Battle of Coleto, Capitulation and Survival of the Goliad
Massacre as told by John C. Duval
[John Crittenden Duval was born in Bardstown, KY in 1816 and joined his brother Burr Duval's company of volunteers to aid the fight for independence of Texas. He attended St. Joseph's College, his father was a Kentucky congressmanand territorial governor of Florida at one time. After the war, he returned to KY and then studied engineering at the University of Virginia. Duval returned to Texas as a surveyor, served as a Texas Ranger and spent time as a loner in the wilds away from civilization. He was a noted writer of both fiction and non-fiction and some credit him with being the first Texas "man of letters." He was a close associate of famous ranger, Bigfoot Wallace, and met with fellow survivors, Barnard and Hunter, to reminisce over the massacre at Goliad. He died in Ft. Worth in 1897 and was the last survivor of the massacre at Goliad.]
Evacuation of Goliad to Victoria. One time after arrival at Goliad, information was obtained from some friendly Mexicans that General Santa Anna was preparing to enter Texas at the head of a large army; consequently all idea of invading Mexico was abandoned, and we set to work to render the fortifications around the old mission as defensible as possible. We strengthened the walls in many places, built several new bastions on which artillery was placed in such a way as to command all the roads leading into the town. Every day we were drilled by our officers for three hours in the morning and two in the afternoon, which, as I have said before was a great bore to me, as I would have preferred passing the time in hunting and fishing. We also deepened the trenches around the walls, and dug a ditch from the fort to the river, and covered it with planks and earth, so that we might obtain a supply of water, if besieged, without being exposed to the fire of the enemy. We were well supplied with artillery and ammunition for the same, and also with small arms, and had beef, sugar and coffee enough to last us for two months---but very little bread.
Some time in February, a Mexican from the Rio Grande arrived at Goliad who informed Col. Fannin that Santa Anna had already or would shortly cross the river into Texas with a large army which would advance in two divisions, one towards Goliad, and the other towards the city of San Antonio. Some days afterwards, two or three Texans came in from San Patricio, bringing the news that Capt. Grant and some twenty-five or thirty men stationed at that place, had been surprised by a force of Mexican guerillas and all of them massacred. About this time also a courier from Refugio came in who stated to Col. Fannin that he had been sent by the people of that place, to ask for a detachment of men to escort them to Goliad, as they were daily expecting an attack from the guerillas. In compliance with this request, Col. Fannin sent Capt. King and his company (about thirtyfive men) to act as escort for those families who desired to leave. When Capt. King and his men reached Refugio, they were attacked on the out.skirts of the town by a large force of Mexican cavalry, and being hard pressed they retreated into the old mission, a strong stone building, at that time encompassed by walls. There they defended themselves successfully, and kept the Mexicans at bay until their artillery came up, when they opened fire upon it with two field pieces which soon breached the walls, and the place was then taken by storm. Capt. King and some seven or eight of his men (the only survivors of the bloody conflict), were captured and led out to a post oak grove north of town, where they were tied to trees and shot. Their bones were found still tied to the trees, when the Texan forces reoccupied the place in the summer of 1836.
About this time a courier arrived bringing a dispatch from Gen. Houston to Col. Fannin, and it was rumored in camp that the purport of this dispatch was that Col. Fannin should evacuate Goliad and fall back without delay towards the settlements on the Colorado. But as to the truth of this I cannot speak positively. At any rate Col. Fannin showed no disposition to obey the order if he received it--on the contrary, hearing nothing from Capt. King, although he had sent out three scouts at different times to obtain information of his movements, all of whom were captured and killed, he despatched Maj. Ward with the Georgia Battalion (about one hundred and fifty strong) to his assistance. They were attacked before they reached Refugio by a large force of Mexican cavalry. They made a gallant defense for some time against the vastly superior numbers of the enemy, but at length their ammunition was exhausted and they were compelled to retreat to the timber on the river, where they were surrounded by the Mexican cavalry, and most of them finally captured.
This division of our small force in the face of an enemy so greatly our superior in numbers, was, in my opinion, a fatal error on the part of Col. Fannin. Hearing nothing either from Capt. King or Major Ward, and satisfied from information obtained by our scouts that a large force of Mexicans was in the vicinity of Goliad, Col. Fannin and his officers held a council of war in which it was determined to evacuate the place and fall back as rapidly as possible towards Victoria on the Guadalupe river. The same day, I believe, or the next after this council of war was held, a courier came in from San Antonio bringing a dispatch, as I was informed, from Col. Travis, to the effect that he was surrounded in the Alamo by Santa Anna's army, and requesting Col. Fannin to come to his relief without delay. Rations for five days and as much ammunition as each man could conveniently carry were immediately issued, and our whole forces, including a small artillery company with two or three field pieces, started for San Antonio, crossing the river at the ford a half mile or so above town. After crossing the river and marching a short distance on the San Antonio road, a halt was made and our officers held a consultation, the result of which (I suppose) was the conclusion that we could not reach San Antonio in time to be of any assistance to Col. Travis. At any rate we were marched back to Goliad, recrossing the river at the lower ford.
