Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Victoria and Goliad, In the Cradle of the Texas Revolution

At Coleto Lake KOA, Near Goliad, Texas...

A whole bevy of Tiffin motorhomes descended on this campground for a three-day rally, sponsored by the Bluebonnet Allegro Club of Texas. Open only to Tiffin owners, the club selects destinations nearly every month to take their coaches and meet up with friends and fellow travelers for some food and fellowship. There are always pot luck meals at these things, so Sandy made a wonderful strawberry cake, and I made jalapeno poppers--both delicious!

The rally attendees are mostly comfortable retired folks with time on their hands, and they are fun to be around...that is, unless you are a democrat or something like that. This is not exactly a group where liberals would feel a close kinship. These people didn't get where they are by waiting for a handout.

There is always plenty of extra time for participants to go out on their own and explore the area, so Sandy and I took advantage of that by touring a bit in Victoria and then Goliad--some 25 miles away.

Warning: I'm going to talk about history here, so I may lose some of you, but I'm going ahead with it for our personal record, if nothing else.

While we had spent some time in Victoria, neither of us had visited Goliad, a small town with big history in regard to the Texas revolution. On the way there, we stopped at the Fannin battleground and memorial. This was the site of a battle between 300 or so Texas volunteers and troops from the Mexican army in 1836, soon after the Alamo had fallen. The Texans, commanded by Col. J. W. Fannin, were retreating toward Victoria when they were overtaken by a much larger Mexican force commanded by General Urrea and, eventually, the Texans were forced to surrender. They were later marched to Goliad and incarcerated in the Presidio la Bahia, where they were executed by order of Mexican General Santa Anna. This atrocity and the massacre at the Alamo ultimately became the battle cry of the Texan soldiers as they exacted revenge on Santa Anna's forces later that year in the battle of San Jacinto and won Texas' independence.  "Remember the Alamo" and "Remember Goliad" became their avenging cry.

It was the reporting of these defeats at the hands of the Mexicans that galvanized the Texas volunteers and gained support from others outside the territory, including the United States. This ultimately led to their victory. Oddly, had Santa Anna not engaged in these brutal massacres at the Alamo and Goliad, he may have had a better chance of holding onto his Texas territory.

Arriving at the battleground--in a tiny town named, appropriately, Fannin--we walked to a monument where the battle actually took place, and I tried to imagine what these young men must have gone through here as they endured the violence and suffered defeat among the wounded and dying all around them.

I'm not sure why, but I felt a solemn sense of reverence for the human struggle that happened here and a profound sense of grief for the young lives cut short for so noble a cause--one whose future importance they can't possibly have imagined at the time. I knew the feelings well, as I have experienced the same kind of melancholy at Civil War battlegrounds, at the Arizona memorial in Hawaii, at Normandy in France and at the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. I don't think I believe in ghosts, but at places like this, I'm sometimes not so sure. I love seeing locations such as these where history comes alive in front of my eyes, but I don't think I could spend a lot of time there without being very depressed.

After leaving the battleground, we headed southward on U. S. 59 for nine miles to Goliad, the site of Presidio la Bahia, a small stone fortress built on a hill overlooking the San Antonio River. It was to this place that the survivors from the Fannin battleground were marched for what was to be the site of their deaths.

We toured the fort and its revetments and the onsite chapel, outside of which Col. Fannin was placed in a chair, blindfolded and shot in the head. The chapel was quite beautiful and is still in use today for Catholic mass.

Fannin was shot just inside the right door leading to the main courtyard. He was only 31 at the time.

After this, we drove around Goliad for a while, noting what a pretty town it was, with its well-preserved old courthouse and the centuries-old live oak trees, so revered that they couldn't bear to cut some of them down when building the town square. As a result, you can see several of the old trees, growing out in the middle of the streets!

Returning to the KOA from Goliad, we sat down for a nice meal served by the Crazy Cajun food truck, the operator of which had agreed to come to the campground to serve us. The fresh shrimp and fish were delicious!

The guys couldn't help but get in a friendly game of nickel poker afterward.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I do not appreciate it enough each day.

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