The Battle of Coleto
and the Goliad Massacre
From the Republic Pension Application of Andrew A. Boyle
On the 17th of March the enemy appeared on the opposite side of the River from us. We sent over a skirmishing party of one company under Capt. Shackleford's command I think, who had an engagement with the enemy, we watching from the ramparts with the most intense anxiety, they were recalled by Col Fanning after the enemy's retreat to the Old Mission Church. On the following day the enemy appeared in force at the same place, orders were given by Col. Fanning to bake bread sufficient for several days and carry dried beef sufficient for the same length of time, the guns were taken down from the bastions and orders were also given to be ready to march before day light in the morning; from some cause unknown to me, we did not evacuate the Fort until between 8 and 9 oclock in the morning; we marched down the river and crossed at a ford below which we effected without difficulty. Our object in crossing below instead of at the upper ford in front of the Old Mission, was to avoid if possible an action with the enemy, (he outnumbering us at least six to one) and to get into the interior of Texas and join Genl Houston's Army; we continued our march until we crossed a creek called Manawee distant from the crossing of the river about three miles, we traveled slowly, our cannon and baggage wagons being drawn by oxen, a halt was called and we ate some breakfast..
Coleto Creek - the first day
After breakfast the march was continued, nothing new transpiring until about 12½ o'clock, P.M., the Mexicans were then descried on our left and rear, their cavalry approached us rapidly, seemingly with the intention of cutting us off from the timber of the Colett creek, they fired a few shots at us when Col Fanning, exclaimed (I was standing close by him at the time) "That's the signal for battle, I won't retreat another foot," we then unlimbered our pieces (six in all) formed ourselves into a hollow square, placing the baggage wagons, hospital wagon and magazine in the centre; we remained in this position 5 or 10 minutes, when Fanning seeing clearly I presume that the main object of the enemy was to cut us off from the timber, ordered us to limber up again and continue the march, we left the road, marching in an oblique direction to the left towards the nearest timber, when within (as well as I can recollect) ¾ or 1 mile of the timber, the enemy's infantry overtook us and we were obliged to halt, we formed as previously. Our little force then not numbering more than 311 men mantained [sic] the action which commenced about 1 ½ o'clock and fought until near dark, when the enemy retreated leaving 75 of us killed and wounded. I was shot in the right leg, a little above the ankle about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. After the enemy retreated then commenced our real trouble, the wounded cried for water and we had none to give them, some of our men dug for water, others threw up entrenchments expecting to continue the fight the next day, we had killed our oxen and used them as breast-works during the battle. Col Fanning was slightly wounded in the thigh, I lay close by him that night and hearing my groans, he kindly offered me his good leg for a pillow..
Coleto Creek - the second day
Next morning the Mexicans advanced again largely reinforced from Genl Santa Ana's division at San Antonio and well supplied with artillery, they fired two or three round shots at us, all of which passed over, hoisted a white flag, which we answered. A consultation of our officers was held and the conclusion arrived at that it would be better (if it could be effected) to make a capitulation than to continue a useless struggle, we having no way to take care of our wounded and Fanning expressed strongly his determination not to abandon them. Two of our officers met two of the Mexican officers and articles of capitulation were agreed on; the first article guaranteed to us our lives and personal property and another article that we should remain as prisoners of war until honorably exchanged or sent to the United States, giving our paroles of honor never to return to Texas. Upon our part we agreed to give up all government property in our possession; these articles of capitulation were signed by both parties.
All of our men not wounded were marched back to Goliad and the wounded remained from two to three days for Mexican carts to carry them there, their sufferings were great from the heat of the sun, want of water and medical aid. The wounded upon their arrival at Goliad were put into an hospital, those not wounded were placed in a yard of the Fort with sentries around them..
One week from the day of capitulation all the men except the wounded were marched out of the Fort in separate divisions, taken a short distance and shot. A Mexican officer came into the hospital where I was and asked me to tell the men, he wanted all those who were able to walk to come outside, the men commenced gathering up their blankets, in the meantime four mexican soldiers came in and commenced carrying out those who were unable to walk. I was assisted out by two comrades who were slightly wounded, having the use of one leg only; I was informed by an officer at the door that we were all going to be shot, on getting outside I told the men. The wounded lay in the corner of the yard in which the church door fronts. A Company of Mexican infantry marched down and formed in front of us. I particularly noticed that they loaded with ball cartridge, a file of men under a Corporal took two of our men, marched them out towards the Company, bandaged their eyes made them lay face down-wards, pointed muskets to their heads and shot them.
About this time a Mexican officer, seemingly of distinction came in among us and asked in a loud voice in English, "if there was any person there by the name of Boyle" I answered, (being close by him, leaning against the wall of the hospital on one leg) He told me "that he had been looking for me all the morning," he then called a Mexican officer and told him "to have me taken to the Mexican officer's hospital, to tell the Doctor to attend to my wound and he would be there after a while." On arriving there the Mexican officers seemed kindly disposed towards me and gave me a pair of Armas de Pelo to lay on. Mr. Brooks who was an aid to Col. Fanning was laying in the hospital at the time, his leg was badly shattered close up to the hip. I asked him "if he knew what was going on," he told me, "No," I told him "all our men were shot that morning except the wounded and they were shooting them then," I told him "if he would listen closely he could hear their screams," he did so and said "I suppose it will be our turn next." In less than 5 minutes four Mexicans carried him out, cot and all, placed him in the street-not 15 feet from the door and in a position I could not avoid seeing him and shot him, he was immediately stripped by the soldiers, his gold watch taken and his body thrown into a pit on the side of the street.
A few days after we had been taken prisoners, Col Ward and his men were brought into Goliad as prisoners, they having been captured as we understood some place between the Lavaca and Navidad Rivers. They were shot with our men. The number of men shot that morning according to the Mexican report was Four Hundred and Seventeen (417) .
About 2½ hours after my arrival at the Mexican officers hospital, the Mexican officer who ordered me in the morning to be sent there, came in. He addressed me in the English language saying; "You make your mind easy Sir, your life is spared." I asked him "if he would permit me to ask the name of the person to whom I was indebted for my life," he answered me "certainly, my name is General Francisco Garay, second in command of Urea's division," I then asked him "how it was that he happened to know my name," he told me "that when the division passed through San Patricio "he had quarters at my Brother and sister's house and he was treated with a great deal of kindness by them, that in leaving he was anxious to remunerate for the several little delicacies so acceptable to a soldier on a campaign that were daily placed upon his table." My sister refused to accept any remuneration, saying "that she was most happy to have him there as his presence was a protection to the house," he then asked "if he could do anything for her," she replied, "there is one thing General you can do for me, which I will esteem as a great favor, I have a Brother in the Revolutionary Army and should he through the fortunes of war ever fall into your hands as a prisoner, see that he is well treated," he told me "he had taken a description of me, that he had been looking for me all that morning and it was his Servant who reminded him that I might be among the wounded." He told me that he was leaving that day to join Genl Urea but that he had instructed Col. Portillo who would remain in command of the garrison to give me a passport to go home whenever I called for it. A few days after I procured the Passport and went in a ox team to the Mission where I remained a short time. I started again in an ox cart for San Patricio where we arrived on the third day