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Massacre at Goliad--Diverse Accounts

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Account of Capt. Benjamin Holland
From Historical View of Texas by L.T. Pease 1839

........heard our companions shrieking in the most agonizing tones ''O God! O God! Spare us".......It was then we knew what was to be our fate.......Major Wallace.....sprung, and struck the soldier on his right a severe blow with his fist: they being at open files, the soldier at the other file attempted to shoot him; but being too close, was unable. The soldier then turned his gun, and struck the writer a severe blow upon the left hand. I then seized hold of the gun and wrenched it from his hand......the central one raised his gun to fire---I still ran towards him in a serpentine manner in order to prevent his taking aim---I suddenly stopped---dropped my piece, fired, and shot the soldier through the head and he fell instantly dead..... immediately ran and leaped into the river.

On or about the 12th of March, orders were issued by Gen. Houston, to destroy the town and fort of La Bahia, and the forces to fall back to Gonzales, to unite with him and concentrate all the Texian forces.  Prior to the receipt of these orders, Captain King's company was ordered to the Mission, (a distance of about twenty-five miles) in order to relieve some families who were in danger of failing into the enemy's hands. Upon their arrival at the Mission they were met and attacked by a large body of the enemy, and after a gallant and well-sustained fight, retreated in an orderly and judicious manner to the church, where they sustained themselves against a very superior number of Mexicans and Indians with but small loss to themselves, but a severe loss to the enemy, until relieved by the Georgia battalion under Col. Ward, who had been sent to their aid. The separation of our forces caused us to delay our retreat. An express was sent to Col. Ward, at the Mission, to fall back and join the forces at Goliad with all possible despatch, or should he be cut off by the enemy, (of whose advance from San Patricio we had intelligence) to make good his retreat through the Gaudaloupe bottoms, and join the main army at Victoria.

On the 16th our scouts brought intelligence that a body of the enemy, 1500 strong, were on the San Antonio road. Many of the cannon having been dismounted preparatory to a retreat, we immediately remounted them, as we anticipated an attack that night. About 12 o'clock the picket guard gave the alarm, and retreated into the fort; it however proved to be only the enemy's spies reconnoitring. On the 17th the enemy forded the San Antonio river and showed themselves at the old Mission, a distance from our fort of four miles. This day we destroyed the whole town of La Bahia by fire, battering down all ruined walls, so as to secure us a full sweep of the enemy, should they attack the fort.

March 18---The enemy still hovering round the old Mission, a council of war was called, when it was decided, that inasmuch as our ammunition was not sufficient to sustain a siege, and as our provisions were short, and as we were well aware of the overwhelming force of the enemy, it was advisable to fall back to Victoria. This night we made every preparation for an early retreat in the morning and by daylight every one was in marching order: before day a scouting party was despatched to ascertain the position of the enemy, who returned shortly after daylight and reported the lower road being clear. Col. Horton was then ordered by Col. Fannin to post all, advance, rear, right and left guard.

March 19th, at about half-past six, A. M., took the line of retreat towards the lower ford; and about 9 A. M., got our baggage and cannon across. We had nine pieces of brass artillery, consisting of one six inch howitzer, three short sixes, two long and two short fours, with several small pieces for throwing musket balls. We then commenced our advance towards Victoria. We had advanced several miles without receiving any intelligence of the enemy by our videttes, and at about 10 A. M. halted to graze our cattle, and take some refreshment on the outskirts of some timber we had just passed. We tarried about three fourths of an hour, when we again took up the line of march. We had advanced about four miles into the prairie, when we had intelligence of the enemy's approach. Col. Horton's cavalry, who were ordered in the rear, had neglected to remain in that position and, in consequence, the enemy had advanced within the distance of from one to two miles, here they were discovered by the infantry in the rear and almost simultaneously they were descried upon both flanks, evidently with the design of surrounding us. The enemy had now formed a semicircle on our right and left, and as we had no means of moving our artillery but by exhausted and worn-out men, were fast surrounding us. Captains Hurst and Holland of the artillery were ordered to the rear, to keep up a retreating fire, under cover of which the army advanced about a mile and a half in the face of the enemy. sdct

It now became necessary for us to take a position, as we were entirely surrounded, our cavalry cut off from us and escaped, leaving us now two hundred and fifty effective men, consisting of the following companies:

New Orleans Greys-Captain Pellis.
Red Rovers-Captain Jack Shackleford, from Alabama.
Mustangs-Captain Duval.
Mobile Greys-Captain McManaman.
Regulars--Captain Westover.
1st Company Artillery-Captain Hurst.
2d do. do.            -Captain Holland.
3d do. do.            -Capt. Schrusnecki, a Polish engineer.

