Massacre at Goliad--Mexican Centralista Descriptions
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Translation by Carlos Casteñeda of the Centralista copy of the surrender document in the Archives of the War Department in Mexico City discovered by Dr. E. C. Barker. Copies of the surrender document in English as described by Colonel Holzinger and other eyewitnesses, have never been recovered. The actual terms of surrender agreed to by both sides or the meaning of the terms in the Centralista document below will forever be a source of debate, unless new authenticated documents including the signed English translations emerge. To Texians, Fannin and his men proposed and received agreement to a surrender with terms. Urrea's addendum to the document appears to nullify any terms, however, it is an undated addendum below the signatures which do not include Centralista commissioners. It is unlikely that the Texian commissioners were aware of the addendum or agreed to it. The addendum was conceivably added to only the Spanish version and even after 20 March when the Texians were securely in the hands of their Centralista captors. The words "nor wish" [ni quiero] in Urrea's addendum appear to have been inserted in the archival copy. However, the words were not included in the copy of the capitulation later cited in Urrea's Diario which he edited and published in 1838 after Santa Anna's account of the Texas campaign in Manifesto published in 1837. As cited in Urrea's diary, the phrase translates "I ought not, nor can I, grant any other terms." This version also is noted in Gen. Filisola's memoirs.
Art. 1. The Mexican troops having placed their battery at a distance of one hundred and seventy paces from us and the fire having been renewed, we raised a white flag. Colonels Juan Morales, Colonel Mariano Salas and Lieutenant Colonel Juan José Holsinger of Engineers came immediately. We proposed to them to surrender at descretion and they agreed.
Art. 2. The commandant Fannin and the wounded shall be treated with all possible consideration possible upon the surrender of all their arms.
Art. 3. The whole detachment shall be treated as prisoners of war and shall be subject to the disposition of the Supreme Government.
Camp on the Coleto between Guadalupe and La Bahia, March 20, 1836. B. C. Wallace, commandant, J. M. Chadwick, Aide.---Approved, James W. Fannin.
Since, when the white flag was raised by the enemy, I made it known to their officer that I could not grant any other terms than unconditional surrender and they agreed to it through the officers expressed, those who subscribe the surrender have no right to any other terms. They have been informed of this fact and they are agreed. I ought not, cannot, nor wish to grant any other terms---José Urrea. This is a copy. Mexico, March 7, 1837. Ignacio del Corral. sdct
General José Urrea's Report of the
Battle of Coleto Creek
MINISTER OF WAR AND MARINE Central Section Desk No. I. Division of Operations Most Excellent Sir-On the 19th Inst., the fort of Goliad was abandoned by the enemy after an attempt to fight this division. The said fortress is, therefore, at the disposal of the supreme government. The leader, Fannin, and his companions with more than three hundred soldiers (who capitulated) that were garrisoning the said fortress are likewise at its disposal.
[There is a contradiction here. Santa Anna emphatically states in the Manifesto that there was no capitulation. Furthermore, Urrea in his Diario, published immediately after the Manifesto, says "the phrase in the parenthesis [who capitulated] has been altered, for I wrote Que se titulaban [who called themselves such] and there is a vast difference between the two phrases evident from their very meaning, but specially so, given the circumstances." This document is reproduced in the appendix to Urrea's Diario under the same number. It was published in the Diario del Gobierno, México, April 13, 1836, and also in the Alcance of El Mercurio, Matamoros, April 3, 1836. In both instances the phrase in question appears as "que se titulaban."---Carlos Casteñeda's footnote. William Kennedy in his book, Texas, points out the use of the words "habian capitulado" by Filisola and others in official documents.---WLM]
When these men left their fortifications, they carried with them nine pieces of artillery, about one thousand rifles, and plenty of ammunition. With a little more than three hundred men, infantry and cavalry, I overtook them at the Plain of Perdido. I drove them out of a fine live oak thicket which they defended by a lively cannonade, and attacked them in spite of the superiority of their force, equipment, and artillery---I myself being entirely deprived of the latter. The engagement was hotly contested; and, because of circumstances which I shall explain to Your Excellency in detail whenever opportunity offers, it was dangerous for us. But the valor of our army was brilliantly displayed in the engagement. When the light of day failed, I gathered my force in columns but remained facing the enemy, less than two hundred paces distant. Thus we spent the night, and the following day, yesterday, as soon as two six-pounders I had ordered from Goliad arrived, I placed my battery one hundred and sixty paces from the enemy. I prepared for a new attack; but the enemy, who had strengthened his position during the night by digging a rectangular trench, being already intimidated by the intrepidity of our soldiers, surrendered at discretion the moment we renewed our fire as shown by the enclosed document relative to the proposals made by the enemy officers and the reply I gave them. My terms having been accepted, they are all in my power with their arms and a large supply of munitions.
