Texas HistoryToday in Texas History: The ‘Angel of Goliad,’ Francita Alavez, Saves Texian Soldiers from Massacre

The men who escaped the Goliad massacre 185 years ago today pointed to one flesh and blood savior: "The Angel of Goliad."
March 27, 2021
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Blood was spilled in the Goliad fields on this day 185 years ago. Some 350 to 400 Texians had been marched to their deaths after capture by the Mexican army during a bungled escape by Colonel James Fannin. 

This was the massacre at Goliad.

As bad as it was, that number would have been higher were it not for, as fate would have it, the wife of a Mexican officer.

Not much is known about Francita Alavez’s life. Her dates of birth and death are both lost to the dustbin of history. The Texas State Historical Association appears unsure that Francita is even her actual name, and a 1935 historical investigation threw doubt on her marital status.

But one contribution is clear and cemented her historical legacy — Alavez saved a number of Texian soldiers from the eventual massacre. She was in Copano Bay at the time the Natchez soldiers under Major William Miller were held prisoner by Mexican General José de Urrea’s garrison.

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Urrea had promised Fannin, the Texian commander, safety for his men as part of the terms of surrender. But Santa Anna, still angry at the Texian defiance at Gonzales and Concepción, ordered Urrea and his officers to execute the mass of prisoners. Urrea, according to one witness, was suspended for being unwilling to carry out the execution order.

It is unclear just how many prisoners Alavez saved, but some of the men she saved remembered her act of kindness years later.

“I must not here omit the mention of Senora Alvarez,” said Dr. Joseph H. Barnard, a Goliad survivor, “whose name ought to be perpetuated to the latest times for her virtues, and whose action contrasted so strangely with that of her countrymen, and deserves to be recorded in the annals of this country and treasured in the heart of every Texan.”

Alavez pleaded with a Mexican officer, Colonel Garay, to spare the prisoners — and succeeded.

Isaac Hamilton, another survivor, recalled, “At [Goliad] I was court-martialed and order to be shot, which fate I escaped by the intercession of two Mexican Ladies.”

Witnessing fleeing Texians pursued and captured by Mexican soldiers, a bystander in Victoria remembered, “[T]he wives of several Mexican officers threw themselves between the prisoners and the firing squad, and told the officers in charge they would have to shoot them before they could shoot these men, who had harmed no one.”

Their execution was sustained.

Dr. Jack Shackleford, whom Alavez befriended before saving him from the dire fate, educed, “I consider it not inappropriate here to mention one female, [Francita Alavez], the wife of Captain A. She was indeed an Angel of Mercy — a second Pocahontas. All that she could do to administer to our comfort … was done. She had likewise been to Maj. Miller and men, a ministering angel.”

After Goliad, Alavez continued on with the Mexican army, continuing her rescue efforts, but was eventually left behind in Mexico City. She returned to Matamoros with nothing but found comradery among Texians who had heard of her acts.

It isn’t clear how much longer Alavez lived, but her legacy, no matter how blurred, has long outlived her. A statue now memorializes Alavez in Goliad today.

“Remember Goliad!” became one half of the renowned rallying cry among Texian soldiers for the rest of the revolution. But in the 185 years since, Goliad, and the rest of Texas, remembers the Matamoros heroine for the lives of the men who didn’t have to be memorialized — who escaped the clutches of an unceremonious death thanks to an angel sent from the heavens.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.