SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
Goliad Massacre-Index | Independence-Index

For Biographies, Search Handbook of Texas Online


FANNIN AND HIS COMMAND:
 
Comprising a brief sketch of the Organization, Military Operations and Massacre of Col. James W. Fannin and his Regiment, in the Revolutionary Struggle of Texas - 1835 and '36.
 
BY ONE OF THE COMMAND.
[Lewis M. H. Washington]

 

To the Editors of the Georgia Citizen:

As a respectable number of your readers were no doubt acquainted, not only with the late gallant, but unfortunate, Colonels Fannin and Ward -- who so nobly fell as martyrs in the cause of Texas Independence -- but with many of those ardent and chivalric spirits that composed their Command, and who, or nearly all of them, shared the same fate with their heroic commanders, in the memorable massacre at Goliad, in the Spring of 1836, I will endeavor, as far as my memory serves me, to give, through the medium of your valuable journal, a brief sketch of the organization, military operations, massacre, &c., of that noble and valorous Regiment, believeing [sic] that it will be read with some degree of interest. In giving this sketch to the public, I feel the necessity of asking, in advance, all due allowance, for such inaccuracies of detail as may, and no doubt will be found to exist in the body of the narrative. As I write almost wholly from memory, no liberal-minded man will expect every incident connected with the history of that "eventful and bloody drama," (as it has been aptly termed,) to be given with unerring exactness, even to the minutiae. Notwithstanding the slight inaccuracies that may be discovered, it is confidently believed that in the main, this desultory narrative will be found, by those familiar with the facts, substantially correct:--

Many of the volunteers comprising the command of Col. Fannin, were from Georgia; the most of whom volunteered their services to battle in the cause of Texian Liberty, early in the Fall of 1835, at Macon, Milledgeville and Columbus. Those from the vicinity of the two former places were chiefly raised for the occasion, by Col. William Ward, and those from the latter, by Capt. Wm. A. O. Wadsworth; but on their route to Texas, their numbers were considerably augmented by other volunteers, who enrolled themselves at Montgomery, Ala., Mobile and New Orleans, making in all, when they debarked at Velasco, Texas, on the 20th Dec., '35, a well equipped force of about three hundred as gallant and intrepid young men as ever drew a sword or shouldered a fire-lock in the cause of human Liberty.

Within a day or two after the arrival of these voluntees at Velasco, a thorough organization of the companies was consummated, in order that they might be immediately reported for service to the Provisional Government, (Governor Henry Smith and the members of the Council,) then temporarily resident at San Felipe de Austin, the Colonal capital of Stephen F. Austin's Colony.

The number raised by Capt. Wadsworth was but little more than sufficient for one full Company, and consequently, it was determined that they should be organized as one Company, including the whole number. W. A. Wadsworth was elected Captain, and Thomas Reese and Joseph Wilson as Lieutenants. Mr. R. Rutledge, I believe, was elected Orderly.

The volunteers raised by Col. Ward were found, on landing in Texas, to number well nigh two hundred -- enough for two companies, and it was determined they should be as equally divided as practicable, and the two divisions separately organized as companies. So soon as the division was satisfactorily arranged, the companies proceeded to elect their officers respectively. Of one of the companies, U. J. Bullock was elected Captain, Bazil Lamar and Alex. Patton, Lieutenants, and Francis M. Hunt, Orderly. The other chose a gallant young gentleman of the name of Wynn, (I think from the couty [sic] of Gwinnett,) as Captain, and Willey Hughs, as a Lieutenant. The names of the other Lieutenants and the Orderly of this company I have also forgotten.

After these companies were respectively organized, the whole three proceeded to organize as a Battalion -- choosing Wm. Ward as Major, and a Mr. Chadwick as Sergeant Major.

Here it is proper that I should say something regarding the gallant and accomplished Chadwick, for I have always viewed him as decidedly one of the most thorough and effective military men, as well as one of the most polished and pleasant gentlemen, that ever battled under the bright banner of the Lone Star.

He was, I think, a native of the State of New York. At an early age he graduated at West Point Military Academy, and was breveted a 2d Lieutenant in the Draggoon Regiment, then commanded by the celebrated Dodge of "Black Hawk War" notoriety, which officer he accompanied in his first expeditions to the Rocky Mountains. For a man of his age, (not being over thirty when he entered the service of Texas) he had seen much hard and trying service, which well fitted him to meet the hardships, privations and perils which were necessarily to be encountered in the service of his adopted country. In addition to that which he had learned from experience on the "tented field," amid the wild and inhospitable regions of the Rocky Mountains, he was a scientific and efficient tactician, as well as an accomplished Military and Topographical Engineer. Joined to these accomplishments, was a native suavity of temper and urbanity of manner, which at once made him the pride of the Battalion.