In spite of the fatigue of the troops, I marched immediately with two pieces of artillery to this place to keep the enemy from reenforcing it to obstruct our crossing of the river. The movement was very opportune, for I met a party of about eighty men of the enemy already here. They fled the moment I ordered a charge upon them, just as I was entering the town. The party took refuge in the thick woods along the river and made good its escape, but another party of twenty which was coming to this place fell into my hands. I took seven of them prisoners, the rest, together with their officer and his aide, having been killed in the skirmish. Early tomorrow morning I shall occupy a private port on the La Baca lake which is frequented by the enemy. As I have been assured that the food supplies are kept there, and that a ship was seen in the port of La Baca day before yesterday, I may find some troops at that place. There is another ship anchored at Cópano, and I have learned from two Americans who were taken at the mission of Refugio by the troops left there that it has eighty men aboard and some food supplies. I have issued instructions to make certain of everything but I am not very hopeful, for we do not have a single boat to our name.
At this place I have taken twenty barrels of flour belonging to the enemy, as well as other things, of all of which I shall render a report later. Our active operations should be continued, I believe, unless Your Excellency decides otherwise, because the enemy seems to be intent on fortifying itself at the Colorado. For this reason I have sent instructions to-day to Colonel Juan Morales at Goliad, a copy of which I am accompanying to Your Excellency. I shall act in accordance with the resolutions of Your Excellency and agreeable to circumstances, without compromising the honor of the nation or that of the army. It only remains for me now to commend, in general, the bravery and daring of the gallant officers and soldiers who, with so much honor and courage, added luster to the characteristic valor of the Mexican army in the brilliant engagement of the 19th. Immediately upon the surrender of the enemy, their fury was changed to the most admirable indulgence. This show of generosity after a hotly contested engagement is worthy of the highest commendation, and I can do no less than to commend it to Your Excellency, at the same time begging you to have due regard for the families of the brave combatants that fell in defense of the rights of their country. I shall soon send Your Excellency the details of the action. I congratulate Your Excellency and the supreme government for the triumphs obtained by the army under your command in this most just and honorable war. I again present to Your Excellency my most distinguished considerations of affection and respect. GOD AND LIBERTY.-Victoria, March 21st., 1836. José Urrea To His Excellency, the President, Antonio López de Santa Anna, General-in-Chief of the Army of Operations. This is a copy. Mexico, March 9, 1837. IGNACIO DEL CORRAL sdct
The Capitulation of Fannin
According to Col. Juan José Holzinger
Quintana 3rd June 1836 Colonel Jno A. Wharton Esteemed Sir, In answer to your favor of yesterday respecting the affair of Col. Fannin with the division of the mexican army commanded by General Urrea, in which I occupied a station as engineer, I proceed to make known the facts which came under my personal observation.
