The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991 Page: 193
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Treatment of Mexican Prisoners
March 6. The dissenters had argued against killing prisoners on two
counts: the first a philosophical protest based on the Rights of Man,
while others prophetically predicted retaliation in kind. Three weeks
later on March 27, over similar protests, Santa Anna ordered the com-
mandant at Goliad to execute his 445 prisoners (342 killed). Lt. Col.
Nicolas de la Portilla zealously obeyed the order, and the unfortunate
volunteers marched out by squads where they were gunned down
along the road.8 Most were newcomers to Texas and thus fit the death
order for armed foreigners. This cold-blooded murder, more than the
death of those at the Alamo (the execution of the seven was then un-
known), set the stage for the furious atrocities at San Jacinto twenty-five
Secretary of War Thomas Jefferson Rusk reported the "sanguinary
conflict" at the San Jacinto Battleground on April 21, 1836, and esti-
mated that 750 Texans had killed over 600o Mexican soldiers and had
captured a like number. Four days later, Gen. Sam Houston wrote that
twenty-four Mexican officers above the rank of captain had died and
that he held 730 Mexican prisoners including President Santa Anna,
General C6s, and four colonels.'
The enraged Texans had stormed the Mexican camp to avenge those
who fell at the Alamo and Goliad. They relentlessly pursued the Mexi-
cans who fled eastward from the battle line toward a grove of trees. Un-
known to either side, a slough of quicksand lay in front of the shelter
and when the fugitives "attempted to swim the Bieau" the avengers
lined the bank and "shot every one." A Texan surgeon noted that some
prisoners had as many as five bullet wounds but were still alive two days
later.'o The Texan fury seems to indicate an unstated policy of "take no
prisoners" which was understandable but not admirable.
Immediately after the battle on April 21, the victors marched their
captives, including a few women and Santa Anna's aide, Col. Juan N.
Almonte, two by two into the Texan camp from the slough near the
river where most had fled. The Mexican dead and dying lined the path,
and the still-vengeful Texans clubbed, knifed, and shot the wounded as
8De la Pena, With Santa Anna, 44, 53-55 (the Alamo), 76, 84-88; see Harbert Davenport's
essays on the Goliad Campaign of 1836 and the Gohad Massacre for details, in Walter Prescott
Webb, H Bailey Carroll, and Eldon Stephen Branda (eds.), The Handbook of Texas (3 vols.; Aus-
tin: Texas State Historical Association, 1952, 1976), I, 700oo-73, 704-705. While Davenport
says there were 342 killed, Kathryn Stoner O'Connor, says 352 names in The Presizdo La Bahza
del EsppErtu Santo de Zuniga, 1721 to 1846 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1966), 151-155. Ur-
rea's policy about prisoners vacillates; see Urrea, "Diary," 220-221, 231, 233-235-
9T.J. Rusk to D G. Burnet, Apr. 22, 1836, in Jenkins (ed.), Papers,VI, lo-11, 12 (quotation),
13-14; Sam Houston to D. G. Burnet, Apr. 25, 1836, Ibid., VI, 72-76.
10W. C Swearingen to brother, Apr. 23, 1836, ibid , VI, 36 (quotation), Haskell to -
Apr 23, 1836, ibid., VI, 29. For number at Goliad, see Webb, Carroll, and Branda (eds.), Hand-
book of Texas I, 705.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991, periodical, 1991; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/m1/237/: accessed April 3, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.