Presidio La Bahia
Goliad, Texas Oct. 12 - 14, 2016
The old fort is hard to miss as you transition from South Texas countryside to the city of Goliad. It is truly an impressive sight. Presidio La Bahia is Spanish for the Fort on the Bay. And if you're into Texas history, especially around the famed Alamo in my hometown of San Antonio, then this is a must-do on your list. A lot happened here all the way back to when the fort was founded by the Spanish Colonizer Lieutenant-General Jose de Escandon in 1749.
But the fort is best known for the crucial role it played in helping the Texans declare independence from Mexican Rule. On December 20, 1835, in the chapel, 92 men gathered to sign The First Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico.
The final attack upon the Alamo began before dawn on March 6, 1836. By 9:00 a.m. all the occupants except the women and children are dead.
On March 20, following a battle near Coleto Creek, the Texan force of about 350 men led by James W. Fannin is captured and held captive inside the small church at Presidio La Bahia.
One week after Fannin's surrender, Santa Anna bypassed General Urrea's recommendation that Fannin's men receive clemency, and orders Colonel Jose Nicolas de la Portilla, the commander at Goliad to execute the captured Texans as pirates.
Early in the morning of March 27, 1836, all able-bodied men were marched in 3 groups in different directions about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile away from La Bahia. At one point the men were lined up while Mexican soldiers stood in front of them. Without warning Fannin's men were then shot at extremely close range. Only a few were able to run and escape.
Once back at the fort, all of Fannin's wounded men (about 40) were gathered in front of the church and shot. Fannin was the last to be executed. The bodies were carried just behind the fort and hastily burned.
342 men died in the Goliad massacre.
The chapel at Presidio La Bahia was mostly intact, while many of the surrounding structures were badly damaged during the battle between the Mexican army and the Texans. The Quarters structure, which is leased on a daily basis, was badly damaged and was mostly reconstructed. However, when you lease the apartment, you will have access, during the day, to all the structures and will have free access to the museum.
The museum does hold quite a few artifacts found throughout the several acres the fort stands on. They also have a model of the battle of Coleto Creek. Darning the evening you will only have access to the Quarters structure and the grounds of the fort which are surrounded by a thick stone wall.
Behind the fort, less than 100 yards, is a marker where the bodies of Fannin's men were found partially burned. There is also a small cemetery next to it.
While there are some residential homes nearby, for the most part, the only disturbance at night came from an occasional mooing cow form a nearby ranch.
There was definitely a palpable aspect while I walked around the grounds late into the evening. I can only describe that it was a feeling of great sadness and loss. At times, I did see shadow figures out of the corner of my eyes but nothing overtly obvious.
In the quarters, where I stayed and slept, on the very first night, the side door that opens into the courtyard, kept knocking. It is an extremely heavy door, and it takes some force to latch it. So perhaps I left it unlatched. But it was a windless night, so I have no explanation for the constant knocking sounds.
There were a few times during the very early hours when I heard very loud booming sounds coming from outside of the fort. It sounded as if huge wood timbers were being dropped from a considerable height. I did feel the heebee jeebees a few times while I was in the quarters.
During my explorations over the two nights I was there I did have a few occasions where I did see what appeared to be shadow people. Two different times I saw one outside the window in the living room in the Quarters and one near the side door. On the grounds, far off away from me, once again, I was able to identify shadow play. But it always seemed to happen at a great distance from myself.
While I did record a few EVP's, they were extremely faint and low in volume, so low I was unable to isolate them and make them useful. I also captured two deep thumping sounds.
The EVPs I did capture were one in the courtyard in front of the church that sounds like a male saying, "impossible". In the main bedroom in the quarters I recorded a male voice that seemed to say, "Yes, Pat!"
Outside once again in front of the church, I was able to identify a conversation between two or more females, but this EVP was so faint I couldn't even make out what they were saying.
If anything, the spirits at Presidio La Bahia have an annoying sense of humor. On both nights, around 5:30 a.m. just as I was about to drift to sleep in the main bedroom is when I would start to hear rustling sounds in the living room, loud thumping/crashing sounds just outside in the courtyard, and what sounded like something moving very quickly from the bedroom down the hall. It was a little frustrating actually.
WHAT TO HIT: Sadly, you will only have access to the Quarters, the courtyard, and the main grounds of the fort. All of the structures are off-limits and locked up for the evening. So you will have plenty of time to explore the fort and the historical marker (where all of Fannin's dead men were partially burned and left to rot) and a small cemetery. The historical marker is just behind the fort and you can walk to the location just a few minutes.
THE FOLKLORE: The location is associated with a good amount of haunts and ghosts. As one would expect, the ghosts of the courageous Texan soldiers who were brutally executed and the spirit of Colonel Fannin have been reported to roam the grounds and specifically the courtyard in front of the chapel. Some of the reported activity includes hearing the cries from the wounded soldiers, women crying, the sound of horses galloping and neighing. A short friar and a woman in white occasionally appear in front of the chapel doors. Footsteps and knocking on the side door have been heard inside the Quarters.
IN MY MOST HUMBLED OPINION: Presidio La Bahia played a crucial role in Texas' independence from Mexico. In fact, I think Presidio outranks the Alamo in importance. Better than that, at least you can actually stay and explore the grounds to your heart's content (something you cannot do at the Alamo). I do believe the location at the very least is teaming with residual or imprinted energy from the injustices that occurred there. While I was there for 3 days and 2 nights however, it seemed rather quiet. Hey, maybe even ghosts need a little R&R and decided to take a couple of nights off.
IF YOU GO: The apartment (aka the Quarters) can sleep four very comfortably, has a good-sized kitchen and full bath, and central air and heat. But there was no wi-fi or television. So you'll be roughing it a bit with the lack of those amenities. There are plenty of restaurants nearby, some that will deliver to the fort. I took advantage of the fully functional and partially stocked kitchen for my meals. There is an HEB grocery just north of the fort in the city of Goliad.
This location is rich with history and is actually older than the United States. It has been here since 1749!
A word of caution: there is a point along the perimeter wall that has been, on occasion, breached by local teens and drunken adults. Some visitors have written about their experiences with trespassers. Have the Goliad police department's phone number programmed on your phone should an intrusion occur and they will be there within a couple of minutes and will deal with the situation immediately and thoroughly. In other words, they are fed up with folks trespassing on the fort! :)