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Death at Goliad

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery

The largest single loss of life in the cause for Texas Independence occurred on March 27, 1836.

It was on that Palm Sunday when Mexican troops, acting on orders from Gen. Santa Anna, executed the 341 men under the command of Col. James Walker Fannin.

The bodies were stripped and left unburied.

Fannin had surrendered his troops to superior Mexican forces after he was led to believe that his men would be treated fairly.

On June 3, 1836, Texas troops under the command of Gen. Thomas Rusk gathered the remains of Fanninís men and gave them a military funeral.

A good friend and former colleague when I was employed at The Gonzales Inquirer, Wallace ďSargeĒ Morgan, is a descendant of J.G. Ferguson. Ferguson was among those Texans who were murdered at Goliad.

The book, Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas, by Thomas Lloyd Miller, has an entry showing that the heirs of Joseph G. Ferguson received 1920 acres of land as payment for Fergusonís service to the Texas Army from January 19 to March 27, 1836.

Morgan was kind enough to share a letter that was written by J.G. Ferguson to his (Fergusonís) twin brother on March 2, 1836.

It is ironic that this letter was written on the day that Texas Independence was declared.

This document gives a real insight into the final days surrounding the tragedy at Goliad as seen through the eyes of a man who lived and died there.


From Within Goliadís Walls March 2, 1836

Dear Brother;

I am now within the walls of this town, waiting for the enemy which we are expecting daily, for they have already besieged San Antonio, only one hundred miles distant, and a report tells us that 2000 troops are coming to attack this place.

Our number of men consists of about 400, all of whom are volunteers from the states, with the exception of about 30 regulars.

Our commander is Col. Fannin, and I am sorry to say the majority of the soldiers donít like him - for what cause I do not know - unless 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.

On last Friday, February 26, we started to San Antonio to attack the enemy at that place, but we got only two miles from town and camped for the night. Next morning a Council of War was called, when it was concluded that we had better to return here and put the town in a better state of defense.

Which upon the whole was good policy, not only in that respect but others. One of which is this: all of our provisions in the bread line was at Cepano and Dimmits Point, forth miles below here, and it was necessary that we should stay in order to keep the Mexicans from cutting off our supplies.

Which no doubt would have been done ó and may do it yet ó for there are no troops at either place to hinder that from being done.

Provisions are and have been very scarce. 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 gone in a few days.

Then it will be beef all the time. We are not prepared by any means to stand a siege, inasmuch as we have neither ammunition nor provisions, so you see we must make decisive battles.

The situation of the country is of a high, dry character. No local causes for diseases of any kind and the land is first rate. Though with all the advantages, it is no country for me.

My dislike to the country is a want of society and government, both of which will hardly be realized shortly, for it is filled up with people who are for their own emolument, to the exclusion of others. And when that is the case, you may judge of things as you see proper.

I think I stand a good chance for being Sergeant Mate to the army at this place as soon as there is something to do in that line. My time of service will be out April 19, and unless things shall change for the better, if I should live, you will see me as soon after that time as I can get to where you live.

It is often that I think of you all, and wish to enjoy your presence, but perhaps it may be so that we may never meet on earth again; yet I pray God we will all meet in Heaven. Yes Jack, though I am surrounded by wicked men, yet I still try to serve the Lord.

Tell Nancy that I have heard from James and David Wright. They are both living and doing pretty well.

I have not space on this sheet of paper to write you much more, so farewell. May God bless and preserve you is my prayer, for Christís sake.

Your brother, J.G. Ferguson



© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary
January 13 , 2014 column
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