SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
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Goliad Massacre-Index | Independence-Index

.......I was unable, therefore, to carry out the good intentions dictated by my feelings.....overcome by the difficult circumstances that surrounded me. I authorized the execution.....of thirty adventurers taken prisoners......setting free those who were colonists or Mexicans

.....These orders always seemed to me harsh, but they were the inevitable result of the barbarous and inhuman decree which declared outlaws those whom it wished to convert into citizens of the republic......I wished to elude these orders as far as possible without compromising my personal responsibility......They doubtlessly surrendered confident that Mexican generosity would not make their surrender useless, for under any other circumstances they would have sold their lives dearly, fighting to the last. I had due regard for the motives that induced them to surrender, and for this reason I used my influence with the general-in-chief to save them, if possible, from being butchered......

General José UrreaDiary of the Military Operations of the Division

which under the Command of General José Urrea

Campaigned in Texas February to March 1836

Translation from Carlos Casteñeda's The Mexican Side of the Texan Revolution (Some headings added by current editor, WLM)

 

For Biographies, Search Handbook of Texas Online

 


FEBRUARY

16. Lieutenant Nicolás Rodriguez set out with six men to explore the road as far as the Nueces.

17. From twelve o'clock until ten o'clock at night the division was occupied in crossing the Rio Bravo for the purpose of fighting a party of about 300 colonists whom the commandant-general of those departments and I were notified were on their way to invade the city of Matamoros.

18. I set out to join the division. At Rancho Viejo, three good leagues from Matamoros, I was informed that the enemy was retreating precipitately to San Patricio. I spent the night at this place where two foreigners, accused of being spies detailed by the enemy to get information regarding the movements of my troops, were arrested.

19. Although we still lacked practically all the necessary means to continue our march, I decided to push forward with only 500 Pesos worth of bread and hardtack which General Francisco Vital Fernández furnished me the night before. I spent the night at Anacuitas Ranch.  The following troops composed the division: 320 infantry from Yucatan and other places, 320 dragoons from Cuautla, Tampico, Durango, and Guanajuato, and one four-pounder. Of these I left about 200 men in Matamoros which were to follow later.

20. We moved on and crossed Colorado Creek. We spent the night on the left bank because, its waters being high, we experienced great difficulty in crossing the baggage and trains without the necessary equipment. The officer in charge of the advance guard rendered a report of no news.

21. We continued the march as far as Carricitos Ranch without mishap.

22. We marched to Chilquipin Ranch. That night I ordered a party of 120 mounted men, under the command of Colonel Rafael de la Vara, to advance as far as Santa Rosa before dawn in order to protect the scouting outpost, for I had been informed a party of the enemy threatened it. My object was, also, to have them march a day's journey in advance to reconnoiter Nueces.

23. I set out at three in the morning with fifteen dragoons arrived at ten in Jaboncillos where I busied myself in sinking wells is in order that the infantry might find water upon its arrival. The intervening country is made up of sand dunes for seven leagues and there is only brackish water to be found. This ration occupied us until five in the afternoon when the division arrived, at which time I pressed forward with my escort to overtake the party that I had sent ahead, for I wished to reconnoiter the Nueces personally.

24. At three o'clock in the morning I joined the party of Colonel la Vara and the scouting officer at Santa Rosa. The latter and his men set out immediately with orders to hide in woods along the Nueces and reconnoiter the crossings, advancing, if possible, as far as San Patricio. The rest of the division continued its march from Jaboncillos and joined me at Santa Rosa where it encamped.

Defeat of Johnson at San Patricio

25. We resumed our march at four in the afternoon and went ahead with 100 infantry and 100 dragoons. At seven o'clock that night a cold and penetrating norther began to blow. At ten I was informed by the scouting party that the enemy was occupying San Patricio. In view of this, I ordered the infantry to continue its march. Six soldiers of the battalion of Yucatán died from exposure to the cold.

[Casteñeda's footnote:  Throughout the Diary it is to be noted how the troops from Yucatán suffered from the cold. These men were practically all Maya Indians, accustomed to the tropical climate of their native peninsula.]

I moved forward our cavalry until I joined the observation party that awaited in a woods, two leagues on this side of Santa Gertrudis, where I arrived at half past eleven that night. I immediately wrote to Don Salvador Cuéllar, who lived in that town and whom I expected exact information as to the enemy, asking him to come out immediately and meet me on the march.

26. The infantry arrived at the above-mentioned place at dawn, led by the guides which I had sent for the purpose. It began to rain at three in the morning and it looked like snow. I immediately gave orders to Lieutenant Colonel Nicolás de la Portilla for the infantry and the mounted cavalry to encamp the woods, with instructions not to break up camp until the following day, provided the rain ceased. Taking advantage of bad weather, I moved forward immediately. Leaving the road to our right we made our way through woods and across creeks until eleven that night when we came upon the Nueces, a league above Lipantitlán. Not being able to cross at this point I had to retrace my steps to the said town where I succeeded crossing with much difficulty. I took a position on its left bank. Cuéllar, with two companions, came to inform me that there were seventy Americans at San Patricio, waiting to be reinforced by Dr. Grant and his sixty men who had gone to the Río Bravo to round up horses. The night was very raw and excessively cold. The rain continued and the dragoons, who re barely able to dismount, were so numbed by the cold that they could hardly speak. Nevertheless, being as brave as they were faithful, they showed no discouragement and we continued our march.

27. I arrived in San Patricio at three in the morning and immediately ordered a party of thirty men headed by Capt. Rafael Pretalia to proceed to the ranch of Don Julián de la Garza (a league distant) to attack twelve or fifteen men who were guarding 150 horses there. I ordered forty dragoons of the remaining force to dismount; and, dividing them into three groups under good officers, I gave instructions for them to charge the position of the enemy, protected by the rest of our mounted troops. The enemy was attacked at half past three in the morning in the midst of the rain, and although forty men within the fort defended themselves resolutely, the door was forced at dawn, sixteen being killed and twenty-four being taken prisoners. The town and the rest of the inhabitants did not suffer the least damage. I captured a flag and all kinds of arms and ammunitions. Captain Pretalia reported at six o'clock that he had surprised the guard in charge of the horses, had captured all of these, killed four men, and taken eight prisoners. In these operations one dragoon was killed and one sergeant and three soldiers wounded. I ordered the horses of my division that were in poor condition to be replaced with fresh mounts. Having been informed that Dr. Grant was about to arrive, I sent some Mexicans to watch the roads by which he was expected. I ordered two parties of twenty men each to reconnoiter the vicinity of Goliad. Colonel Fannin with 600 men and 19 pieces of artillery was in the fort there. I detailed, also, two men of the town to observe the enemy.

