Today is the last day of my “Texas Independence Trail” ride. I was up early this morning. I spent the night with my sister, she and her family were up getting ready for work and getting Tavy their granddaughter off to school. We had breakfast and said our good-byes before I headed out. It was another nice cool (cool for Texas) morning with a few clouds which burned off quickly as the day progressed. Before day’s end it did get rather warm at 90 degrees but still not a bad day for riding.
My first leg today was down Hwy 59 to Fannin, Texas the historic site of the “Fannin Battleground”. This leg to San Antonio is typical “Texas Coastal Plains”. It is mostly flat covered with Mesquite trees. As you get closer to San Antonio you start to see gently rolling hills… covered with more Mesquite… Fannin, Texas is just off Hwy 59. The battleground is a bit further south on FM 2506. On this site in 1836, brave soldiers fought the Battle of Coleto Creek. The Texans eventually surrendered to overwhelming Mexican forces. Col. Fannin and his men were taken to Goliad and held. This morning was peaceful but somber as I thought about what had happened here so very long ago. I can only imagine what emotions the men must have had in their dire situation…
From the battleground, I continued a short distance to Goliad and the site of the massacre of Col. Fannin and his men. At Goliad I rode Hwy 183/77 1.6 miles to Presidio La Bahia. It was here that the following happened.
The pervious evening, Colonel Portilla had received word directly from General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to execute Col. Fannin and his men. It was a foggy morning on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836. Fannin and his men had been held captive for one week. Fannin’s men were told to gather up their things. They thought they would be sent to New Orleans but were lead out in groups and executed instead. Colonel Fannin was the last to be executed. Fannin made three requests, not to be shot in the face, his personal possessions be sent to his family, and that he be given a Christian burial. He was shot in the face, an officer took his personal possessions, and his body was burned along with many of the other bodies. There were 342 men who died in the Goliad Massacre. Twice the number of men who died at the Alamo and San Jacinto combined. It was a senseless massacre by the brutal Mexican leader Santa Anna. This massacre inflamed the Texan’s cause and spurred the battle cry, “Remember Goliad!”
There was some good that happened that day… Twenty-eight men did escape the massacre and seventeen men’s lives were spared. Because of the accounts of these men who escaped and were spared we know what happened that day. The Angel of Goliad, Francita Alavez, and General Urrea’s wife saved the lives of a number of men.
For more than two months after the massacre, the ghastly remains of the massacred men of Fannin’s Command were found in the partially covered trenches where they had been dumped and burned. General Thomas J. Rusk, had the remains gathered and buried in a mass grave with military honors. At the grave General Rusk delivered a short, but eloquent address.
“FELLOW SOLDIERS: In the order of Providence we are this day called upon to pay the last sad offices of respect to the remains of the noble and heroic band, who, battling for our sacred rights, have fallen beneath the ruthless hand of a tyrant. Their chivalrous conduct entitles them to the heartfelt gratitude of the people of Texas. Without any further interest in the country than that which all noble hearts feel at the bare mention of liberty, they rallied to our standard. Relinquishing the ease, peace, and comforts of their homes, leaving behind them all they held dear, their mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives, they subjected themselves to fatigue and privation, and nobly threw themselves between the people of Texas and the legions of Santa Anna. There, unaided by re-enforcement’s and far from help and hope, they battled bravely with the minions of a tyrant, ten to one. Surrounded in the open prairie by this fearful odds, cut off from provisions and even water, they were induced, under the sacred promise of receiving the treatment usual to prisoners of war, to surrender. They were marched back, and for a week treated with the utmost inhumanity and barbarity. They were marched out of yonder fort under the pretense of getting provisions, and it was not until the firing of musketry did the shrieks of the dying, that they were satisfied of their approaching fate. Some endeavored to make their escape, but they were pursued by the ruthless cavalry and most of them cut down with their swords. A small number of them stand by the grave-a bare remnant of that noble band. Our tribute of respect is due to them; it is due to the mothers, sisters, and wives who weep their untimely end, that we should mingle our tears with theirs. In that mass of remains and fragments of bones, many a mother might see her son, many a sister her brother, and many a wife her own beloved and affectionate husband. But we have a consolation- yet to offer them: their murderers sank in death on the prairies of San Jacinto, under the appalling words, “Remember La Bahia.” Many a tender and affectionate woman will remember, with tearful eye, “La Bahia.” But we have another consolation to offer. It is, that while liberty has a habitation and a name, their chivalrous deeds will be handed down upon the bright pages of history. We can still offer another consolation: Santa Anna, the mock hero, the black-hearted murderer, is within our grasp. Yea, and there he must remain, tortured with the keen pain of corroding conscience. He must oft remember La Bahia, and while the names of those whom he murdered shall soar to the highest pinnacle of fame, his shall sink down into the lowest depths of infamy and disgrace.”
