On 11 March General Sam Houston ordered Colonel James Fannin and his 341 volunteers to retreat from Goliad and join the rest of Texas’ forces in Victoria. The fact that he entrusted the message to a Captain, an officer, rather than a courier may say something about the importance and gravity of the order.
The Mexican army, marching toward Gonzales, encountered Fannin’s men at Coleto Creek that very day. Fannin’s men formed a square on the open prairie. The Mexican’s surrounded them. The Texans managed to hold them off until dark, but then the Mexican sharpshooters began to pick them off.
The next morning Fannin surrendered, begging for leniency.
- There are some indications that Fannin was generally indecisive and ineffective as a military leader. He had recently failed in an attempt to reinforce the defenders of the Alamo.
- Could it be that, perhaps on account of his recent failure, Fannin considered retreat a less valiant course of action?
- Fannin was entrenched in his position and had endured many hardships to make improvements to what he called Fort Defiance. Might he have been over-confident or felt reluctant to leave?
- Fannin had orders from Lieutenant-Governor Robinson “to not make a retrograde movement, but await orders and reinforcements.” Was he caught between loyalties to conflicting authorities?
- Fannin sent 28 men with Captain King to rescue some families from the mission at Refugio. When they were trapped by advancing Mexican forces, Fannin dispatched Colonel Ward with 100 men to bring them out. There is some dispute about whether Fannin sent Ward before or after he received the message from Houston, but is it possible that he was reluctant to leave so many men and civilians behind?
Whatever his intentions, the results of Fannin’s hesitance to obey were disastrous.