Goliad Massacre

The Goliad Massacre, the tragic termination of the Goliad Campaign of 1836, is of all the episodes of the Texas Revolution the most infamous. Though not as salient as the battle of the Alamo, the massacre immeasurably garnered support for the cause against Mexico both within Texas and in the United States, thus contributing greatly to the Texan victory at the battle of San Jacinto and sustaining the independence of the Republic of Texas. The execution of James W. Fannin, Jr.'s command in the Goliad Massacre was not without precedent, however, and Mexican president and general Antonio López de Santa Anna, who ultimately ordered the exterminations, was operating within Mexican law. Therefore, the massacre cannot be considered isolated from the events and legislation preceding it. As he prepared to subdue the Texas colonists Santa Anna was chiefly concerned with the help they expected from the United States. His solution was tested after November 15, 1835, when Gen. José Antonio Mexía attacked Tampico with three companies enlisted at New Orleans. One company, badly led, broke ranks at the beginning of Mexía's action, and half its number, together with wounded men from other companies, were captured by Santa Anna's forces the next day. Twenty-eight of them were tried as pirates, convicted, and, on December 14, 1835, shot (see TAMPICO EXPEDITION). Four weeks elapsed between their capture and their execution, enabling Santa Anna to gauge in advance the reaction of New Orleans to their fate. It was, on the whole, that in shooting these prisoners, Mexico was acting within its rights. Believing that he had found an effective deterrent to expected American help for Texas, Santa Anna sought and obtained from the Mexican Congress the decree of December 30, 1835, which directed that all foreigners taken in arms against the government should be treated as pirates and shot.