Battle of La Bahia (Goliad) in 1813


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Texas History: Battle of La Bahia

(Previous Section: Exploits of Ellis P. Bean)

FROM what has preceded, 1812 was a propitious time for a revolution in Texas. The Spaniards were not able to prevent it, and the people of the province were not opposed to it. The Franciscan friars in Texas kept up a regular correspondence with the parent convents at Queretaro and Zacatecas. The latter, ardent friends of the revolution, inspired the former with their views. The spiritual advisers of the Texan population had no difficulty in directing their views and feelings.

There were very few able-bodied men east of the Trinity who did not join the Americans at Spanish Bluff on the Trinity River, near San Antonio. On the arrival of Magee, and after the principal forces were collected, they were organized. Magee was elected colonel, and, in fact, commander-in-chief; although, for prudential considerations, Bernardo was nominally called such, with the title of general. Kemper was chosen major, and other regimental officers were appointed. Before the army left the Trinity, Captain James Gaines, commanding the Mexicans east of that river, joined with his forces. The troops, nearly eight hundred in number, set out on their march, taking the La Bahia road. They continued the march without interruption till they had crossed the Colorado, when the advance captured some of the Spanish spies. They learned from them that Governor Salcedo was in command at La Bahia, having been informed that they would attack that place; that he had marched out with fourteen hundred troops, to lie in ambush at the crossing of the Guadalupe. This information, confirmed by other circumstances, induced Magee to change his route, which he did, crossing the Guadalupe below the old road. He made a forced march, and reached La Bahia before daybreak on the 14th of November. There were but one hundred and sixty Spanish troops in the fort. They surrendered with little opposition, and the "Republican Army of the North" marched in, raised their flag, and found themselves in possession of an abundance of military stores and the Spanish military chest. They found in the fort sixteen pieces of artillery of all calibers; among them, those brought to San Bernardo, by La Salle, in 1685. The military chest enabled them to pay to each of the troops all back dues. This, with the abundance of provisions on hand, made them contented.

Three days after, Salcedo, burning with rage in being so deceived, marched up to the fort and assaulted it with his entire force. The Americans did not wait, but sallied out of the fort, and drove him back, with a small loss on both sides. Finding that victory was not so cheap, Salcedo repassed the river, and prepared for a regular siege. He divided his forces into four divisions, and placed one on each bank of the San Antonio above and one on each bank below La Bahia. The Americans were not idle. They erected a bastion of earth on each side of the fort, on which they mounted the guns they found in the fort, and also the three six-pounders they had brought with them. Salcedo had fourteen pieces of different calibres, which he used as he could.

During the three or four weeks in which the two armies occupied these positions, Salcedo made three assaults on the fort. The Spaniards were receiving constant accessions of strength; the Americans none. Previous to the last assault, for some unknown cause, a cessation of hostilities for three days had been agreed upon. During this time the officers of the two armies extended to each other the civilities due among gentlemen. Colonel Magee, by invitation, dined with Salcedo in the quarters of the latter. Between them an agreement was made, which, from the facts above detailed, can not be understood. Magee had agreed with Salcedo that the fort should be delivered up, the Americans to return home without their arms, but to be supplied on the march with provisions by Salcedo.

Magee returned to the fort, paraded the troops, announced to them what he had done, and took the vote of approval by asking those in favor of it to shoulder arms. The treaty was unanimously voted down. The republicans were indignant, and manifested it by striking the butts of their pieces against the ground. Magee, confounded by this act of disobedience, retired to his tent, leaving the troops on parade. The confusion was great. Major Kemper, the next in command, went for Bernardo. He kept close in his quarters, signed all the necessary papers, and ate hearty dinners, but, like Mohammed's coat, was brought before the army only on trying occasions. He took sides with the troops, and advised that the agreement should not be regarded. In the meantime, a flag from Salcedo brought a note to Magee. It was delivered to Bernardo, and he read it to the army. It reminded Magee of his honor; that the hour had passed when the fort should have been surrendered, and it was not done. The flag was sent back without an answer.

Shortly afterward, Salcedo made a furious assault upon the place, took the town, and advanced to the walls of the fort. The Americans, thrown into disorder by recent events, and without a commander, seemed not to act with their usual vigor. But, rallying under Kemper, the next in command, they sallied out and attacked the Spaniards, drove them from the walls, and then out of the town, continuing the fight till darkness put an end to the contest. The Spanish loss in this affair was about two hundred; the Americans lost but few. Magee had not left his quarters during the battle. That night, shortly after twelve o'clock, he died, and, it is said, by his own hands.

The next morning, the Spaniards sent in a flag, asking a cessation of arms for one day, that the dead might be cared for; which was granted. The Spaniards continued the siege, without making any further attack, until about the 12th of March, 1813, when they abandoned their position and retreated to San Antonio. They, however, stationed spies down the river, to watch the movements of the Americans.

[Next Section of Texas History: Battle of Rosalis]




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