28 and 29. In San Patricio and no news. According to our lists I had on this day 199 infantry and 183 cavalry.

 MARCH

Battle of Agua Dulce

1. Still in San Patricio. Received news that Dr. Grant was returning from the Rio Bravo with a party of forty or fifty picked riflemen and I marched that night, with eighty dragoons, to meet him. The north wind was very strong and the cold was extreme for which reason I decided to wait for the enemy ten leagues from San Patricio, at the port of Los Cuates de Agua Dulce where he would have to pass. I divided my force into six groups and hid them in the woods.

2. Between ten and eleven in the morning Dr. Grant arrived. He was attacked and vanquished by the parties under my command and that of Colonel Francisco Garay. Dr. Grant and forty of the riflemen were left dead on the field and we took six prisoners besides their arms, munitions, and horses. I countermarched to San Patricio and sent out new scouts to Goliad.

3-6. In San Patricio. Received news from Goliad. The troops drilled daily and received military instruction.

7. In San Patricio. The troops I had left in Matamoros joined me.

8. 1 was informed that the enemy was taking steps to attack me in San Patricio. I marched during the night to meet them, taking 300 men and the four-pounder in our division. Ten leagues from Goliad I ambushed my troops on the road to await the enemy.

9. In ambush on the Ratas Creek.


From the Diary of Col. Garay as quoted in Filisola, Memorias para la historia de la guerra de Tejas, vol. II, 405-407.

On the night of the 7th, Jesus Cuéllar, known as el Comanche, presented himself in San Patricio claiming that he had abandoned Fannin's force to throw himself upon the clemency of the Mexican government. He was very likely sent by Fannin to observe our force and position. He told General Urrea that Fannin had decided to attack him and that by this time he had probably effected a juncture with the force at the mission. Consequently he promised to take us to a spot where we could lay in ambush while he went and brought the enemy into our hands.... His brother, Salvador, who had accompanied our forces ever since we left Matamoros, pledged himself for his brother's loyalty. General Urrea, confiding in his sincerity, ordered 200 men, 1 cannon, and 150 cavalry to set out early in the morning of the 8th of March for Las Ratas, 8 leagues away, on the San Refugio road. When our destination was reached, Cuéllar left us and Gen. Urrea proceeded to arrange the small force to carry out his plan. The surprise would have been difficult in the location chosen, for the woods where we were to hide was extremely sparse and all the trees were dry and devoid of foliage. The enemy would have detected us long before its approach. Our front, left, and rear were immense plains with not even a blade of grass, while the creek was dry and so shallow that it did not cover the infantry placed in it. General Urrea must have realized our disadvantageous position for at midnight he ordered us to return to our camp. We all were glad to hear this command, no one having felt easy while in that place. sdct


 10. I received news that the enemy had changed its plan and was making ready to march, with 400 men, to the aid of those who were besieged by our army in the fortress of the Alamo. I countermarched to San Patricio and ordered the cavalry to make ready to fight the enemy on the march.

11. In San Patricio.

12. Our whole division set out, leaving a small detachment there. I received the reply of the general-in-chief to my report of the capture of this place and the defeat of Dr. Grant. His Excellency thanked me and praised me highly for my services, authorizing me to provide for my troops by taking cattle and supplies from the colonists as well as all their belongings

[Antonio López de Santa Anna to José Urrea, Béxar, March 3, 1836; also Santa Anna to Urrea, Béxar, March 23, 1836; and Santa Anna to Urrea. Camp on San Bernard Creek, April 6, 1836]

 

Defeat of Ward and King at Refugio


Diary of Col. Francisco Garay
Quoted in Filisola, Memorias para la historia de la guerra de Tejas, vol. II

On the twelfth we sent to Matamoros the twenty-one prisoners that we had. In the afternoon of that day there appeared before us thirty individuals well armed and well mounted under the command of a sergeant of the presidio forces, from La Bahia and nearby ranches who came to offer their services. At the same time our section set out with the title in the orders of the day of division of operations against Goliad, and spent the night at Abras del Aguila (Eagle Cove) five leagues from San Patricio. On the following morning, and at the time of breaking march, an emergency message was received from Béxar telling of the siege and capture of the Alamo, which news was read to the troops in battle formation. This was celebrated by dianas and great acclamation, while General Urrea took advantage of the opportunity to address his division, letting them know how satisfied he was with their conduct in the actions of San Patricio and Agua Dulce. He exhorted them all to conduct themselves in the same manner in any action in which they might take part in the future.

That day we pitched camp on the Arroyo Aransas from which at two o'clock in the morning (on the fourteenth) the general undertook the march against the mission with two hundred foot soldiers, the cannon and two hundred horses. The rest of the division with the supplies and equipment set out at seven o'clock. The enemy in the number of one hundred men were occupying the church, the only defensible point in that poverty stricken town. On their left, and at a distance of an eighth of a league, we had another fifty men in ambush. This force was cut off at once by the Guanajuato cavalry which anticipated by some moments the arrival of the section.  Scarcely was this in sight when they got into battle formation in front of the building loosing at once a sortie of thirty men with the purpose of protecting the taking in of two barrels of water which were pulled by oxen, and which the position of the river had concealed from us. This forced the action since the general considered it important to deprive them of this resource, and he gave orders at once, attacking them almost on the instant. Indeed three groups separated and by advancing bravely succeeded in turning back the rebels, taking away from them the water which they were carrying. However, since the latter had also gotten into the church, he did not have the prudence to have our forces withdraw. sdct

Rather to the contrary, he allowed them to advance farther and to remain where they were after exhausting the ammunition of their cartridge belts, the only ones they were carrying, at about thirty yards distance. For a good period of time they were exposed to the accurate fire of the enemy, suffering considerable damage and unable on their part to return the fire. Those in charge of the cannon found themselves obliged to abandon it since it was located so close to the building that they could not maintain possession of it. An extraordinary effort was necessary to pull it back, and this was finally done with considerable losses.  Although at the beginning only three detachments were sent to attack the enemy, as soon as the latter took refuge in the church, the rest of our foot soldiers got into the fight, and even part of the Cuautla cavalry advanced also on foot. However, it was all in vain. Strong in their position because of our lack of caution, they mocked us with impunity, causing us to pay dearly for our rashness. We had on our part thirteen dead and forty-three wounded, among them four officers, and they had had only one man wounded.