So soon as the "Georgia Battalion" had been properly organized and reported, Col. Jas. W. Fannin, who had but a short time before been promoted by the Provisional Government, to a Colonelcy, in consequence of his gallant and officer-like bearing as Captain of a volunteer corps, at the "Grass Fight" and the "Battle of Concepcion," during the then recent siege of San Antonio de Bexar, came down to Velasco from San Felipe, and formally mustered the troops composing it into the service of Texas, for a term of six months.

After the Battalion had been "mustered in," Col. Fannin, by proper authority, proceeded to appoint the necessary staff officers: David I. Holt was appointed Quarter Master, and a Mr. Cozart and the writer of this sketch were appointed Assistant Quarter Masters. Mr. Green Buchanan received the appointment of Commissary of Subsistence, and Mr. James Hughes that of Issuing Commissary.

The organization of the Battalion being now completed, Col. Fannin proceeded to San Felipe for further orders; and whilst he was there, it was determined by the Provisional Government that he should as soon as practicable, repair with the Georgia Battalion to the Western frontier, and there, at such point as he might think poper [sic] to select, organize as strong a force as he could gather, with a view to crossing the Rio Grande, and making a descent upon the city of Matamoras, provided that after a careful reconnoissance of the city and its defences, by competent and trustworthy men -- its capture should be deemed practicable. In the event of the projected enterprize being found impracticable or too hazardous, he was to quarter the troops at some eligible point on the frontier and there fortify, for the purpose of holding any Mexican force that might attempt to penetrate the settlements, by the lower or Matamoras route, in check, until a sufficient force could be gathered, to offer successful resistance.

After everyting [sic] concerning the future operations of Col. Fannin's command had been arranged at San Felipe, and the necessary official orders delivered, the Colonel hastened to Velasco in order to make immediate preparations for the embarkation of the troops, munitions of war, etc. for Copono [sic, Copano], a point on Aransas Bay, which had long been the port of entry for all that district of country lying between the Guadalupe and Nueces rivers. On his arrival at Velasco, Col. Fannin made early application to Messrs. McKinney & Williams -- a high-minded, wealth, liberal and patriotic mercantile firm at the mouth of the Brazos river -- for vessels of sufficient capacity for the transportation of the volunteers, Commissary's stores, etc., to the aforementioned point of destination. Those gentlemen, with their usual promptness and alacrity, soon procured such vessels as were required, and in a few days every thing was ready for embarkation.

A day or two before Col. Fannin and his command sailed from Velasco, the steamer Yellow Stone arrived from New Orleans with two more fine companies of volunteers on board -- Capt. Isaac Ticknor's from Montgomery, Ala., and Capt. Duval's, (a son of the Ex-Governor Duval, of Fla.,) from Kentucky, making an acquisition to the command of something over one hundred choice and thoroughly equipped men.

Added to the American force above alluded to, was a small company of Mexicans, under command of Captain Luis Guarro -- an intelligent, gallant and patriotic officer of the regular army of Mexico, who had been for years attached to the garrison at Tampico, and had participated with his company of regulars, in the disastrous revolutionary movement of the patriot General Mexia, in November, '35. After the defeat of Gen. Mexia, at Tampico, he, and those of his adherents who were not captured and shot by the Centralist troops, made their way to Velasco, on board a small schooner, bringing with them to [sic] new and elegant brass field-pieces, double-fortified long sixes. Cap. Guarro tendered the services of himself and company, as before stated, a day or two prior to the embarkation of the troops at Velasco. Their services were accepted by Col. Fannin, more for the purpose of obtaining the beautiful field-pieces than on account of any real efficiency that was supposed to attach to the men as soldiers. It was the opinion of all; that Capt. Guarro himself was a man of unquestionable valor and fidelity to the patriotic cause in which he had so nobly embarked, and by doing which he had been compelled to flee precipitately from his own family and country, and leave a large estate subject to confiscation by the Central Despotic Government of Mexico.