We were about three hundred yards to the left of the road, in a valley with an elevation towards the road, of about six feet in the whole distance; we were unfortunately obliged to take that very disadvantageous position, in consequence of our having pursued our advance so far in order to gain the woods. We drew our wagons into a cluster, formed ourselves into an oblong circle around them, and posted our artillery in positions to defend it: the circle was about 49 feet of shortest central diameter, and about 60 feet of longest diameter. It was now 1 o'clock, P. M., at which time we were attacked on all sides by the enemy, with a brisk fire of musketry: we were ordered not to fire, until the word of command was given, in order to draw the enemy within rifle-shot. We reserved our fire for about ten minutes, and several were wounded in our ranks previous to our firing.

At the request of the officers, the artillery was permitted to open fire. The wind was blowing slightly from the N. E., and the smoke of our cannon covered the enemy, under which they made a desperate charge, but were repulsed with a very severe loss. Our cannon was loaded with cannisters of musket balls, and the howitzer with grist. In this manner, the action was kept up with great fury by the enemy; charge after charge being made by the cavalry and infantry, and always repelled by a heavy loss on their part. Our men behaved nobly; and, although surrounded by overwhelming numbers, not a change of countenance could be seen.

Thus was the battle kept up and upon the repulse of each charge, column upon column of the enemy were seen to fall, like bees before smoke. Here would be seen horses flying in every direction without riders, and there dismounted cavalry making their escape on foot, while the field was literally covered with dead bodies. It was a sorry sight to see our small circle: it had become muddy with blood; Col. Fannin had been so badly wounded at the first or second fire as to disable him, the wounded shrieking for water which we had not to give them. The fight continued until dusk, when the enemy retreated, leaving us masters of the field, with ten men killed and wounded, while the enemy lay around heap upon heap. We possessed a great advantage over the Mexicans, they having no artillery, and we having nine brass pieces, with which we kept up an incessant fire of musket balls.

It now became prudent to take measures as to our next procedure: accordingly, the officers were all summoned to Col. Fannin, where he lay wounded, and the question was, whether we should maintain our present position, or retreat. It was carried that we should sustain ourselves as long as possible; consequently, we commenced heaving up a redoubt, some three feet above the mean level of the prairie, exclusive of the dyke.

The night was now very dark and cloudy, drizzling with rain and misty fog: the enemy encompassed us, and kept up a continual sound to charge, so that we appeared to be surrounded with bugles. We had with us 1000 spare muskets, which we loaded, and each man took an equal share, our cannon ammunition being nearly exhausted. Daylight broke upon us in this situation, and some of our men went out about a hundred yards, and brought into camp two Mexican prisoners, both badly wounded. From them we ascertained that the number opposed to us was 1900 men, and that a reinforcement of two brigades of artillery would be there that morning, if they had not already arrived. We had no sooner received this intelligence, than this very artillery opened their cannon upon us: they had placed themselves behind a small hillock, and were entirely under cover. We could neither touch them with our cannon, nor charge, as they had so placed their cavalry, that the moment we should quit our artillery, they would cut us to pieces.

We accordingly met in council, to devise means and measures: it was accordingly decided that we should send a flag of truce to the enemy, and if possible, obtain a treaty, if upon fair and honorable terms. Accordingly, Capt. F. J. Desauque, the bearer of the express from General Houston, Capt. B. H. Holland, of the artillery, and an ensign, were despatched with a flag of truce: the flags met midway between the two armies, and it was decided that the two commanders should meet to decide the matter; in pursuance of which Col. Fannin was conveyed out, and met Gen. Urea, Governor of Durango, commander of the Mexican forces; and the following treaty was concluded upon, and solemnly ratified: a copy of it in Spanish was retained by General Urea, and one in English by Colonel Fannin:

Seeing the Texian army entirely overpowered by a far superior force, and to avoid the effusion of blood, we surrender ourselves prisoners of war, under the following terms:

Art. 1st, That we should be received and treated as prisoners of war, according to the usages of civilized nations.
Art. 2d. That the officers should be paroled immediately upon their arrival at La Bahia, and the other prisoners should be sent to Copano, within eight days, there to await shipping to convey them to the United States, so soon as it was practicable to procure it: no more to take up arms against Mexico, until exchanged.
Art. 3d. That all private property should be respected, and officers' swords should be returned on parole or release.
Art. 4th. That our men should receive every comfort, and be fed as well as their own men. Signed, Gen. UREA, Col MORATEAS, Col. HOBZINGER, on the part of the enemy; and on our part, signed by Col. FANNIN, and Maj. WALLACE.

