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Explore an iconic setting of Texas history with an immersive journey through video, 3D virtual environments, photos, and documents of the Presidio La Bahia, also known as Fort Defiance, and Fannin Battleground State Historic Site in and around Goliad, TX.
This material is still under active development.
Presidio La Bahia Museum
Interior walk-though of the museum located on the west side of Presidio La Bahia.
Presidio La Bahia Barracks
Interior walk-though of the barracks located on the south side of Presidio La Bahia.
Presidio La Bahia Chapel Interior
Interior walk-though of the chapel located on the north-west corner of Presidio La Bahia.
The following map will help you get oriented on this field trip. If you allow your browser to know your location (and your OS permissions allow it), we’ll plot your location to show your students their proximity to the places discussed on this page.
Photos in the Portal to Texas History
Note the condition of the walls, roof, and exterior of Presidio La Bahia.
Maps & Aerial Photography
1839 Map including Goliad, Victoria, and an X where “Fannin’s Battle” took place, overhead drawings of “Fort Defiance”, showing the positions of artillery, fortifications, barracks, and other notable points, and modern aerial photos of the area.
Battle of Coleto Creek
Drawing of Fannin’s Fight, showing the Texas Infantry, breastworks, and lines of assault by Mexican Dragoons and Infantry. Aerial view of the surrounding area, now the Fannin Battleground State Historic Site, and the cotton gin screw that marks the location of the fight.
Archival Video of Restoration
Linked below is 3 minute clip of archival footage that aired on WBAP-TV (Fort Worth, TX) on November 29, 1964. It shows the state of the Presidio in the 1960s during archeological work and restoration. There is no sound in the original media, but a script is available to read on The Portal to Texas History.
Chronology of Events
- February 5, 1836
- At the mouth of the Brazos river the schooner Tamaulipas, which carried reinforcements and the entire Texas army’s supplies of ammunition, food, and clothing bound for Fannin’s men, was wrecked on a sandbar. These much needed provisions and reinforcements were extremely delayed from reaching Fannin.
- February 8, 1836
- Fannin sends a letter to James W. Robinson, the governor of the provisional government, informing him of his plans to “have sent forward a reinforcement to San Patricio, to bring off the artillery and order a concentration of the troops at Goliad, and shall make such disposition of my forces as to sustain Bexar and that post, and keep up a communication with the colonies.”
- February 12, 1836
- Fannin took his command to the Presidio La Bahia which they began to fortify and named “Fort Defiance”. In a letter from John Sowers Brooks to his sister he stated “Gen. Fannin, has made Goliad his Head Quarters, from the conviction of its importance, as being advantageously located for a depot of reinforcements, clothing, provisions and military stores. It commands the sea coast particularly, Aransas and Matagorda Bays, and consequently the only convenient landings for vessels of any tonnage.”
- February 13, 1836
- James W. Robinson sends orders to Fannin informing him of his instructions to “occupy such points as you may in your opinion deem most advantageous it is desirable to maintain the Mission of Refugio, on account of receiving stores arriving at Copeno, it is proposed to occupy Gonzales and some point on the Labaca, to be occupied by the Reserve Army, and it would be well to order 2 or 3 pieces of spare cannon to each of the points above indicated. Fortify and defend Goliad and Baxer if any opportunity fairly offers, give the enemy battle as he advances, but do not hazard much until you are reinforced [as] a defeat of your command would prove our ruin-all former orders given by my predecessor, Genl. Houston or myself, are so far countermanded as to render it compatible to now obey any orders you may deem Expident”.
- February 16, 1836
- General Urrea crosses the Rio Grande and enters Texas.
- February 19, 1836
- William B. Travis sent James Butler Bonham to confer with Fannin as the acting commander of forces at Goliad. Bonham relayed Travis’ request of asking Fannin to bring reinforcements and join him at Bexar to reinforce the garrison of the Alamo. Fannin ultimately never accepted this request.