Everything being in readiness, the entire command sailed from the mouth of the Brazos river on board the schooner Columbus, and another vessel, the name of which I cannot now remember, on the 23d January, 1836, and after a short, but tempestuous voyage, arrived at Copono, Jan. 30th, where we remained until February 1st.

On our arrival at Copono, we met Maj. Holt, Q. M., who had started through over land, prior to our sailing, in order to make the necessary arrangements for the transportation of our stores, baggage, etc. to the Mission de Refugio, a small but ancient village, situated on the Mission river, 15 miles above Copono, that being the point previously determined upon, at which the forces destined for the proposed descent upon Matamoras, were to concentrate. The Major had procured a number of Mexican ox-carts, and had them in readiness to "load up and go ahead." We were, consequently, detained but one night and half a day at Copono.

Late in the afternoon of the 1st February, we encamped on the plaza, (public square,) in front of the old stone Church, in the sequestered and antique village of Refugio, and on the following morning removed to a beautiful site for an encampment, three miles below the village, on the west side of the river, and immediately on the Matamoras road. This place had long been known as the Lopez Rancho, and some Mexican peons in the employ of Lopez, were residing there at the time.

At Copono and Refugio, we found some companies or rather small fragments of companies, awaiting our arrival. Among these, as far as my memory now serves me, were the commands of Captains Pearson, King, Wyatt, Bradford and Burke. The two former gentlemen were, I believe, of the histrionic profession, as well as some of those attached to their respective commands.

The entire force now amounting to nearly or quite enough to constitute a regiment, it was determined that a regimental organization should at once be had.

The election of officers for the regiment was held at the Rancho, about three days after our encampment there, and resulted in the choice of James W. Fannin as Colonel,* William Ward as Lieut. Colonel, and Doctor Mitchell, (from Columbus, Ga.,) and a gentleman of the name of Wallace, (from Virginia,) as Majors of Battalions.


* Though Col. Fannin already bore a commission in the army of Texas, and had received special orders to take command of the Georgia volunteers who were at the mouth of the Brazos river at the date of his orders, and of such other companies as might thereafter arrive in the country, until it should be deemed proper by the Provisional Government to change the plan of operations, yet his commission was for the regular service, and he was well aware of the long established usage, (in America) of volunteers electing their own officers, consequently he resigned his commission in the regular army, in order to give the volunteers of the Regiment an opportunity of exercising their own choice in the selection of their regimental commander.


The elections being over, Col. Fannin proceeded to the appointment of his staff. Sergeant Major Chadwick was promoted to the Adjutantcy of the Regiment, and a Mr. Brooks, (a Virginian who received a thorough military education in the U.S. and in France, and had seen considerable service in the French war against the Malays,) was appointed to officiate both as Regimental Inspector and Captain of Engineers. Dr. Wm. McGee received the appointment of Surgeon, and the same Quarter Masters and Commissaries that had been previously appointed at Velasco, were re-appointed here, together with some additional Assistants in both Departments.

About the time the organization of the Regiment was completed, a spy who had been sent to observe the movements of the enemy on the Rio Grande, and especially to ascertain the strength of the defence at Matamoras, returned to our encampment and announced the arrival of a reinforcement of 3,000 of the choicest Mexican troops at that city. The receipt of this startling intelligence resulted in a council of war being immediately held by the commissioned officers of the Regiment, all of whom, I think, (with the exception of Capt Pearson,) acquiesced in the proposition of Col. Fannin to abandon for the time being the project of taking Matamoras, and to repair forthwith to Goliad, (28 miles above Refugio, on the route to San Antonio,) and there take up quarters within the walls of the old fortified church, known as the Mission de Espirito Santa.

This position was deemed the most important one on the Western frontier, with perhaps the exception of San Antonio, as it was immediately on the only travelled route from Matamoras to the American settlements in Texas.

Another inducement to occupy the fortress of Espirito Santa was that there was already a small force of Texian regulars and volunteers in possession of that post; Capt. Phil. Dimett, with a few intrepid men, having taken it by storm the preceding fall, from a considerable body of Mexican soldiers and rancheros that had been garrisoned there since the beginning of the revolutionary movements in the autumn of '35. The acquisition of the troops at Goliad, together with some fine pieces of artillery that had been captured there by Dimett, was deemed of great importance, as it would add much to the strength and efficiency of the Regiment.