The officers were then called upon to deliver up their side arms, which were boxed up, with their names placed by a ticket upon each, arid a label upon the box stating they should soon have the honor of returning them; and it was their principle to meet us now as friends, not as enemies.   Col. Fannin and the men were that afternoon marched back to La Bahia; the wounded, together with, the captain of each company, and our surgeons were left on the field to dress the wounded, which was completed on the 21st, when we were all conveyed back to the fort, where we found the men in a most miserable state. They were brutally treated: they were allowed but very little water to drink, in consequence of it having to be brought from the river; and but a small piece of meat, without salt, bread or vegetables. On the 23d, Major Miller arid ninety men were brought into the fort prisoners: they had just landed at Copano, from the United States.

On the 25th, the Georgia battalion was also brought in: it had been surprised and captured between Victoria and Demill's point, and marched back, and confined with us. Here we were now nearly 500 strong, guarded by 1000 Mexicans, without being allowed the slightest liberty in any respect. The Mexicans had always said that Santa Anna would be at La Bahia on the 27th, to release us. Accordingly, on that day, we were ordered to form all the prisoners: we were told that we were going to bring wood and water, and that Santa Anna would be there that day. We were ordered to march all the officers at the head of the file, except Col. Fannin, who lay wounded in the Hospital. As we marched out of the sally port, we saw hollow squares formed ready to receive us: we were ordered to file left, and marched into a hollow square of double filed cavalry, on foot, armed with carbines, commonly called scopets, and broadswords.

This square was filled and closed, and the head of the remaining files wheeled off into another square, and so on, until all were, strongly guarded in squares. The company, of which the writer of this was one, was ordered to forward, and no more was seen of our unfortunate comrades: we marched out on the Bexar road, near the burying-ground; and as we were ordered to halt, we heard our companions shrieking in the most agonizing tones ''O God! O God! Spare us" and nearly simultaneously, a report of musketry. It was then we knew what was to be our fate. The writer of this then observed to Major Wallace, who was his file leader that it would be best to make a desperate rush. He said, "No---we were too strongly guarded." He then appealed to several others, but none would follow. He then sprung, and struck the soldier on his right a severe blow with his fist: they being at open files, the soldier at the other file attempted to shoot him; but being too close, was unable. The soldier then turned his gun, and struck the writer a severe blow upon the left hand. I then seized hold of the gun and wrenched it from his hand, and instantly started and ran towards the river. A platoon of men (I have been since informed, by two others who made their escape by falling when fired upon among the dead bodies of their comrades) wheeled and fired upon me, but all missed.

I then had a chain of sentinels to pass at about 300 yards' distance; they were about thirty yards apart, three of them closed to intercept my retreat, the central one raised his gun to fire---I still ran towards him in a serpentine manner in order to prevent his taking aim---I suddenly stopped---dropped my piece, fired, and shot the soldier through the head and he fell instantly dead. I ran over his dead body, the other two firing at me but missing, and immediately ran and leaped into the river, and while swimming across was shot at by three horsemen, but reached the opposite banks in safety; and after wandering six days without food in the wilderness, succeeded on the tenth of April in joining General Houston's army, after having been retaken by the enemy once, but succeeded in making my escape in company with a wounded man who had got off from La Bahia, by falling among the dead as before stated, I am happy to state, that six more succeeded in saving their lives and regaining their liberty by the same stratagem. The number of the enemy according to their own account, killed at the battle of Cotelo, varies from, nine to eleven hundred.


William L. Hunter

[William Lockhart Hunter was born in 1809 in Virginia.  He came to Texas with the New Orleans Grays under Robert Morris and participated in the Siege and Battle of Bexar.  After surviving the Goliad Massacre and the Texas War of Independence, he returned to the Goliad region and practiced law.  He was a justice in both Goliad and Refugio counties and served both in the Texas legislature.  He overlapped in the legislature with survivor Dr. Barnard and Hunter, Barnard and John C. Duval are said to have met and shared experiences about the massacre until their deaths.   Hunter married Eunice Fedelia Cook of IL and died in 1886.]