Under these circumstances the general sent orders to Colonel Don Francisco Garay who was on his way with men from Aransas for him to leave behind all that might hinder his march and to advance rapidly with all the forces that he could muster, which the latter did without loss of time. Upon his arrival at the camp at about five o'clock in the afternoon the general was made aware of what had happened during the morning, the woods were pointed out where the enemy was posted, and the order was given to attempt to dislodge them. This order was carried out completely before nightfall, causing the enemy the loss of five dead and two prisoners: the general for his part had suffered three dead and ten wounded. When the enemy was forced out of the woods they were pursued by a band of armed farmers who were with us, and on the next morning they managed to capture thirty-six who offered no resistance since they had used up their ammunition the day before. Our foot soldiers made camp that night in front of the mission. The enemy, in spite of being harassed from time to time by the artillery piece, did not return the fire, but they did succeed in setting fire to some houses that were around the church, in which our soldiers had sought shelter during the morning. This seemed to indicate that they were not yet planning to evacuate the place, which, however, they did a little later.

General Urrea, with all the cavalry, held his position behind the town on the road to La Bahia, observing some bands of the enemy who were at this point as well as at Cópano, for the purpose of preventing the bringing of any aid or the flight of the rebels. A little past midnight one of our advance guards brought in a prisoner who was at first believed to belong to the band that had been chased from the woods. He was only a messenger from La Bahia who was trying to get into the church, information which be volunteered without being questioned. He presented a note addressed by Colonel Fannin to the so-called Colonel Ward in which he ordered him to evacuate his position upon receipt of the message, no matter what sacrifices he might have to make or what obstacles he would have to overcome. He was to go without delay to Fort Defiance (that was the name of La Bahia) where he (Fannin) would be waiting without fail the next day. Since Colonel Garay thought that it would be well for Ward to receive this information, he permitted the prisoner to deliver it without appearing that he understood its contents. If he did not check this with General Urrea, it was because at the moment he did not know where the gentleman was since he did not find out until the next day the position that he had occupied during the night. sdct


Urrea Diary (continuation)

13. I marched towards Goliad and was informed enroute that the enemy had dispatched a strong detachment to occupy the port of Cópano and that they would halt at Refugio Mission. I dispatched a picket commanded by Captain Pretalia and thirty civilians headed by Don Guadalupe de los Santos with instructions for the first group to hold the enemy at the mission until I arrived with my division. I selected 100 mounted men and 180 infantry; and, with our four-pounder, continued the march during the night, leaving the rest of our troops encamped on the Aranzazu Creek.

14. I arrived at the said mission at daybreak where I found Capt. Pretalia holding the enemy in the church where they had taken refuge. The moment they saw me they set the houses in their immediate vicinity on fire. I reconnoitered their position to my satisfaction; and, convinced that it afforded means for a good defense, I realized that in order to take it I would be obliged to suffer heavy losses. I at once decided to lay siege to it and to fatigue the enemy all that day and night in order to surprise them at dawn the following day. But the pitiful stories which the civilians of the place related about the thefts and abuses they had suffered at the hands of the enemy, excited the indignation of the officers and troops of my division, and decided me to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the coming out of a party of eighty men to get water at a creek situated about a gunshot from their fortification to order a group of infantry and another of cavalry to start a skirmish, hoping to draw out the rest of the enemy from their entrenchment. The eighty men retreated immediately to the fort. The officers and troops manifested a great desire to attack the enemy; and, wishing to take advantage of their enthusiasm, I immediately ordered a column of infantry to make the charge, protected by the fire of our cannon which had been moved forward sufficiently to destroy the door of the church. With our cavalry covering our flanks, our advance was so successful that the infantry arrived within ten paces of the cemetery without a single man being wounded. The enemy, coming out of its lethargy, opened up a lively fire upon our men. The troops, being mostly recruits from Yucatán, stopped spellbound the moment their first impetus was spent, and all efforts to force them to advance were unavailing, for the greater part of their native officers who a moment before had been so eager disappeared at the critical moment. These men were, as a rule, unable to understand Spanish, except in a few cases, and the other officers, not being able to speak their language, were handicapped in giving the commands. The infantry took refuge in a house and corral situated about fifteen paces from. the church. I ordered a part of the cavalry to dismount in order to encourage the former by their example. Not succeeding in making them advance, and the dismounted cavalry being insufficient to take the position of the enemy, the moments were becoming precious, for at that very moment another party, coming from Cópano, was threatening my rear guard. I, therefore, ordered a retreat. This operation was not carried out with the order that might have been expected from better disciplined troops. In the meantime our cannon had been moved forward to within twenty paces of the cemetery, but my brave dragoons removed it in order to continue harassing the enemy from a distance, where the enemy fire could cause us no damage. Not one of the enemy dared show his face.

I ordered Col. Gabriel Núñez, with a part of the cavalry in our reserve, to go out to meet the enemy that was approaching in our rear. The enemy had taken refuge in a woods which a large creek made inaccessible. I ordered sixty infantry, commanded by Col. Garay, to dislodge them. They killed eleven and took seven prisoners, but the thickness of the woods did not permit a more decisive victory before darkness enabled the enemy to escape. According to all the information I secured, the number of the enemy that had shut themselves in the church was 200 and they lacked water and supplies. This would make it imperative, unless they succeeded in escaping during the night, for them either to come out and fight us the following day or surrender. In order to prevent their escape, I placed several lookouts at the points through which they might effect it, but the necessary vigilance was not exercised by all of them and the enemy escaped, favored by the darkness of the night which a strong norther and the rain made more impenetrable and unbearable. On the other hand, our troops were very much fatigued as a result of having marched all the day and the night before and of having spent the 14th in constant fighting without taking food. On this day I had the misfortune of losing six infantry and five dragoons who were killed, while twenty-seven infantry were wounded, three officers among them; also ten dragoons among which one of the first was Lieut. Juan Pérez Arze of the Jiménez battalion who had commanded the pickets.

