican Side 213, 217]
As the eminent and careful historian Bancroft points out the Mexicans consistently underestimated their strengths and losses, while the Texians on the other hand were prone to overestimate enemy strengths and losses, so that it is difficult to form a fair estimate of the true facts in such connections. It is the purpose of this discourse to be as fair and conservative as possible in presentation of facts and figures on both sides; otherwise this presentation would be of little value or aid in estimating military situations and tactical problems. El Mosquito Mexicano, of March 4, 1836, states the strength of Urrea's division at 1,000 infantry and 500 horse. Filisola, who was at dagger points with Urrea, gives his strength as only 601. Captain Bradford, of the Texian army, estimated Urrea's force at Refugio to have been 1,650. The lowest Texian estimate is about 1,000 and the average at about 1,150. Taking into consideration the nature of Urrea's mission, the forces which he knew he had to contend with which aggregated about 600 Texian soldiers, the distance he had to operate from his own supply depot at Matamoros, and the prospect of attacking his enemy behind fortified positions, one would think it reasonable to suppose he would not have embarked upon his expedition with a force inadequate to the undertaking. On the other hand the initiative was with Urrea as to whether he would attack or remain static. He was prior to March 12 in a position where he was not compelled to take offensive action and if called upon to defend against a superior force, could have obtained reinforcements from Bexar or have fallen back on that point. Such being the case, it was not imperative that he have an overwhelming superiority. It should not be unfair to him or any great departure from fact to place his strength for the purpose of this discourse at 1,150 regular troops. [Williams, Siege of the Alamo; Bradford, Frankfort Commonwealth, June 8, 1836; Huson, 34-35; Bancroft, North Mexican States and Texas, gives estimates in line with the instant writer's]
In addition to his regulares, Urrea, from the time of his capture of San Patricio, had the active and efficient assistance of two or more bands of mounted rancheros, indigenous to this area of the state. Practically every Texian account states that these ranchero squadrons were augmented by Karankawa Indians. One of these ranchero commands was under the able leadership of Captain Don Carlos de la Garza, of the Carlos Ranch on the San Antonio River. Another was commanded by Captain Don Guadalupe de to Santos, of the Goliad section. Still another was led by the Moyas from the Goliad vicinity. The aggregate strength of these invaluable guerrilla companies, not counting any Indians who might have operated with them, was at least 200; so that when Urrea reached Refugio his actual strength could hardly have been less than 1,350 men, when these rancheros were considered. [Huson, Refugio, MS, which lists all authorities and accounts]
There is no trustworthy account of the Mexican losses in the three fights in and around Refugio. Part of these losses was borne by the rancheros, both in the night surprise and in Ward's battle at the mission. Urrea admits losses in all these engagements of only 11 killed and 37 wounded, including 1 commissioned officer. The Texian accounts, on the other hand, are greatly exaggerated, the estimates running from 200 to 400 or 500. Captain Bradford states that "the Mexicans themselves admitted" a loss of 150 killed and 192 wounded. Sabina Brown states that when the Mexican dead had been piled up they were comparable to 70 cords of wood. The Yucatan battalion undoubtedly sustained exceptional losses, and 83 less are shown on their muster at Brazoria in May over their muster at Matamoros previously. However, for the purpose of this discourse, we will lean to the ultra-conservative and place the Mexican losses at Refugio at 100 dead and 50 wounded, not including the losses to the rancheros. [Urrea, Diario, Castaneda, 220; Garay, Diario, in Filisola's Memorial. Filisola's Memorias themselves; Bradford, Huson, Reporting Texas, 34-35. Sabina Brown, Account, MS, St. Edwards University; Bancroft, II, 223-224; Huson, Refugio, MS. for list of all authorities]
Based upon this estimate, Urrea on the morning of the 15th had 1,000 effective men, plus the rancheros. The latter did effective work during the 15th and 16th in scouring the prairies between Refugio and the San Antonio River and bringing in small groups of Texians, who had become lost, or had straggled away from their respective commands. This work Urrea seems to have intrusted solely to the rancheros, who knew the country like a book. As before stated, Captain de la Garza's rancheros found King and his men at the Malone Rancho at the head of Melon or Treviño Creek, north of Refugio, and brought them back to the mission, tied to a single rope. [Sabina Brown, Statement; Ayers, Account, 9 Q 272]
