Col. James Walker Fannin

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Col. James Walker Fannin

Birthdate: (32)
Birthplace: Georgia, United States
Death: March 27, 1836 (32)
Goliad, Goliad County, Texas, United States (executed during the Texas Revolution (Goliad Massacre))
Immediate Family:

Son of Isham Saffold Fannin and Jane Fannin
Half brother of Eliza Saffold Walker / Battle

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Col. James Walker Fannin

James Walker Fannin, Jr. (January 1, 1804 (probably) – March 27, 1836) was a 19th-century U.S. military figure on the Texas Army and leader during the Texas Revolution of 1835–36. After being outnumbered and surrendering to Mexican forces at the Battle of Coleto Creek, Colonel Fannin and nearly all his 344 men were executed soon afterward at Goliad, Texas, under Santa Anna's orders for all rebels to be executed.

He was memorialized in several place names, including a military training camp.

Early life and family

Fannin joined the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1819 under the name "James F. Walker". He resigned from West Point due to poor grades, absences and tardiness.

In 1821 James Fannin moved to Columbus, Georgia to become a merchant. He married Minerva Fort on 17 July 1829. They had two daughters together.

In 1834, Fannin settled at Velasco in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas (now Texas), where he owned a plantation. By 1835, Fannin was becoming part of the growing Anglo-American resistance to the Mexican government in Texas. He wrote letters seeking financial assistance and volunteers to help the Texas cause.

Texas Revolution

Main article: Texas Revolution

By September, Fannin was an active volunteer in the Texas Army. He participated in the Battle of Gonzales on October 2 and urged Stephen F. Austin to send aid to Gonzales. Fannin later worked with James Bowie, First Battalion, First Division, under Austin's orders to secure supplies and determine the conditions in and around Gonzales and San Antonio de Bexar. Under the command of Bowie, Fannin fought in the Battle of Concepción on 28 October 1835.

In November 1835, Austin ordered Fannin and William B. Travis and about 150 men to cut off any Mexican supply party. On November 13, Houston offered Fannin the post of Inspector General to the regular army. Fannin wrote back requesting a field appointment of Brigadier General and a "post of danger". On November 22, 1835, Fannin was honorably discharged from the volunteer army by Austin and began campaigning for a larger regular army for Texas. He also went home to spend time with his family.

Sam Houston, supported by Governor Henry Smith, commissioned Fannin as a Colonel in the regular army on December 7, 1835. By January 7, 1836, the provisional government had appointed Fannin 'military agent', to answer only to the council and not Houston. He began recruiting forces and supplies for the forthcoming and confusing Matamoros campaign against the Mexican city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Fannin had difficulty leading the volunteers in his charge. He tried to institute regular army discipline, but his irregular volunteers would not accept it. Many of his men thought he was aloof, and several historians believe that he was an ineffective commander because of it. The majority of the men serving under Fannin had only been in Texas a short time; he was frustrated by this, writing to Lt. Governor James W. Robinson "..among the rise of 400 men at, and near this post, I doubt if 25 citizens of Texas can be mustered in the ranks...".

In early February, Fannin sailed from Velasco and landed at Copano with four companies of the Georgia Battalion, moving to join a small band of Texans at Refugio. Mexican reinforcements, under General Jose Urrea, arrived at Matamoros, complicating the Texan's plans to attack that city. Fannin withdrew 25 miles north to Goliad and quartered his troops at Presidio La Bahia. Made Lt. Colonel of the First Artillery, Fannin began strengthening defenses at Goliad, and sent out his captains to recruit more men for the army. "Enlist all you can.." ..." fill up your companies, and be ready for the field soon".

Failed expedition to support the Alamo and aftermath

Main article: Goliad Campaign

Appeals from Travis at the Alamo (via James Bonham) prompted Fannin to launch a relief march of over 300 men and four pieces of artillery on 25 February 1836. After some delay, Fannin and his men moved out on the 28th for the more than 90 miles to San Antonio. The relief mission was a failure. The troops barely had crossed the San Antonio River when wagons broke down, prompting the men to camp within sight of Goliad. They had little or no food, some men were barefooted, and the oxen teams wandered off during the night. On March 6, 1836, the Battle of the Alamo was fought, with all of the Alamo's defenders (about 187 men) being killed by Mexican forces.