On the 19th March ulto. we learned in the Mexican Camp at 2 P. M. that the Texian garrison had evacuated Fort Goliad and taken the Coleto road for Victoria. Two battalions of infantry and 200 cavalry were immediately sent to attack Colonel Fannin's forces, and they were overtaken at Pass Perdido and the action began at 4 P. M. which lasted till night without any advantage having been gained by either side. Genl. Urrea received next morning two pieces of artillery which were placed in a favorable position, but were not to fired unless the enemy made a movement. On learning from one of our out-posts that the enemy was moving, orders were given to attack him with the artillery but when on the third time of firing we perceived that he did not return it, ours was suspended and 1/4 of an hour afterwards he was seen to hang out a white flag. General Urrea then sent as Commisssioners to Fannin's Camp, Colonels Salas, Morales and myself to enquire into the motive of the flag, when we were informed that they were ready to surrender as prisoners of war, if the Mexican Commander would engage to treat them according to the usage of civilized nations. We were acquainted with the law that establishes the penalty of death for those individuals who may come armed for the purpose of carrying on war in Mexican territory and that the door was therefore closed against any agreement; I offered however to Colonel Fannin to make known his disposition to General Urrea which in effect I did, and received for answer, that inasmuch as the law prohibited his entering into such agreements he could not enter into any, nor listen to any other proposition that a surrender at the discretion of the Supreme Government of Mexico; adding that I might, individually, assure him, (Fannin) that he would use his influence and endeavors with the Supreme Govt. of Mexico for the alleviation of his fate and that of his men, treating them, during the time which would transpire previous to receiving the answer from said government, as prisoners of war, according to the right of Nations.
On this, Colonel Fannin, called a meeting to discuss this message from the Mexican Commander. After waiting about half an hour Col. Fannin and his men declared to us the meeting had come to the resolution of obtaining a guarantee for their lives and effects, also that their wounded should receive the same treatment as the Mexicans in virtue of a document to be drawn up, signed by me and ratified by General Urrea. When the General was informed of this, he repeated that he could not make any public treaty, to be signed by any one on the Mexican side, and that Fannin should show, in writing, his surrender at discretion, in which General Urrea insisted, under the promise before made, individually. On this second answer, Colonel Fannin and his men, after some minutes' hesitation, put to us the following question: "Do you believe that the Mexican Government will not attempt to take away our lives?"--And the three Commissioners answered, that in virtue of the law in force we could give no guarantee whatsoever; but that not a single example could be adduced that the Mexican Government had ordered a man to be shot who had trusted to their clemency. Although this answer did not satisfy them, they said to us, "Well then, I have no water; my wounded need attendance, I particularly recommend to you those unfortunate men and will deliver myself up to the discretion of the Mexican Government."--Pursuant to this resolution of Col. Fannin and his men, we agreed upon one hour for effecting the delivery of the arms, and that every man should retain his baggage, and Capt. Andrade, General Urrea's secretary, was ordered to draw up the surrender at discretion in Spanish and English, the former to remain with General Urrea and the latter with Col. Fannin. Here terminated our commission, nor did we, the Commissioners, sign any agreement whatsoever. If subsequently General Urrea, had, through his Secretary any further negotiation with Col. Fannin, on the matter, I am entirely ignorant of it.
With regard to the question you put to me concerning the execution of the prisoners at Bahia I have to observe that my station in the Mexican army as an Officer of Engineers, commanding the Artillery, did not allow of any intervention on my part in such operations; for it did not correspond with my situation and it was only after the event had taken place that I was informed of it; as you however request my private opinion I will manifest it with the frankness and candor peculiar to a Soldier; for notwithstanding that I was on the theatre of action, yet I had no part in it, directly nor indirectly, nor was it incumbent on me to have any, under no pretext, whatever. When we stated to Col. Fannin that the Government of Mexico had ill-treated no one, for political acts, who had trusted to its clemency, we sincerely believe that in behalf of humanity, General Urrea would have used his influence with the former as he had promised, so that when acquainted with the affair of the surrender and its circumstances, it might be disposed to act according to the dictates of compassion. I do not know if General Urrea did, or did not use his influence in that manner, but, if he did so, 50 days at least were necessary for his answer to arrive, and in the meanwhile the minds of men might alter. I moreover believe that if General Urrea had acquainted the Commander-in-Chief, Santa Anna, with what he had individually promised through us, to Colonel Fannin, the President would never have consented that the Commandant of Bahia should carry into execution the law of the General Congress of Mexico against those who come armed to wage war on the territory of Mexico. Although General Urrea has behaved with humanity towards some of the prisoners, yet I have observed that on the whole he and his aids were far from showing the noble sentiments of an Officer of honor towards a fellow enemy.