- February 22, 1836
- Fannin sends a letter to acting governor James W. Robinson stating, “I learn from several sources, that as soon as Bexar is retaken, they next march here, and thus complete their chain of communication to the Interior and Gulf. I am resolved to await your orders, let the consequence be what it may. But I say to you, candidly…that unless the people of Texas, forthwith, turn out in mass…those now in the field will be sacrificed…and if we are not to be sustained in a proper manner, and in good time, receive orders to fall back to the Provisions, and on the Colonies, and let us all go together. I have orders from you not to make a retrograde movement, but to await orders and reinforcements. If a large force gets here, and in possession of the provisions and stores of Matagorda Bay, being all now in Texas, it will be a desperate game for us all.”
- February 25-26, 1836
- Fannin once again receives a request from Travis on February 25th to reinforce his garrison at the Alamo. On February 26th, Fannin does leave Goliad taking a march towards San Antonio, he however stops at the San Antonio River and returns to Goliad on account of broken down wagons and a lack of supplies. Fannin’s aide-de-camp, John Sowers Brooks, wrote, “we can not rationally anticipate any other result to our Quixotic expedition than total defeat. If the militia assemble, and move promptly to our aid, we may be saved. We have less than 350 men; the force of the enemy is possibly 3000-a vast disparity. We are almost naked and without provisions and very little ammunition.” Dr. J. H. Barnard’s account mentions, “With but three or four hundred men, mostly on foot, with a limited supply of provisions, to march a distance of nearly one hundred miles through uninhabited country, for the purpose of relieving a fortress beleaguered by five thousand men, was madness…Yet this measure actually abandoning Goliad to Urrea, without a blow. There was not a hundred men left there, and Urrea would have nothing to do but march in and quietly take possession. After full deliberation, Fannin and his officers abandoned the expedition and as impractical and useless; we therefore returned to the fort and resumed our old quarters.”
- February 27, 1836
- Battle of San Patricio, Urrea defeats the command of Frank W. Johnson, Johnson’s survivors rejoin Fannin at Goliad. Johnson and the survivors relay that the prisoners taken at San Patricio were executed (In actuality no prisoners were executed). This takes place approximately 53 miles South-south-west of Goliad.
- February 28, 1836
- Fannin realizes defending Presidio La Bahia exposes his lack of supplies and provisions and considers falling back to where he could receive a better line of supply. However, this threat wasn’t perceived by the provisional government who were unaware of Fannin’s supply problems in the field, and as a result Fannin was ordered to remain at Goliad and await reinforcements. Men under Fannin begin to doubt his ability to command and precious time and supplies are lost to Fannin as a result of indecisive action. Fannin sends another letter to James W. Robinson relaying the situation that San Patricio has fallen and that “It is now obvious that the enemy have entered Texas at two points, for the purpose of attacking Bexar and this place-The first has been attacked and we may expect the enemy here momentarily-Both places are important-and this at this time particularly so-All our provisions are at Matagorda Dewitts Landing Coxes point and on the way here…should our supplies be cut off our situation will be, to say the least disagreeable-and in case we are not reinforced and a sufficient force sent to convey the provisions when famine begins to looks us in the face, we shall be compelled to cut our way through the enemy leaving the artillery and munitions of war in their hands. We hope, however for the best we hope that before this time the people have risen and are marching to the relief of Bexar and this post…Our present force in Garrison is about four hundred and twenty”.
- March 1, 1836
- Picketing, ditching, and the mounting of cannons for the defense of Fort Defiance were completed. Fannin sends out a letter to Capts. Desauque and Chenworth saying, “In this situation not able to go forward [to San Antonio] and what was then understood and believed to be a division or its advance to the west coming against this post a council of war was unanimously demanded of me by the volunteer officers and granted of course it was resolved to be inexpedient to attempt to go forward and that we should return and complete the Fortification and await our doom…adopt the following cipher in your communication double the alphabet and uniformly an A for Z B for Y and X for C, &c. And so vice versa inform all officers of this and should any despatches fall into their hands they will not be the gainers by it.”
