long ago, we included in this column the account of the Goliad
massacre as told by Hermann Ehrenberg - he was one of the survivors.
I became interested in Ehrenberg's story and decided to see what I
could find out about this immigrant from Prussia. As I often
do when searching for information on Texas history, I turned to The
Handbook of Texas to find the answers to my curiosity about Ehrenberg's
life. What I found out about this man and his exploits truly amazed
Herman Ehrenberg immigrated to New York in 1834 and by October of
1835, he had joined up with the New Orleans Greys and was on
his way to Texas. It is quite possible that he was in Gonzales
at the time that "first shot" was fired at Mexican soldiers and sparked
the Texas Revolution. We do know that he participated in the siege
of Bexar in December of 1835.
After spending the winter of 1835 inside the Alamo,
Ehrenberg and a group of the "Greys" struck out for Matamoros, but
after arriving at Goliad
they decided to join Fannin's command. That decision proved fatal
for most of the men, as they were murdered by Mexican troops on March
27, 1836. But the 20 year-old Ehrenberg made a run for it and
although a Mexican soldier slashed him across the head with a sword,
he still made it to the San Antonio River and short-lived freedom.
After escaping from Goliad,
Ehrenberg wandered around seeking shelter in abandoned homes in the
area. It is interesting to note that the young man could have avoided
all the misery he endured at Goliad
because the Mexicans offered all captured Germans the opportunity
to join their cause - Ehrenberg refused the offer saying that he considered
himself a Texan.
Ehrenberg was free from the Mexicans but without food, in a hostile
country, he decided to try another plan. He posed as a Prussian traveler
seeking protection and turned himself over to the Mexican army. General
Urrea took a liking to the boy and allowed him to accompany the troops
to Matagorda. It was here that word came of the battle
at San Jacinto and the capture of Santa Anna. As Urrea's army
began its retreat to Mexico,
Ehrenberg escaped again and this time for good.
now for the rest of the story
Ehrenberg was discharged from the Texas army on June 2, 1836. He returned
to Germany and studied mining at Freiburg University. The 1840s found
him teaching English at Halle University and returning to the United
States in 1844 in time to join up with a group of fur trappers who
were headed to Oregon from St. Louis.
In 1845, Ehrenberg left Oregon and sailed to Hawaii. The government
there hired him to survey their streets and draw a map of Honolulu.
During this venture he visited many Polynesian islands, including
Tahiti. By 1846, he was in California and participated in the Mexican
War where he helped rescue some captured Americans.
Ehrenberg's adventures continued, as he participated in the California
gold rush in 1848-1849. He was involved in the Gadsden Purchase
in 1854 and is said to have made the first map of the purchase. This
was the United States' acquisition of part of southern New Mexico
and Arizona. In 1855 he was hired to survey the town of Colorado City,
Arizona, and in 1856 he, along with Charles Poston, established the
headquarters of the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company at
From 1863 to 1866, Ehrenberg was an Indian agent for the Mojaves on
the Colorado River Reservation. Ehrenberg Peak in the Grand
Canyon National Park is named after him. During his lifetime he
compiled many important and historic maps. He wrote articles for Mining
Magazine, Journal of Geology, and Arizona Weekly. He also published
articles about his experiences in Texas during the battle of Coleto
and the Goliad massacre. Mineral
City, Arizona, was renamed Ehrenberg in his honor. And
Senator Barry Goldwater called him, "one of the greatest surveyors
and map makers ever to visit the Western United States." Hermann Ehrenberg
was an extraordinary man who survived the horrors
of Goliad to go on to leave his mark on his adopted country. He
spent his life as a bachelor and although he survived several wars,
fate turned against him on October 9, 1866, when he was robbed and
murdered near the site of present-day Palm Springs, California.
Lone Star Diary >
& Related Stories
at Goliad: A Texas Tragedy
by Jeffery Robenalt
The massacre at Goliad branded Santa Anna as an inhuman despot and
the Mexican people, whether deserved or not, with a reputation for
cruelty. As a result of the needless slaughter, a burning desire
for revenge arose among the people of Texas, and Americans became
firmly united behind the Texas cause of independence.
Survivor's Account of the Goliad Massacre ( From "Lone
by Bob Bowman (From "All Things Historical")
Milton Irish, one of only 28 survivors of the massacre.
Deye Owings of Maryland, Kentucky and Texas by W. T.
"He was a colonel and hero of the War of 1812 [and] was Kentucky's
original industrialist and iron master, also holding several political
offices. He was also commissioned by Stephen F. Austin in Jan. 1836
to raise 2 regiments of Kentuckians to fight for Texas Independence
from Mexico, sacrificing as a result the life of one of his sons
during the Goliad Massacre..."