GOLIAD II, COLETO
John Sowers Brooks, who was quoted earlier, became a Captain and the Adjutant of the Georgia Battalion at Fort Defiance, and an Aide de Camp to Fannin. Captain Brooks was with Ward at Refugio, but made it back to the fort at Goliad. Fort Defiance, the fort at Goliad or the fort at La Bahia, it was known by all these names, is pictured above. The following are excerpts from John Brook's letters to his sister and father:
We have no provisions, many of us are naked and entirely desolate of shoes...we cannot rationally anticipate any other result to our Quixotic expedition than total defeat.
[Goliad] will prove a check to the Mexican Army... which will ever after have a salutary influence upon our cause...
Dear Mother we marched out to the relief of the Alamo on February 26th with 420 men, leaving a company to guard the fort but had to return when baggage wagons with food and ammunition broke down. Now is the time for volunteers from the United States....Now or Never...
...up to this time, they [Mexicans] have uniformly killed all the Americans they take... The enemy is within 25 miles...if I die, reflect that it will be in a good cause.
We are hourly anticipating an attack and are preparing for it. We are short of provisions, and that is now our deadliest foe.
I have written nearly twenty letters home, all of them unanswered...
On March 19 Fannin finally decided to leave. He destroyed what he could of the fort and marched his men out. Their departure was covered by a thick fog. He sent Albert Horton and his cavalry ahead to scout and to get the militia of Victoria to join them. In just hours, however, he and his men were surrounded on the open prairie within sight of a timber line and Coleto Creek. Fannin estimated there were 1,000 Mexicans to his 300 Texans and Americans.
Fannin drew up a defensive square and repulsed Mexican attacks from 3PM until dark, when the Mexicans camped in the woodline. They left patrols to keep the Texans and Americans penned in their trap. The Texans and Americans improved the improvised breastworks. The breastworks were the carts that carried their supplies, the supplies that were in the carts, and the carcasses of the horses and oxen that had drawn the carts. Behind these the Texans and Americans dug trenches three feet deep. Captain Brooks placed himself voluntarily at the head of a company of infantry and charged the enemy. He was wounded seriously, and the attack was beaten back.
On Sunday, March 20, the Mexicans were joined by 300 more men, a pack train with supplies and light cannon. The cannon were set up on an elevated area to the front that would allow the enemy to send cannon balls to every point in the square. The Texans also noticed there were some Karankawa and Lipan Indians with the Mexicans. The men saw they were badly outnumbered, and remembered what had happened to the Texans at the Alamo and to King's men at Refugio. They were prepared to die fighting. The only logical thing to do, if they were going to make the best of a bad thing, was to charge the main body in the woods and try to escape on their own. This meant leaving their wounded, which now numbered about 100, to the bayonet. The Texans felt if they stayed in the defensive position on the prairie they could hold them off, but only until the ammunition, food, and water ran out. All were already scarce. It was clear there was no help coming from anywhere and they were just putting off the inevitable.
Doctor Joseph Henry Barnard was present at the time of these events, and being one of the survivors of Goliad, he wrote about them in a journal which was later published. He wrote that the officers, after having talked to the men, approached Fannin and told him the men felt "if the enemy were to agree to a formal capitulation there would be some chance of their adhering to it, and thus saving our wounded men. ...It was finally agreed that we would surrender if an honorable capitulation would be granted, but not otherwise, preferring to fight it out to the last man in our ditches, rather than put ourselves in the power of such faithless wretches without at least some assurance that our lives would be respected." Fannin at first declined. He said the afternoon attacks they beat back
Dr. Joseph Henry Barnard
showed they could hold the Mexicans off. Fannin then asked if the sentiment was unanimous, being told it very nearly was, he ordered the white flag hoisted. Thus the battle known by Texans as the Battle of Coleto, and by Mexicans as the Battle de la Encinal de Perdido was over. Among the Texan and American dead at Coleto Creek were Celts: John Jackson, John Kelly, George McKnight, William Quinn, and Archibald Swords.
Dr. Barnard continued to describe events following the decision to seek terms. A flag of truce was raised by the Texans:
This was done and was promptly answered by one from the enemy. The flags met midway between the forces. Colonel Fannin, attended by Major Wallace, the second in command, and Captain Dusangue as interpreter, went out and met the Mexican Commanders. After some parley, a capitulation with General Urrea was agreed upon, the terms of which were that we should lay down our arms and surrender ourselves as prisoners of war; that we should be treated as such, according to the usage of civilized nations. That our wounded men should be taken back to Goliad and properly attended to and that all personal property should be respected.