Many stragglers from King's and Ward's parties were also found and picked up during the next several days. Urrea made the following dispositions of his troops at Refugio. Shortly after his arrival on the 14th he sent a detachment to El Copano to take possession of and garrison that port. He now increased the force there to 60 of the Yucatan battalion, by sending additional soldiers there. He placed Colonel Rafael de la Vara in command of Refugio and Copano and left a small detachment at Refugio to guard the stores which he was leaving there and to attend the wounded. [Urrea, Diario, Castaneda, 221]
A hospital was established in the mission. Most of the Mexican dead were buried in trenches near the mission; some were thrown into the river. We may assume that all detachments, including the small one at San Patricio, aggregated about 100 men, thus leaving Urrea about 900 troops with which to deal with Fannin at Goliad. By arrangement with Santa Anna a reinforcement was due to meet Urrea near Goliad on or about the 17th. On the early morning of the 16th Urrea's army took up the line of march for Goliad, Urrea with 20 infantry and cavalry moving rapidly in advance of the rest of the army. The mounted rancheros rode in a screen ahead of Urrea and kept an eye out for both enemy activity and stragglers. Urrea camped the night of the 16th at the San Nicolas Ranch, near the lakes of that name. [Urrea, Diario, 222]
Santa Anna, having disposed of the garrison at the Alamo and the threat to the rear of his armies, dispatched Colonel Juan Morales with 3 cannon and the battalions or regiments of Jiminez and San Luis, to assist Urrea in his operations against Fannin. Urrea had previously instructed that Morales should when he arrived in the vicinity of La Bahia take up a position on the Manehuila Creek directly north of the fort. Urrea states that this reinforcement amounted to only 500 men. However, the muster rolls for April 24 showed 273 men in the Jimenez and 394 in the San Luis, so that these units were probably considerably larger than Urrea would have us believe. [Urrea, Diario, 222; See also Castaneda, 196. Bancroft, 11, 226-227] However, we will accept Urrea's low figure for the purpose of this discourse. Morales arrived near his objective on the 17th and took up his assigned position, which was about three miles north of La Bahia. [Urrea, Diario, 222; Bancroft, 11, 226-227] Urrea himself reached the San Antonio River early on the morning of the 17th and camped at the San Jose Ranch. Early on the morning of the 18th, Urrea broke camp, passed near Goliad, which he reconnoitered, and joined forces with Colonel Morales. [Urrea, Diario, Castaneda, 222] By this juncture Urrea's army was increased in strength to at least 1,400 men besides the mounted rancheros. [Bancroft, II, 227 (note) estimates Urrea's force after reinforcement at about 1,200] sdct
Having considered the strength and dispositions of the Mexican army, we will now consider the strength and dispositions of Colonel Fannin's command from the morning of the 14th. On the morning of March 14, out of a total paper strength of about 502 officers and men, there were absent from and unavailable at Goliad:
At Goliad and Elsewhere
Thereby there was left a total effective strength of 302 officers and men, distributed as follows: regimental and staff officers, 12; line officers, about 13; artillery officers, 4; and 274 enlisted men. In addition thereto was Captain Dusanque, who had brought General Houston's order and remained with Fannin to the end, and Captain Fraser with from 4 to 8 Refugio Militiamen. By the 16th Colonel Horton and about 31 horsemen arrived at Goliad to assist Fannin in the retreat. This number brought up Fannin's total strength at Goliad as of the 19th to about 333 officers and men, plus a number of unattached and supernumaries. [The computations given were compiled from Davenport's The Men of Goliad, 43 Q. 29-38; Bancroft, 11, 227, gives Fannin's total at 300; Shackelford, Foote, 11, 234, gives not exceeding 275, not counting Horton's cavalry; Abel Morgan frequently mentions 360 as being the strength of the remnant at Goliad, in his account, MS. Captain Holland, Huson, Reporting Texas, 27, says total was 250 effective men. Barnard, Journal, says 270 men besides Horton's, (p. 16), Urrea claims 400 men were surrendered with Fannin, Diario, Castaneda, 229. Field says not over 300 at Goliad, Field, Three Years in Texas, 31]
Upon receipt of General Houston's order, Colonel Fannin on the 14th issued the following orders:
1. To Lieutenant Colonel Ward, at Refugio, ordering him to fall back immediately to Goliad; or, should he be cut off by the enemy, to make good his retreat through the Guadalupe bottom and rejoin Fannin at Victoria.
