Presidio La Bahia
Presidio La Bahia, designated a National Historic Landmark, is considered the world's finest example of a Spanish frontier fort. This is the most fought over fort in Texas history, having seen participation in six National Revolutions/Wars for Independence. Spanish, Mexican and Texas soldiers all garrisoned its fortified walls. Here, at this Crossroads of Revolution, was felt almost every attempt to forcibly change the governmental order of Texas.
The fort is the site where Goliad history began. The location of the fort had been an occupied site long before Spain arrived in the New World. Strategically located on an elevation over looking the surrounding area, the Spanish arrived here in 1749 and found evidence of an Indian Village in the area they named Santa Dorotea. As permanent settlement by Spain began the town of La Bahia, (The Bay), grew up around the protection of the fort. This town was the original Goliad, the name being changed in 1829 as an anagram for Hidalgo, in honor of the patriot priest of the Mexican Revolution, Father Miguel Hidalgo, who sounded the famous "Grito de Delores" in 1810 for Mexican Independence from Spain. This town became the second largest populated settlement in Spanish Texas.
BIRTHPLACE OF THE TEXAS REVOLUTION
On October 9, 1835 a group of Texas citizens, led by Capt. George Collinsworth entered Goliad and attacked the Mexican garrison stationed at the Presidio and were successful in taking possession of the fort. This action followed the incident at Gonzales, Texas, one week earlier.
Here at the Presidio was formally declared the first Declaration of Texas Independence on December 20, 1835, signed by 92 citizens and distributed throughout other municipalities in Texas, boldly stating the intentions of these settlers of Texas. Along with it flew the first flag of Texas Independence. Nothing short of full independence from Mexico would satisfy those who had suffered under the injustices of a dictatorial government led by the self-styled "Napoleon of the West", General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
The establishment of the Royal Presidio La Bahia in the year 1721 was a direct response to encroachment by the French in the Spanish Province of Texas. First founded on the banks of the Garcitas Creek near present day Lavaca Bay it was erected upon the remains of the ill fated French Fort St. Louis built by La Salle. This location proved unsuitable and in 1726 it was abandoned and the fort relocated to an inland position near Mission Valley above present day Victoria. In 1749, the Presidio was relocated to it's present location here.
THE SPANISH OCCUPATION
The Royal Presidio La Bahia, though an inland frontier fort, became the only fort responsible for the defense of the coastal are and eastern province of Texas after the abandonment of the Presidios at Los Adaes and Orcoquisac. Soldiers from Presidio La Bahia assisted the Spanish army fighting the British along the Gulf Coast during the American Revolution. This action gives Goliad the distinction of being one of the only communities west of the Mississippi River to have participated in the American Revolution.
The darkest day in Texas history, the Goliad Massacre, took place here on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836 when Col. James Walker Fannin and 341 men under his command were executed a week after their surrender at the Battle of Coleto, under orders of the Mexican dictator, General Santa Anna. There was twice as much loss of life here at Goliad than at the Alamo. Nothing had touched the raw nerve of the American character as did the news of the large numbers of men who were all slaughtered in one execution. As grim news reached the United States, volunteers streamed forth for the people of Texas who were engaged in a war with a dictator who took no prisoners a war of extermination. This one single event, the Goliad Massacre, more than any event in the Texas Revolution, proved to the people of the United States what manner of warfare confronted the Texans
THE PRESIDIO TODAY
The Presidio was restored in the 1960s through the dedicated generosity of Mrs. Kathryn O'Connor to stand as a lasting memorial alongside its sister shrines, the Alamo and San Jacinto. Local artisans supplied the labor for the project and the noted restoration architect, Raiford L. Stripling, directed the project to its completion. Today it is considered one of the most authentic restoration projects in the United States.
OUR LADY OF LORETO CHAPEL
Though a fort, not a mission, a chapel was erected inside the quadrangle for the sole use of the soldiers and Spanish settlers living in the town of La Bahia surrounding the fort. The religious needs of the Indian tribes were served by the missions of Rosario, Espiritu Santo and Refugio. The chapel was given the title "Our Lady of Loreto", and is the oldest building in the compound in continuous use since the 1700s.
One of the oldest churches in America, it also is one of the only buildings in existence: that has its original "groin vaulted ceiling" in place. The striking fresco at the back of the altar was done in 1946 by the "Michelangelo of South Texas", Corpus Christi artist Antonio Garcia. Located in the niche above the chapel entrance is the statue of Our Lady of Loreto made by Lincoln Borglum, of Mt.Rushmore fame.
This centuries-old chapel was where Fannin's men were held captive before they were massacred. The First Declaration of Texas Independence was signed inside the chapel on December 20, 1835. After the Texas Revolution of 1836, while other buildings of the Presidio fell into neglect and disrepair, the chapel was still used as a place of worship and at one time was temporarily used as a private residence.
Located in the heart of Texas.1 1/2 mile south of Goliad on Hwy. 183lies the only fully restored
Spanish Fort in existence in the United States!