No. 1650 Historical Notes.  Lamar Papers

[Houston? Texas, 183-?]  FROM WM L HUNTER.  Born Virginia- came to Texas 1835 with the New Orleans Grays the first that came in the Revolution----Hunter was at Bexar at the capture of Coss-afterwards went with Grant's command (300 men) to Goliad- Genl. Houston he addressed the troops there. This was about the middle of January-1836 Houston's object in addressing the troops was to dissuade them from marching westward- His speech created dissentions among the soldiers- Grant marched to Refughio with the exceptions of Houston's Regulars, who remained at Goliad & Houston also- Houston remained two or three days and left for the East- It was during this visit that he made arrangement to have himself returned to the Convention as a member; Soon after the departure of Houston, Fannin came with his Battalion to Copano & thence to Refughio soon to Goliad Previous to Fannin's arrival at Refughio, Grant had set out for Sanpatricio, with a diminished force; 75 men 3 pieces cannon; at Sanpatricio he left Johnson with a smal company whilst he went west for the purpose of procuring horses- he had got some horses & was on his return, when he surprised by Urea, west Nueces. [Note in document: Hunter was mistaken in the name; Urea had not yet taken command; the person Hunter refers to Vital Fernandez, Commanding Genl Matamoras. It was with him that Grant corresponded]

Urea had deceived Grant. Texas at this time was contending only for the constitution of 1824- Urea professed to be attached to that party, and made Grant believe that he only wanted a good chance to avow himself on that side- He and Grant. had had some correspondence upon the matter-so that Grant, expected when he met Urea to have been received as a friend rather than trated as an enemy. Urea however, Mexican like, intercepted Grant & attempted to capture him; Grant would not be taken; he himself was killed in the fight, and nearly all of his men, with the exception of a few- This was in the month of February  Whilst Fannin was at Goliad, he recd. a letter from Houston, then at Gonzales, to aid the families in moving; burn the town; blow up the fort, and to retreat- Fannin immediately sent Capt. King with a Company to Refughio, to take off some families there who had applied to him for protection Capt King had a skermish there, & sent to Col. Fannin for a reenforcemt- Fannin Col. Ward with upwards 100 men to Kings rescue- Two days after Ward left Goliad, Fannin recd. a second order from Houston apprising him of the fall of the Alamo; & ordering to retreat immediately- Fannin on receiving this order, dispatched a runner after Ward & King to return & retreat with him. The runner was killed by the Mexicans; Fannin sent another runner (Edwd Perry who was also captured & was taken before Urea, who examined his papers, and then gave him leave to go on & deliver Fannins despatch to Ward, on the Condition that Perry would return to Urea again as soon as he should deliver the papers- Urea told Perry to say to Ward that he had better leave the Church & retreat, or he would batter it down- Perry was taken in the night Urea was then encompassing the church. Ward on receiving the news from Perry, retreated unperceived by the Mexicans- Fanning in the mean while, hearing nothing from Ward & King, Commenced his retreat on the 19th March, about 9 Oclk in the morning

The two orders which Fannin recd from General Houston were seen and heard by Hunter, from whom this information is now derived   The letters were read by Fannin to Capt. Pettus of N. O. Grays, when Houston [Hunter?] was present.  [Endorsed:] Information Recd. from Hunter respecting Fannin Houston & Grant & Ward

Escape of Judge W.L. Hunter
From Reminiscences of John J. Linn:  Fifty Years in Texas

Hunter made an extraordinary escape from the "Fannin massacre." He was a member of the " New Orleans Grays"; he was shot down at the first fire, and remained for a considerable time unconscious. Upon reviving he could not move his body, as a dead comrade had fallen upon him. Being very weak from the loss of blood, he extricated himself with difficulty, and discovered that he had been stripped of his clothing, retaining only undershirt and drawers. He summoned all his strength for one supreme effort to reach the river, and nearly failed in doing so. He submerged himelf in the water, and remained in that position all day. At night he crossed the river and struck out in an easterly direction. He came to a small stream the next morning, upon the banks of wbich he remained nearly all day, suffering excruciating pains from his wounds, and being rendered weak from the loss of blood and hunger. He finally made anotlier start, and soon came to another stream, and in following the course of this he came across his own tracks where he had crossed before. He then took down the creek, and came to a house, near the Coletto, where he found some Mexicans who could speak a few words of Englisli, and received of them some clothing and food. These people treated him with the utmost kindness and did all that they could to alleviate his pains. The owner of the jacal, Juan Reynea, had previously lived at the Goliad crossing, but had removed to avoid the unwelcome visits of the soldiers, who were continually passing between Goliad and Victoria.  sdct

With the aid of these Good Samaritans Hunter speedily recovered sufficient strength to resume his journey, when Señor Reynea himself accompanied him to the house of Mrs. Margaret Wright, wife of David R. Wright, five miles above Victoria, on the Guadalupe River. This good old mother in Israel died very recently, in the city of Victoria, at the advanced age of eighty-seven years. She nursed Hunter with a mother's care, and sheltered him from the Mexicans until after the battle of San Jacinto.  This statement I have from the lips of Judge Hunter himself, who now resides in Goliad, near the spot or that most terrible episode in his life.

