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The Goliad Massacre

Mission at La Bahia (now Goliad)

In spite of evidence that fixed fortifications did not hold up well to extended siege (a comparative handful of Texans had managed to expel more than one garrison of Mexican soldiers-including those at the Alamo in late 1835), many of the Texan commanders felt compelled to reinforce and maintain existing strongholds, even in the face of orders from Sam Houston to dismantle the fortifications and bring the cannon to aid in other areas of the war.

When the orders were given, infighting between Governor Henry Smith and the General Council, the provisional government set up by the Consultation in November 1835, had dangerously blurred the lines of military authority. By January, Governor Smith ordered the Council to dissolve because it was no longer effective. In their turn, the Council impeached the governor, replacing him with Lt. Governor James W. Robinson. The political confusion left the army in the field with uncertain leadership, poorly supplied, and attempting to achieve conflicting goals.

Among those caught up in the confusion was James Walker Fannin, Jr. A former West Point cadet, Fannin had already served with some distinction in the battle of Concepción. He was discharged on November 22, but after the government created an auxiliary volunteer corps, he accepted a commission from General Houston as colonel in the regular army.

As an agent of the provisional government, Fannin began recruiting volunteers for the Matamoros expedition. Then, when Sam Houston rejected the proposal and left the army to negotiate with the Indians, Fannin was elected colonel of the Provisional Regiment of Volunteers at Goliad. From February 12 to March 12 he acted as commander in chief of the army.

Fannin fell back to strengthen the defenses at Goliad when news came of General Urrea's occupation of Matamoros. The Mexican general continued his string of victories as he proceeded up the Texas coast. Expedition forces commanded by James Grant and Francis W. Johnson were destroyed. Recruits landing at Copano Bay were captured. Urrea then continued to Goliad.

Map of Fort Defiance

Map of the ground plan at "Fort Defiance"

(click for full size version)


Map of Fannin's Fight

Map of Fannin's Fight at La Bahia

(click for full size version)

Meanwhile, Fannin dithered over orders to relieve the Alamo. Instead, on March 12 Fannin dispatched most of his force to aid Texans near Refugio. On March 14 he received Houston's order to retreat to Victoria, which rescinded a previous order to relieve the Alamo. Waiting for the forces under Amon B. King and William Ward to return from Refugio, Fannin delayed retreating until he heard of their capture. On March 19 he began his retreat, but he and his men were surrounded and forced to surrender at the battle of Coleto. The Texans were imprisoned by the Mexicans at Goliad and subsequently murdered by order of Antonio López de Santa Anna on March 27, 1836. Fannin, because he was wounded, was shot separately at the mission on the same day.

Link - Duval statement on massacre

John C. Duval's Statement concerning the massacre

Link - Barnard's list of Fannin's men

Dr. Joseph Barnard's list of Fannin's men

Related Topics from Texas Treasures:

First-Hand Account: Andrew A. Boyle

Related Link:

Notes from an Unfinished Study of Fannin and His Men

Page last modified: June 17, 2011