Cave Dwellings: Historical Goliad..I never tire of it!
Cave Dwellings

Buckhorn Creek, Lake O' The Pines, Jefferson, TX

Friday, February 14, 2014

Historical Goliad..I never tire of it!

  The history here makes is very difficult to be light hearted in this blog. Goliad State Park is the site of the Mission of Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga, reconstructed by the Civil ian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. We are camped a couple hundred yards from this mission…Here are a few photos of the mission..

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This mission was originally at Matagorda Bay, adjacent to the Presidio La Bahia (which is now here in Goliad also….more about that later).  Both the Mission and the Presidio were relocated to opposite banks of the San Antonio River to protect a major Spanish trade route. The chapel and grounds of the mission became the center of ranching.  Unfortunately, the mission also became the downfall of the Native American’s way of life. In return for food, shelter and the protection from more aggressive tribes, they agreed to live at the mission and receive instruction in the Roman Catholic faith.  This ended in the eventual destruction of their traditional tribal structure.  During the American Revolution, the mission vaqueros herded thousands of cattle to Louisiana in support of the American struggle for Independence.

In 1830, with declining Native populations, the mission was forced to close.  By 1931 the new Texas State Park system acquired this site, where neglect and use of the stone for other construction left the buildings in ruins. Crews of the Civilian  Conservation Corps worked to restore the Mission from 1935 until 1941, and during the 1970’s, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department rehabilitated the chapel.  When you camp here, you have free access to the Mission and can walk the grounds.  There is a museum here, but it is temporarily closed for renovations. Den and I have been here 3 times before now, and we never tire of this wonderful historic place.

Now, we will talk of the Presidio La Bahia, which you can reach on paths from our campground under the bridge and across the river from the Mission. 

In the fall of 1749, the presidio and mission were moved to its present location from Mission Valley (northwest of present day Victoria, TX).

The chapel of Our Lady of Loreto was included in the current structure to serve the religious needs of the soldiers stationed there. The chapel was erected in the quadrangle for the sole use of the soldiers and Spanish settlers living in the town of La Bahia surrounding the fort.  Here are a few photos of the Presidio La Bahia…

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Left is the entry to the Chapel Of Our Lady Of  Loreto at the Presidio…Middle is the sanctuary of that chapel (they still hold services there), right is looking from inside the stone wall toward the Presidio chapel….And now, buckle up…it’s yet another step back in history (my favorite thing to do!)

Santa Anna sent General José Urrea marching into Texas from Matamoros, to make his way north along the coast of Texas. On March 19, General Urrea had quickly advanced and surrounded 300 men in the Texian Army on the open prairie, near La Bahia (Goliad). A two day Battle of Coleto ensued with the Texians holding their own on the first day. However, the Mexicans would receive overwhelming reinforcements and heavy artillery. In this critical predicament, Colonel James Fannin and his staff had voted to surrender the Texian forces on the 20th. Led to believe that they would be released into the United States, they returned to their former fort in Goliad, now their prison.

The Mexicans took the Texians back to Goliad, where they were held as prisoners at Fort Defiance (Presidio La Bahia). The Texans thought they would likely be set free in a few weeks. General Urrea departed Goliad, leaving command to Colonel José Nicolás de la Portilla. Urrea wrote to Santa Anna to ask for clemency for the Texians. Under a decree passed by the Mexican Congress on December 30 of the previous year, armed foreigners taken in combat were to be treated as pirates and executed. Urrea wrote in his diary that he "...wished to elude these orders as far as possible without compromising my personal responsibility." Santa Anna responded to this entreaty by repeatedly ordering Urrea to comply with the law and execute the prisoners. He also had a similar order sent directly to the "Officer Commanding the Post of Goliad". This order was received by Portilla on March 26, who decided it was his duty to comply despite receiving a countermanding order from Urrea later that same day.

The next day, Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, Colonel Portilla had the 303 Texians marched out of Fort Defiance into three columns on the Bexar Road, San Patricio Road, and the Victoria Road, between two rows of Mexican soldiers; they were shot point-blank, and any survivors were clubbed and knifed to death.

Forty Texians were unable to walk. Thirty nine were killed inside the fort.  Colonel Fannin was the last to be executed, after seeing his men executed. Age 32, he was taken by Mexican soldiers to the courtyard in front of the chapel, blindfolded, and seated in a chair (due to his leg wound from the battle). He made three requests: he asked for his personal possessions to be sent to his family, to be shot in his heart and not his face, and to be given a Christian burial. The soldiers took his belongings, shot him in the face, and burned Fannin's body along with the other Texians who died that day.”

OK, I know this is long, but I have one more pertinent point to make at just how tragic this was for the “Texian” soldiers and their families.

“After the executions, the Texians' bodies were piled and burned. Their charred remains were left in the open, unburied, and exposed to vultures and coyotes. Nearly one month later, word reached La Bahia (Goliad) that General Lopez de Santa Anna had been defeated and surrendered. The Mexican soldiers at La Bahia returned to the funeral pyres and gathered up any visible remains of the Texians and re-burned any evidence of the bodies.

The massive number of Texian prisoner-of-war casualties throughout the Goliad Campaign led to Goliad being called a "Massacre" by Texas-American forces.  The site of the massacre is now topped by a large monument containing the names of the victims.”

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Left, is the monument. You will notice a carving at the very top.. This is the stone relief carving, showing the Goddess of Liberty lifting a fallen soldier in chains…very moving..This whole monument is actually a very large gravestone marking the many souls buried beneath it.  There are many other things historic about this town..I am going to include one of my famous infamous collages to rescue all of you from further abuse by making this one of my longest “teaching” blogs…


This town is steeped in history, and the Goliad Massacre is still re-enacted here every late March. We have never been here for it, but I have it on my bucket list…The people in town surely know the chant “Remember Goliad!”..Den and I have visited the actual battlefield where Fannin’s Texian troops were overwhelmed by the Mexican Army and marched to the Presidio…That could be another whole blog…(did I just hear some of you do a deep sigh?)..

OK, I hope you did get some sense of how historic Goliad, Texas is…But…if you don’t care much for American History, you are now bored to tears…Sorry about that…no I’m not.  With apologies to my 2 favorite American History teachers,  Mr. Clark, and Professor Lehr, I just did my “student teaching” for today!


  1. Excellent! Thanks for the recap of Goliad. I love history and slugged my way through James Minchener's 'Texas'. I remember reading about Victoria and Goliad. Your post today helps me put more of the pieces together. We definitely have to stop on our next visit that way!

  2. Isn't it wonderful how history comes to life when we visit these places. I found history boring in school but now I love it. Thanks for sharing

  3. I, too, have discovered a love of history in my old age. Especially when I can actually walk in the same place. This place just got added to my bucket list. Incredible story.

  4. It is a very poignant part of American/Texas history, sad and moving place.... I find it interesting tht some of those missions are still living churches, having services and congregations after all of this time!!! tht is really quite something!! Beautiful sanctuary

  5. Another example of the brutality of man against man.

  6. we too loved our stay at Goliad...

  7. Deja-vu all over again and I loved it. I always look forward to your posts about Goliad and never tire of the reading the history and seeing all your wonderful photos!

    Good stuff, Donna, thanks!

  8. As long as there's no test, I enjoyed your post. I wanted to stop at the Presidio on our way north but drove by it too quickly and Al did not want to turn around....sigh. We are already talking about our Texas adventure next winter with the hopes of an absent polar vortex. I know we would enjoy Goliad as well as several of the other Texas state parks. keep the info coming!

  9. The park also has a couple of great walking trails and is the terminus of one of the Texas water trails.

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