Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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FANNIN, James W., soldier, born in North Carolina about 1800; died at Goliad, Texas, 27 March 1836o He was a captain in the Texan service in 1835, and on 28 October at the head of ninety men, with Captain Bowie, defeated a superior Mexican force near Bexar. General Houston soon afterward made him colonel of artillery and inspector general. In January 1836, he set out to reinforce Dr. James Grant, who was in command of an unauthorized expedition to Matamoras. At Refugio he learned of the destruction of Grant's party, and fell back to Goliad, which he put in a state of defense; but by Houston's order he marched toward Victoria and on 19 March was attacked on the Coleta River by a Mexican force under General Urrea.
Throwing up a breastwork of wagons, baggage, and earth, the Texans defended themselves with spirit until night interrupted the fighting, Colonel Fannin being among the wounded. The battle was renewed on the 20th, but the Mexicans having received a reinforcement of 500 men, with artillery, a capitulation was signed, by which it was agreed that the Texans should be treated as prisoners of war, and as soon as possible sent to the United States. After surrendering their arms they were taken to Goliad, where, on the 26th, an order was received from Santa Anna requiring them to be shot. At daybreak the next morning 357 of the prisoners, all of them but four physicians and their assistants, were marched out under various pretexts, and fired upon in divisions. Fannin was killed last. Many attempted to escape, and were cut down by the cavalry, but twenty-seven are believed to have eluded pursuit.
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