These were the terms Colonel Fannin distinctly told his men on his return, had been agreed upon, and which was confirmed by Major Wallace and Captain Dusangue, the interpreter. I saw Colonel Fannin and his Adjutant, Mr. Chadwick, get out his writing desk paper and proceeded to writing. Two or three Mexican officers came within our lines and were with Colonel Fannin and Chadwick until the writing was finished. We were told that the articles of capitulation had been reduced to writing and signed by the commander of each side and one or two of their principal officers; that the writings were in duplicate, and each commander retained a copy.
I am thus particular and minute in regard to all the incidents of this capitulation, and especially what fell under my personal observation, because Santa Anna and Urrea subsequently denied that any capitulation had been made, but that we had surrendered at discretion.
Doctor Barnard goes on to describe how the men felt they were to be paroled to New Orleans in a short time. This was to be on the condition they were to sit out the war with Mexico. This seemed to be confirmed when the Mexican officer, Colonel Juan (Johann) Holzinger, a German national, collecting up the arms, told Barnard and the others, "Well gentlemen, in ten days, liberty and home." Another account confirms the first. It was published by Herman Ehrenberg, a German who came to Texas and Goliad with the New Orleans Grays. He wrote: "... the only Mexican officer who could speak English was a German, who was a Colonel of Artillery, Colonel Holzinger." Colonel Holzinger was a part of the negotiations, as was Ehrenberg. It seems that Holzinger's English was not very good. He would speak in German to Ehrenberg to make those points he did not know in English. Eherenberg's memoirs, published in 1841, in Germany, stated: "After long negotiations, Fannin finally agreed that we should surrender our arms, that our private property should be respected, that we ourselves should be shipped through Copano or Matamoros to New Orleans and set free, and that, as long as we were prisoners of war, we would receive the same rations as the Mexican army received. Our obligation was to be our word of honor not to fight hereafter against the present Mexican government."
There is much confusion and bitterness about the terms of surrender. For example, why is it, Dr. Barnard does not mention in his "particular" account the part the two Germans played in the negotiations? The document of surrender was found in the Mexican archives in the early sixties by the late Dr. E. C. Barker. It was signed by Wallace, Chadwick, and approved by Fannin. Their signatures appear after their terms of surrender. Below their signature is the paragraph written by General Urrea. There are no signatures following it. Urrea's addition states they surrendered at discretion. Urrea also mentions the part played by Colonel Holzinger.
The fact the entire negotiation was conducted in three languages through untrained interpreters may have added to the confusion. Could it be they were told they had to sign the more rigid document, but the actual terms, at the Mexican's discretion, were to be the liberal terms reflected by Barnard and Ehernberg? This is possible as Urrea, aware of Santa Anna's announced orders of dealing with captured armed prisoners, confided to his diary the orders were "barbarous and inhuman...and he would evade the order as far as possible without compromising my personal responsibility." Urrea also wrote in his diary: "(the Texans)...surrendered confident that Mexican generosity would not make their sacrifice useless, for under any other circumstances they would have sold their lives dearly, fighting to the last."
Urrea wrote of Fannin: "Fannin was a gentlemen, a man of courage, a quality which makes us soldiers esteem each other mutually."
Many Mexicans came into the prisoner's camp to gawk at the captured Texans and Americans. At that moment the Scotsman, Johnson, tried to blow the magazine and as many people as possible, but only succeeded in killing himself. While everyone was on a nervous edge from that, Albert Horton with men from the militia of Victoria and some of Fannin's advance guard suddenly appeared. They rode out from a woodline in full view of the captured Texans and the Mexicans. When Fannin's men saw how few men were with Horton, it confirmed for most of them, that they had done the right thing in surrendering. Horton and his men left as quickly as possible, once they recognized what was going on and spotted the cavalry after them. They successfully extricated themselves from the situation they stumbled upon to fight another day.
The prisoners were marched back to Goliad; the wounded were later carted back as carts were available. The four surgeons with the Texans attended the wounded from both sides. Some of the Mexican soldiers stole surgical instruments the doctors needed to treat their patients. Dr. Barnard went to Fannin and asked if the instruments could be returned. He reminded Fannin the capitulation terms stipulated the Texans could maintain their personal property. Fannin wrote a note to the Mexican commandant detailing particular instruments the doctors needed to treat the wounded of both sides. Doctor Barnard notes Fannin would not have bothered if there were no such terms. The instruments were not returned. The prisoners were kept on light restraint, and no one tried to escape knowing the terms called for an early parole.
On March 21, General Urrea took Victoria after a short battle. He wrote in his diary: "...the inhabitants were Mexican, French and Irish." Twenty were killed or taken prisoner. Killed during the fight at Victoria was Joseph L. Wilson. Others killed after they were captured were: Daniel B. Brooks, Stith Conner, and Thomas Quirk. Some of the Celts in the fight that escaped included: James Callaghan, James Callahan, Martin Moran, James H. Neely, John O'Daniel Jr., Edward Patterson, Thomas G. Stewart, and William Welsh.
