The Goliad Massacre – Today in 1836       

On this day in 1836 over 400 men of Colonel James Fannin’s command were massacred at Goliad. Santa Anna’s murderous order was carried out by reluctant and disgusted soldados serving under Colonel Nicolas de la Portilla, who was distraught at what he was required to do.

Captain Jack Shackelford was spared because his skills as a surgeon were needed by the Mexican army. He wrote down his experiences five years later. Here is how Captain Shackelford remembered that Palm Sunday:

“Never whilst the current of life rushes through this poor heart of mine, can I forget the horrors of this fatal morning.

At dawn of day we were awakened by a Mexican officer calling us up, and saying, he “wanted the men to form a line, that they might be counted.” On hearing this, my impression was, that in all probability some poor fellows had made their escape during the night.

After leaving the Church, I was met by Colonel Garay, said to be the Adjutant General of the Mexican army. This officer spoke the English language as fluently as I did myself; and to his honour be it said, he seemed a gentlemen and a man of feeling.

He requested that I would go to his tent in company with Major Miller and men; and that I would take my friend and companion, Joseph Bernard (another sugeon), with me. We accordingly went over to his tent, about one hundred yards off, in a south-westerly direction.

On passing the gate of the Fort, I saw Ward’s men in line, with their knapsacks on. I inquired of them where they were going; some of them stated that they were to march to Copano, and from thence to be sent home!

After reaching, Colonel Garay’s tent (to attend to some wounded, as we expected,) we sat down and engaged in familiar conversation with a little Mexican officer who had been educated at Bardstown, Ky.

In about half an hour, we heard the report of a volley of small-arms, towards the river, and to the east of the Fort. I immediately inquired the cause of the firing; and was assured by the officer that he “did not know, but expected it was the guard firing off their guns.”

In about fifteen or twenty minutes thereafter, another such volley was fired, directly south of us, and in front. At the same time, I could distinguish the heads of some of the men through the boughs of some peach trees, and could hear their screams.

It was then, for the first time, the awful conviction seized upon our minds that Treachery and Murder had begun their work.

Shortly afterwards, Col. Garay appeared at the mouth of the tent. I asked him if it could be possible they were murdering our men?

He replied that it was so, but that he had not given the order; neither had he executed it. He further said he had done all in his power to save as many as he could, and that if he could have saved more, he would have done so.”

God bless these murdered men. May their souls rest in peace, and may Texans always Remember Goliad.

Mark Pusateri
Copano Bay Press