From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, 340 Texians under the command of Col. James Fannin were executed by firing squad at La Bahia in Goliad. As rebels and “perfidious foreigners” according to Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, El Presidente had decreed that all those in arms against the Mexican government were to be treated as traitors. Most of the rebels executed had been trying to escape the determined onslaught of Mexican forces under Gen. Jose de Urrea. However, in fleeing the Texians were surrounded on open ground without adequate supplies largely because of Fannin’s incompetence as a military leader. After the two-day Battle of Coleto, the men voted to surrender thinking they would be exiled to the U.S. Other prisoners had been captured in minor skirmishes with Urrea’s forces. After capture, Urrea, who had previously executed other prisoners he considered to be mercenaries, pleaded for clemency – but Santa Anna ordered the mass execution when Urrea was away from Goliad. The “Goliad Massacre” was carried out by Lt. Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla – whose enthusiasm for the deadly work has been debated by historians. On Palm Sunday, Portilla had between 425 and 445 Texians marched out of the Mission in three columns on the Bexar Road, San Patricio Road, and the Victoria Road, between two rows of Mexican soldiers. The Texians were shot point blank, survivors were were hunted down and killed by gunfire, bayonet, or lance. About 30 men escaped by feigning death and another 20 or so were granted clemency to act as doctors, workers and interpreters. Another 75 men were marched to Matamoros for imprisonment. Remember Goliad – along with Remember the Alamo – became the rallying cry for the remaining Texian Army.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, Col. James W. Fannin raised a flag over the mission at La Bahia in Goliad with the words “Liberty or Death”. Fannin, now generally regarded as an inept commander who had lost the confidence of his men, was prophetic in his announcement. Unfortunately for Fannin and his men it would by “Death.” In fairness to Fannin, he was facing Mexican General Jose de Urrea – by far the best of the Mexican commanders. If Urrea had been in command during the revolution, it is very likely to have been easily suppressed. Urrea’s forces were never defeated in battle during the war and remained ready to fight after the Battle of San Jacinto. Fannin was originally ordered by Sam Houston to relieve the Alamo and then later ordered to retreat to Victoria. He delayed in his retreat and during that action he was cornered on open ground with limited supplies and forced to surrender. Held back at Goliad, Fannin and his men were massacred on the orders of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Urrea strongly objected to executing prisoners of war, but the order was carried out by subordinates. Fannin was among the last to be shot.
From the Annals of the War Slogans – In 1836, Col. James W. Fannin raised a flag over the La Bahia mission at Goliad with the words “Liberty or Death”. Fannin and his followers got death at the hands of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and against the express wishes of Gen. Jose de Urrea who pleaded for clemency and was outraged at the massacre. Some Texans ultimately got Liberty. Others remained slaves as one major focus of the Revolution was to protect the institution of slavery in Texas.
From the Annals of the Dictators – In 1876, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna passed away in Mexico City. Known as the Eagle and perhaps derisively called the Napoleon of the West, Santa Anna rose to power on numerous occasions and suffered as many falls from grace. As a young officer in the Spanish Army Santa Anna quickly distinguished himself as a capable fighter and leader and then played an important role in the Mexican war for independence from Spain. In 1833, he won election to the presidency by an overwhelming popular majority. Unable to resist his megalomaniac tendencies he proclaimed himself dictator in 1835. That move gave the nascent Texas revolution the impetus it needed to finally take hold. Texians took advantage of Santa Anna’s overthrow of the Mexican Republic as an opportunity to break away and form an independent Republic of Texas.
Determined to crush the Texas rebels, Santa Anna took personal command of the Mexican army and on a long march through barren country facing unusually cold weather including a surprise blizzard. His forces were already depleted when they stormed the Alamo. Some historians believe they were further demoralized by the brutal execution of 400 Texan prisoners at Goliad. On the Texian side, “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” became the rallying cries for a reinvigorated Texan army. Santa Anna then made a crucial mistake by dividing his forces and penetrating too deeply into Texas territory. Convinced that the Texians would not attack even though they were encamped less than a mile away at San Jacinto, the contingent of his army under his direct command was destroyed and Santa Anna was captured. He ransomed himself by agreeing to order the majority of his army still in the field (and under competent command) to retreat below the Rio Grande.
One might think that a humiliating defeat such as San Jacinto would end a career, but political instability in Mexico over the next 20 years allowed Santa Anna to repeatedly regain-and lose-dictatorial power. Santa Anna’s standard modus operandi was to seize power and then retreat to his hacienda allowing others to do the dirty work of governance. All told, he became the head of the Mexican government 11 times. Overthrown for the last time in 1855, he spent the remaining two decades of his life scheming with elements in Mexico, the United States, and France to stage a comeback. It was not to be. He died in poverty and obscurity in Mexico City at the age of 82.
From the Annals of the Revolution – In 1836, Texian forces under the command of Gen. Sam Houston defeated part of the Mexican Army encamped at San Jacinto under the command of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Santa Anna overextended his troops by crossing the San Jacinto River without his full field artillery and isolating his unit from the larger commands of General Filosola and Urea. Houston would likely not have attacked but for learning that Santa Anna had divided his army and only had about 1200 troops at San Jacinto. It was as close to a chance at an even fight as Houston would ever have. Convinced that the Texians would not attack even though they were less than a mile away, Santa Anna incredibly failed to take necessary precautions and the Mexicans were routed in a surprise attack that lasted only about 18 minutes. Had Santa Anna attacked the Texians in battle formation, they likely would have been routed and the idea of an independent Texas would have been dead for years to come. Santa Anna was captured after the battle. Houston realized that his chances of defeating the rest of the Mexican Army were not good and that Santa Anna was his best bargaining chip. He resisted calls to execute “El Presidente” and to save his life, Santa Anna ordered the remainder of the still overwhelming Mexican forces in Texas to return to Mexico. If Urea and Filosola had refused to obey the order they likely would have been Mexican heroes for generations and Texas independence would have been problematic at best. But the generals grudgingly complied and withdrew.