A few hours after we had got back to our old quarters, a detachment of Mexican cavalry, probably eighty or a hundred strong, showed themselves at a short distance from the fort apparently bantering us to come out and give them a fight. Col. Horton, who had joined us a few days previously with twenty-five mounted men, went out to meet them, but when he charged them they fled precipitately, and we saw them no more that day. That evening preparations were made to abandon the place to that end we spiked our heaviest pieces of artillery, buried some in trenches, reserving several field pieces, two or three howitzers and a mortar to take with us on our retreat. We also dismantled the fort as much as possible, burnt the wooden buildings in its immediate vicinity and destroyed all the ammunition and provisions for which we had no means of transportation.
The next morning we bade a final farewell, as we supposed, to Goliad, and marched out on the road to Victoria. We had nine small pieces of ordnance and one mortar, all drawn by oxen as were our baggage wagons. Our whole force comprised about two hundred and fifty men, besides a small company of artillery and twenty-five mounted men under Col. Horton. We crossed the San Antonio river at the ford below town, and a short distance beyond Menahecila creek we entered the large prairie extending to the timber on the Coletto, a distance of eight or nine miles. When we had approached within two and a half or three miles of the point where the road we were traveling entered the timber (though it was somewhat nearer to the left) a halt was ordered and the oxen were unyoked from guns and wagons, and turned out to graze. What induced Col. Fannin to halt at this place in the open prairie, I cannot say, for by going two and a half miles further, we would have reached the Coletto creek, where there was an abundance of water and where we would have had the protection of timber in the event of being attacked. I understood at the time that several of Col. Fannin's officers urged him strongly to continue the march until we reached the creek, as it was certain that a large body of Mexican troops were somewhere in the vicinity; but however this may be, Col. Fannin was not to be turned from his purpose, and the halt was made. Possibly he may have thought that two hundred and fifty well armed Americans under any circumstances would be able to defend themselves againrit any force the Mexicans had within striking distance, but as the sequel will show the halt at this place was a most fatal one for us. Up to this time we had seen no Mexicans, with the exception of two mounted men, who made their appearance from some timber a long way to our right and who no doubt were spies watching our movements.
Battle at Coleto Creek. At length after a halt of perhaps an hour and a half on the prairie, and just as we were about to resume our march for the Coletto, a long dark line was seen to detach itself from the timber behind us, and another at the same time from the timber to our left. Some one near me exclaimed, "Here come the Mexicans!" and in fact, in a little while, we perceived that these dark lines were men on horseback, moving rapidly towards us. As they continued to approach, they lengthened out their columns, evidently for the purpose of surrounding us, and in doing so displayed their numbers to the greatest advantage. I thought there were at least ten thousand (having never before seen a large cavalry force), but in reality there were about a thousand besides several hundred infantry (mostly Carise Indians). sdct
In the meantime we were formed into a "hollow square" with lines three deep, in order to repel the charge of the cavalry, which we expected would soon be made upon us. Our artillery was placed at the four angles of the square, and our wagons and oxen inside. Our vanguard under Col. Horton had gone a mile or so ahead of us, and the first intimation they had of the approach of the enemy was hearing the fire of our artillery when the fight began. They galloped back as rapidly as possible to regain our lines, but the Mexicans had occupied the road before they came up and they were compelled to retreat. The Mexicans pursued them beyond the Coletto, but as they were well mounted they made their escape. The loss of these mounted men was a most unfortunate one for us. Had they been with us that night after we had driven off the Mexicans, we would have had means of transportation for our wounded, and could easily have made our retreat to the Coletto.
When the Mexicans had approached to within half a mile of our lines they formed into three columns, one remaining stationary, the other two moving to our right and left, but still keeping at about the same distance from us. Whilst they were carrying out this maneuver, our artillery opened upon them with some effect, for now and then we could see a round shot plough through their dense ranks. When the two moving columns, the one on the right and the one on the left, were opposite to each other, they suddenly changed front and the three columns with trumpets braying and pennons flying, charged upon us simultaneously from three directions. When within three or four hundred yards of our lines our artillery opened upon them with grape and cannister shot, with deadly effect--but still their advance was unchecked, until their foremost ranks were in actual contact in some places with the bayonets of our men. But the fire at close quarters from our muskets and rifles was so rapid and destructive, that before long they fell back in confusion, leaving the ground covered in places with horses and dead men.
