Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Battle of Coleto Creek.

Cavalry lance.

The day dawned foggy as the Goliad garrison ate and packed up. Perfect for an unobserved retreat, if haste was made. They were still burning and destroying the fort and supplies until they pulled out at 9:30. There were delays. The hungry oxen wanted to graze, not pull. A howitzer bogged in a creek. Wagons broke down and were abandoned. Someone noticed that food had been left behind. Horton and his cavalry scouted ahead as the column moved through open prairie and woodlines.
About six miles out, Fannin called a halt to let the oxen graze. The company was strung out in a prairie where it was vulnerable to attack, especially by cavalry. Many voices protested but Fannin overruled them.

At 12:45 they began to move again and had only gone four miles when Urrea's cavalry emerged from the woodline behind and circled ahead to cut them off from the timber. Mexican infantry appeared in the trees. Horton's cavalry screen ahead had dismounted and gone to sleep.
Coleto creek was in the trees a mile ahead. If the Texicans could make it to the woods and water they could make a stand.

Instead of running for cover Fannin had the men form a square. The cannons went at the corners. When it was obvious that the main Mexican effort was to cut them off, they limbered up and made a line toward the nearest trees. The cavalry cut them off and Fannin reformed the square. The Mexicans dismounted and prepared to attack.

The Soldatos approached by volley fire, the first falling short. Fannin's men sat and didn't engage until the enemy was within 100 yards. Inside 100 yards they devastated the attackers. Throughout the afternoon the Mexicans, mounted and on foot were turned back with serious casualties. The Mexicans took cover in the tall grass and officers had snipers and cazadores shoot the oxen and pick off the artillerists among them a Polish veteran of the Napoleonic wars.

By nightfall Fannin had nine dead and fifty-one wounded, including himself. The Mexicans had 50 killed and 140 wounded, but held the upper hand. There was no food or water and ammunition was low. The Texans dug in throughout the night and suffered a brief cold shower which ruined most of the guns. Fannin was going nowhere.

Horton's cavalry had ridden back to the sound of the guns but seeing Fannin cut off by a vastly superior force, retreated to Victoria to search for reinforcements.

Update: Personal accounts of the fighting.

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