When I woke up this past weekend, one of the first things I saw on my Facebook feed was this post from my friend Egon Kyle:
The Twin Sisters were wheeled into position, and the whole line, led by Sherman's men, sprang forward on the run with the cry, 'Remember the Alamo!' 'Remember Goliad!'..." Happy San Jacinto Day.
I smiled proudly as I read it. Great post Egon, I mused.
Then something very strange happened. Out of nowhere, a supernatural feeling inundated my psyche, I had an epiphany, one which compelled me to a course of action which I had not contemplated when I first woke up.
I had to go to Goliad.
On the date memorializing Texas’ and Sam Houston’s greatest victory, I was driven to learn about the Lone Star state’s greatest tragedy: the murder of 342 men who died on the fields and hills of Goliad.
It was a day of great solemnity. As I drove south from Cuero, the drive was enchanting with the trees and wild flowers in full bloom. Bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brushes were everywhere in great abundance, and the essence of spring permeated the countryside. As I was reveling in Mother Nature’s bounty, I was jolted back to reality when I considered the morbid dichotomy of this land coming to life while I was planning to walk the fields of death in Goliad.
I was pleasantly surprised when I drove through the town square and enjoyed the quaintness of the businesses and the glorious county courthouse. It was a marvelous setting, but it belied the tragedy that took place just to the south.
I went to the James Fannin monument, named after the commander of the Texas garrison who bumbled his way into eternal infamy. The stark monument towered over the land that fell off towards the San Antonio River marking the place where 342 immortal Texans were buried. I read the names of the fallen, and could only wonder at their bravery and the sudden anger and horror they must have felt when they learned that Santa Ana had defied the rules of war and ordered their massacre.
After that somber setting, I walked over to the Angel of Mercy statue and wondered at the bravery and courage of the wonderful lady who saved well over 30 Texans from the hands of the butcher. As honored as I was to be there, I was horrified to see the disarray in which the shrine had fallen. In the small area of bricks that surrounded the statue, weeds had sprouted between the bricks and were threatening to overrun the pedestal. It angered me, so I spent the next little while pulling weeds to bring the grounds back to the glory the site deserved.
And then it was off to the garrison. Walking the grounds, I could see why Fannin thought he could hold the fortifications. It commanded the high ground, appearing very daunting to anyone who dared attack. But the Mexican Army was not daunted by the task that was in front of them. With their overwhelming numbers in men and material, General Jose de Urrea compelled the garrison’s surrender. General Urrea, who was in command of the Mexican Army that surrounded Goliad, intended to give the men the full honors of war. He was horrified to learn of Santa Ana’s order to execute all the prisoners. He would not do it, so it fell to Lt. Colonel Nicholas de la Portilla to present the butcher’s bill.
The men were held in the glorious chapel on the property, an ironic prison in a solemn place of hope, peace and grace. Then suddenly they were led outside and shot, clubbed or bayoneted to death. It was a tragedy of epic proportions.
But as I mused over the awful events, I took solace from the old dictum that for every action there is a reaction. And such was the case here. For the reaction from this massacre brought forth a cry of outrage, revenge and anger that still spans the decades and Father Time. Just a few short weeks later, the old wily Sam Houston and his angry Texans got their revenge at San Jacinto. And Texas got its Independence.
But at this time and on this date, the war cry of “Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!” echoed through my mind. Standing on the hallowed ground of Texas liberty, I felt the terrific loss and waste that occurred there. And I vowed to myself that I would never forget the men of Goliad. I will always remember.