 


The Escape of "Kentuck"
Told by DeWitt Colonist Creed Taylor to James T. DeShields and related in Tall Men With Long Rifles

I personally knew most of the men who escaped at Goliad, and have often listened to their recitals of that bloody affair. One of the most interesting being the escape of a young man, called "Kentuck."  This fine young fellow was one of the volunteers from Kentucky; but of his past I knew nothing, nor did he impart his real name, being known to the boys in the camp only by the nickname of  "Kentuck."    He was a man of small stature, rather handsome of features, and probably twenty-two or twenty-three years old. He was a jolly good fellow and fairly well educated. Many old Texans will remember this unique and somewhat noted character of the early days of Texas. I can vouch for the truth of his story.

To enable the reader to appreciate the terrible ordeal to which "Kentuck" was subjected on that occasion, it is important to describe his wardrobe. All except his underwear was thick and heavy, consisting of jeans, pants and vest, a blanket overcoat and rawhide boots. From his guards he learned the Mexican game of monte, in which he soon excelled his teachers.  He won about 300 silver dollars, the total weight of which was about eighteen pounds; and for the lack of a bag in which to carry this money, he had distributed it in the several pockets of his garments. On the night of the twenty-six of March, the prisoners were told that on the next day they were to be shipped from Copano Bay to New Orleans; and on the following morning, Palm Sunday, they were marched out single file, between two files of guards, and in separate divisions; two squads to the riverbank, and one a few hundred yards east-ostensibly for marching to the coast.

"Kentuck" was in one of the divisions marched to the riverbank. They were made to form single file a few feet from the river's brink, and the Mexican file next to the river passed through them to the other side. Now the guards, outnumbering them two to one, were all on one side, and the prisoners naturally turned and faced them. The enemy's purpose could no longer be concealed. Instantly the prisoners became aware that they were to be shot, and poor, emaciated, half-starved fellows, they were powerless to resist; else they might have rushed upon the file of soldiers, disarmed them and escaped, as did the Mier men at Hacienda Salado in 1842.  At that moment they heard the firing upon the other squads and the terrible screams of the wounded and dying men. "Kentuck" and his comrades were ordered to 'face about'-turn their backs to their guards-but many of them, including "Kentuck," scorned the order, and continued to look straight into the eyes of their murderers. When the order was given to "Fire," many of the firing squad appeared to be more nervous than their unfortunate victims. Some of the Mexicans had not the courage to shoot brave men who could look into their eyes in the moment of death; and the man who faced "Kentuck" did not fire, though nearly all others were killed.

As his slain comrades fell, "Kentuck" also fellback into the river. He tried to swim across the stream, but encumbered by his heavy garments and his pockets loaded with silver, he made poor headway. The current bore him downstream and held him long enough to saturate his garments and fill his boots with water, and be came near drowning. Finally be reached the opposite bank, climbed up, and ran for his life. His heavy garments weighed him down, the heavy silver in his pockets beat upon him, and the sloshing water in his boots caused his feet to slide within them. Thus impeded and exited he thought he was scarcely moving.  Looking back over his shoulder he saw some of the Mexicans were pursuing him. They could not bring their muskets to bear on him as they swam across the river, but he could hear their swords clanking. Gradually they gained upon him, but when almost near enough to strike him, as luck would have it, in twisting about trying to elude them, some money jostled out of his pocket, and his pursuers halted and scuffled for the coins. This enabled "Kentuck" to gain considerable distance and it gave him an idea. As his pursuers again drew near, he threw down a handful of money, for which they again halted and scuffled. Thus handful after handful of his dollars went until all of his pockets were empty. He threw off his overcoat, which greatly lightened his burden; and then his vest, his pursuers stopping and scuffling for each of these. His hard running in the wet rawhide boots had stretched them, so that be managed to kick them off, and thereby caused his pursuers another delay and scuffle.

"Kentuck" said that he did not mind the loss of his money and his garments so much, but be soon realized the importance of the loss of his boots. The prairie grass had recently been burned and the sharp rubble penetrated his socks and pierced his feet, causing great pain; but he was running for his life and did not relax his speed. His pants were burdensome and he dropped them; but, being wet, they did not slip easy from his extremities, causing him to tangle up and fall; but he did not halt, rolling over and over until be freed himself, then bounding on again with renewed effort. He had no more "graft" with which to bribe his pursuers, and as they gained on him, "Kentuck" said be thought that at last he was a gone "coonskin"; but just then be reached a dense chaparral thicket into which he plunged and hid from his pursuers who beat around for a while and then gave up the pursuit.  After a short breathing spell, "Kentuck" pushed on, making his way in great pain through the thorny chaparral and prickly pears. His under garments were reduced to shreds and his flesh fearfully torn. In this plight be dragged himself on, and emerged into the open again, fell in with a comrade who had also feigned death, and escaped from the slaughter.   sdct