Capt. D-s company of Kentucky riflemen' and one or two small detachments from other companies formed one side of our "square," and in addition to our rifles, each man in the front rank was furnished with a musket and bayonet to repel the charge of cavalry. Besides my rifle and musket I had slung across my shoulders an "escopeta," a short light "blunderbuss" used by the Mexican cavalry, which I had carried all day in expectation of a fight, and which was heavily charged with forty "blue whistlers" and powder in proportion. It was my intention only to fire it when in a very "tight place," for I was well aware it was nearly as dangerous behind it as before. In the charge made by the Mexican cavalry they nearly succeeded in breaking our lines at several places, and certainly they would have done so had we not taken the precaution of arming all in the front rank with the bayonet and musket. At one time it was almost a hand to hand fight between the cavalry and our front rank, but two files in the rear poured such a continuous fire upon the advancing columns, that as I have said, they were finally driven back in disorder. It was during this charge and when the Mexican cavalry on our side of the square were in a few feet of us, that I concluded that I had got into that "tight place" and that it was time to let off the "scopet" I carried. I did so, and immediately I went heels over head through both ranks behind me. One or two came to my assistance supposing no doubt I was shot (and in truth I thought for a moment myself that a two ounce bullet had struck me) but I soon rose to my feet and took my place in the line again just as the cavalry began to fall back. Now, I don't assert that it was the forty "blue whistlers" I had sent among them from my "scopet" that caused them to retreat in confusion. I merely mention the fact that they did fall back very soon after I had let off the blunderbuss among them. My shoulder was black and blue from the recoil for a month afterwards. When I took my place in the line again, I never looked for my "scopet," but I contented myself while the fight lasted with my rifle.
The Mexicans had no doubt supposed they would be able to break our lines at the first charge, and were evidently much disconcerted by their failure to do so; for although they reformed their broken columns and made two more attempts to charge us, they were driven back as soon as they came within close range of our small arms. When they were satisfied that it was impossible for them to break our lines, the cavalry dismounted and surrounding us, in open order they commenced a "fusilade" upon us with their muskets and escopetas, but being very poor marksmen, most of their bullets passed harmlessly over our heads. Besides, this was a game at which we could play also, and for every man killed or wounded on our side, I am confident that two or three Mexicans fell before the deadly fire from our rifles. But there were with the Mexicans probably a hundred or so Carise Indians, who were much more daring and withal better marksmen. They boldly advanced to the front, and taking advantage of every little inequality of the ground and every bunch of grass that could afford them particular cover, they would crawl up closely and fire upon us, and now and then the discharge of their long single barrel shot guns was followed by the fall of some one in our ranks. Four of them had crawled up behind some bunches of tall grass within eighty yards of us, from whence they delivered their fire with telling effect. Capt. D-, who was using a heavy Kentucky rifle, and was known to be one of the best marksmen in his company, was requested to silence these Indians. He took a position near a gun carriage, and whenever one of the Indians showed his head above the tall grass it was perforated with an ounce rifle ball and after four shots they were seen no more. At the moment he fired the last shot Capt. D- had one of the fingers of his right hand taken off by a musket ball. When the Mexicans quit the field, we examined the locality where these Indians had secreted themselves, and found the four lying closely together, each one with a bullet hole through his head.
At the commencement of the fight a little incident of a somewhat ludicrous character occurred. We had some five or six Mexican prisoners (the couriers of the old padre, captured at Carlos Ranch). These we had placed within the square, when the fight began, for safe keeping, and in an incredibly short time, with picks and shovels, they dug a trench deep enough to "hole" themselves, where they lay "perdue" and completely protected from bullets. I for one, however, didn't blame them, as they were non-combatants, and besides to tell the truth when the bullets were singing like mad hornets around me, and men were struck down near me, I had a great inclination to "hole up" myself and draw it in after me.
The fight continued in a desultory kind of way, until near sunset, when we made a sortie upon the dismounted cavalry, and they hastily remounted and fell back to the timber to our left, where, as soon as it was dark, a long line of fires indicated the position of their encampment. The night was anything but rest for us, for anticipating a renewal of the fight the next morning, all hands were set to work digging entrenchments and throwing up embankments, and at this we labored unceasingly until nearly daylight. We dug four trenches enclosing a square large enough to contain our whole force, throwing the earth on the outside, on which we placed our baggage and everything else available, that might help to protect us from the bullets of the enemy. Before we began this work, however, Col. Fannin made a short speech to the men, in which he told them "that in his opinion, the only way of extricating themselves from the difficulty they were in, was to retreat after dark to the timber on the Coletto, and cut their way through the enemy's lines should they attempt to oppose the movement." He told them there was no doubt they would be able to do this, as the enemy had evidently been greatly demoralized by the complete failure of the attack they had made upon us. He said, moreover, that the necessity for a speedy retreat was the more urgent, as it was more than probable that the Mexicans would be heavily reinforced during the night. He concluded by saying that if a majority were in favor of retreating, preparations would be made to leave as soon as it was dark enough to conceal our movements from the enemy. But we had about seventy men wounded (most of them badly) and as almost every one had some friend or relative among them, after a short consultation upon the subject, it was unanimously determined to not abandon our wounded men, but to remain with them and share their fate, whatever it might be.