2. To Captain Samuel A. White, at Victoria, ordering him to hasten carts and wagons to Goliad, for the purpose of facilitating the withdrawal; and also ordering him to buy a supply of ammunition to be sent up the Colorado for the army.
3. To Colonel Albert C. Horton, at Matagorda, ordering him and his cavalry to repair to Goliad as soon as possible to assist in the projected withdrawal. [Bancroft, North Mexican States 11, 22; Holland, Account, in Frankfort Commonwealth, June 1, 1836; Huson, Reporting Texas, 25. (Holland will be hereafter cited in Huson, Reporting Texas)]
All of these orders were intercepted by the Mexicans and delivered to General Urrea. [Bancroft, II, 226] The order to Ward was opened and read by Colonel Garay, at Refugio, who then permitted Perry, the courier, to deliver it to Colonel Ward in the mission. [Garay, Diario, in Filisola's Memorias II, 410-414. Confirmed by all Texian accounts]
Captain White never received the message directed to him and withdrew from Victoria on the 19th. Although Colonel Horton never received his orders, he nevertheless arrived at Goliad with 27 to 31 horsemen, on the 16th. [Bancroft, II, 226; Davenport's The Men of Goliad, 43 Q. 24; Shackelford, in Foote, Texas and the Texans, II, 230] Barnard and Smith state that Horton arrived on the 14th. [Barnard, Journal, 14; Smith, James W. Fannin, Jr., 23 Q. 278] Horton brought with him some draught-oxen. On the 14th Fannin selected nine pieces of artillery, which he intended to take with him, and, on either that date or the 16th, dismounted and buried the seven cannon which he had decided to abandon. [Foote, II, 229; Barnard, Journal, 14]
As has been stated, Fannin had attempted to establish contact with Colonel Ward every day from the 14th onward, but without success. All of the messages had been intercepted. [Washington--WLM] On the 16th, Captain Hugh M. Fraser, of the Refugio Militia, proposed to go to Refugio to investigate and did go on that perilous mission. He returned on the afternoon of the 17th with definite and accurate news of the fate of Ward and King. [Barnard, Journal, 15; Field, Three Years in Texas, 31] On the 17th Colonel Horton, under orders of Colonel Fannin, reconnoitered in the direction of Bexar and encountered Colonel Morales force, which was on its way to reinforce Urrea. Horton reported the approach of this force, which he estimated as numbering 1,500. [Barnard, Journal, 15; Bancroft, 11, 227; Davenport, 43 Q. 24]
Upon receipt of the reports of Fraser and Horton, Fannin called his officers for a council of war. The unanimous opinion was in favor of an immediate retreat, and Colonel Fannin ordered that the retreat should begin early the next morning. About this time scouts came in with reports that large enemy forces had been seen in the vicinity. [Barnard, Journal, 15] Fannin became apprehensive that the enemy would attack that night, and the cannon which had been buried were dug up and remounted and preparations were made to receive an attack. [Shackelford, Foote, II, 230] By his orders his troops "destroyed the whole town of La Bahia by fire, battering down all ruined walls, so as to secure a full sweep of the enemy, should they attack the fort." [Holland, Huson, Reporting Texas, 26; Ehrenberg, 151]
Preparations were made throughout the night for the retreat at dawn. However, when morning came, and the oxen were hitched to the wagons, carts and cannon, and the army was ready to take its departure (except for final destruction of material not to be taken), a party of the enemy was discovered reconnoitering in the vicinity of the fort. Colonel Horton and his little cavalry squadron sallied out of the presidio to engage them. The Mexicans fled. Horton chased them a considerable distance. The Mexicans got reinforcements and turned and chased Horton and finally got him cornered in the old mission across the river from the fort. Here Horton defended himself until the Red Rovers waded across the river, getting wet up to their arm-pits, and came to his rescue. The artillery from the fort also began firing on the enemy, who left the scene. [Shackelford, Foote, II, 230; Abel Morgan, Account, 23; Bancroft, II, 227; Barnard, Journal, 15-16; Smith, James W. Fannin, Jr., 23, 277; Boyle, 13 Q. 28; Urrea, Diario, Castaneda, Mexican side, 222; Duval--WLM] No one on either side was injured in these skirmishes. All this time the oxen were left standing hitched to the cannon and vehicles, without being fed or watered. As Davenport observes, "The 18th was spent in the excitement of a series of skirmishes with the cavalry of Morales command. This wore down the Texan horses and left the all important oxen to stand in the corrals and starve." [Davenport, 43 Q. 24; Smith, 23 Q. 277; Barnard, Journal, 16]