15. This day at dawn, as I approached the church, I noticed the absence of the enemy and ordered the place to be occupied. Six wounded men, four others, some colonist families and several Mexicans who had been commandeered were found. Having reenforced the detachments that I had on the road to Goliad and El Cópano, I ordered all the available cavalry to pursue the enemy. We killed sixteen and took thirty-one prisoners.

Envy and calumny have united in trying to denounce me for the engagement of the 14th. Those who have criticize my conduct were ignorant of my position and of the intentions of the enemy. But I who divined them, as I later found out, had no time to lose, for it was essential to destroy a force with which the enemy intended to make itself formidable.

[W. Fannin to A. C. Horton, Fort Defiance, March 14, 1836; also Fannin to Samuel A. White, Fort Defiance, March 14, 1836]

This had to be done with about 200 horsemen and a very poor body of infantry, not knowing when the reinforcement sent from general headquarters would reach me.

16. Leaving the wounded and the baggage under the care of Col. Rafael de la Vara, and instructing him to keep a watch on the port of Cópano, for which purpose I left the necessary guard, I marched with 200 men, infantry and cavalry, to Goliad, sending out scouts to reconnoiter the road to the town. The parties dispatched to pursue the enemy captured fourteen. A messenger of Fannin was intercepted and we learned beyond all doubt that the enemy intended to abandon the fort at Goliad and concentrate its force at Victoria; that they only awaited the 200 men that had been sent to Refugio to execute this operation. On the 14th and 15th I had fought and dispersed the latter force. In order to observe the enemy and cut off its communication with Victoria, I ordered Capt. Mariano Iraeta and sixty men to take a position on the road between this place and Goliad to watch it. I halted that night at San Nicolás.

The many hardships endured by my division, and the rigor of the climate that was felt particularly by the troops accustomed to one more mild, made my position extremely difficult because of the necessity of properly guarding the adventurers that I had taken prisoners. I constantly heard complaints, and I perceived the vexation of my troops. I received petitions from the officers asking me to comply with the orders of the general-in-chief and those of the supreme government regarding prisoners. These complaints were more loud on this day, because, as our position was not improved, I found myself threatened from El Cópano, Goliad, and Victoria. I was obliged to move with rapidity in order to save my division and destroy the forces that threatened us. Ward had escaped with 200 men; the infantry was very poor and found itself much affected by the climate. I was unable, therefore, to carry out the good intentions dictated by my feelings, and I was overcome by the difficult circumstances that surrounded me. I authorized the execution, after my departure from camp, of thirty adventurers taken prisoners during the previous engagements, setting free those who were colonists or Mexicans.

17. Very early on this day I found myself on the right bank of the San Antonio. I halted at San José Ranch from where I could keep a watch on Goliad. I sent scouts to Guadalupe Victoria, situated nine leagues distant. During the night Capt. Pedro Pablo Ferino and two scouts came to me. Under orders of Don Juan Antonio de los Santos, they had been on the road to Béxar watching for the force that was to join me from that point. Ferino told me that Col. Juan Morales was approaching with 3 cannon and 500 men from the battalions of Jiménez and San Luis. I repeated the order previously given to this officer to take a position a league from Goliad, on the Manahuilla Creek, north of the fort. I broke up camp early in order to march to join the division that was coming from Béxar, which I did at the appointed place. I passed near Goliad and reconnoitered it from as close a point as possible. In the afternoon my advance guards notified me that the enemy was approaching and shortly after, a body of cavalry was seen advancing along the edge of a woods. I ordered Col. Morales with the picked companies of Jiménez and San Luis to go out and meet them. This operation was sufficient to make the enemy retreat. They were, pursued by a large detachment which forced them to get back into the fort from where they opened a fire with their artillery, keeping it up until nightfall. After having again carefully reconnoitered this place and its vicinity, I returned to my camp with my force. I took all the precautions prescribed by the art of war and demanded by circumstances. I had plenty of warnings that made me fear the flight of the enemy, so I reinforced the advanced cavalry pickets which I had placed along the river to keep watch. Our troops were obliged to bivouac all night, exposed to a continuous rain and a strong north wind which made the cold unbearable. No rest was possible during the entire night.

Battle of Coleto Creek or Encinal del Perdido

19. Our advance guards turned in a report of no news. I was making ready to place our artillery on a high slope on the left bank of the river, within a rifleshot of the fort, and was about to cross with the cavalry for the purpose of inspecting the points by which the enemy could be approached, when I received notice that they had abandoned their position and were on the way to Guadalupe Victoria. I immediately ordered 360 infantry and 80 cavalry to be ready to march, and at eleven o'clock, having confirmed my information, I set out to overtake them, leaving the rest of our force and the artillery and baggage under the care of Col. Francisco Garay, with instructions to explore the fort and take possession of it if it was really abandoned. I did not think it proper to take personal charge of this operation, fearing that the enemy might escape. I desired to obtain a triumph for our nation on this day to celebrate my birthday---pardon my personal pride. After marching two leagues, I was informed by my spies, whose activity is truly marvelous, that we were near the enemy, and that it seemed that they were not taking all the force that had garrisoned Goliad. I ordered 100 infantry to return, therefore, to protect the artillery and ammunitions which were being brought up, and redoubled the vigilance of the rest of my forces. At half past one in the afternoon, I overtook the enemy and succeeded in cutting off their retreat with our cavalry, just as they were going to enter a heavy woods from where it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to dislodge them. They were marching in column formation and carried nine pieces of artillery. Seeing themselves forced to fight, they decided to make the best of it and awaited our advance with firmness, arranging their force in battle formation with the artillery in the center. My troops, though fatigued by the rapidity of the march, were filled with enthusiasm at seeing the enemy, for they thought that to overtake them and defeat them was all one. Although our force was inferior and we had no artillery, the determination of our troops made up the disparity. Expecting the artillery and our munitions to reach us soon, agreeable to instructions given, I decided to engage the enemy at once. sdct