I have likewise to accuse the Commandante of La Bahia of having allowed themselves to be carried away by the populace to act inhumanly towards the unfortunate Texians who fell into their hands, and it is probable that their violent, cruel and fatal reports contributed to the misfortunes of the prisoners; finally, I believe that the lamentable affair of Fannin and his men arises from General Urrea's not making out the reports he sent to his Superiors with proper sincerity and from the want of energy in the acting Commandants to oppose the will of the barbarous populace. For, certainly, if the General Government, or our President had been informed that Fannin's forces had surrendered at discretion, under an individual promise, he would have required its punctual fulfillment; but as the Government and President far from the scene of action, they could only take for their guide the reports of Commanders; when those act illegally misfortunes are sure to ensue. This is my private opinion, nothing more. I am persuaded that I have fulfilled your desires and in no way departed from the truth. Receive the affection and regard of your very attentive faithful servant, who hour hand Kisses. (Signed) Juan Jose Holzinger A true translation from the original by Edward Gritten [rubric] [endorsed] Col. Holzinger's account of the capture of Fannin--
W.H. Jack to Col. J.J. Holzinger. Department of State Republic of Texas [ca. June 1, 1836 To Colo. Juan Jose Holzinger] Sir The supreme Government of this Republic has with great pleasure been informed of the generous manner in which upon former occasions you were pleased to treat some Texas Citizens prisoners that fell into your hands, in different parts of Texas. Actions of this nature could not less than fill this Government with the best feeling towards your person, and the President has instructed me to make known to you, that in consideration of such acts, you are free, and that this Government will furnish you with the necessary passports in order that you may proceed to Vera Cruz, or such other point as you may deem proper. In communicating to you this information, I take the opportunity to present to you my consideration and esteem I am your most obt Servant Wm. H. Jack Secy of State sdct
by General Antonio López De Santa Anna 1837
It is necessary, before proceeding, to pause and review the operations of General Urrea. All of them were brilliant and fortune crowned all his efforts. Dr. Grant was overcome by his division; the coast was cleared of enemies; and those defending Goliad under the command of Fannin abandoned it and fled to Guadalupe Victoria, being forced to surrender at El Encinal in the plain of Perdido.
All this contributed in no small manner to the well-earned reputation of that general in the Texas campaign. To me, however, the last incident has brought grave consequences; and it is necessary, therefore, that I be allowed to digress here in order to speak of this matter.
Let it be said now in order to avoid repetition: the war against Texas has been as just on the part of the Mexican government as the lack of the slightest attempt on the part of those who forced it upon Mexico has been to try to justify their action. Few of the colonists, properly speaking, have taken up arms in the struggle. The soldiers of Travis at the Alamo, those of Fannin at Perdido, the riflemen of Dr. Grant, and Houston himself and his troops at San Jacinto, with but few exceptions, were publicly known to have come from New Orleans and other points of the neighboring republic exclusively for the purpose of aiding the Texas rebellion without ever having been members of any of the colonization grants. Some Mexicans [Castañeda footnote: Santa Anna is hinting at Lorenzo Zavala, first vice-president of Texas], partisans of a former system of government, thought, perhaps in good faith, that the only effect of fanning the fire of war in Texas would be a political change in accord with their opinion. Their shortsighted ambition must be a terrible lesson to them as well as a source of eternal remorse. Too late, they now deplore having placed in jeopardy the integrity of our national territory.
Our country found itself invaded not by an established nation that came to vindicate its rights, whether true or imaginary; nor by Mexicans who, in a paroxysm of political passion, came to defend or combat the public administration of the country. The invaders were all men who, moved by the desire of conquest, with rights less apparent and plausible than those of Cortés and Pizarro, wished to take possession of that vast territory extending from Bexar to the Sabine belonging to Mexico. What can we call them? How should they be treated? All the existing laws, whose strict observance the government had just recommended, marked them as pirates and outlaws. The nations of the world would never have forgiven Mexico had it accorded them rights, privileges, and considerations which the common law of peoples accords only to constituted nations. (Document No. 5.).
