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  • The Coleto Creek Fight

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on March 20th, 2012 (All posts by )

    … was finished on this day, 176 years ago:

    Fannin and his men moved out of Goliad on March 19th, temporarily shielded by fog, but they were caught in the open, a little short of Coleto Creek. They fought in a classic hollow square, three ranks deep for a day and a night, tormented by lack of water, and the cries of the wounded. By daylight the next morning, Urrea had brought up field guns, and raked the square with grapeshot. Fannin signaled for a parley, and surrendered; he and his men believing they would be permitted honorable terms. Links to what happened next, and pictures I took at last year’s reenactment event are below the fold. Somehow WP is not letting me post pictures this morning

    The Other Alamo
    and A Day at Old La Bahia. Enjoy.


    11 Responses to “The Coleto Creek Fight”

    1. Bill Brandt Says:

      Sgt – I have never heard of Golidad until you – one tends to think if Santa Anna had been magnanimous towards his vanquished foes, Texas would still be part of Mexico. But he became a lightening rod, and I am sure converted many previously ambivalent “Texians”.

    2. Ginny Says:

      Thanks Sgt. Mom – I’ve linked your description to the Whitman section on e-campus. You’ve clarified some of it for me. The TX history people here do see it as pivotal, though they also tend to be critical of Fannin. Whitman spends Section 34 of Song of Myself on Goliad. (I’ve included – in what may be overkill – the secton below.)

      Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth,
      (I tell not the fall of Alamo,
      Not one escaped to tell the fall of Alamo,
      The hundred and fifty are dumb yet at Alamo,)
      ’Tis the tale of the murder in cold blood of four hundred and twelve young men.

      Retreating they had form’d in a hollow square with their baggage for breastworks,
      Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemy’s, nine times their number, was the price they took in advance,
      Their colonel was wounded and their ammunition gone,
      They treated for an honorable capitulation, receiv’d writing and seal, gave up their arms and march’d back prisoners of war.

      They were the glory of the race of rangers,
      Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship,
      Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate,
      Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters,
      Not a single one over thirty years of age.

      The second First-day morning they were brought out in squads and massacred, it was beautiful early summer,
      The work commenced about five o’clock and was over by eight.

      None obey’d the command to kneel,
      Some made a mad and helpless rush, some stood stark and straight,
      A few fell at once, shot in the temple or heart, the living and dead lay together,
      The maim’d and mangled dug in the dirt, the new-comers saw them there,
      Some half-kill’d attempted to crawl away,
      These were despatch’d with bayonets or batter’d with the blunts of muskets,
      A youth not seventeen years old seiz’d his assassin till two more came to release him,
      The three were all torn and cover’d with the boy’s blood.

      At eleven o’clock began the burning of the bodies;
      That is the tale of the murder of the four hundred and twelve young men.

    3. Sgt. Mom Says:

      If Santa Anna had only been the man that he appeared to be until 1833 … the Texas revolution might not have happened at all. And Mexico and Texas both might have been very, very different. Many of the established Anglo-Texian settlers were well-disposed towards Mexican authority. They had gotten a damn good deal, they knew it, and didn’t want to upset the apple-cart …. but Santa Anna was an autocrat and an authoritarian, and finally even Stephen Austin was pushed into a corner. That there was ‘no quarter’ at the Alamo, and then the executions of the Goliad garrison was a horrible, horrible shock – to the Texians and to Americans like Walt Whitman – even to some of Santa Anna’s officers. A mass execution after surrender … after that, I believe the Texians fought even harder. It was Santa Anna’s mistake, to back a bunch of wildcats into a corner.

    4. lukas Says:

      If Santa Anna had only been the man that he appeared to be until 1833 … the Texas revolution might not have happened at all. And Mexico and Texas both might have been very, very different. Many of the established Anglo-Texian settlers were well-disposed towards Mexican authority.

      Slavery would have ripped Texas and Mexico apart even sooner than it did the United States, would it not?

    5. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Hard to say, really – technically, slavery was against Mexican law. There were no slave markets … but were the peasants and the Indians of Mexico at that time in any better condition than chattel slaves? Technically free – but the upper classes still held a whip hand over the lower.
      There were relatively few slaves in Texas, though – fewer than in other Southern states.