Our loss in the Coletto fight was ten killed and about seventy wounded (Col. Fannin among the latter), and most of them badly, owing to the size of the balls thrown by the Mexican escopetas, and the shotguns of the Indians. The number of our casualties was extremely small considering the force of the enemy, and the duration of the fight, which began about three o'clock and lasted till nearly sunset. I can only account for it by the fact that the Mexicans were very poor marksmen, and that their powder was of a very inferior quality. There was scarcely a man in the whole command who had. not been struck by one or more spent balls, which, in place of mere bruises would have inflicted dangerous or fatal wounds if the powder used by the Mexicans had been better. I can never forget how slowly the hours of that dismal night passed by. The distressing cries of our wounded men begging for water when there was not a drop to give them, were continually ringing in my ears. Even those who were not wounded, but were compelled to work all night in the trenches, suffered exceedingly with thirst. Even after we had fortified our position as well as we could, we had but little hopes of being able to defend ourselves, should the Mexicans as we apprehended, receive reinforcements during the night, for we had but one or two rounds of ammunition left for the cannon, and what remained for the small arms was not sufficient for a protracted struggle.
Some time during the night it was ascertained that three of our men (whose names I have forgotten) had deserted, and shortly afterwards as a volley of musketry was heard between us and the timber on the Coletto, they were no doubt discovered and shot by the Mexican patrol. Daylight at last appeared, and before the sun had risen we saw that the Mexican forces were all in motion, and evidently preparing to make another attack upon us. When fairly out of the timber, we soon discovered that they had been heavily reinforced during the night. In fact, as we subsequently learned from the Mexicans themselves, a detachment of seven hundred and fifty cavalry and an artillery company had joined them shortly after their retreat to the timber. In the fight of the previous day they had no cannon. They moved down upon us in four divisions, and when within five or six hundred yards, they unlimbered their field pieces (two brass nine pounders) and opened fire upon us. We did not return their fire, because as I have said, we had only one or two rounds of ammunition left for our cannon, and the distance was too great for small arms. Their shot, however, all went over us, and besides, the breast works we had thrown up would have protected us, even if their guns had been better aimed.
Capitulation at Coleto Creek. We expected momentarily that the cavalry would charge us, but after firing several rounds from their nine pounders, an officer accompanied by a soldier bearing a white flag, rode out towards us, and by signs gave us to understand that he desired a "parley." Major Wallace and several other officers went out and met him about half way between our "fort" and the Mexican lines. The substance of the Mexican officer's communication (as I understood at the time) was to the effect "that Gen. Urrea, the commander of the Mexican forces, being anxious to avoid the useless shedding of blood (seeing we were now completely in his power), would guarantee to Col. Fannin and his men, on his word of honor as an officer and gentleman, that we would be leniently dealt with, provided we surrendered at discretion, without further attempt at hopeless resistance." When this message was delivered to Col. Fannin he sent word back to the officer "to say to Gen. Urrea, it was a waste of time to discuss the subject of surrendering at discretion-that he would fight as long as there was a man left to fire a gun before he would surrender on such terms."
A little while afterwards the Mexicans again made a show of attacking us, but just as we were expecting them to charge, Gen. Urrea himself rode out in front of his lines accompanied by several of his officers and the soldier with the "white flag." Col. Fannin and Major Wallace went out to meet them, and the terms of capitulation were finally agreed upon, the most important of which was, that we should be held as prisoners of war until exchanged, or liberated on our parole of honor not to engage in the war again at the option of the Mexican commander in chief. There were minor articles included in it, such as that our side arms should be retained, etc. When the terms of capitulation had been fully decided upon, Gen. Urrea and his secretary and interpreter came into our lines with Col. Fannin., where it was reduced to writing, and an English translation given to Col. Fannin which was read to our men. I am thus particular in stating what I know to be the facts in regard to this capitulation, because I have seen it stated that Gen. Santa Anna always asserted there was no capitulation, and that Col. Fannin surrendered at discretion to Gen. Urrea. This assertion I have no doubt was made to justify as far as possible his order for the cold blooded murder of disarmed prisoners. Gen. Urrea, I believe, never denied the fact of the capitulation, and I have been informed when the order was sent him by Santa Anna to execute the prisoners, he refused to carry it into effect, and turned over the command to a subaltern. I have always believed myself that Gen. Urrea entered into the capitulation with Col. Fannin in good faith, and that the massacre of the prisoners, which took place some days afterwards, was by the express order of Santa Anna, and against the remonstrances of Gen. Urrea. If Gen. Urrea had intended to act treacherously, the massacre, in my opinion, would have taken place as soon as we had delivered up our arms, when we were upon an open prairie, surrounded by a large force of cavalry, where it would have been utterly impossible for a single soul to have escaped, and consequently he could then have given to the world his own version of the affair without fear of contradiction. sdct
I have said nothing as yet of the Mexican loss in the fight and I cannot do so with any certainty, of my own knowledge; but there is no doubt it was much greater than ours. They told us after we had surrendered that we had killed and wounded several hundred. Dr. Joseph Barnard, our assistant surgeon, who was saved from the massacre to attend their wounded, told me afterwards that he was confident we had killed and wounded between three and four hundred, and his opportunities for forming a correct estimate of the number were certainly better than those of any one else. After our surrender we marched back to Goliad, escorted by a large detachment of cavalry, and there confined within the walls surrounding the old mission. Among the Mexican officers there was a lieutenant by the name of Martinez, who had been educated at a Catholic college in Kentucky, where he had been a room-mate of a member of Capt. D-'s company, by the name of B-." Every day whilst we were prisoners he used to come and talk with B-, and professed his great regret to find him in such a situation, but he never gave him the slightest intimation of the treacherous designs of the Mexicans nor, as far as I know, made the least effort to save his college room-mate.