These comrades hurried on, avoiding roads as far as possible for fear of being overtaken by some party of the enemy. All families on their route had fled eastward, but they found plenty of food in the abandoned homes. Striking the trail of Houston's army at the crossing of the San Bernard, they hurried on, arriving at the Texan camp at Foster's Plantation on the last day of March: a wonderful trial of speed on foot, from Goliad to the Brazos in four days and nights.  Upon reaching the army "Kentuck" and his comrades were in fearful plight; but the boys soon togged them up and, after their wounds and sores were treated, and with a little rest and sleep, they were ready for duty. They joined Houston's forces and both fought gallantly at San Jacinto. I remember seeing "Kentuck" the next day after the battle, and he was very much interested in a game of monte. I have often heard the story of his thrilling escape and flight, substantially as I have above narrated. Of the subsequent career of "Kentuck" I know nothing, and I regret that I did not learn his real name and more of his history.

 


Major Miller's Secretary (S.H.B.)
Account of the Goliad Massacre published in Barber and Howes History of the United States 1861, reprinted in Tall Men With Long Rifles by James T. DeShields.   S.H.B. was 18 at the time of the massacre and later a merchant in Cincinnati.

The morning of the massacre was slightly foggy. Without understanding wherefore, we of Miller's command, were ordered to tie a white band around our left arms; some of us tore pieces from our shirts for that purpose. This was to distinguish us from Fannin's men, who alone were doomed. We were conducted out to a peach and fig grove, in front of the church, and in sight of two of the three parties into which Fannin's men were divided; the third being out of view behind the church, near the riverbank. When the firing began, boy as I was, I was impressed by the varied expressions in the faces of our men, thus made unexpected witnesses of the awful tragedy. Surprise, horror, grief and revenge were depicted in the most vivid lines. At first all were startled; some became at once horror stricken; others wept in silent agony; still others laughed in their passion, swore, clinched their teeth, and looked like demons. Now, at the lapse of more than a quarter of a century, I can never think or talk of that dreadful scene with any degree of composure. Some of the poor fellows attempted to escape, and of course outrun the Mexicans; but then the cavalry! Just as one of these men of Fannin's had gotten fairly clear of his pursuers, a mounted Mexican from close by me at once started on the chase, and catching up with him, cut him down. Never did I so want to hamstring a horse. Those not killed outright, were deliberately butchered by the Mexicans, men and women, and stripped. This over, some of them, even the women, as they passed us by on their return ladened with plunder, insulted us by the grossest vulgarities, shook their fists in our faces, swearing in taunting tones and the vilest words- 'Your turn tomorrow! sdct

In about an hour more, the wounded left in the barracks were dragged out into the fort yard and butchered. Colonel Fannin was the last victim. When informed of his fate, be met it like a soldier. He banded his watch to the officer whose business it was to murder him, and requested that he be shot in the breast and not in the head, and likewise to see that his remains should be decently buried. With that perfidy which is so prominent a characteristic of the Mexican race, all requests were ignored. Fannin seated himself in a chair, tied the handkerchief over his eyes, and bared his bosom to receive the fire of the soldiers. 

The stripped bodies of the slain were collected and placed in piles. Those of the wounded who had been massacred at the fort, Fannin among the rest were chucked stark naked into carts, like so many dead hogs, carried out and dumped on top of the others. Brush was then piled over the whole and set on fire. It took several days successive burnings to consume them. Nightly the prairie wolves gathered to feast on the half-roasted bodies, and kept up their howlings through all the long hours, and as the day dawned their execrable screams increased, in rage at being thus driven by the morning light from their horrid banquet.

 


Ms. Cash's Account of Fannin's Retreat and the Battle of Coleto
(From William Kennedy in The Rise, Progress and Prospects of the Republic of Texas, 1841.  Kennedy says "I borrow the subsequent details from a published narrative very inartificially written, but bearing evidence of being the unvarnished account of an eye-witness."  The eyewitness was Mrs. Cash, wife of Irish colonist and surveyor from the Power-Hewetson colony.  The family held a land grant on the lower San Antonio River.)

.....Harry Ripley....poor fellow, had his thigh broken......Mrs. Cash, at his request, helped him into her cart, and fixed a prop for him to lean against, and a rest for his rifle, while in that situation, he was seen to bring down four Mexicans before he received another wound, which broke his right arm........"You may take me down now.....done my share, they have paid exactly two for one on account of both balls in me." 