On June 4, 1938, in celebration of the Texas Centennial, a massive pink granite monument marking the grave site was dedicated.
There is much more to this story. You can learn more by following the links above.
I was making good time so I stopped at Goliad State Park to tour “Mission Espiritu Santo”. The park is just a short distance from Presidio La Bahia when heading back to Goliad.
The mission was established in 1722 by the Spanish. It is one of the many missions in the area. Following decades of unsuccessful treasure-hunting expeditions in the southwest, led by Coronado and others, the Spanish turned to colonization. The system that emerged in the colonization process entailed the establishment of a mission, a fort or presidio. The system was intended to have the character of Spain’s system of feudal estates. Soldiers guarded the inhabitants to repel incursions from the French. The mission housed the staff, native peoples, families, and others.
The mission had moved several times and lay in ruin. Archeologists from the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Archeological Society have done extensive excavations to the site. The church and other buildings have been fully reconstructed and furnished to provide a glimpse of the site’s colorful past. Interpretive exhibits help to tell a story not only of life at the mission but aspects of the archeological investigations and restoration process.
If you enjoy history and have some time to explore the rich history of the mission it is well worth you’re your time. I have plans to ride to all of the missions in the area some day. Stay tuned for that.
When I left the mission it was starting to warm up. From Goliad I picked up Hwy 239 to Kenedy where I rode Hwy 181 to San Antonio the site of the Alamo. As you get closer to San Antonio you start to see more gently rolling hills… covered with more Mesquite… It was a nice ride.
The Alamo is located in downtown San Antonio. Many people are surprised by that. I was pretty warm by the time I got to San Antonio. All the concrete and asphalt help to collect the heat and make it even warmer. That is one reason I try to avoid city riding… that and all the cars, trucks and traffic…
The Alamo is probably the best known story about Texas’ battle for independence. There are many more stories that could have been told. It is an amazing story about courage and overwhelming odds. Santa Anna thought it would be a quick victory and he would be moving on to wipeout the remaining Texas army.
The arrival of General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s army outside San Antonio, on February 23, 1836, nearly caught the Texians by surprise. The Texians and Tejanos prepared to defend the Alamo together. The defenders held off against Santa Anna’s army for 13 days. There were about 200 defenders at the Alamo. The defenders saw the Alamo as the key to the defense of Texas, and they were ready to give their lives rather than surrender their position to General Santa Anna. The best known among the Alamo’s defenders were Jim Bowie, renowned knife fighter, and David Crockett, famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee.
The final assault came before daybreak on the morning of March 6, 1836. Mexican soldiers headed for the Alamo’s walls. Cannon and small arms fire from inside the Alamo beat back several attacks. The Mexicans regrouped, scaled the walls and rushed into the compound. The desperate struggle continued until the defenders were overwhelmed. By sunrise, the battle had ended and Santa Anna entered the Alamo compound to survey the scene of his victory.
As many as seven defenders survived the battle, but Santa Anna ordered their execution. Though Santa Anna had his victory, the common soldiers paid the price. Accounts vary, but best estimates place the number of Mexicans killed and wounded at about 600.
People worldwide remember the Alamo as a heroic struggle against impossible odds… a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason, the Alamo will always remain hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty.
While in San Antonio I took the time to have a late… very late lunch on the “River Walk”. There are many restaurants all along the river to eat. To me it is the only place to eat in downtown San Antonio… particularly if you like Mexican food.
I had planned to ride to Gonzales to visit the Memorial Museum. The museum houses a large collection of objects, documents and photographs pertaining to Gonzales’ role in the shaping of Texas history. If I had rode there I wouldn’t have had much time to tour the museum and get back home in a timely manner. So after lunch I headed home via I-35… San Antonio to Georgetown via I-35, for the most part, parallels the Balcones Fault which is the boundary between the Texas Coastal Plain and the Texas Hill Country. Riding north you have the start of the Texas Hill Country on your left and on your right the terrain is much flatter with gentle rolling hills.
I made it home around 4:00. My only regrets were not having Janet along to share all the sites. My cousin W. D. supposed to have rode with me on this ride but wasn’t able to ride along due to putting his scooter in the shop. W.D. would have really enjoyed the ride and all the people we would have met would have enjoyed meeting W.D. W.D. is… how, should I say this… very entertaining… You just need to meet him to know what I am talking about…
The last four days was a fun ride. I’m glad I was finally able to do this ride. Click here for more information about the “Texas Independence Trail”. Weather you ride or drive you will see some beautiful scenic Texas countryside and explore many historic Texas sites.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about this ride as much as I have sharing it with y’all (you). We Texans are a proud bunch and are very proud of our history. Making this ride gave me the chance to revisit the history and learn a few things that I previously did not know. Visiting these historic sites brought the history and sacrifice into focus like it never has been before.
You can read the other posts about this ride here…