Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Presidio La Bahia

"Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!" These were the cries that led Sam Houston's army into battle at San Jacinto. But while most Americans are familiar with the Alamo, very few know the history of Goliad and the events related to Presidio La Bahia.

Founded in 1721, Presidio La Bahia is considered the world’s finest example of a Spanish frontier fort. It was originally located on the banks of Garcitas Creek near present day Lavaca Bay in direct response to French encroachment on the province of Texas. In 1726, it was moved inland near present day Victoria. It was not until 1749 that it was relocated to its present location near Goliad. The original Goliad grew up around the presidio.

During the Texas Revolution, both the Texians and the Mexicans controlled the presidio at some time. But it was the events involving Colonel Fannin's command that has made the presidio sacred ground for Texans.

A Texian army under command of Colonel James W. Fannin occupied the presidio from late 1835 until March, 1836. Despite orders from Sam Houston ordering Fannin to retreat across the Guadalupe River to present day Victoria, Fannin failed to withdraw until it was too late. When Fannin finally did lead his men towards Victoria, his army was over taken by the Mexicans under General Urrea at a place near Coleto Creek. Although Fannin and his men defended their position valiantly for about a day, they were without adequate provisions, including water, and their position afforded them little protection. As a result, Fannin surrendered with what he believed honorable terms on March 20.

Monument at Fannin Battleground (Battle of Coleto Creek)
Fannin and his men were returned to the presidio, where most of the men were held in the chapel.

The chapel at Presidio La Bahia
Chapel and courtyard. Fannin was executed off to the right.
On Palm Sunday, Fannin and his army -- a total of almost 350 men -- were marched out from the presidio in 3 different directions and shot, under orders from General Santa Anna. About 27 men were able to escape in the confusion and hide in the brush. Others who escaped being shot were ridden down by lancers. Texian soldiers who were severely wounded from the Battle of Coleto Creek and were unable to walk were carried from the chapel into the courtyard and executed.

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