At the end of this wasted, precious day Fannin was still in doubt as to what course he would pursue. He once more expected an attack, and the garrison was kept on the alert. Private Abel Morgan, of Westover's Company, who was on the first watch on the night of the 18th relates that Colonel Fannin and Captain Westover came to his post. "Colonel Fannin asked me what I thought about retreating and leaving the fort. I told him that my opinion was that it was too late; for I made no doubt from what we had seen that we were entirely surrounded by the enemy; and that we had something like six weeks provisions and men enough to keep the enemy from breaking in for some time, as we had then about 360 men. Colonel Fannin seemed to have his mind unsettled about it. Captain Westover agreed with me, and said if we had left some three or four days before, he thought we might have escaped; but he made no doubt that we were surrounded now. [Morgan, 2-4]
Fannin then called another council of war. It was decided to start the retreat that very night. "When it was dark---and it was very dark---Captain Horton, with his company of cavalry, being sent to occupy the ford of the river, one mile from the fort, returned with information that a body of troops were on the opposite bank, and that they attempted to charge upon him. His opinion that the retreat should be delayed until morning was adopted." [Field, Three Years in Texas, 31-32] Horton expressed the opinion that it would be impracticable to keep to the road in the dark. [Davenport, 43 Q 24] When the morning of the 19th came, a dense fog overhung the area and continued until late in the forenoon. For one reason or another, the retreat got off to a late start. Morgan and others say "It took until about 9 or 10 o'clock to get breakfast and to destroy our stock of provisions." [Morgan, 4; Boyle, 13 Q. 287] sdct
Ehrenberg states, "A stack of dried meat from near onto 700 steers and the remainder of our meal and corn was set on fire, the columns of smoke from which ascended to the beclouded heavens." [Bartholomae, Ehrenberg, 151, Duval--WLM] The artillery which was to be abandoned was spiked. The officers, or most of them, urged Fannin to leave all artillery and all impediments to a rapid march; but Fannin was obstinate on this point. "No," said he, "my cannon must go with me; I expect a fight and I cannot do without them." [Kennedy, Texas, 567] He also insisted on taking along about 1,000 extra muskets. The nine pieces of artillery which were to be taken included one 6-inch howitzer, three short sizes, two long and two short 4s, with several small pieces for throwing musket balls. [Holland, Huson, Reporting Texas, 26; Duval--WLM]
Ehrenberg relates "The number and size of the provision and ammunition wagons that we took with us were too large and the power to move them was too small, so that before we had gone half a mile the way was strewn with objects of all kinds, and here and there a wagon that was left standing or knocked to pieces. The rest of the baggage remained standing a mile from Goliad on the romantic banks of the San Antonio, or was dropped in haste into the clear water of the river. Chests filled with muskets, provisions or the belongings of the soldiers disappeared in the waves." [Bartholomae. Ehrenberg, 151] "The motive power" referred to was in the main draught-oxen, with a few horses. Most accounts relate that "the tired and hungry oxen were unmanageable," some of which escaped and had to be run down. [Davenport, 43 Q. 24; Morgan 4] Dr. Field gives an interesting slant on these oxen. He states---"Our cannon, baggage and sick, were drawn by Mexican oxen, in Mexican carts. Not being well broke, nor understanding the language and manners of English drivers, many of them as they issued from the fort, run furiously into the prairie, and were unmanageable. Others would go no way but backwards." [Field, Three Years in Texas, 32]