.....personal safety was guaranteed to every individual; all were to have been treated as prisoners of war in civilised warfare, and private property was to have been respected.....men threw their arms on the ground, Fannin alone reserving his sword, which he handed to Urrea, who had advanced to receive it......

"The only American non-combatant residing at Goliad (Mrs. Cash) accompanied the troops in the retreat.---It was 10 o'clock ere the rear-guard had crossed the river, and they hastened towards Victoria, until Fannin, judging it time to give his oxen rest, ordered a halt, and had them ungeared for an hour; after which preparations were made for a second move, but, alas! one of the carts broke down soon after they started, thus causing another delay, to distribute the load on the other waggons, when minutes were precious to us. However, they again took up the line of march; Fannin ordered Horton to proceed a-head with his command, and scour the timber bordering the Coleto, which lay on their left; he himself brought up the rear. Thus the troops moved on half a mile farther, when two Mexicans came out of the Coleto timber a mile behind them-not in their front, from whence Fannin supposed them likely to appear. They halted on the edge of the prairie and reconnoitred for ten minutes, and then retired back into the woods soon after they again returned accompanied by four others, and after reconnoitring a short time, the enemy's advance guard of cavalry made their appearance, deploying into the open ground in platoons four deep. They immediately galloped after our troops, and when within a fourth of a mile of them, they separated and passed on in double files, having the Americans between them, until their van was half a mile a-head of the battalion, in the direction of Victoria, when they wheeled from both divisions and galloped to the centre, until their ranks again met; their rear also closed in the same manner, and our friends found themselves surrounded on all sides by the enemy. For half an hour each party was preparing for the coming struggle. Our men saw at a glance that their only hope rested in their courage and decision; and they threw themselves into a hollow square, facing outwards.

Flag of the Alabama Red RoversSketch: Battlefield at Coleto Creek

[Kennedy's note:  The effect of a piece of artillery, fired against Fannin's orders, satisfied Urrea, who had no cannon on the ground, that to win the day he must come to close quarters; he therefore ordered a charge of cavalry. They galloped in "dashing style" towards the Texan battery, when they were broken by a discharge from seven pieces.]

The shock was sudden: they halted, drew up their horses and faltered when encouraged to return to the charge; finally they turned tail and retreated to the woods, full two miles off, where they were again formed, and prepared for another attempt to carry the battery by storm. In the mean while, the enemy's infantry kept up a harmless fire, advancing on our line after each round; but they were only suffered to take ground within rifle range, where they were stopped, for the boys burnt no powder in vain. As soon as the cavalry had retreated, our artillerists wheeled their pieces to the right about, and scattered grape and death among the infantry, who were thus in their turn driven back to the Coleto timber, about half a mile off.  As soon as Urrea could restore order to his lines he again advanced. His infantry came up in double quick time, and his cavalry in a 'slope,' until they were within range, when the artillery again checked them with a single volley, and they turned tail and scampered for the woods as before. Their infantry advanced just near enough to lose a man at every rifle crack, but not near enough to do execution on our friends, for their ammunition was poor, and their marksmen were unaccustomed to the use of the musket; their officers were marked targets, and they suffered accordingly. As soon as the cavalry had started for the timber, our artillery wheeled about as before, and sent the infantry off also. As yet our friends' were unscathed.

In about half an hour after their second repulse, Urrea succeeded in putting his columns in order. They were reluctantly driven by their officers to the assault for the third time, for it required great exertions to induce them even to make a show as though they intended to advance to the charge; our men saw the officers beating them over the shoulders, and coaxing them on by pricking them from behind. They however succeeded in urging them to within fifty or sixty yards of our lines, on either side, but then again the grape and canister from our artillery mowed down their cavalry as if they were rushes, while their infantry suffered martyrdom under the fire of our rear and left divisions. Their front ranks were so suddenly swept off, as almost to form a breastwork sufficient in itself to shield our friends from their assaults. The scene was now dreadful to behold; killed and maimed men and horses were strewn over the plain, the wounded were rending the air with their distressing moans, while a great number of horses without riders were rushing to and fro back upon the enemy's lines, increasing the confusion among them: they thus became so entangled, the one with the other, that their retreat resembled the headlong flight of a herd of buffaloes, rather than the retreat of a well-drilled regular army, as they were. In the rush back, a number were overthrown and trodden under foot. The Mexican officers exerted themselves to bring them again to the charge for the fourth time, but without avail. The cavalry could not be urged within rifle range: they contented themselves with firing their carbines at such a distance as did no execution, but they met with greater success in stabbing their infantry on, for in that manner they urged them to the assault. They halted when within sixty yards of our lines, and held their ground under a murderous fire from our riflemen.