The Mexican forces under General José de Urrea were now rapidly approaching the Texian stronghold in Goliad. They defeated Texian forces at the Battle of San Patricio on February 27, where 20 were killed and prisoners were taken. Frank W. Johnson and four other Texans were captured but later managed to escape and rejoin James Fannin's command at Goliad.

The Battle of Agua Dulce was fought on March 2. Dr. James Grant, Robert C. Morris and twelve others were killed, with prisoners taken. Plácido Benavides and six others escaped to notify Fannin of the situation.

On 12 March, Fannin sent Captain Amon Butler King and about twenty-eight men to take wagons to Refugio to help evacuate the remaining families. King and his men confronted an advance party of General Urrea's cavalry in the Battle of Refugio; his defense failed and he withdrew to the old mission. A local boy managed to get away and alerted Fannin of the skirmish. Fannin sent Lieutenant Colonel William Ward and about 120 men to King's aid. Ward managed to drive the small Mexican forces away and decided to stay the night to rest his men. On March 14, 1836, Ward and King were attacked by Urrea and over 200 Mexican soldiers as they were about to leave. This detachment was part of Urrea's larger force of nearly 1200 men. The same day, General Houston ordered Fannin to retreat to Victoria. Fannin then sent word to the men at Refugio to rendezvous with his command at Victoria. Other dispatches were intercepted by the Centralista forces, thus informing them of Fannin's plans.

Fannin needed means of transport and had sent Albert C. Horton and his men to Victoria, to bring carts and twenty yokes of oxen from army quartermaster John J. Linn, who did return around March 16. Horton's men would later form Fannin's advance guard when the retreating to Victoria.

Fannin finally received the alert of King and Ward's defeat from, Hugh McDonald Frazer, on March 17.

Battle of Coleto Creek

Main article: Battle of Coleto

On March 19, 1836, Fannin led the Texans on a retreat from Presidio La Bahia (which Fannin had renamed Fort Defiance) and destroyed everything which they did not take with them. Transporting nine cannons and over 500 spare muskets, Fannin's forces were also heavily laden with supplies and baggage. The column traveled about six miles when Fannin ordered a halt to rest his animals. At about 3:00pm, Mexican cavalry appeared. The Texans immediately formed a hollow square with their wagons and cannons placed in each corner for defense as Gen. Urrea's forces attacked. After a fierce battle, the Mexicans lost about 100-200 killed and wounded; Texan losses were 7-9 killed and 60 wounded. But facing overwhelming odds, Fannin and his troops surrendered the next day, at the Battle of Coleto.

The Goliad Massacre

Main article: Goliad massacre

The Mexicans took the Texans back to Goliad, where they were held as prisoners at Fort Defiance. The Texans thought they would likely be set free in a few weeks. General Urrea departed Goliad, leaving command to Colonel Jose Nicolas de la Portilla. Urrea wrote to Santa Anna to ask for clemency for the Texans. Urrea wrote in his diary that he "...wished to elude these orders as far as possible without compromising my personal responsibility." On March 26, 1836, 19:00, Santa Anna ordered Portilla to execute the prisoners.

The next day, Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, Colonel Portilla had the 302 Texans marched out of Fort Defiance into three columns on the Bexar Road, San Patricio Road, and the Victoria Road, between two rows of Mexican soldiers; they were shot pointblank, and any survivors were clubbed and knifed to death.

The 40 wounded men that could not walk were executed inside the fort compound. Colonel Fannin was the last to be executed, after seeing his men executed. Age 32, he was taken by Mexican soldiers to the courtyard in front of the chapel, blindfolded, and seated in a chair (due to his leg wound from the battle). He made three requests: he asked for his personal possessions to be sent to his family, to be shot in his heart and not his face, and to be given a Christian burial. The soldiers took his belongings, shot him in the face, and burned Fannin's body along with the other Texans who died that day.

Twenty-eight Texans escaped by feigning death and other means. Three known survivors escaped to Houston's army, where they fought in the Battle of San Jacinto. In numerous accounts of the Goliad Massacre, a Mexican woman, Francisca (Francita, Panchita or Pancheta) Alavez, sometimes referred to by other surnames (Alvarez or Alavesco), rescued about 20 Texan soldiers; she became known as "The Angel of Goliad." Other people known to rescue some prisoners were Juan Holzinger. At Victoria, he saved two German Texans captured among Capt. Amon B. King's men, and twenty-six of Lt. Col. William Ward's troops by claiming to need them to build boats and transport cannons across the San Antonio River. In addition, Colonel Garay, Father Maloney (also referred as Molloy), Urrea's wife and an unnamed girl were credited with rescuing prisoners during the Goliad Campaign.