So soon as it was determined to occupy the fort at Goliad, preparations were made to take up the line of march for that point, and on the 11th Feb. the whole force was on their way thither -- excepting Captain Pearson's company, which proceeded in the direction of Matamoras, as far as San Patricio, (an Irish settlement on the Nueces river, about 40 miles west of Refugio,) where were Col. Frank Johnson and Capt. Grant endeavoring to concentrate a sufficient body of men to make a foray upon the Mexican settlements on the Lower Rio Grande, and, perhaps, to pay Matamoras a visit, not believing the report given by the spy relative to the arrival of a strong reinforcement at that place.

We reached Goliad on the afternoon of the 13th February, after a march of about two days over a level prairie, facing, the whole time, a furious 'Norther,' accompanied with heavy sleet. This was the first genuine taste of the 'pleasures of soldiering' that the most of the 'boys' had ever experienced; and the reader may rest assured that many were the imprecations muttered, and many the rueful grimaces of visage exhibited, whilst the draught was being swallowed. Poor fellows! there was yet reserved a far more bitter cup than that for them to drain.

On our arrival at Goliad, we found within the walls of the Fort, one company of regulars, (not full,) and several fragments of volunteer companies; the most of the men composing them having belonged to companies that had been disbanded at San Antonio after the capitulation of Cos, early in the preceding December. The garrison was under the temporary command of Capt. Westover, of the regulars, who, upon the arrival of Col. Fannin, formally resigned the command into his hands, having been instructed to that effect by official orders previously received from San Felipe.

Col. Fannin, on examining the Fort, found that much work was necessary before it could be made to answer any valuable purpose, in the event of being stormed or besieged by a strong and well-appointed force of the enemy. Consequently, he at once caused such repairs as could be made to be commenced, together with other important defences suggested by Capt. Brooks. A number of old dilapidated stone houses were torn down, and the stones of which they were built used in strengthening the walls of the fortress. A narrow ditch was dug on the inner side, four feet from the walls, and strong pickets planted firmly and closely together therein. The space between the pickets and the walls was then filled with earth and stones well beaten in, making the entire outer walls, well nigh eight feet in thickness. A deep ditch, six feet wide, was then dug, inside of these strong rampants, with draw-bridges at such places as they were thought necessary. Substantial platforms were erected at suitable points on the walls, upon which heavy pieces of artillery were mounted so as to command the different streets of the town that led to the 'military plaza,' in the centre of which the Fort was situated. -- In fine, no time was lost nor pains spared to put every thing in as defensible a condition as possible.

A short time after our being quartered in the fortress de Espirito Santa, there was a small Artillery Corps organized, made up of men of some experience in gunnery, and commanded by a kinsman of the late gallant Stephen Decatur -- Capt. Stephen D. Hurst, and who, I believe, was once also attached to the U. S. Navy. With the assistance of the accomplished Brooks of the Engineers, Capt. Hurst soon drilled his little corps into a tolerable degree of efficiency.

About a week or ten days after our arrival at Goliad, we were reinforced by Capt. Jack Shackelford, with his chivalric and finely equipped company of uniformed volunteers -- the 'Red Rovers,' from North Alabama. Our entire effective force now amounted to about 500 men; and through the indefatigable exertions of our Quarter Masters, Commissaries and Contractors, the garrison was pretty well supplied with beef, corn, flour, sugar and coffee. Our supply of ammunition was also very good; and of arms we had an abundance -- good muskets, fine Harper's Ferry yagers, and close-shooting rifles -- also, eleven pieces of artillery, including one mortar.

On the 25th of Feb, an express arrived from San Antonio informing Col. Fannin of the arrival at that place of a large force of Mexicans, and that the Alamo, an ancient fortified church on the east side of the river, and immediately opposite the city, was then besieged by them. This express had been dispatched by Col. Wm. B. Travis, (who was quartered in the Alamo with only about 160 men,) requesting Col. Fannin to reinforce him, if possible, from the garrison of Goliad, as his small force was wholly insufficient to withstand, successfully, any united and determined assault by a force so vastly superior in numerical strength.