- March 2, 1836
- Battle of Agua Dulce Creek, Texian forces under Dr. James Grant were surprised by Mexican forces in battle and defeated by Urrea. All but five of the Texians were killed and captured, the survivors joined with Fannin at Goliad. This takes place approximately 60 miles South-south-west of Goliad. A letter is sent on this day by J. G. Ferguson stating, “Our commander is Col. Fannin, and I am sorry to say, the majority of the soldiers do not like him, for what cause I do not know, without it is because they think he has not the interest of the country at heart, or that he wishes to become great without taking the proper steps to attain greatness…Provisions are very scarce and have been. I have had to live three days at a time on bull beef and coffee but now our coffee has given out, and without new supplies, our bread will be out in a few days then it will be beef all the time. We are not prepared by any means to stand a siege, in as much as we neither have ammunition nor provisions, so you see we must make decisive battles.”
- March 6, 1836
- The Alamo falls to the army of Santa Anna where the entire garrison is killed. Mexican forces begin to push further East into Texas.
- March 8, 1836
- Houston sends orders to Neill at Gonzales and Fannin at Goliad to undertake joint action to aid Travis at the Alamo.
- March 9, 1836
- Capt. B. H. Duval sends a letter to his father William P. Duval describing the condition of the troops at Goliad and his thoughts on Fannin saying, “As I anticipated, much dissension prevails among the Volunteers, Col. Fannin, now in command, is unpopular-and nothing but the certainty of hard fighting, and that shortly, could have kept us together so long.”
- March 10-11, 1836
- Wagons sent for provisions return to Goliad and Fannin’s troops with very little supplies. John Sowers Brooks states, “We are hourly anticipating an attack, and preparing for it. We are short of provisions, and that is now our deadliest foe. Unless we are soon supplied, we can not hold out much longer. We have had no bread for some time. We suffer much from the want of shoes and clothing…The Government furnishes us with nothing, not even ammunition.”
- March 11, 1836
- Houston learns that the Alamo had fallen on March 6th, and sends new orders to Fannin at the hands of Capt. Francis J. Dusanque. These orders instructed him to retreat to Guadalupe Victoria “as soon as practicable…with your command, and such artillery as can be brought with expedition. The remainder will be sunk in the river.” Houston also ordered Fannin to blow up Fort Defiance, and to defend and help evacuate Victoria before sending 1/3rd of his force to Gonzales.
- March 12, 1836
- Fannin receives the orders from Sam Houston to undertake joint action to aid Travis at the Alamo. Houston is clearly not aware that the Alamo has already fallen. According to Dr. J. H. Barnard on this day, “News had also come in of the fall of the Alamo and the slaughter of every one of its defenders. About this time, certainly before today came in the order from Gen. Houston to Col. Fannin, to retreat to Victoria. This was the first and only communication had from Gen. Houston, while he was at Goliad…So far from Col. Fannin wishing to disobey the order, I know from his own lips that he intended to conform to it as soon as the Georgia battalion [under Ward] should return; and I had heard him before this express a wish that Gen. Houston would come on and take command of the troops.”
- March 12-15, 1836
- Battle of Refugio, troops under William Ward and Amon King, sent by Fannin to assist the evacuation of Refugio, are defeated and many captured following a battle with Urrea’s army. Fannin’s dispatches are intercepted by Mexican forces who are alerted to Fannin’s plans. The forces sent under William Ward to Refugio composed nearly ⅓ of Fannin’s entire force at Goliad.
- March 13, 1836
- Houston sends a letter to James Collinsworth relaying his thoughts of Fannin’s command stating, “I would not rely on any cooperation from him…The projected expedition to Matamoras, under the agency of the council has already cost us 237 lives; and where the effects are to end, none can foresee…I fear La Bahia is in siege.”
- March 13-14, 1836
- Fannin received the orders from Sam Houston to retreat towards Victoria. As Jack Shackelford notes in his account, “Fannin’s great anxiety alone, for the fate of Ward and King, and their little band, delayed our march. This delay, I feel assured, was not the result of any wish to disobey orders [of Houston].”
- March 14, 1836
- 31 troops under Albert C. Horton joined with Fannin from Victoria. This brought Fannin’s total command at Goliad to roughly 330 men excluding the force that had been dispatched with Ward and King to Refugio. Horton’s men were the last reinforcements Fannin would receive.