Treatment and execution of prisoners. A day or so after our return as prisoners to Goliad, Maj. Ward and his battalion or rather those who survived the engagement they had with the Mexicans, near Refugio, were brought in and confined with us, within the walls enclosing the old mission; and also a company of about eighty men under the command of Maj. Miller, who had been surprised and captured at Copano just after they had landed from their vessel. These men were also confined with us, but kept separate from the rest, and to distinguish them, each had a white cloth tied around one of his arms. At the time, I had no idea why this was done, but subsequently I learned the reason. The morning of the sixth day after our return to Goliad, whether the Mexicans suspected we intended to rise upon the guard, or whether they merely wished to render our situation as uncomfortable as possible, I know not, but at any rate from that time we were confined in the old mission where we were so crowded we had hardly room to lie down at night. Our rations too, about that time, had been reduced to five ounces of fresh beef a day, which we had to cook in the best way we could and eat without salt. Although thus closely confined and half starved, no personal indignity was ever offered to us to my knowledge, except on two occasions. Once a Mexican soldier pricked one of our men with his bayonet, because he did not walk quite fast enough to suit him, whereupon he turned and knocked the Mexican down with his fist. I fully expected to see him roughly handled for this covert act, but the officer in command of the guard, who saw the affair, came up to him and patting him on the shoulder, told him he was "muy bravo," and that he had served the soldier exactly right. At another time one of our men was complaining to the officer of the guard of the ration issued to him, who ordered one of the soldiers to collect a quantity of bones and other offal lying around, and throwing them on the ground before the man, said, "There, eat as much as you want good enough for Gringos and heretics."
One day an officer who was passing, asked me some questions in Spanish, and when I answered him in Spanish, he took a seat by me, and talked with me for some time. He asked me a great many questions about the United States, our form of government, the number of our regular army, what State I came from and what induced me to come to Texas, etc., to all of which I frankly answered. He expressed much astonishment at the correctness of my pronunciation, and asked where I had learned to speak Spanish, saying he was sure I had not learnt the language among the Mexicans. I told him I had studied Spanish under a teacher of modern languages at a Catholic institution in Kentucky. He then asked if I was a Catholic myself, and when I told him I was not, he seemed disappointed, and tried in various ways to get some sort of admission from me that I had more faith in the Catholic religion than any other. The talk I had with this officer made but little impression upon me at the time, but I have since thought on account of my youth, or because I had in some way gained his favor, he was desirous of an excuse or pretext to save me from the fate he probably knew was in store for us. I know that several of our men were saved from the massacre, for no other reason that I am aware of, than that they professed to be members of the Catholic church. Several times afterwards the officer above mentioned came to talk with me, and he insisted I was a Catholic if I would but own it but I strenuously denied "the soft impeachment" to the last. If I had suspected his object in getting me to admit that I was a Catholic, it is probable I might have sought temporal as well as eternal safety in the bosom of the church. It would have been very easy for me to have passed for a "good Catholic," for Catholicism (at least among the lower class of Mexicans) consists mainly in knowing how to make the sign of the cross, together with unbounded reverence first, for the Virgin Mary, and secondly, for the saints generally and the priests. But I did not suspect the object this officer had in view when he tried to make a convert of me to the true faith, and I am afraid I have lost the only chance I shall ever have of becoming a "good Catholic."
On the morning of the 27th of March, a Mexican officer came to us, and ordered us to get ready for a march. He told us we were to be liberated on "parole," and that arrangements had been made to send us to New Orleans on board of vessels then at Copano. This, you may be sure, was joyful news to us, and we lost no time in making preparations to leave our uncomfortable quarters. When all was ready we were formed into three divisions and marched out under a strong guard, as we passed by some Mexican women who were standing near the main entrance to the fort, I heard them say "pobrecitos"' (poor fellows), but the incident at the time made but little impression on my mind. One of our divisions was taken down the road leading to the lower ford of the river, one upon the road to San Patricio, and the division to which my company was attached, along the road leading to San Antonio. A strong guard accompanied us, marching in double files on both sides of our columns. It occurred to me that this division of our men into three squads, and marching us off in three directions was rather a singular maneuver, but still I had no suspicion of the f oul play intended us. When about a mile above town, a halt was made and the guard on the side next the river filed around to the opposite side. Hardly had this maneuver been executed, when I heard a heavy firing of musketry in the directions taken by the other two divisions.
