Colonel James W. Fannin's Execution at Goliad
Mr. Joseph H. Spohn, one of the survivors of Fannin's command, has arrived in New York in the ship Mexican from Vera Cruz. He owes his escape to being able to speak the Spanish language, which made his services necessary as an interpreter to the savage Mexicans. Spohn was one of the Red Rover volunteers, and went to Goliad with Col. Grant, Col. Johnson and Major Morris, uniting there with Fannin's party, with the Georgia battalion and Alabama Grays. He had furnished the New York Evening Star with many interesting particulars, given editorially in that paper, which begin with the battle and unfortunate surrender at Colleto, and come down to his escape from Vera Cruz. We make the following interesting extract, detailing the circumstances of the murder of his unfortunate friends:
On Palm Sunday, being the 27th of March, the prisoners were formed into line, and Mr. Spohn, who was then sleeping in the church, (the hospital) being about 6 o'clock in the morning, was called out and told to form into line; being the last, he fell at the end. They were then marched out of the fort and ranged before the gate, when an officer stepped up and asked Spohn what he was doing there, and ordered him to go back to the hospital where he was wanted, and when on his way was stopped by another officer, who told him to order the assistants to have the wounded of the Texians brought into the yard such as could not walk were to be carried out. Being astonished at these preparations, he asked why, when the officer said, 'Carts were coming to convey them to Copano, the nearest seaport.' The orders of the officers were obeyed, and the wounded brought into the yard, and they were all full of the hope that they were to be shipped to the United States, which had been promised; but their hopes were cruely blasted when they heard a sudden continued roar of musketry on the outside of the fort, and observed the soldiers' wives leap upon the walls and look towards the spot where the report came from. The wounded were then conscious of what was passing, and one of them asked Spohn if he did not think that their time was come; and when they became convinced from the movements about the fort that they were to be shot, greater part of them sat down calmly on their blankets, resolutely awaiting their miserable fate; some turned pale, but not one displayed the least fear or quivering. Spohn, who was employed in helping them out, was accosted by a wounded Mexican soldier, on whom he attended, and told to go and ask the commandant for his life, as he might save him, as they were all to be shot. About this time Col. Fannin, who had a room in the church for his use, came out of the church for a particular purpose, when a Mexican captain of the battalion, called Tres Villas, with six soldiers, came up to Spohn, and told him to call Col. Fannin, at the same time pointing to a certain part of the yard, where he wished him to be taken; Spohn asked him if he was going to shoot him, and he cooly replied, -'Yes.'-When Spohn approached Fannin, the Colonel asked what was that firing, and when he told him the facts he made no observation, but appeared resolute and firm, no visible impression on Colonel Fannin, who firmly walked to the place pointed out by the Mexican captain, placing his arm upon the shoulder of Spohn for support, being wounded in the right thigh, from which he was very lame.
When Colonel Fannin reached the spot required, the N.W. corner of the fort, Spohn was ordered to interpret the following sentence: 'That for having come with an armed band to commit depredations and revolutionize Texas, the Mexican Government were about to chastise him.' As soon as the sentence was interpreted to Fannin, he asked if he could not see the commandant. The officer said he could not, and asked why he wished it. Colonel Fannin then pulled forth a valuable gold watch, he said belonged to his wife, and he wished to present it to the commandant. The captain then said he could not see the commandant, but if he would give him the watch he would thank him-and he repeated in broken English, 'tank you-me tank you.' Colonel Fannin told him he might have the watch if he would have him buried after he was shot, which the captain said should be done-'con todas. las formalidades necessarias'-at the same time smiling and bowing. Col. Fannin then, handed him the watch, and pulled out of his right pocket a small bead purse containing doubloons, the clasp of which was bent; he gave this to the officer, at the same time saying that it had saved his life, as the ball that wounded him had lost part of its force by striking the clasp, which it bent and carried with it into the wound; a part of a silk handkerchief which he had in his pocket, and which on drawing out drew forth with it the ball. Out of the left pocket of his overcoat, (being cold weather he had on one of India rubber) he took a piece of canvass containing a double handful of dollars, which he also gave to the officer. Spohn was then ordered to bandage his eyes, and Col. Fannin handed him his pocket handkerchief. He proceeded to fold it, but being agitated he done it clumsily, when the officer snatched it from his hand and folded it himself, and told Col. Fannin to sit down on a chair which was near, and stepping behind him bandaged his eyes, saying to Col. Fannin, in English, 'good, good'-meaning if his eyes were properly bound-to which Fannin replied, 'yes, yes.' The captain then came in front and ordered his men to unfix their bayonets and approach Col. Fannin; he hearing them near him, told Spohn to tell them not to place their muskets so near as to scorch his face with the powder.
The officer standing behind them after seeing their muskets were brought within two feet of his body, drew forth his handkerchief as a signal, when they fired, and poor Fannin fell dead on his right side on the chair, and from thence rolled into a dry ditch, about three feet deep, close by the wall. They then led Spohn near the gate, from which another officer took him, and placed him in the room of Colonel Portia (Portilla), with a sentinel over him. He asked the officer if he was going to shoot him; he replied, 'no hijo,' grinning maliciously at the same time. In the room he found a Frenchman of the Copano Company, who told him the rest of his corps had, early in the morning, been placed in a garden, outside the fort, under guard. After he had been there a short time, a soldier, with his gun, came to the door, telling him he was wanted at the gate. When he came to the gate he found Commandant Portia surrounded by his officers, who, on seeing Spohn, seeing him before, begged Portia to save him, but he said he could not, as his orders were positive; but they persisting, he rather impatiently said, 'Well, take him away.' At the same time he saw them lead young Ripley, who was second sergeant of the Mobile Greys, who was badly wounded in the left arm, to the place of execution. Spohn had been in the house but a little time when a young Mexican soldier, with a bloody sword, entered the room and asked him what he was doing there, and would have run him through had not the servants told him he was placed there by the officers. Dr. Field came in with a sergeant-the Doctor told Spohn that all were shot, and they had roughly dragged Captain Brooks, of West Point, who laid with his thigh broken, from a house outside the fort, and dispatched him brutally in the street. In an hour more Spohn re-entered the fort, where he found the Mexican soldiers placing the bodies of the dead on a large wagon and carrying them off. Two or three days after Spohn was taken by Captain Corono to the place outside the fort where his countrymen had been murdered and piled one upon the other, and partially burnt or roasted, presenting a most frightful, horrible, and disgusting spectacle, by which he found that they had been divided into four parties before they were shot, as there were four piles, surrounded by torn pieces of bloody clothing, shoes, caps, pocket books, and papers. Among the rest was the bloody cap of Fannin, which leads us to expect he was burnt or roasted with the others. Five men were saved from the general massacre to attend upon the Mexican sick; Skerlock, Smith, Bills, Voss and Peter Griffin: the latter, who happened to be in the hospital at the time, was saved by a wounded Mexican soldier, who hid him beneath his blankets, Griffin having always attended him and dressed his wounds. Bills died afterwards, from a sickness of 24 hours."
Spohn was retained a prisoner with the Copano detachment, under Major Miller, Captain Israel, and Mr. Burton, who had been sent with their companies to Goliad. They told him that like their own, in the end, his case was desperate; and that to escape, any means he might employ were justifiable. Urrea treated him kindly, taking his as a coachman to Matamoras, where, by his permission, he entered the Mexican sea service, in the Correo, under Thompson, for the purpose of getting away, and effected his escape to Vera Cruz. He speaks with the warmest gratitude of the kindness and humanity of Captain Kimball of the Mexicans.