Flag of the Alabama Red RoversSketch: Field of Coleto (Encinal del Perdido)

Our fire was immediately returned by their rifles and cannons. I ordered the brave Col. Morales to charge the left with the rifle companies; the grenadiers and the first regiment of San Luis, under my immediate command, to charge the right; the remainder of the battalion of Jiménez, under the command of Col. Salas, to form itself into a column and charge the front; while the cavalry, commanded by Col. Gabriel Núñez, was to surprise the enemy's rear. These instructions having been issued, the orders were immediately carried out and a determined charge was made on the right and left flanks. In order to obtain a quick victory, I ordered my troops to charge with their bayonets, at the same time that Col. Morales did likewise on the opposite flank; and, according to previous instructions, the central column advanced in battle formation, sustaining a steady fire in order to detract the attention of the enemy while we surprised the flanks. Though our soldiers showed resolution, the enemy was likewise unflinching. Thus, without being intimidated by our impetuous charge, it maneuvered in order to meet it; and, assuming a hammer formation on the right, they quickly placed three pieces of artillery on this side, pouring a deadly shower of shot upon my reduced column. A similar movement was executed on the left, while our front attack was met with the same courage and coolness. Our column was obliged to operate in guerrillas in order to avoid, as far as possible, the withering fire of the enemy, who kept up a most lively fire, for each one of their soldiers had three and even four loaded guns which they could use at the most critical moment. The fire of the nine cannons, itself lively and well directed, was imposing enough; but our soldiers were brave to rashness and seemed to court death. The enemy put into play all its activity and all the means at its command to repel the charge. While defending themselves from our determined attack, they built up defenses with their baggage and wagons, forming a square. It was necessary, therefore, for the officers, who vied with each other in daring, to display all their courage and the utmost firmness to maintain the soldiers at their posts---less than half a rifle shot from the enemy, in the middle of an immense plain, and with no other parapet than their bare breasts.

In order to protect our soldiers as far as possible, we ordered them to throw themselves on the ground while loading raising up only to fire. In this way the distance between our force and the enemy was further decreased. Realizing the importance of preventing the enemy from finishing its fortification especially in the form in which they were doing it, I tried to disconcert them with a cavalry charge on their rear, and place myself at the head, convinced that the most eloquent language and the most imperious order is personal example. I found the enemy prepared to meet us. Although disposing of very little time, they had foreseen my operation and received me with scorching fire from their cannons and rifles. Our horses were in very poor condition and ill-suited for the purpose, but the circumstances were urgent and extraordinary measures were necessary. My efforts, however, were all in vain, for after repeated trying to make the dragoons effect an opening in the enemy ranks, I was forced to retire---not without indignation. I place the cavalry in a position where it could continuously threaten the enemy, avoiding, as far as possible, their fire. Seeing that our artillery and munitions did not arrive, my anxiety was great. In the midst of our trials and in proportion as they increase I cast furtive glances towards the point by which they we to come. But I saw no signs to ease my anxiety, for not even those that I had sent to rush our munitions returned.

The sun was going down and our munitions would soon give out. They were exhausted sooner than I expected. Though I had given instructions for the infantry to be provided with four rounds to the man, this order had been neglected in part under frivolous pretext of lightening their load. They had counted on the early arrival of what was coming up on our rear, when we left the camp at Manahuilla our ammunition was being loaded. The party conducting it, however, lost its way and did not arrive until the following day. I decided to make a new and simultaneous charge on all fronts to see if I could disconcert the enemy before the sad moment arrived when we would entirely without munitions. I gave the necessary orders and as the bugler gave the signal agreed upon, all our forces advanced with firm step and in the best order. I placed myself again at the head of the cavalry and led the charge on one of the fronts. All our troops advanced to within fifty and even forty paces from the square. So brave an effort on the part of our courageous soldiers deserved to have been crowned with victory; but fortune refused to favor us. The enemy redoubled its resistance with new vigor. They placed their artillery on the corners, flanking, in this way, our weakened columns. The fire from the cannons, as well as from the rifles, was very lively, making itself all the more noticeable in proportion as ours died out for lack of ammunition. In these circumstances, I ordered all our infantry to fix bayonets and to maintain a slow fire with whatever powder remained. For almost an hour, this unequal contest was kept up, then I finally gave the order to retire, menacing the enemy with our cavalry, divided in two wings, in order to allow the infantry to execute the movement. Our forces gathered in orderly fashion at the designated point of reunion. I joined them there and addressed them in terms suited to the occasion, but the troops needed no exhortations, for far from being discouraged at seeing their efforts frustrated, they were burning with desire to undertake a new bayonet charge. After so many hardships, a new attempt, besides being dangerous, was unadvisable. I concluded by saying to the soldiers just as the day closed

Let us gather our forces, let us wait for our ammunition and artillery, let us watch the enemy during the night, and tomorrow I shall lead you to victory. You do not need your cartridges, for you have your bayonets, and your courage is boundless. The enemy is terrified and will not be able to resist any longer the charge of such brave Mexicans. I promise you a complete victory.

The soldiers were satisfied and filled with pride. I placed the infantry a little more than 200 paces from the enemy, protected from their rifles by a gentle slope. I detailed cavalry and infantry pickets to points from which they could observe the enemy. I moved the wounded to the woods which the enemy had tried to take possession of when I overtook it, and which we situated to the rear of our infantry. During the night I close the circle formed by our advance guards and moved our scout forward until they could observe the slightest movement in the other camp. The enemy spent the night digging a ditch all around the square. My aides: Lieut. Cols. Angel Miramón and Pedro Pablo Ferino, Capt. Mariano Odriosola, and the militia captain, José de la Luz González were with me, all harassing the enemy and keeping it awake with false bugle calls. I always visited our outposts.

The enemy's cavalry, which was small in number, had escaped the moment we overtook them, thanks to their good horses. Some there were who, choosing the fate of their brave companions, dismounted and abandoned their horses.  I took advantage of this to replace the worst mounts of our dragoons.