Escape from the execution squads. Some one near me exclaimed "Boys! they are going to shoot us!" and at the same instant I heard the clicking of a musket locks all along the Mexican line. I turned to look, and as I did so, the Mexicans fired upon us, killing probably one hundred out of the one hundred and fifty men in the division. We were in the double file and I was in the rear rank. The man in front of me was shot dead, and in falling he knocked me down. I didn't get up for a minute, and when I rose to my feet, I found that the whole Mexican line had charged over me, and were in hot pursuit of those who had not been shot and who were fleeing towards the river about five hundred yards distant. I followed on after them, for I knew that escape in any direction (all open prairie) would be impossible, and I had nearly reached the river before it became necessary to make my way through the Mexican line ahead. As I did so, one of the soldiers charged upon me with his bayonet (his gun I suppose being empty). As he drew his musket back to make a lunge at me, one of our men coming from another direction, ran between us, and the bayonet was driven through his body. The blow was given with such force, that in falling, the man probably wrenched or twisted the bayonet in such a way as to prevent the Mexican from withdrawing it immediately. I saw him put his foot upon the man, and make an ineffectual attempt to extricate the bayonet from his body, but one look satisfied me, as I was somewhat in a hurry just then, and I hastened to the bank of the river and plunged in. The river at that point was deep and swift, but not wide, and being a good swimmer, I soon gained the opposite bank, untouched by any of the bullets that were pattering in the water around my head. But here I met with an unexpected difficulty. The bank on that side was so steep I found it was impossible to climb it, and I continued to swim down the river until I came to where a grape vine hung from the bough of a leaning tree nearly to the surface of the water. This I caught hold of and was climbing up it hand over hand, sailor fashion, when a Mexican on the opposite bank fired at me with his escopeta, and with so true an aim, that he cut the vine in two just above my head, and down I came into the water again. I then swam on about a hundred yards further, when I came to a place where the bank was not quite so steep, and with some difficulty I managed to clamber up.
The river on the north side was bordered by timber several hundred yards in width, through which I quickly passed and I was just about to leave it and strike out into the open prairie, when I discovered a party of lancers nearly in front of me, sitting on their horses, evidently stationed there to intercept any one who should attempt to escape in that direction. I halted at once under the cover of the timber,. through which I could see the lancers in the open prairie, but which hid me entirely from their view. Whilst I was thus waiting and undecided as to the best course to pursue under the circumstances, I saw a young man by the name of Holliday, one of my own messmates, passing through the timber above me in a course that would have taken him out at the point directly opposite on which the lancers were stationed. I called to him as loudly as I dared and fortunately, being on the "qui vive," he heard me, and stopped far enough within the timber to prevent the lancers from discovering him. I then pulled off a fur cap I had on, and beckoned to him with it. This finally drew his attention to me, and as soon as he saw me he came to where I was standing, from whence, without being visible to them, the lancers could be plainly seen. A few moments afterwards we were joined by a young man by the name of Brown from Georgia, who had just swam the river, and had accidentally stumbled on the place where Holliday and I were holding a "council of war" as to what was the best course to pursue. Holliday, although a brave man, was very much excited, and had lost to some extent his presence of mind, for he proposed we should leave the timber at once and take the chances of evading the lancers we saw on the prairie. I reasoned with him on the folly of such a proceeding, and told him it would be impossible for us to escape in the open prairie from a dozen men on horseback. "But," said Holliday, "the Mexicans are crossing the river behind us, and they will soon be here." "That may be," I replied, "but they are not here yet, and in the mean time something may turn up to favor our escape." Brown took the same view of the case I did, and Holliday's wild proposition to banter a dozen mounted men for a race on the open prairie was "laid upon the table."
While we were debating this (to us) momentous question, some four or five of our men passed out of the timber before we saw them, into the open prairie, and when they discovered the lancers it was too late. The lancers charged upon them at once speared them to death, and then dismounting robbed them of such things as they had upon their persons. From where we stood the whole proceeding was plainly visible to us, and as may be imagined, it was not calculated to encourage any hopes we might have had of making our escape. However, after the lancers had plundered the men they had just murdered, they remounted, and in a few moments set off in a rapid gallop down the river to where it is probable they had discovered other fugitives coming out of the timber. We at once seized the opportunity thus afforded us to leave the strip of timber which we knew could give us shelter but a few moments longer, and started out, taking advantage of a shallow ravine which partially hid us from view. We had scarcely gone two hundred yards from the timber, when we saw the lancers gallop back and take up their position at the same place they had previously occupied. Strange to say, however, they never observed us, although we were in plain view of them for more than a quarter of a mile, without a single brush or tree to screen us.
We traveled about five or six miles and stopped in a thick grove to rest ourselves, where we staid until night. All day long we heard at intervals irregular discharges of musketry in the distance, indicating, as we supposed, where fugitives from the massacre were overtaken and shot by the pursuing parties of Mexicans. As the undergrowth was pretty dense in the grove where we had stopped, we concluded the chances of being picked up by one of these pursuing parties would be greater if we traveled on than if we remained where we were, and determined to "lie by" until night. In talking the matter over and reflecting upon the many narrow risks we had run in making our escape, we came to the conclusion that in all probability we were the only survivors of the hundreds who had that morning been led out to slaughter; although in fact as we subsequently learned, twenty-five or thirty of our men eventually reached the settlements on the Brazos. Drs. Shackleford and Barnard, our surgeons, were saved from the massacre to attend upon Mexicans wounded in the fight on the Coletto, and when their forces retreated from Goliad after the battle of San Jacinto these were taken to San Antonio, where they were ultimately liberated. Our own wounded men, or rather those of them that survived up to the time of the massacre, were carried out into the open square of the fort, and there cruelly butchered by the guard. Capt. Miller and his men were saved, because, as I was subsequently informed, they had been captured soon after they landed from their vessel, without any arms, and of course without making any resistance.
