Every year, on the weekend closest to March 27, the Presidio La Bahia hosts a reenactment and living history program commemorating the events that took place here in March of 1836. Reenactors come from all across the state and some from out of state to participate in an event that has recently been lauded as an “exemplary event” by the Texas Living History Association.
Goliad has a rich history filled with stories and colorful characters. One of the most notable periods of that history takes place in February and March of 1836 during the Texian War for Independence.
Col. James Walker Fannin and his garrison of around 400 men were posted here from late January through mid-March of 1836. During that period, Fannin’s men reinforced the defenses of the Presidio, drilled and trained in order to become a more effective fighting force and wrote letters home about the countryside and the activities taking place at Fort Defiance. (A vote was held to choose a new name for the Presidio and Fort Defiance won out over two other choices).
On March 19, Col. Fannin’s command began to fall back to the east from the Presidio in hopes of joining up with Gen. Houston’s army, but instead was surprised and surrounded and after a day-long battle and miserable night spent on the field, was captured by the Mexican forces under Gen. Urrea.
After being brought back to the fort the Texians had left the day before, they were held prisoner for 10 days and then split into three groups and started out of the town of Goliad on three different roads. After traveling about a mile, each group was halted, the Mexican soldiers escorting them stepped off of the road and leveled their muskets on the Texians and fired, killing nearly all of the men on the spot.
This controversial and heinous act was not supported by Gen. Urrea, who had personally taken the Texians surrender and intended on paroling them back to the United States. Gen. Santa Anna, however, had learned of their capture and wishing to make an example of the Texians, ordered their deaths and the resulting Goliad Massacre.
Not all of Fannin’s command died that sad Palm Sunday in 1836 and it is believed today that nearly 30 escaped, whether by their own designs or through the kindness of Francita Alavez, who has become known as the Angel of Goliad for her part in rescuing men who were to be executed.
As it turned out, Santa Anna’s intent to punish and strike fear into the hearts of the Texians achieved the exact opposite results and, on April 21, the fields of San Jacinto echoed not only with the battle cry of “Remember the Alamo!” but also with the cries of “Remember Goliad!” and it is that unifying rallying point that helped lead the Texians to victory over Santa Anna and his forces.
In early June of 1836, Gen. Thomas Jefferson Rusk and Texian forces under his command passed through Goliad as they observed the withdrawal of the Mexican Army under Generals Filisola and Urrea. What they found was horrifying to say the least.
The remains of their Texian comrades, who had been massacred months before in March, were strewn about the prairies after an attempt at cremating their bodies had failed. Rusk and his men gathered up the remains and buried them in a mass grave and held a memorial service in their honor.
In 1936, the State of Texas commissioned a series of monuments to dedicate the centennial of Texas’s independence and the burial site of Fannin’s men was chosen to receive a beautiful pink granite marker to keep the memory of these heroic men and their valorous actions during the Texian War for Independence.
On Saturday and Sunday, Presidio La Bahia will commemorate this momentous occasion with encampments depicting daily life of Mexican and Texian soldiers, a reenactment of the skirmishing between the forces under Gen. Urrea and Col. Fannin, a living history program consisting of a candlelight tour depicting the final days of Fannin’s garrison both from the Mexican and Texian perspectives, a reenactment of the massacre on one of the three sites where this heart-wrenching event took place and a memorial service at the mass grave of Col. Fannin and his command.
Saturday, March 29
9 a.m. – gates open
10 a.m. – first skirmish
10:30 a.m. – living history at campsites
10:30 a.m. – cavalry presentation at ampitheater
11 a.m. – lecture in chapel
Noon – showing of video “Presidio La Bahia and its Place in the History of Texas” in chapel
1:30 p.m. – second skirmish
2 p.m. – living history at campsites
2:15 p.m. – lecture in chapel
3 p.m. – Battle of Coleto Creek
3:30 p.m. – living history at campsites
5 p.m. – gates close
6:30-9 p.m. – candlelight tour (enter at south gate)
Sunday, March 30
9 a.m. – gates open
9:30 a.m. – Isaac Hamilton - A Prisoner by David Scott
10 a.m. – death march from chapel to actual massacre site followed by Isaac Hamilton - A Survivor by David Scott followed by execution of Fannin and the wounded Texians followed by a memorial service in chapel followed by procession to the Fannin Monument