On the receipt of this intelligence, Col. Fannin consulted with the commissioned officers of his command, and it was determined that the whole regiment, excepting a small force to be left in charge of the post at Goliad, should take up the line of march on the following day for San Antonio, or, rather, the Alamo. On the next day, so soon as necessary preparations could be made for the march, we were on the route to the seat of 'active operations;' but it being late in the day before we could get off, night overtook us ere we had proceeded two miles from the Fort. After we had encamped, Col. Fannin again went into consultation with his officers, which resulted in an order for a countermarch of the whole force to the fortress de Espirito Santa. This retrograde movement was, upon due reflection, considered advisable by a majority of the commissioned officers of the regiment, for the following reasons:

1st. -- As the dispatch from Col. Travis had not intimated the probable number of the enemy by which the Alamo was besieged, it was highly possible that their force was of sufficient strength to prevent any reinforcement not stronger than we were, from obtaining ingress to the fortress, if not to encounter and vanquish us in an open field engagement on our approach to San Antonio.

2d.-- If there was really a powerful force of Mexicans then before the walls of the Alamo, (which the expressman informed us was far from being in a defensible condition even if it were strongly garrisoned,) it was probable that some decisive movement would be made ere we should reach there, as the distance was ninety miles, a march of fully four days and a half, and our subsistence and ammunition, carts, artillery, &c., were drawn by jaded and famished ox-teams that were liable to fail even before we could make half the distance.

3d.-- The report brought in by the spy whilst we were lying at the Lopez Rancho, was considered sufficient to warrant the supposition that it was, probably, Santa Anna's purpose to divide the Mexican forces destined for a second invasion of Texas, so that one division should penetrate the country by the upper or San Antonio road, and the other by the lower or Goliad route. In the event of that supposition being correct, the abandonment of the fortress de Espirito Santa, or the leaving of it garrisoned by so few men as were then occupying it, might be followed by the most disastrous consequences not only to the garrison but to the cause of Texian liberty.

These reasons having been duly considered, it was deemed most prudent that the regiment should return to the Fort and put themselves in readiness for its defence.

On the day after our return, a second express came in from San Antonio, bringing intelligence of the arrival at that place of a reinforcement of 5000 Mexican troops, under the immediate command of the President-General, the despot Santa Anna himself, and stating that the whole Mexican force then before the walls of the Alamo did not amount to less than 7000 men. Col. Travis had also been reinforced by the arrival of about 30 Texians, mostly from the neighborhood of Gonzales, who obtained ingress to the Fort by stealth under cover of the darkness of night. The besieging army had made several attempts to take the Alamo by storm, but up to the time of the expressman's leaving, they had been beaten back with considerable loss on their part, and without the loss of a single man on the side of the Texians. Yet, notwithstanding the success that had so far attended the gallant defence of the Alamo, it was hardly possible that so small a force could much longer continue to repel the constant and determined assaults of a besieging army, numbering at least twenty to their one. In fact, it appeared that the heroic little band foresaw the result, and were hourly expecting the last, bloody scene of the momentous tragedy in which they were engaged as prominent actors, for the expressman stated that Col. Travis and his Spartan-like command had deliberately resolved never to surrender the fortress as long as there was a living man within its walls to strike for its defence.

About this time a Mexican, Placedore, an old and respectable citizen of Texas, who had been with Johnson and Grant at San Patricio, came into Goliad at full speed and greatly exhausted, and announced that Capt. Grant's command, of which he was a member, had encountered a heavy force of the enemy near the Casa Blanco, about 15 miles west of San Patricio, and that they were all either killed or captured save himself.

Col. Fannin placed entire confidence in Placedore's statement, knowing him to be a man of veracity and of well-tested fidelity to the Texian cause.

On the second day after the arrival of Placedore at Goliad, Col. Frank Johnson and Mr. John Love came in on foot and without shoes, and confirmed the intelligence brought by Placedore. They also stated that after calling up Grant's party, the Mexicans had advanced upon San Patricio at the dead of night, and had taken them, (Johnson's command,) by surprise, they only, (Johnson and Love,) effecting an escape.

It was now certain that a division of the Mexican army was approaching the coast settlements of Western Texas by the lower route, proving the correctness of the supposition which had led to the abandonment of the project of reinforcing Col. Travis, as before stated.