Death of Col. Fannin. Col. Fannin, who was confined to his quarters by a wound he had received at the fight on the Coletto, soon after the massacre of his men, was made to prepare for immediate execution, He merely observed that he was ready then, as he had no desire to live after the cold-blooded, cowardly murder of his men. He was thereupon taken out to the square by a guard, where he was seated on a bench, and his eyes blindfolded. A moment before the order to "fire" was given, I was told (though I cannot vouch for the truth of the statement) he drew a fine gold watch from his pocket, handing it to the officer in command of the guard, requested him as a last favor to order his men to shoot him in the breast and not in the head. The officer took the watch, and immediately ordered the guard to fire at his head. Col. Fannin fell dead and his body was thrown into one of the ravines near the fort. Thus died as brave a son of Georgia as ever came from that noble old State.
Escape of William Hunter. The escape of Wm. Hunter was most wonderful. At the first fire he fell pierced by a musket ball. A Mexican soldier thinking he was not quite dead, cut his throat with a butcher knife, but not deep enough to sever the jugular vein, stabbed him with his bayonet, and then beat him over the head with the breech of his musket, until he was satisfied his bloody work was accomplished. He then stripped him of his clothing and left him for dead upon the ground where he had fallen. Hunter laid there in a perfectly unconscious state until dark, but after night came on, the cool air and dew revived him, and by degrees he regained his senses. For a time all that had occurred since morning appeared like a troubled dream of his, but gradually the reality of the events that had taken place forced itself upon his mind, and he cautiously raised his head to reconnoitre. All was still around and not a moving, living creature was visible, nothing but the pallid upturned faces of his murdered comrades dimly seen in the waning light of day. He found himself extremely weak from loss of blood, and his limbs were sore and stiffened, but he was suffering intensely from thirst, and he resolved, if possible, to drag himself to the river. With much pain and difficulty, he succeeded in reaching the water, and after quenching his thirst, he bound up his wounds as well as he could with strips of cloth torn from his shirt.
Before daylight he had recovered his strength so far that he was able to swim the river, and took his way to a Mexican ranch on the Manahuila creek, with the people of which he had had some previous acquaintance, thinking it was better to trust himself to their tender mercies than to attempt to travel through a wilderness in his wounded and weakened condition. When near the ranch he met a Mexican woman who told him he would certainly be killed if he went there. She advised him to secrete himself in a thicket she designated, and told him as soon as it was dark she would come out to him and bring him some food and clothing. Hunter had his suspicions that she intended to betray him, yet there was no alternative but to trust her, and he hid himself in the thicket she had pointed out to him, and anxiously awaited her reappearance. True to her promise, a little while after dark, she returned, bringing provisions and water, together with a suit of Mexican clothes. For nearly a week this Mexican woman came to his place of concealment every night, fed him and dressed his wounds until he was sufficiently restored to travel. She then supplied him with as much provisions as he could carry and also a flint and steel for making fire, and bidding him "adio's" she returned to the ranch. Thus recruited and supplied with clothing and provisions, Hunter took his course through the wilderness, and having a pretty good idea of the "lay of the land," after many narrow escapes he eventually made his way to the Texan army under General Houston.
John Crittenden Duval was one of the survivors of the Goliad Massacre. In his book, Early Times in Texas, he left a lurid account of his life which cannot be accepted as wholly reliable. Duval's following account of a raid on Carlos Ranch and encounter with and arrest of Father Josť Valdez is highly entertaining if not exactly truthful:
Not long after our arrival at Goliad the sobriquet of Mustangs or Wild Horses was acquired by our company from the following incident; M-, our second lieutenant, was a man of great physical powers, but withal one of the most peaceful and most genial men when not under the influence of liquor. But occasionally he would get on a "spree," and then he was as wild as a "March hare" and perfectly uncontrollable. The Mexicans seemed to know him and to fear him, also, and when he was on one of his "benders" they would retreat into their houses as soon as they saw him and shut their doors. This proceeding, of course, was calculated to irritate M-, and he would forthwith kick the door from its hinges. On a certain occasion he battered down the doors of half a dozen houses in one street; and from that time the Mexicans called him the Mustang, and finally the name was applied to the company. But few events occurred to vary the daily routine of our life at Goliad. The following, however, I will mention: Our company was detailed on one occasion to go to San Patricio, an Irish settlement about fifty miles southwest from Goliad, for the purpose of securing a couple of field pieces left there by the Mexicans. We accomplished without difficulty, and without any opposition, although our scouts had informed Colonel Fannin that a considerable force of Mexican guerillas was in the vicinity of the place.