- March 14-16, 1836
- Fannin sends out several couriers to ascertain the situation of Ward and King’s forces at Refugio. These couriers do not return with any news as to the whereabouts. Dr. J. H. Barnard expresses the feelings of Fannin’s staff that, “We were now in a state of intense anxiety respecting the fact that our comrades; nothing had been heard from them since they left us on Saturday morning and none of our messengers had returned. We were convinced that some calamity had befallen them”.
- March 16, 1836
- Prisoners at Refugio under the command of Amon B. King and William Ward are executed by the Mexican army.
- March 17, 1836
- Fannin learns the fate of Ward and King’s defeat from Capt. Hugh McDonald Frazer. Dr. J. H. Barnard contends that learning this news, “Fannin and his officers immediately held a council, and without any hesitation resolved to commence our retreat early the next morning.” Horton’s men scout and reveal that roughly 500 Mexican soldiers under Morales occupy positions on Manahuilla Creek about three miles north of Goliad. Urrea’s force arrives at the San Antonio River totaling roughly 1,400 men.
- March 18, 1836
- Fannin spent the day taking “the necessary measures for a retreat in accordance with the resolution of the officer in council last evening.” as noted by Dr. J. H. Barnard. There is a small skirmish between Texian troops under Horton and Shackelford with Mexican troops under Morales near the Presidio.
- March 19, 1836
- Fannin’s force retreated from the Presidio La Bahia at midmorning during heavy fog with an exhaustive amount of equipment and provisions slowing his retreat. The retreat heads East towards the Guadalupe River on the road between Victoria and Clinton, Texas. The retreat was extremely slow especially as carts broke down and Fannin’s largest artillery piece fell into the San Antonio River which took time to retrieve. Shackelford states, “we commenced the retreat very early, the Red Rovers leading the van, and Duval’s company covering the rear. The lower road had been well examined by Horton’s videttes, who reported all clear. At the lower ford of the San Antonio, much time was consumed in consequence of the inability of the team to draw our cannon up the bank.” That same day in the afternoon, Fannin’s rear guard was attacked and he formed a defensive position on the Encinal del Predido. Fannin disregards the advice of several of his officers and stops in the middle of an oak grove prairie, between the Manahuilla and Coleto Creek, instead of continuing on to a more defensive position in nearby timber.
- March 19-20, 1836
- Battle of Coleto Creek, Fannin’s troops are surrounded by the Mexican army and caught out in an open field. Fannin’s command is not nearly as experienced as the Mexican force is and they are still severely lacking supplies and provisions. By the evening of the 19th most of Fannin’s men were without water and food. The officers of Fannin’s command debate making a run for it during the cover of darkness at night, however they decide against it so as not to leave their wounded behind. The arrival of Mexican artillery in the morning which could easily penetrate the crude Texian fortification spelt the end of the Texian resistance. Taking heavy losses, 10 killed and 60+ wounded (Fannin himself was wounded), and having no means of escape, Fannin surrendered his army to the Mexicans. The Mexicans received roughly 50 killed and 140+ wounded. If the Texian loss was 70 men killed or wounded, out of a total force as Shackelford claims, “two hundred and seventy-five effective men”, that means Fannin was reduced by effectively ¼ of his total fighting force.
- March 21, 1836
- The Mexican Army under Urrea captures the town of Guadalupe Victoria.
- March 22, 1836
- 2 miles from Dimitt’s Landing while attempting to retreat through Victoria, the remaining forces under William Ward are surrounded by Urrea’s cavalry and forced to surrender. Roughly 85 men along with Ward himself are marched back to Goliad and imprisoned with the rest of the Texian prisoners on March 25th. Dr. J. H. Barnard states that the Texian prisoners were “sent into the Church, where we found all the prisoners were put, and crowded up in a very uncomfortable manner, and strictly and strongly guarded.”
- March 20-25, 1836
- Texian prisoners and Mexican soldiers arrive back in Goliad at the Presidio La Bahia where the Texians are kept. It took three days to bring all the Texian wounded to Goliad from the site of the battle, Fannin arrived in Goliad on March 22nd. Urrea receives in a letter from Santa Anna the order to execute all the prisoners. The last Texian prisoners arrived at Goliad on March 25th.