20. At daybreak I inspected the position of the enemy which I found to be the same as that of the day before, with the exception of the trenches formed by their baggage an wagons, now reinforced by the piling up of the dead horse and oxen and by the digging of a ditch. I issued orders for the battalion of Jiménez to take its position in battle formation; the rifle companies were to advance along the open country; and the cavalry, in two wings, was to charge both flanks.

The troops having taken up their respective positions, ration were issued consisting of hard-tack and roast meat. The latter was furnished by the teams of oxen that had been taken from the enemy the night before. Those that remained to the enemy were killed by sharpshooters detailed for the purpose. The day before, some of the infantry had taken cartridges belonging to the cavalry and as a result some of the rifles were loaded, but they were fixed on this day.

The Capitulation of Fannin

Flag of the Alabama Red RoversSketch: Field of Coleto (Encinal del Perdido)

At half past six in the morning the ammunition arrived which, as stated before, had been lost the day before; and although more had been ordered from Col. Garay, this had not arrived up to this time. One hundred infantry, two four pounders (not a twelve-pounder), and a howitzer were added to my force. I placed these as a battery about 160 paces from the enemy protected by the rifle companies. I ordered the rest of the infantry to form a column that was to advance along the left of our battery when it opened fire. As soon as we did this and began our movement as planned, the enemy, without answering our fire, raised a white flag. I immediately ordered my battery to cease firing and instructed Lieut. Col. Morales, Captain Juan José Holzinger, and my aide, José de la Luz González to approach the enemy and ascertain their purpose. The first of these returned soon after, stating that they wished to capitulate. My reply restricted itself to stating that I could not accept any terms except an unconditional surrender. Messrs. Morales and Salas proceeded to tell this to the commissioners of the enemy who had already come out from their trenches. Several communications passed between us; and, desirous of putting an end to the negotiations, I went over to the enemy's camp and explained to their leader the impossibility in which I found myself of granting other terms than an unconditional surrender as proposed, in view of which fact I refused to subscribe to the capitulation submitted consisting of three articles.

Addressing myself to Fannin and his companions in the presence of Messrs. Morales, Salas, Holzinger and others I said conclusively

"If you gentlemen wish to surrender at discretion, the matter is ended, otherwise I shall return to my camp and renew the attack."

In spite of the regret I felt in making such a reply, and in spite of my great desire of offering them guarantees as humanity dictated, this was beyond my authority. Had I been in a position to do so, I would have at least guaranteed them their life. Fannin was a gentleman, a man of courage, a quality which makes us soldiers esteem each other mutually. His manners captivated my affection, and if it had been in my hand to save him, together with his companions, I would have gladly done so. All I could do was to offer him to use my influence with the general-in-chief, which I did from the Guadalupe.

After my ultimatum, the leaders of the enemy had a conference among themselves and the result of the conference was their surrender according to the terms I proposed. They immediately ordered their troops to come out of their entrenchments and to assume parade formation. Nine pieces of artillery, three flags, more than a thousand rifles, many good pistols, guns, daggers, lots of ammunition, several wagons, and about 400 prisoners fell into the hands of our troops. There were ninety seven wounded, Fannin and several other leaders among them. I gave orders for all the baggage to be taken up, the prisoners to be escorted to Goliad by 200 infantry, and the wounded who were unable to walk to be carried in the carts or wagons taken from the enemy. They had lost twenty-seven killed the day before. I lost eleven killed, and forty-nine soldiers and five officers were wounded. Capt. José María Ballesteros was seriously injured.

Right on the battlefield, I wrote a note to Col. Garay telling him of the outcome and asking him to make a report to the general-in-chief, for it was impossible for me to do it at the time because I was marching to Guadalupe Victoria without stopping to rest. Through a dispatch from Col. Garay, I learned that he had taken possession of Goliad where he had found eight piece of artillery which the enemy had been unable to take with them. When he took possession, the houses of the city were still burning, having been set on fire by the enemy before it retreated. Combustible materials were left to prolong the fire, and very few houses were saved.

According to papers taken from Fannin he had called for reinforcements to come to his help and there were good reason to believe that the forces dispersed at Refugio might make their way to Victoria. I left my instructions for Col. Morales to conduct all the armament and war materials taken from the enemy to Goliad. With the greater part of the infantry, on cannon, and all the cavalry available, I started for Victoria in order to occupy it and the Guadalupe before the enemy did so. I spent the night in the ranch of Coleto, ten miles distant from that place.

Señor Filisola has referred to this engagement, that of San Patricio, and the one of Refugio as mere skirmishes because he could not think of a more derogatory term. He has added, on page 29 of his second pamphlet, that I deserve to be tried by a council of war and to be punished accordingly for each one of these, because I sacrificed hundreds of brave soldiers when similar results could have been obtained, without such a sacrifice. The sincere narration I have made of the facts, and the effect which these so-called skirmishes had upon the success of the campaign-preventing the besieged at the Alamo from receiving reinforcements of men and munitions, and clearing completely almost the whole territory of Texas so that Señor Filisola might be saved the horror of seeing the enemy a single time-prove the injustice of the accusation and show his character of duplicity and perfidy that reviles and debases him. Señor Filisola forgets that in his letter of the 20th of April, dated at Old Fort, he says to me in a post data, referring to these skirmishes, "I congratulate you for the brilliancy of your glorious operations, which, in my opinion, leave nothing to be desired." Is one who deserves to be tried by a council of war addressed thus? Has the opinion of the writer radically changed concerning the glory of my actions as a result of personal feeling? How despicable and false does this man who talks so much of honor appear! I received from General Santa Anna flattering praise beyond my expectations for the importance of my services, while the series of skirmishes which I sustained during my march reduced the force of the enemy practically to nothing. Thus, the army was enabled to advance without firing a shot, while I had no rest, working continuously every hour of the day, always in pursuit or in search of new forces to combat.

21. Continued our march at daybreak, taking my place with our advance guard formed by the company of Jiménez. I took possession of Guadalupe Victoria at half-past seven in the morning. The inhabitants-Mexicans, French and Irish-had been in communication with me, and when I arrived they had arrested six of the enemy who were in the town. Two hours after our arrival a party of twenty was seen down the river making their way towards Victoria. I issued orders to cut them off from the woods along the banks of the Guadalupe, and these having been carried out, they were all killed or taken prisoners. On this day a sergeant, who was coming from Goliad, took seven others which were executed by Capt. Pretalia before he reached Victoria when the shooting sustained against the first group was heard.