The company of Mexicans in the Fort were seized with great trepidation on the receipt of this, to them, appalling intelligence; and through their commander, Guarro, requested permission of Col. Fannin to repair immediately to Coxe's Point on the Bay, where they would have an early opportunity of embarking for New Orleans, urging as a reason for making the request, that if they should fall into the hands of the central troops they would instantly be shot as deserters and rebels. Col. Fannin granted their request with little hesitancy, as he had never viewed them as being efficient or reliable, though he had full confidence in both the patriotism and prowess of Capt. Guarro. As soon as the necessary permission was given, in writing, the whole company left Goliad, as was understood, for Coxe's Point, but -- as it will hereafter appear in the course of this narrative -- all of them, except Capt. Guarro, who went to New Orleans, joined Gen. Urrea's division of the Mexican army then at San Patricio. A day or two before they asked permission to leave, a strange Mexican, representing himself to be a Ranchero, residing on the San Antonio river some ten or fifteen miles below Goliad, came into the Fort and remained with the Mexican company for several hours. Nothing at the time was thought of this visit of the self-styled Ranchero, as Mexicans of similar appearance had often before visited their countrymen in the Fort, without having attracted special notice or excited suspicion, but it was subsequently ascertained that he was a Mexican officer in disguise, and that he was the bearer of a dispatch from Gen. Urrea to that company, offering a full pardon for their former 'traitorous and libellous conduct at Tampico,' if they would 'forsake the ignoble and criminal cause of the pirates,' as the Texians were termed, 'and return, like honorable Mexicans, to the glorious and triumphant standard of their blessed country.' But in the event of their obstinately refusing to accept the magnanimous offer extended to them, they would, just as certain as the Blessed Virgin was then looking down from Paradise upon them, be captured and executed as traitors, without the benefit of clergy.

On the 10th of March, a man of the name of Ayers, who had been merchandising in the town of San Patricio, arrived at Goliad apparently in the deepest trouble, stating that his family were captives in the hands of a number of Rancheros at the Mission Refugio, and expressed much fear that they would be put to death. Col. Fannin, on hearing this touching representation of what he supposed to be facts, immediately dispatched Capt. King's small company and Capt. Bradford's -- still smaller -- the whole under command of King, to effect a release of Ayers' family and such others as might have fallen into the hands of the reputed Rancheros subsequent to the departure of Ayers from the Mission, Ayers remaining at Goliad seemingly in the greatest mental agony.

On the 12th a young man, the son of an Irish widow who resided at the Mission, came into Goliad and reported himself to Col. Fannin as the bearer of a verbal express from Capt. King, who had upon reaching the Mission, instead of finding a mere body of Rancheros as Ayers had represented, encountered over three hundred well-drilled and well-armed Mexican soldiers. He stated that King, on finding so great an odds against him, had betaken himself to the old stone church and had, up to the time of his leaving, succeeded in defending himself from within its massive walls without any loss, but that it would be impossible for him to do so much longer, inasmuch as his men were out of provisions and had well nigh expended all their ammunition.

This intelligence reached Goliad about 10 o'clock at night, and in less than an hour from the time of its receipt, the 'Georgia Battalion' -- including Capt. Ticknor's company from Montgomery, Ala. -- were on a forced march for the Mission, which place they reached at an early hour on the following day. Ayers accompanied the Battalion. I will here introduce an extract from an article touching the subject matter under consideration, which appeared in the Galveston News in the summer of 1851, and may be relied on as substantially correct:

"Finding a great many more Mexicans there than had shown themselves at the time Capt. King forwarded the express, Col. Ward was compelled to cut his way through their lines which had been formed expressly to prevent his joining King's gallant little band, something near a mile above the Mission. In the course of this short but desperate encounter, about twelve Mexicans were killed.

"On the following morning Maj. Mitchell with a detachment, was ordered across the river to destroy the ranchos lying below the Mission, which order having been satisfactorily executed Col. Ward began making preparations to retreat with the families under his protection. Just at this time a difficulty arose between Col. Ward and Capt. King, the latter of whom, at the urgent request of Ayers and against the will of Ward, was about starting out for the purpose of recapturing some goods which he, Ayers, represented as having been stolen from him by the Mexicans. King with twenty-eight men, had crossed the river for the purpose already stated, when the whole of Urrea's division of the Mexican army, amounting to near sixteen hundred men, appeared in 'battle array' before them.

"Capt. King was at once cut off from all chance of escape, and he fought with furious desperation until he lost all of his men but nine, eight of whom, including himself, were taken prisoners by the Mexicans, one only making his escape."

The attention of Urrea was now turned to routing Col. Ward's command from their stronghold in the church, and the whole division, with one brass six-pounder, was brought into the fierce conflict which continued steadily until 12 o'clock at night. The loss on the part of the Mexicans was subsequently ascertained to be about 500 killed and wounded. The greater portion of them were killed on the ground.