Up to this time I had enjoyed among my fellow-citizens a reputation which I preferred to that of being brave: that of being generous in victory. It was necessary, in order that my misfortune should be complete, that even the only virtue that my most bitter enemies never denied me should now be questioned. I am made to appear more ferocious than a tiger, I, who in a country the most generous and humane, pride myself on being known for my clemency. Because of the execution of Fannin and his men I am accused of being barbarous and sanguinary. [Castañeda Footnote: In the Diario already cited Santa Anna quotes Urrea as follows: "Adventurers who introduce themselves into Texas armed to favor the revolution of the colonists being outlawed, the prisoners have been executed." Genaro García, Documentos, 11, 35]
I appeal to those of my fellow-citizens who have exercised the profession of magistrate. They shall say how many times their trembling hands have signed a death sentence, the letters of which were blurred by their tears. Law commands, and the magistrate has no power to mitigate its rigor, for him it is to put into execution. If, in the execution of law, no discretion is allowed a judge, can a general in a campaign be expected to exercise greater freedom? The prisoners of Goliad were condemned by law, by a universal law, that of personal defense, enjoyed by all nations and all individuals. They surrendered unconditionally, as the communication of General Urrea (Document No. 6) shows. How could I divert the sword of justice from their heads without making it fall upon my own? Let it be said, if you want, I confess that it is not my opinion that the law was unjust, but can there be greater blindness than to impute the crime to the dagger and not to the hand that wields it?
The prisoners greatly embarrassed the commander of Goliad. They had, before fleeing, set fire to the town and no building had been left except the church now being used by the sick and wounded. The guard consisted only of the garrison which was much inferior in numbers to the prisoners, while the food supplies were barely sufficient for the most essential needs of the troops. Without cavalry, with every soldier needed for the campaign, the prisoners could not be conducted to Matamoros. All these considerations transmitted to me by that officer had undue weight upon my determination. Perhaps even in civilized Europe, in a war between nations, these circumstances might have resulted in the execution of similar prisoners and not been the only example of such a sacrifice to the imperious laws of necessity and self-preservation. How my arbitrariness would have been exaggerated, and to speak the truth with justifiable excuse, if by pardoning, as I desired, those unfortunate wretches I should have dared to violate the law. I would have taken to myself the most enviable attribute of sovereignty and exposed that detachment of troops to a surprise that might have easily been attempted by the prisoners. I could not, therefore, pardon those unfortunates. It has been said that they were protected by a capitulation, and, although the communication of General Urrea denies such a statement, I have asked the supreme government that an investigation be instituted (Document No. 7), to prove that neither officially nor confidentially was I notified of such a capitulation. Had any such existed, even though General Urrea had no authority to grant it, it would have afforded me an opportunity to petition, in the name of humanity, the indulgence of Congress for Fannin and his soldiers.
With less reason, and taking advantage of their professional knowledge, several physicians saved themselves, as well as forty prisoners who, because of the usefulness of their trade, were spared to construct flat boats. Likewise, eighty-six men who were taken at El Cópano were not executed because I ordered an investigation to be instituted to determine if it were true that they had not made use of their arms nor caused damage in any way to our country in order that I might intercede with Congress in their behalf, in spite of their having been taken under arms. It has since been asserted that those at Goliad were executed with cruelty. Upon this point I have asked in the document already cited that the military commandant at that point should be made to give a detailed account of his acts. I cannot be held responsible for the manner in which that officer carried out the law. What I know to be true is that in my imprisonment I was guarded by some of those that escaped from the firing squads who carried out the execution without order or concert. I was cruelly treated by them, to the extent that on several occasions they tried to assassinate me and to excite against me a fierce hatred that almost led to my being taken to Goliad for execution. The news printed in the capital, particularly some of which seemed to be worthy of credit, in which it was stated as true that Fannin concluded a capitulation that was violated by my orders, contributed in no small way to this danger. I trust, however, to the good judgment of my fellow-citizens, and I feel certain that since up to now they have deemed me humane and generous, their opinion may not be changed by an order that I was unable to avoid without breaking a law whose observance the government had just recommended in an emphatic circular. The desire to minimize, if possible, what might be considered the most cruel part of that law made me consult the governnment on this point (Document No. 8). The reply to this fell into the hands of the enemy, tying my hands in a manner as painful as is the horror that the shedding of blood after the heat of battle has always inspired in me.