It was now about dusk; and Urrea bethought himself of a plan of attack which answered but too well. He directed the Campeachy Indians, who were better marksmen than any other of his troops, to throw themselves into the tall grass and approach, as they did, within thirty paces of our lines. They then commenced a well-directed fire upon us, which told most destructively, by wounding fifty and killing four in the space of an hour. The darkness of the twilight and the confusion arising from the smoke prevented our men from discovering the exact position of their dangerous neighbors, who were so well concealed in the grass that they could not dislodge them. Among the wounded was Harry Ripley, a youth of eighteen or nineteen, the son of General Ripley, of Louisiana; he, poor fellow, had his thigh broken soon after the Indians first took to the grass. Mrs. Cash, at his request, helped him into her cart, and fixed a prop for him to lean against, and a rest for his rifle, while in that situation, he was seen to bring down four Mexicans before he received another wound, which broke his right arm; he immediately exclaimed to Mrs. C., "You may take me down now, mother; I have done my share, they have paid exactly two for one on account of both balls in me."  Such was the spirit that animated every man among the assailed save two, who had run under a cart early in the engagement, and covered up their heads. One of them was familiarly called Black Hawk, as he professed to be a very fire-eater-but his courage was all in his tongue.  sdct

So soon as the darkness rendered the flashes of the Indians' guns visible, they began to pay the piper, for our boys were quick on the trigger, and at that distance took care that a second flash should not be seen from the same weapon; so they soon used them completely up, and then Urrea drew off his troops. They retired about a quarter of a mile off on each side, and rested on their arms all night. It was determined by our friends to throw up a breast-work, so the poor fellows set to work, and they dug a ditch on all sides: with the earth, their baggage, and ammunition waggons they made a very passable fortification. The wounded suffered agonies for want of water, and by their moans and petitions for it made the situation of those who had escaped unhurt even more distressing. They, however, worked manfully, and accomplished more than could have been expected of them, wearied and thirsty as they were. During the whole night, the Mexican General caused his bugles to sound at intervals of five minutes, with the view of keeping his troops on the look-out.

[Kennedy note:  Early in the morning, the Texans discovered that the labour of the night had been in vain. Urrea had received a reinforcement of 500 fresh troops, with a supply of artillery.]

The trench thrown up by the batallion offered no protection against anything but musketry, and the waggons and other baggage only served as missiles to destroy our troops, for a single discharge would have so shattered every thing that each fragment would have injured somebody. The temporary work had not been thrown up as a defence against artillery, but against infantry and cavalry; and had the artillery not been brought against it, the probability is that Fannin would have been victorious in the end, for the previous day's engagement had cut off.600 effective men from Urrea's ranks; but such another day's work was necessary to render the relative numbers of the opposing forces so nearly equal that our friends would have merely had to turn out, and knock their opponents down with the butts of their rifles. However, as soon as Colonel Fannin saw the artillery, he knew that the fate of the engagement was determined; and he called a consultation of officers, amid the cries of our wounded that he would surrender, and thus procure water for their parched tongues. Mrs. Cash, at the solicitation of some of the wounded, undertook to go to Urrea and ask him for water before the action again commenced. Accompanied by her little son, a lad of fourteen years of age, who had done a man's fighting during the work of the previous day, she made her way over the ground between the two contending parties, and proceeded directly to Urrea, to whom she was introduced by a Mexican officer stationed at Goliad. She made him acquainted with her errand; he did not answer her request, but fixing his eyes upon the boy's shot-pouch and powder horn, that she had neglected to take from him before she left our lines, he exclaimed,

"Woman! are you not ashamed to bring one of such tender age into such a situation?"  The boy immediately answered him, "that, young as he was, he knew his rights, as did everybody in Texas; and he intended to have them or die."

The conversation was here interrupted by the raising of a white flag on the part of our troops, as a token of surrender, which was immediately torn into three pieces by the wind: it was blowing a stiff norther at the time. As soon as Mrs. Cash had left our lines, the officers consulted whether it was best to surrender, and it was so determined. Immediately after hoisting the flag, Captain Shackelford and Captain Chadwick, the engineer and adjutant, advanced out on the prairie and met Urrea, with whom they arranged terms;-personal safety was guaranteed to every individual; all were to have been treated as prisoners of war in civilised warfare, and private property was to have been respected. Shackelford then returned to the battalion and announced the result, our men threw their arms on the ground, Fannin alone reserving his sword, which he handed to Urrea, who had advanced to receive it--One of our men threw a lighted segar among some loose cartridges, to prevent the enemy from getting the ammunition, and they exploded, together with four kegs of powder; four men were blown up by it, which served to increase the trouble and distress."

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