In the meantime, intelligence had been received at Goliad of the fall of the Alamo, and Col. Fannin dispatched an express, borne by the intrepid James Murphey from Milledgeville, Geo., to Col. Ward. The brave young Murphey was discovered, ere he reached his destination, by a large body of Mexican Cavalry. They pursued, captured and killed him. The express, which gave an account of the fall of the Alamo and requested Col. Ward to retreat to Victoria, at which point Gen. Houston, the commander-in-chief, had ordered Col. Fannin to meet him, so that all the forces then in the field might be concentrated, was sent in by Urrea accompanied with a demand that Col. Ward instantly surrender, also stating that he had Capt. King and seven of his men prisoners. Ward detained the bearer of Urrea's communication and the conflict was renewed with increasing fury on both sides. The Mexicans at one time succeeded in getting their brass piece within ten paces of the southern wall of the church, but the 'boys' poured such a deadly volley into them from their close, shooting yagers and rifles, they retreated precipitately with their 'big gun,' leaving a goodly number of their companiaros 'stretched' behind them.

During the whole of this sanguinary affair, Col. Ward had not a solitary man killed, and but two were wounded. One of them was a daring youth, who ran outside 'to take a crack at the d----d yellow-bellies,' to use his own language. His name was Shelton; he was not more than 15 years old, and was one of the most respectable families in the State of Mississippi. The other was a man named Winters attached to Capt. Wynn's company.

About 2 o'clock on the morning of the 14th, under cover of the darkness of night, Col. Ward began his retreat for Victoria, being compelled to leave his wounded in the church. Winters was supposed to be mortally wounded, and the tender age of young Shelton, it was thought, would elicit the compassion of the Mexican General. Vain hope! No sooner had the successful retreat of Ward and his men been discovered, than the gallant King and his seven men, together with Winters and the brave little Shelton, were shot! It was afterwards learned from some Mexicans belonging to Urrea's division, who were taken prisoners, that the Mexican General caused Capt. King to be bound firmly to a tree with lariettas and shot, alleging that he had fought like a beast, and it was proper that he should die like a beast.

In consequence of the total ignorance of all the command of the geography of the country, Victoria was not reached until the 20th, making the time occupied on the march six days, when if there had been any competent guide along the distance could have been accomplished in less time than three days.

During those six days the greatest suffering was experienced from fatigue, hunger and thirst, being out of provisions and so closely approximated to the bay that no fresh water could be obtained.

On arriving at Victoria, instead of finding Col. Fannin and Gen. Houston there as was expected, Col. Ward was met by an overwhelming Mexican force. At this place, Lieut. Wilson of Captain Wardsworth's [sic] company, on venturing up to a house in search of something to eat, was killed.

It was there that the first tidings were had of Col. Fannin's defeat and surrender, a desultory account of which will be given hereinafter.

Col. Ward now commenced a retreat to the timber of the Guadalupe bottom, in the dense fastnesses of which his command lay for several hours. They then resumed their march, bearing to the East, and on the next day reached Placedore's creek running between Victoria and a noted landing on Lavaca bay, known at that time as Linn's Landing, since as Linnville. Whilst lying on this creek, Col. Ward was overtaken by a heavy force of Mexicans that had been dispatched by Gen. Urrea in pursuit of him.

A flag of truce was sent in, borne by a Polish officer of the Mexican army, Col. Holzinger, who spoke English tolerably well. He demanded a surrender upon the same terms characterizing the surrender of Col. Fannin, viz:

"That they should lay down their arms and agree, upon the honor of soldiers, never again to take up arms against the Republic of Mexico. After doing this, they were to be safely conveyed, at the expense of the Mexican Government, to the city of New Orleans, and there set at liberty."

Col. Ward, with characteristic contempt of death, at once ordered his men to prepare to "fight to the knife," telling them at the same time that he would "rather die than surrender." His men, or rather the most of them, being worn down and famished, and without ammunition, indicated a willingnes [sic] to "come into terms." This enraged the Colonel, but his good sense pointed out the course he should pursue. He immediately ordered them, they being already formed in line, to come to an "order." This done, he explained the terms upon which a surrender was demanded, and expressed an entire lack of confidence in Mexican Honor, in any form watsoever [sic] that it could be pledged. He then ordered those who were "in favor of surrendering, to stand at an order, and those who were disposed to do or to die, to come to a shoulder." But few comparatively came to a shoulder, consequently the required surrender was at once made.