    6. James Bennett Says:

      “There were no slave markets … but were the peasants and the Indians of Mexico at that time in any better condition than chattel slaves? Technically free – but the upper classes still held a whip hand over the lower.”

      The peasants on the encomiendas were more like serfs. They could not be bought or sold as individuals; their status was tied up with the encomienda and if the encomendero changed, the new one inherited the peasants. But that did mean that they could marry and have families, and families could not be forcibly separated. They had some rights, but since they were “commended” by the state to their patron he exercised most of their rights as a sort of legal guardian – – encomiendas were, legally, a sort of welfare/workfare arrangement . I don’t believe that individuals who left were tracked down and forced to return. So they were better than slaves. Not enormously so.

      As for slavery in Texas, I remember Kevin Phillips in The Cousins’ Wars said that slavery was extensive in far East Texas; essentially an extension of the Deep South plantation economy, while the rest of the state had hardly any slavery at all. But the plantation area was the big cash cow at that time, and its needs dominated Texas politics. If the rest of the state had been as developed in 1860 as it was in 1880, he thought TExas wouldn’t have seceded.

    7. Ginny Says:

      The geography and the culture of Texas is varied; an acquaintance, who was English but worked for the USDA, once described the large plantations populated by slaves in west Texas. I’m in denial about a lot of things but the profitability of a slave economy in Abilene is not one. Another example he gave – that Marian Anderson wasn’t allowed to sing in the South, including Texas – was another example of truth become hyperbolic and self-righteous. One of the reasons I turned right was the consistent sense that statements like these came less from a curiosity about the complexity of human reactions and human culture, but rather a desire to make someone’s rather inadequate self superior to the culture through which he walked and worked each day. That Texan culture isn’t perfect is certainly true; that it reflects a real diversity (all parts of which may have different vices and virtues, but nonetheless have both) is also true.

    8. Sgt. Mom Says:

      “…large plantations populated by slaves in west Texas”…? (boggle) Well, that certainly explains a lot about the USDA, if that acquaintance was typical.
      West Texas wasn’t even settled effectively until after the Civil War – it was Comanche, Kiowa and Apache hunting ground. Certainly, there were typical Southern-style plantation establishments in East Texas, in the 1840s and 1850s. There were rice, cotton and indigo raised around Brazoria, for instance. In the last US census of Texas before the Civil War, the slaveowner who owned the largest number of slaves owned 300. The number-two and number-three owned far fewer. Most slaveowners owned only a handful of slaves – and usually lived side by side with them. (saw an exhibit in the Fort Bend County historical museum that emphasized this – by the numbers break-down of white residents, slaves, free black, livestock, acreage in corn, rice, etc pre-Civil War.) Another fun fact – a lot of slaves actually worked for hire at various skilled and semi-skilled trades. I had also read that although their owners could claim their wages … it was considered very miserly and greedy for them to do so.
      I was kind of boggled myself, to find out all this. It’s why I love history, it’s usually much more complicated and nuanced than people think…

    9. James Bennett Says:

      Freehling’s Road to Disunion is a good discussion of the economics of slavery in the actual conditions of the American South. He gets into work-for-pay deals between masters and slaves. When a master recognized that a slave had talent or initiative, he would often consider training him for skilled work. there was no point investing in the training if the slave was then more likely to run away, or not work at more than the minimal pace. So they would cut these deals whereby the slave could sell his services part-time, and often would allow them to buy their freedom, and/or that of their family, if they worked long enough. It wasn’t just a matter of looking good to their fellow slave-owners, it was also smart management of their assets. These deals were more common, of course, when the slave had easier access to escape. Freehling estimates, IIRC, that in 1860, half of the black population of Maryland was free; twenty percent of Virginia’s was so.

    10. James Bennett Says:

      Well, it ate the link to the books. They are at

    11. lukas Says:

      Of course it’s always hard to say what would have been. But the cultural difference between Texans and the Mexican ruling class was a lot deeper than the difference with the US ruling class. IIRC the Papacy really went all-out abolitionist around the early to mid 19th century, and Roman Catholicism was the state religion in Mexico.