By Edward D. Trlica
Goliad County Chamber of Commerce
The acid smell of burned gunpowder and the roar of cannons fill the air. A flurry of activity and then the clashing of men and weapons spread across the landscape. The ragtag Texian militia under the command of Col. James Fannin faces a better-equipped and heavily manned Mexican army. They make up in spirit and determination what they lack in armament and men. But the Battle of Coleto Creek ends two days later with the surrender of Col. Fannin and his troops to Gen. Urrea, commander of the Mexican Forces.
Thus begins the countdown to the darkest day in Texas history. On March 27, 1836, a week after the Texians surrendered under honorable terms, Mexican soldiers - under orders by Gen. Santa Anna - marched their captives outside the Presidio la Bahia and murdered them. Those that did not die by rifle fire died by the bayonet, and their blood-soaked bodies lay exposed to the elements and predators for six weeks before being found and buried by Gen. Rusk's command.
There were heroes on both sides. Mexican Col. Garay, at the risk of his own life, went against the order of Gen. Santa Anna to help save as many of the Texians as he could. Senora Francita Alavarez, who was consort to Capt. Telesforo Alavez, a Mexican officer, saved a number of men from the executioners' bullets. Senora Alavrez' efforts so impressed Dr. Joseph Barnard, one of the few survivors, he referred to her as the "Angel of Goliad," a name that lives on to this day. General Urrea's wife came forward to protect Dr. Barnard.
Today's Living History program sponsored by the Presidio la Bahia includes a reenactment of the Coleto Creek Battle and the subsequent massacre of Fannin and his men. A young woman portrays the "Angel of Goliad" in her efforts to save the Texians in defiance of Santa Anna's orders.
At dusk, a candlelight procession through the Presidio is a rare treat. The reenactments of the events leading to the deaths of Col. Fannin and his men are strikingly accurate. One can not help but feel the despair and helplessness the men must have felt in their captivity. A walk through the chapel where the wounded lay moaning side-by-side, with little food and water, affords a harsh reality to the re-creation.
Each year, the reenactment takes place in late March in front of the Presidio la Bahia. Visitors experience, in some small way, the courage and valor shown by the men and women who endured the atrocities that occurred on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836.
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