At eleven of the same day an enemy force of about 100 men was discovered up the river. They were making their way to Victoria also, doubtlessly acting in combination with the party of twenty that had just been destroyed. As they had good guides with them, they succeeded in evading my vigilance and hid themselves in the woods after having exchanged a few shots with our cavalry, detailed to keep them from getting into the woods. But having found out the point to which they would likely make their way, I managed to cut off their retreat by way of Lavaca Lake. On this day I sent an order to Col. Morales to join me with the rest of the troops, consisting of the battalions of Jiménez and San Luis. I issued instructions for the safeguarding of Cópano and the prisoners who were in Goliad.

22. With 200 infantry, 50 horses and 1 cannon I marched towards the port known as Linn's House. At two in the afternoon I arrived at a place called the Juntas where four creeks come together, ten leagues from Victoria. The enemy force that I was looking for had just arrived. Four members of their force, who were looking for food, were captured and they declared that the enemy was biding in the nearby woods. I instantly took possession of all the avenues leading to and from the woods; and, having made certain that they could not escape without coming upon our soldiers, I sent one of the prisoners to inform their leader, warning him that if he and his force did not surrender immediately at discretion they would all perish shortly. Mr. Ward, the so-called colonel and leader of the force, solicited an interview with me, and five minutes of conversation were sufficient for him to agree to surrender with the 100 men under his command among whom were ten ranking officers. I decided to spend the night at this point (Las Juntas) ordering the cavalry to reconnoiter the port of Linn, where flour, sugar, rice and potatoes were found. These supplies were carried to Victoria and were distributed, without charge, to the troops, agreeable to the orders of the general-in-chief. [Santa Anna to Urrea, Bexar, March 26, 1836]

General Filisola, making use of those indefinite terms which he handles so skillfully to make vile suspicion fall upon those whom he wishes to defame, has represented me as a man who busied himself generally during the campaign in looking after his own private interests, who pillaged the towns to enrich himself with the booty. This is but one of the many despicable calumnies and falsehoods which he distributes so prodigally. According to the already mentioned order and the one of March 23, and agreeable to others received, I was authorized by the general-in-chief to take from the colonists their cattle and everything that belonged to them, using it for the support of my troops. I made use of this authorization, but there is not a man who can say that I charged the troops anything for the supplies received, much less that I took from the soldiers whatever they selected or chose, bartering with their misery. Another general who also made haste to write a Representation to sustain that of Señor Filisola, repeats these accusations, these falsehoods, and these exaggerations. This is not strange; but that he should have had the daring and temerity to call on me to point out a single case of demoralization, of excesses, of lack of discipline, of indolence, or of neglect on the part of other officers is incredible. To make such a challenge one must not know what honor is, or be so accustomed to such vices as to attach no importance to them. I will state, therefore, in order to satisfy the general who thus challenges me, that it was he himself who in the main furnished the occasion for that horrible picture of misery which General Filisola depicts in his official note of the 14th of May when he complains that he had to buy corn at 90 pesos a carga, bread at 3 pesos a loaf, cornbread at 2 reales a piece, brown sugar at 20 reales, and firewater at 8 pesos.

General Gaona, who is the one I am referring to, engaged in that infamous trade with the supplies brought for the army, monopolizing them as it approached Matamoros, and selling them to his brigade at a profit of more than a hundred per cent. He it was who pillaged the town of Bastrop and delayed the march of the division for eight days in order to transport the booty, violating the order which the general-in-chief sent to him by special messenger, commanding him to join his division in Austin. An yet I am accused of levity because I complained of the corruption and abuses of a part of the army. The said general, however, has deserved undue praise from General Filisola, notwithstanding that during the campaign he complained so loudly against his scandalous conduct. It is necessary to admit that General Filisola adds to his many failings the unpardonable one of inconsistency. I beg to be allowed these digressions, because if I were to take a special section to answer the personal recriminations brought against me, I would have to repeat man facts frequently. Therefore, I prefer to place my explanation where they fit into the text of my narrative. I will proceed with my diary. The active battalions of Querétaro and Tres Villa arrived in Goliad to-day and brought a twelve-pounder.

23. I returned to Victoria with the prisoners taken with Ward and received news at this place that eighty-two men had surrendered at Cópano with all their arms and munitions. I sent scouts to Lavaca Lake and the stream bearing the same name as well as to that of La Navidad. I dictated ten orders for the security of Cópano and the prisoners at Goliad, the establishment of hospitals, and the rebuilding of the fort there by the prisoner excusing from this work only those who were officers. I gave instructions also for all the forces with which I was to continued the campaign to join me, bringing the artillery and the corresponding ammunition. Among the instructions given on this day I ordered that a thorough investigation be undertaken to determine the views and principal aims that moved the officers who are our prisoners to take up arms. The findings of this investigation are among my papers.

I spent the 24th, 25th, 26th, and 27th in organizing my forces, equipment, and ammunition, and in drawing up many instructions for the security of the military posts that I was leaving on our rear, as well as for the better care of the wounded who have been up to now in the hands of a bad surgeon. As among the prisoners there were men skilled in all trades, I secured surgeons from among them who were very useful to us as well as to the sick in the hospital at Béxar, where I sent those that were needed.

On the 25th I sent Ward and his companions to Goliad. The active battalion of Querétaro joined me on the 26th. On the 27th, between nine and ten in the morning, I received a communication from Lieut. Col. Portilla, military commandant of that point, telling me that he had received orders from His Excellency, the general-in-chief, to shoot all the prisoners and that he was making preparations to fulfill the order.

This order was received by Portilla at seven in the evening of the 26th, and although he notified me of the fact on that same date, his communication did not reach me until after the execution had been carried out. All the members of my division were distressed to hear this news, and I no less, being as sensitive as my companions who will bear testimony of my excessive grief. Let a single one of them deny this fact! More than 150 prisoners who were with me escaped this terrible fate; also those who surrendered at Cópano and the surgeons and hospital attendants were spared. Those which I kept, were very useful to me as sappers.