Early in the morning of the 19th Colonel Horton and his cavalry were sent to reconnoiter the lower ford of the San Antonio River, which was about a mile below the fort. Fannin had the choice of two fords, the roads across each of which came into the same highway to Victoria. The upper ford was at the town of La Bahia, the lower ford being as described. It was felt that the lower ford offered the best opportunity of getting away unobserved. The dense fog favored the movement. Colonel Horton reported that all was clear at the lower ford, and the evacuation of the fort finally began about 9 o'clock A. M. Horton was directed to take up a position to protect the passage at the ford. [Bancroft, II, 227; Shackelford, Foote, II, 231; Johnson, 1, 430; Barnard, Journal, 17] It may be mentioned here, as Davenport so aptly points out, that with all of the solicitude for taking a large train of artillery; many wagons loaded with 1,000 muskets and quantities of baggage, that all of the ammunition was loaded into a single cart and that the Texans "forgot to bring along anything they could eat" although Boyle tells us that the previous day had been spent in baking large quantities of bread and orders had been issued to take rations of bread and dried beef sufficient for several days." [Davenport, 43 Q. 24; Boyle, 13 Q. 287]
It would, seem, however, that the men carried individual rations for at least one meal, as most accounts agree that they ate dinner on the march, and one account says they ate breakfast after they had left Goliad. Before the army left Goliad, the fort was dismantled and the buildings burned. If the whole of the town of La Bahia had not been burned two days before, the remainder was fired now, as Ehrenberg says the town was still burning when the Texians left [Bartholomae, Ehrenberg, 151; Duval--WLM] and Urrea says it was burning when Garay took possession. Urrea asserts that combustible materials had been left to prolong the fire and that very few houses were saved. [Urrea, Diario, Castaneda, Mexican Side, 229] Further delay occurred when the ford was reached because of the difficulty in getting the artillery across. The east bank up which the cannon must move was steep, slick, and muddy. Either the oxen could not be induced to draw the cannon up the slope, being contrary brutes; or, as Ehrenberg observes, they were too light a motive power for so great loads. The largest cannon fell into the river and had to be fished out. The entire army was held up at the ford for about an hour because of trouble with draught animals and the artillery. The Red Rovers, who were in the van, broke formation and waded into the river to help push the artillery up the steep bank. Even their captain, Dr. Shackelford, went into the water and put his own shoulder to the wheel. [Shackelford, Foote, II, 231; Morgan, 4; Davenport, 43 Q. 24; Johnson Texas and Texans, 1, 430; Yoakum, History of Texas, II, 91]
To add to the troubles, one of the carts broke down and its contents had to be transferred to other vehicles. Most accounts concur that the rear guard did not cross the ford before 10 o'clock that morning. After Colonel Horton had been ordered to post all advance, rear, right and left guards, the army began its march in column formation, with the Red Rovers in the van and Duval's Mustangs in the rear. Colonel Fannin marched with the rear. [Holland, Huson, Reporting Texas, 26; Shackelford, Foote II, 231] The wagon and artillery train was unusually large for a command of scarcely more than 300 men and stretched a considerable distance from front to rear. Colonel Horton's cavalry numbering only 31, Fannin augmented it by detailing men from the San Antonio Greys, Red Rovers, and other personnel, to serve with the cavalry, having provided them with mounts, thus raising the cavalry security to about 40. [Bartholomae, Ehrenberg; Urrea, Diario, Castaneda, Mexican Side, 227; Shackelford, Foote II, 231]
With Horton's advance point were couriers bearing dispatches to General Houston and others, advising that the retreat was at last under way. Among the couriers was Joseph Lancaster of the Red Rovers. [Joseph Lancaster, the author's maternal grandfather] For some reason Fannin believed that the enemy was to his front and not to his rear. [Kennedy, Texas, 568] For this reason, Colonel Horton with the bulk of the cavalry rode ahead as the advance point; and only, four horsemen, one of whom was Ehrenberg, were left as the rear point. [Barnard, Journal, 17; Bartholomae, Ehrenberg, 152] The flank guards appear to have consisted of about two horsemen on either flank. Captain Holland states that after the Manehuila had been crossed, Horton was ordered to remain in the rear of the column, "but neglected to remain in that position." [Holland, Huson, Reporting Texas, 27]