On another occasion our company was detailed to march to Carlos Ranch, a Mexican village about twenty miles below Goliad, with instructions to arrest certain of the inhabitants, who, it was ascertained, were constantly transmitting intelligence of our movements to Santa Anna, and among the number was the old padre or priest of the village. In order that the Mexicans might not suspect our object and frustrate our plans by giving the padre and his friends timely warning of our intentions, we left the town quietly after dark in the opposite direction to the one we designed taking. When safe beyond observation, we turned our course down the river, and making a forced march, we reached the village a little before daylight and surrounded it without alarming any of the inhabitants. A detachment then entered the padre's house, and caught the bird in his nest, together with five or six other suspicious characters (supposed to be his couriers, as in fact they were), and the whole of them were "bagged" without alarming any of the people in the village. Having thus accomplished our object, we marched to a point on the river about a quarter of a mile above, where we halted in a grove to rest and prepare something for breakfast. Placing a guard over the padre and his couriers, we stacked our guns and soon everyone was busily engaged in cooking such "grub" as we had in our knapsacks. By this time the sun had risen, and we were just seating ourselves on the grass around the scanty fare we had prepared for our breakfast (consisting of hardtack, jerked beef and the inevitable coffee), when our attention was drawn to shrieks and doleful cries in the direction of the village, and seeing a crowd of people coming from it towards us, we hastily sprang to our guns, thinking the Mexicans were about to make at attempt to rescue the prisoners, but as the crowd drew nearer, we saw that it was composed mostly of women and children. It seems that they had just found out we had captured their reverend padre, and they were coming to bid him farewell and obtain his parting blessing.
I had heard that the Mexicans were completely under the control of their priests, but I had but a faint conception of the fact until I witnessed the scene that ensued. As they came up the women knelt at his feet, weeping, and mourning, and kissed his hand and even the hem of his priestly robes. Presently another crowd of women came from the village, bringing with them plates filled with hot "tortillas," pots of coffee, "dulces," etc., intended for the padre's breakfast, and that of the other prisoners, and when they deposited them on the grass before them we took possession of them as the "legitimate spoils of war" and found they were much better than our course of hardtack and dried beef. Such conduct on our part, I admit, bordered closely on the "sacrilegious," but then you must remember we had been marching all night and of course were very hungry-and, as the Mexicans said themselves, "what better could you expect from Gringos and heretics!"
Seeing that the reverend padre would have but little chance to get his breakfast until we had ours, the women continued to bring in fresh supplies of eatables as fast as we disposed of them. Finally, however, when our hunger was appeased, the reverend padre and his couriers had a show at what was left. In the vicinity of the place where we had halted, we noticed a large "corral" in which several hundred head of mustangs were penned. We were all tired of "trudging" on foot, and concluded we would "press" into the service (a military term for appropriating property belonging to others) a sufficient n umber of these mustangs to mount the whole company. Accordingly we compelled the Mexicans to rope and equip with saddles and bridles about fifty of them. We were all I suppose pretty good horsemen, as the term is understood in the "old States," but we knew that these mustangs were only partially broken to the saddle, and we anticipated having some "fun" when we mounted them-though nothing like as much as we really got, for at the time we were totally ignorant of that peculiar trick of mustangs called "pitching," by which they manage almost invariably to get rid of a "green" rider. When the mustangs with considerable difficulty, after roping them closely to trees, had all been saddled and bridled, at the word of command, we mounted (except five or six who failed to do so) and the next instant a scene of horses kicking, rearing and plunging ensued, of which only a confused recollection remained upon my mind, and in less time than it takes me to tell of it, we were all put "hors de combat" (no pun intended). sdct
As for the part I took individually in this equestrian performance, I have only to say that I had hardly seated myself in the saddle, when my unruly steed humped his back like a mad cat, reared up, and then came down on his stiffened forelegs with such force that if "next week" had been lying on the ground ten or fifteen feet ahead of me, I would certainly have knocked out the middle. I was partially stunned by the fall, but soon rose to my feet, and was much relieved and consoled on looking around, to find that all the rest had been served in the same way, except one rider who managed to stick upon his horse in spite of all the animal's efforts to get rid of him. The Mexicans no doubt had purposely selected the wildest horses in the corral, and it is probable the most of them had never been backed half a dozen times even by the rancheros themselves, who are unsurpassed by any people in horsemanship. I am confident that the padre and his flock enjoyed this equestrian performance much more than the actors, but as heretofore the laugh had been all on our side, we did not blame them for the pleasure they took in our discomfiture. However, we concluded to dispense with our unmanageable steeds, "impressed" them by restoring them to their lawful owners, and resumed our march on foot for Goliad. The Mexican padre was sent to San Felipe on the Brazos, where he was securely caged until Santa Anna and his army were defeated and driven from Texas. He had the reputation of being a great scoundrel and an inveterate gambler, and his sinister countenance did not belie "the soft impeachment." I will do him the justice however, to say that we were indebted to him for the best breakfast we had eaten since landing in Texas. Peace to his ashes.