After the Alamo, Sam Houston feared another disaster. Mexican forces under Santa Anna continued to sweep across Texas toward the presidio in Goliad, which was in the hands of the rebels. Houston ordered Colonel James W. Fannin to evacuate his 400-man force from Goliad.
Fannin, however, was in no hurry and waited for days as a 1,400-man army led by Santa Anna’s chief lieutenant, General Urrea, moved closer. By the time Fannin ordered the retreat, it was too late. The Mexican army was close.
Fannin’s men moved slowly. He even ordered his troops to stop for an hour to allow their oxen to graze.
When the Texans met the Mexican forces, instead of taking cover in the forest, Fannin ordered his men to form a square on an open prairie. With cannons stationed at each corner of the square, the Texans held firm. Fannin was shot in the leg, but he continued to lead the fight. The Texans were encircled by the enemy and low on ammunition and water. They worked through the night to dig ditches and strengthen their walls. When dawn came, they realized that Mexican reinforcements had arrived during the night. The Texans’ situation was hopeless, so they surrendered. They were jailed in the presidio chapel at Goliad.
Fannin thought his men would be treated as prisoners of war. However, a decree issued by Santa Anna in December 1835 ordered that all foreigners fighting against the government should be executed.
Santa Anna showed no mercy. He sent orders to the commander Portilla, who had been left in charge at Goliad while Urrea continued his march through southern Texas. Santa Anna told Portilla to execute the captured Texans, and he sent an aide to Goliad to ensure that his orders were carried out. An hour later, Portilla received a contradictory message from Urrea to “treat the prisoners with consideration, and especially their leader, Fannin.”
Portilla decided to uphold the orders of Santa Anna. The Mexicans executed nearly 350 rebels in the Goliad Massacre, almost twice as many as were killed at the siege of the Alamo.
Santa Anna’s heartless treatment of the captured soldiers had the opposite effect than what he intended. He was seen as a cruel despot. The Goliad Massacre hardened attitudes toward Santa Anna throughout the United States.
Source: The Goliad Massacre—The Other Alamo
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