Most of the accounts, however, agree that Horton was frequently ordered to scout the Coleto woods to the front and left of the column and that he complied with these orders, reporting back that there was no evidence of the enemy in that area. [Shackelford, Foote, II, 232] However, Horton's advance point appears to have kept well ahead of the column, so much so that he was out of contact at the crucial moment. After the San Antonio river had been crossed, the column proceeded slowly along, without event, until after the Manehuila creek had been passed. About a mile past that arroyo a patch of green grass was encountered, where there had been a recent burning. Here Colonel Fannin halted the column to allow the oxen to rest and graze, and the men to take refreshment, it being now about noon. [Barnard Journal, 17; Duval, 39; Boyle, 13 Q 287; Shackelford, Foote, II, 231; Holland, Huson, Reporting Texas, 27; Kennedy, Texas, 568; Smith, James W. Fannin, Jr., 23 Q. 278] The oxen were detached and turned out to graze. Some of the captains, among them Shackelford, Duval, and Westover, protested against the stop being made in the prairie. Dr. Shackelford states, "I remonstrated warmly against this measure, and urged the necessity of first reaching the Coleto, then about five miles distant. In this matter I was overruled, and from the ardent manner in which I urged the necessity of getting under the protection of timber I found the smiles of many, indicated a belief that at least I thought it prudent to take care of number one." [Shackelford, Foote, II, 231-232; Davenport, 43 Q. 24-25; Bancroft II, 228]
Colonel Fannin, and most of the men under him for that matter, had contempt for the Mexicans; the men actually believed the captains who protested had become scared or had lost their nerve. Fannin replied to the captains that there was no cause for alarm. "They wouldn't dare follow us!" he exclaimed. [Johnson, Texas and Texans, 1, 430; Shackelford, Foote, II, 232; Bancroft, II, 228; Davenport, 43 Q. 24; Yoakum, History of Texas, II, 91] The army remained halted at this point for about an hour. Now, up to this time no signs of the enemy had been seen. As Dr. Barnard expresses it, "No manifestations of an attack, or even of pursuit were apparent." The Texians congratulated themselves that they had slipped out of Goliad unobserved by the Mexicans. Most of the standard historians state that Fannin stole a march on Urrea, which view would appear to be confirmed by Urrea himself, as he indicates that he did not learn of the evacuation of the Texians until a few hours after they had left the fort. [Urrea, Diario, Castaneda Mexican Side, 223. See also Colonel J. J. Holzinger, Letter to John A. Wharton, June 5, 1836, Lamar Papers, I, 396-399]
However, the truth seems to be that Urrea had been fully informed that Fannin intended to leave Goliad and fall back to Victoria, and the able Mexican general had placed scouts and spies at intervals all along the path Fannin must take, and Urrea was kept informed of the progress of the Texian army at all times. Certainly it was not Urrea's true policy to hold Fannin at Goliad and attempt to take the fort by assault. He had had experience along this line at Refugio, and Colonel Morales must have told him of Santa Anna's experience at the Alamo. The logical plan of the Mexican commander, therefore, undoubtedly was to place no obstacle in Fannin's way in getting so far away, from the fort that he would be unable to return if attacked. And from Urrea's own experience with King's men at Refugio, it was undoubtedly his purpose that Fannin should be clear of the protection of timber before he was attacked. Hence, the wily Mexican general permitted Fannin to proceed unmolested to such position at which he would be unable either to return to the fort or gain the protection of timber. Urrea, having the peculiar pride of a soldier did not wish to record in his diary that he preferred not to attack Fannin entrenched behind the walls of the presidio.
After a halt of an hour, the Texian march was resumed. It had scarcely started, when one of the carts broke down, thus causing another delay, while the load was distributed among the other' wagons. Horton was ordered to proceed ahead with his command and scour the Coleto timber to the left. [Kennedy, Texas, 568] It was assumed that everything was clear in the rear, as nothing had been heard from the rear point. [Barnard, Journal, 17] sdct
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