On the 23rd of March, General Holzinger and Fannin went to Copano to see if a ship could be found to take Fannin's men to New Orleans. While there at Copano,a Major Miller with 70 men from Tennessee landed hoping to join the fight for Texas independence. The Mexican Army was on the beach to greet them. They were marched to Goliad and assigned to help the doctors.
Santa Anna had a problem. After the victories at the Alamo, Goliad, Agua Dulce, San Patricio, Refugio, Victoria, and the capture of Miller's men, the Mexican soldiers began to worry about the campaign being too successful. They feared they would be asked to stay in Texas on extended garrison duty. To combat this Santa Anna issued orders on March 25 for certain units to make ready to return to San Luis Potosi. No other orders beyond the order to prepare to return were ever given.
Back at the Refugio Mission where Ward's men and some of the local families were hiding from the Mexican army, there was an incident. Ward sent some men out of the mission to fill some barrels with water from the nearby river. After getting the water, they were spotted and fired upon but managed to get a barrel and a half back to the mission. They then turned on the advancing Mexicans who were only fifty paces behind: "...when Ward ordered his men to fire, it drove the Mexicans back and left the ground pretty well spotted with their dead and wounded...". Later, under cover of darkness the whole unit escaped. Most of them were captured days later near Victoria in the vicinity of John Linn's house where they expended their last round of ammunition. Ward and his remaining men were marched into Goliad to join the others; it was said Urrea offered the same terms he gave Fannin. That was March 26.
That night, Lieutenant Colonel José Nicolas de la Portilla, acting Commander at Goliad while Urrea was at Victoria, got a message from his commander, General Urrea: "Treat the prisoners well...feed them...". He also had in his hand an order from the Commander in Chief, Santa Anna, "to execute at once" all prisoners who raised arms against Mexico. Santa Anna later said he recognized most of the insurgents were from the United States and were never colonists. He called them pirates and outlaws and as such, Mexico had a right to shoot them.
The next day was Palm Sunday, the 27 of March, 1836. Colonel Garay sent orders for the doctors, as well as Miller and his men, to report to his personal quarters in a peach orchard. He then went into the fort and asked if an Andrew O'Boyle were present. When O'Boyle identified himself, Garay removed him from the fort. He did the same for others he sought out.
Urrea's success in South Texas was helped greatly by the Badeños and other disaffected Texas Mexicans who found refuge on ranches like that of Carlos de la Garza. Garza now held the title of Captain in the Mexican army. He received the title for his help in the fights with the units of Johnson, Grant, King, and Ward. When the news came to Garza and his men of Santa Anna's order to have all the prisoners shot, many of them took action to save some of their former neighbors. These were fellow Texans they knew, and lived beside, not strangers from the north who were brusque to all Mexicans. Twenty local Texans were thus spared thanks to the initiative of these Mexicans.
An example was that of Nicholas Fagan. He was in a column being marched out of Goliad to what he and the other prisoners thought was the start of a journey home. They believed they would be released on the coast and sent to New Orleans. Fagan and the men did not know they were being marched to their place of death. As Nick Fagan passed by some of the men from de la Garza's ranch, one of these Mexicans placed a quarter side of beef on his shoulder to hide his face and told him where to carry it. This simple act saved his life. Others were also helped. They included: John Fagan, Edward Perry, Anthony and John Sidick, and James Byrnes, the man who wrote the note to his granddaughter about putting things Irish behind and taking up things Texan. Nicholas Fagan had the luck of the Irish during those days. Twice he was spared from firing squads. Once when he was captured with Captain King and his men, and again at Goliad.
As shown in the painting above by Donald M. Yena from the series of paintings for the book, Battles of Texas, three columns of men were marched out of the fort. Each column had marching on either side, a Mexican column of twos. After a march of a quarter hour, the Mexican columns were combined on one side. Everyone was halted; the Mexicans quickly knelt facing the line of prisoners and suddenly fired at point blank range! Twenty eight Texans managed to escape the carnage. They made it to different woodlines and successfully eluded pursuers.
The wounded in the hospital were also taken out and shot. Captain Brooks was one of these. Colonel Fannin was also with the wounded. When told he was to be shot, Fannin gave his watch to the officer in charge of the detail and asked that he not be shot in the head. He also asked to be given a decent burial. The officer agreed to Fannin's requests. He was then shot in the head! More than three hundred men were massacred that Sunday. The bodies were left to rot.
Peter Kerr brought Houston word of the of Goliad surrender, later the massacre became known to Houston and his men.
In the month of March, 1836, Texas lost over 700 men from its armed resistance. The roster of these martyrs has a high percentage of Irish, and other Celtic names. The Mexicans lost on the order of 2,000 dead and 600 wounded in the same period.