The Command was then marched back to Goliad, with the exception of about 23, who were sent to Victoria as mechanics, where Col. Fannin and his command were already confined in the Fort. They had separated but a short time before, the bosom of each filled with "high-bounding pride" and glorious aspirations. They now met, worn down and emaciated; and what was the most humiliating of all, they were subject to the insults, and other harsher usage of a people far inferior, in every essential particular, to the meanest of their own negro servants.

Col. Fannin evacuated the Fort at Goliad, I think, on the 17th of March, for Victoria. The van-guard was composed of mounted men, the most of whom had been raised in Matagorda county, by Col. A. C. Horton, formerly of Georgia. The command had not proceeded over eight miles, before Col. Fannin discovered himself surrounded by about 6,000 Mexicans, including a very large force of cavalry. The whole cavalry force dashed in between the van-guard and the main body of the Texian army, and effectually cut of [sic] Col. Horton's command.

Col. Fannin entrenched himself as speedily and as well as possible, and soon the engagement became general. Charge after charge was made by the enemy's cavalry, but the fine pieces of artillery which were dexterously and judiciously formed into batteries by the experienced Brooks, mowed them down so dreadfully that they soon began to display more caution and less impetuosity.

The conflict continued the better part of two days, and the slaughter was great, especially on the side of the enemy.

General Fillisola, who was in the engagement with his Division, acknowledged afterwards, in his report of the battle published in Matamoras, that the entire loss of the Mexican army, killed and wounded, did not fall short of 750.

On the side of the Texians, the loss was about 60 killed and wounded. Col. Fannin himself was severely wounded, also the gallant and accomplished Brooks. The chief command, had the engagment [sic] continued longer, would neccessarily [sic] have devolved upon Maj. Chadwick, whose thorough efficiency has already been alluded to.

On the second day, a flag of truce was sent in by the Mexican General, borne by the afore mentioned Col. Holzinger, demanding a surrender of the Texians. After Col. F. had chsulted [sic] with his officers, a parley was agreed upon. This was acquiesced in by Urea [sic], and the parley resulted in a capitulation, the substance of the terms of which has already been given.

Col. Fannin could not retreat himself as near sixty of his men being wounded, and there being no possible means of conveying the wounded from the field.

When Santa Anna, then at San Antonio, heard that the Texians had surrendered, he dispatched an order to Urrea to cause every one of them to be instantly shot. Urrea positively refused to carry the savage order into execution, it "being in direct violation of the terms upon which the capitulation was based." He received a second order, couched in the most peremptory language; this he also refused to carry into execution, protesting in the strongest terms against such "wholesale butchery." Fillisola was then ordered to cause the prisoners to be executed; and on the eighth day after the surrender the brutal massacre of those brave Americans was perpetrated. Colonels Fannin and Ward, with all the wounded of their commands, were shot within the walls of the church. Their warm life-blood flowed freely through the gloomy aisles of the sanctuary, and curled and clotted around the holy alter where stood the high-reared crucifix, and where was placed the beauteous image of the "Blessed Virgin."

All the ballance [sic], with the exception of the three, Dr. Joseph H. Barnard, then Post Surgeon, Captain Jack Shackleford, who was a physician, and a German of the name of Voss, who was kept to assist Doctors Barnard and Shackleford in dressing the wounds, amputating the limbs, &c., of the wounded Mexicans, marched out of the Fort, in three separate divisions, and in three different directions, under the pretext of procuring a supply of wood and water, and then deliberately fired upon, from the rear, by over a thousand Mexican soldiers, they having been sent ostensibly as guards, but really as cold-blooded executioners.

Not exceeding twenty escaped. Some were shot fully two miles distant, having been overtaken in their flight and despatched without being shown the least quarters.

Those who fell at the first fire, were collected together by the Mexicans, and burnt. The ballance [sic] remained just where they fell until the latter part of the following May, when Gen. Rusk, then commander-in-chief of the Texian army, caused their bones to be collected and buried in one common grave, with military honors.

The zephyrs that softly sigh o'er their grave,
Are requiems fit for the rest of the brave
.

[A literal and complete copy from:  Washington, Lewis M. H., narrative, reprinted from the Georgia Citizen, Texas State Gazette, Austin: William H. Cushney, June 18, 1853.]


Goliad Massacre-Index | Independence-Index
SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved