Murder…War Crimes…at Goliad

Today in History, March 27, 1836:

The Goliad Massacre.

In the preceding days, several battles had been fought between the Mexican Army and Texians fighting for their independence.

Among others, James W. Fannin had to surrender his forces faced with overwhelming Mexican force and artillery.

He and his men had been promised surrender terms that included good treatment and “parole” back to the United States. They were not aware that in December of the previous year Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had asked for and received from the Mexican Congress a law declaring that any Texian or American soldiers that were captured would be treated as pirates and executed.

In spite of pleas from one of his generals, Santa Anna ordered the men executed. Deprived of the ability to fight to the end by false promises of parole (parole was a common military practice – those that surrendered simply promised not to take up arms again), 303 men that were ambulatory were marched out of Fort Defiance in Goliad along three separate roads.

They were told that they were to gather wood, or that they were being taken to a port to be shipped to New Orleans. Many of the men joined in a chorus of “home sweet home” the night before. After marching about 3/4 of a mile, they were halted. Their Mexican guards turned and, on a prearranged signal, shot the unarmed men down. Only 28 managed to play dead and survive.

Forty more, including Fannin, were too injured to join the march and were executed within the fort. The Mexicans saved Fannin for last, setting him on a chair in the courtyard due to his injuries. He asked only that his property be returned to his family, that he be shot in the heart, not the face, and that he be given a Christian burial. The Mexicans shot him in the face, shared his effects, and burned his body where it lay. The other murdered soldiers were piled up and set afire, their remains left for the vultures.

After the Battle of San Jacinto and Santa Anna’s surrender, the Mexicans returned and attempted to destroy the evidence. The Massacre did a great deal to gain support for the Texian cause for independence from the United States.

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