I have come to an incident that has attracted the attention of foreigners and nationals more than any other and for which there have not been lacking those who would hold me responsible, although my conduct in the affair was straightforward and unequivocal. The orders of the general-in-chief with regard to fate decreed for prisoners were very emphatic.

[Santa Anna to Urrea, Béxar, March 3, 1836; also Santa Anna to Urrea March 23, 1836; and Santa Anna to Urrea on the same date]

These orders always seemed to me harsh, but they were the inevitable result of the barbarous and inhuman decree which declared outlaws those whom it wished to convert into citizens of the republic. Strange inconsistency in keeping with the confusion that characterized the times! I wished to elude these orders as far as possible without compromising my personal responsibility; and, with this object view, I issued several orders to Lieut. Col. Portilla, instructing him to use the prisoners for the rebuilding of Goliad. From time on, I decided to increase the number of the prisoners there in the hope that their very number would save them, for I never thought that the horrible spectacle of that massacre could take place in cold blood and without immediate urgency, a deed prescribed by the laws of war and condemned by the civilization our country. It was painful to me, also, that so many brave men should thus be sacrificed, particularly the much esteemed a fearless Fannin. They doubtlessly surrendered confident that Mexican generosity would not make their surrender useless, for under any other circumstances they would have sold their lives dearly, fighting to the last. I had due regard for the motives that induced them to surrender, and for this reason I used my influence with the general-in-chief to save them, if possible, from being butchered, particularly Fannin. I obtained from His Excellency only a severe reply, repeating his previous order [Santa Anna to Urrea, Béxar, March 24, 1836; also Santa Anna to Urrea Béxar, March 3, 1836], doubtlessly dictated by cruel necessity. Fearing, no doubt, that I might compromise him with my disobedience and expose him to the accusations of his enemies, he transmitted his instructions directly to the commandant at Goliad, inserting a copy of order to me [Santa Anna to Urrea, Béxar, March 23, 1836]. What was done by the commandant is told in his diary. Here, as well as in his communications, are seen the motives that made him act and the anguish which the situation caused him. Even after this lamentable event, I still received a letter of the general-in-chief, dated on the 26th, saying: "I say nothing regarding the prisoners, for I have already stated what their fate shall be when taken with arms in their hands."

In view of the facts presented, and keeping in mind that while that tragic scene was being enacted in Goliad I was in Guadalupe Victoria, where I received news of it several hours after the execution, what could I do to prevent it, especially if the orders were transmitted directly to that place? This is to demand the impossible, and had I been in a position to disregard the order it would have been a violent act of insubordination. If they wish to argue that it was in my hand to have guaranteed the lives of those unfortunates by granting them a capitulation when they surrendered at Perdido, I will reply that it was not in my power to do it, that it was not honorable, either to arms of the nation or to myself, to have done so. Had I granted them terms, I would then have laid myself open to a trial a council of war, for my force being superior to that of the enemy on the 20th and my position more advantageous, I could not admit any proposals except a surrender at discretion, my duty being to continue fighting, leaving the outcome to fate. I belie that I acted in accordance with my duty and I could not do otherwise. Those who assert that I offered guarantees to those who surrendered, speak without knowledge of the facts. [Urrea has a note in the original Diary calling attention to the statement of Santa Anna in his Manifesto with regard to the terms of surrender]

28. I began to comply with the orders of the general-in-chief in which he outlined the plan of operations that was to be served for the continuation of the campaign. [Santa Anna to Urrea, Béxar, March 23, 1836; Santa Anna to Urrea same date; Urrea to Eugenio Tolsa, Victoria, March 27, 1836; Urrea Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma, Victoria, March 27, 1836]

My division composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, was divided into two infantry brigades. The first under the command of Col. Mariano Salas, consisting of the battalions of Jiménez Querétaro, set out on this day to reconnoiter the ports on Lavaca Lake, carrying with it a twelve-pounder and the corresponding artillerymen and munitions for both the cannon and the infantry.

29. The cavalry set out for the purpose of reconnoitering banks of Lavaca and La Navidad Creeks.

30. The second brigade, composed of the active battalions San Luis and Tres Villas under orders of Col. Juan Morales marched towards the Villa of Santa Anna, taking two pieces of artillery and the corresponding train.

31. I left Victoria with my escort, leaving at this place detachment commanded by Capt Telésforo Alavez. I spent night on the banks of the Arenoso. sdct


Extract from the Diary of Col. Nicolás de la Portilla

In a Letter Portilla to Urrea....."I feel much distressed at what has occurred here; a scene enacted in cold blood having passed before my eyes which has filled me with horror.  All I can say is, that my duty as a soldier, and what I owe to my country, must be my guaranty...."

Col. Nicolás de la PortillaMarch 26. At seven in the evening I received orders from General Santa Anna by special messenger, instructing me to execute at once all prisoners taken by force of arms agreeable to the general orders on the subject. (I have the original order in my possession.) I kept the matter secret and no one knew of it except Col. Garay, to whom I communicated the order. At eight o'clock, on the same night, I received a communication from Gen. Urrea by special messenger in which among other things he says, "Treat the prisoners well, especially Fannin. Keep them busy rebuilding the town and erecting a fort. Feed them with the cattle you will receive from Refugio." What a cruel contrast in these opposite instructions! I spent a restless night. sdct

March 27. At daybreak, I decided to carry out the orders of the general-in-chief because I considered them superior. I assembled the whole garrison and ordered the prisoners, who were still sleeping, to be awaked. There were 445. (The eighty that had just been taken at Cópano and had, consequently, not borne arms against the government, were set aside.) The prisoners were divided into three groups and each was placed in charge of an adequate guard, the first under Agustin Alcerrica, the second under Capt. Luis Balderas, and the third under Capt. Antonio Ramírez. I gave instructions to these officers to carry out the orders of the supreme government and the general-in-chief. This was immediately done. There was a great contrast in the feelings of the officers and the men. Silence prevailed.  Sad at heart I wrote to Gen. Urrea expressing my regret at having been concerned in so painful an affair.  I also sent an official account of what I had done, to the general-in-chief.   [Portilla to Urrea, Goliad, March 26 1836 and Portilla to Urrea, Goliad, March 27, 1836]


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