Legacy and honors

Fannin County, Texas and Fannin County, Georgia and Fannin elementary are named in his honor.
Camp Fannin, a large military training camp near Tyler, TX, was named in his honor. It was used for POWs from Europe during World War II
A major street in downtown Houston is named after him.
A major street in downtown Shreveport, LA is named after him.

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

James Walker Fannin Jr. (1804-1836)

Colonel James Walker Fannin Jr. distinguished himself in a number of skirmishes during the Texas Revolution. James Walker Fannin Jr. He commanded the ill-fated group of Georgia volunteers and Texans massacred at Goliad, Texas, on March 27, 1836.

Born January 1, 1804, Fannin was the illegitimate son of a Morgan County plantation owner, Dr. Isham Fannin. He was adopted by his maternal grandfather, James W. Walker, and reared on a plantation near Marion. One of his cousins was Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph.

At the age of fourteen Fannin briefly attended the University of Georgia, but in 1819, as James F. Walker, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York. At that time a female cousin described him as "gallant, handsome, and sensitive." He was not very studious; academically he stood sixtieth in a class of eighty-six. He resigned in November 1821 after dueling with a fellow cadet. Fannin returned to Georgia, where he became a merchant and married Minerva Fort, with whom he had two daughters.

Fannin resided in Twiggs and Troup counties successively, and in 1828 he moved to Columbus. There he was a master of the local Masonic lodge and pursued a judgeship but was disqualified for dueling. While in Columbus he also served as secretary of a temperance society and was division inspector for the Georgia militia. In the autumn of 1834 Fannin and his family moved to Velasco, Texas, where he became a planter and managing partner in a slave-trading syndicate.

In August 1835 Fannin was appointed by the Committee of Public Safety and Correspondence, an assembly of prominent Texans seeking independence from Mexico, to solicit funds and supplies from sympathizers in Georgia, as well as to influence former colleagues at West Point to join him in Texas and lead volunteer and regular armies. As a member of the Texas volunteer army, Captain Fannin fought alongside the Brazos Guards in the first battle of the revolution against Mexico, held at Gonzales on October 2, 1835. On October 28, he led Texas forces in the Battle of Concepción. On December 7 he was commissioned a colonel in the Texas regular army.

Fannin's appeal for aid drew strong attention. In Macon about thirty men stepped forward to assist "our fellow countrymen of Texas," and more than $3,000 was raised to defray the cost of the trip to Texas. James Walker Fannin Jr. On November 18 the Macon volunteers left for Texas, traveling by way of Columbus, where they were joined by another group of volunteers. Fannin welcomed the Georgia Battalion to Texas on December 20, 1835. He was later elected to command a regiment consisting of the Georgia Battalion and the Lafayette Battalion (composed of men from Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee). By February 12, 1836, Fannin had marched his regiment to Goliad, an old Spanish fort on the southwest bank of the San Antonio River about thirty miles from where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

On March 14, 1836, Fannin was ordered by Texas president Sam Houston to withdraw to Victoria, but he delayed until the 19th. As Fannin's regiment withdrew, it was surrounded by a Mexican force under General José de Urrea. Fannin unsuccessfully engaged the Mexican army at the Battle of Coleto Creek and was forced to surrender his entire command. Wounded, Fannin capitulated on the condition that his men be well treated because they had given up their arms peacefully. The agreement was countermanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, and on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, more than 330 Georgians, Texans, and others imprisoned at Goliad were marched out into the woods and shot. While some prisoners escaped the massacre, Fannin was kept inside the fort. He was taken to the courtyard, where he was blindfolded, seated, and shot through the head. His body was burned. During the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, Fannin's watch was discovered in the possession of a Mexican officer. The officials who found it assumed the Mexican was responsible for Fannin's murder; he thus met death in a like manner as Fannin.

In 1854 Fannin County in north Georgia was named in his honor.

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Col. James Walker Fannin's Timeline

January 1, 1804
Georgia, United States
March 27, 1836
Age 32
Goliad, Goliad County, Texas, United States