- March 26, 1836
- According to the diary of Jack Shackelford the Texians were in good spirits and believed they were going to be paroled to the United States, Fannin included. On the evening Shackelford reported that, “In passing by them [the prisoners] to visit some wounded, on the outside of the Fort, my ear caught the sound of music, as it rolled in harmonious numbers from several flutes in concert. The tune was ‘Home, Sweet Home.’ I stopped for a few moments and gazed upon my companions with an intense and painful interest. As those ‘notes of mournful touch’ stole upon the breeze, the big tear that rolled down many a manly cheek, which had glowed in battle and burned in the rage of conflict, told the heart’s irrepressible emotion; for the image of home and friends came over the mind ‘like the pressure of a spirit-hand.’ Poor fellows! It was their last earthly evening.”
- March 27, 1836
- Goliad Massacre, on Palm Sunday the Texian prisoners including their commander, James Fannin, are marched in three columns out of the Presidio La Bahia. The troops initially believed they were being paroled back to New Orleans. The Texian prisoners were shot by the Mexican troops, under the command of Col. Jose Nicolas de la Portilla who was ordered directly by Santa Anna on account of Urrea asking for the Texians to be treated as prisoners of war, with the majority being executed and only a handful surviving the massacre. Roughly 400 Texian prisoners are executed, with Fannin and Ward being among the last to be executed inside the Presidio. Some of the Texians managed to escape the massacre and made a run for it in the surrounding woods or by playing dead. Other Texians were selected as laborers, physicians, and other workers for the Mexican army and were spared from the massacre. Dr. J. H. Barnard describes the massacre as, “At length we were startled by a volley of fire arms, which appeared to be in the direction of the fort. Shackelford inquired: ‘What’s that?’ Martinez replied, that it was some of the soldiers discharging their muskets for the purpose of cleaning them. My ears had however detected yells and shots that were in the direction of the fort which although at some distance from us I recognized the voice of my countrymen. We started, and turning my head in that direction I saw through some partial openings in the trees several of the prisoners running with their utmost speed, and directly after some Mexican soldiers in pursuit of them…In the course of about five or ten minutes we heard as many as four distinct volleys fired in as many directions and irregular firing that was kept up an hour or two before it ceased…It appears that the prisoners were marched out of the fort in three different companies, one on the Bexar road, one on the Corpus roadm and one toward the lower ford. They went one half or three fourths of a mile, guarded by a file of soldiers on each side, when they were halted and one of the files passed through the ranks of the prisoners to the other side, and then altogether fired upon them. It seems the prisoners were told different stories; Such as they were to go for wood, to drive up beeves, to proceed to Copano, etc…Col. Fannin, on account of his wound, was not marched out from the fort with the other prisoners. When told he was to be shot he heard it unmoved, but giving his watch and money to the officer who was to superintend his execution, he requested that he might not be shot in the head, and he might be decently buried. He was shot in the head and his body stripped, and tumbled into a pile with the others. The wounded lying in the hospital was dragged out into the Fort and shot. Their bodies with that of Col. Fannin, were drawn out of the fort about a forth of a mile and there thrown down.” Jack Shackelford relays a very similar story and adds from the account of one of his company that survived that the prisoners “were ordered to sit down with their backs to the Guard. Young Fenner, rose on his feet, and exclaimed: ‘Boys, they are going to kill us-die with your faces to them, like men!’ At the same moment, two other young men, flourishing their caps over their heads, shouted at the top of their voices: ‘Hurra for Texas!’”
- April 13, 1836
- The Mexican Army under Urrea captures the town of Matagorda.
- April 21, 1836
- The Mexican Army under Urrea captures the town of Columbia.
- April 22, 1836
- The Mexican Army under Urrea captures the town of Brazoria.
- April 24, 1836
- Urrea is ordered to retreat from Texas after making a move towards Galveston and Velasco despite “the high spirit of [his] division”. The retreat continued all the way until the army arrived back in Matamoros.
The student will examine the Battle of the Alamo, Battle of Coleto Creek, Goliad Massacre, Runaway Scrape, and Battle of San Jacinto and understand the influence of the following people: Travis. Bowie, Sequin, Houston, Fannin, Urrea, and Santa Anna.