Surviving Goliad — the Story of John C. Duval
The slaughter of Colonel James W. Fannin’s troops in the Goliad Massacre, perpetrated three weeks after the fall of the Alamo, resulted in the single largest loss of life for the Texians during the Texas Revolution. The massacre galvanized citizens further to the cause of independence, and outraged Texians joined cries of “Remember the Alamo!” with “Remember Goliad!” as they charged across the field of battle at San Jacinto. For a lucky few at Goliad, some soldiers were able to escape the carnage. John C. Duval was one such man who made it to safety and was able to share his harrowing story of imprisonment and escape with future generations of Texans.
John C. Duval was college-educated, and descended from a distinguished family — his father served as the first U.S. territorial governor of Florida, and his family had ties going back to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In November 1835, John C. Duval volunteered for a company organized in Kentucky by his brother, Burr H. Duval, with the plan to go to fight in Texas. The company, known as the Mustangs, came under the command of Colonel James W. Fannin once they arrived in Texas. In 1892, Duval published his journal, Early Times in Texas, or, the Adventures of Jack Dobell, which detailed his imprisonment, escape, and eventual return to safety during the final month of the Texas Revolution.
According to Duval, in February of 1836, the men at Goliad were informed by “a Mexican from the Rio Grande” that Santa Anna was on the Texas border with a large army. Colonel Fannin received an order from General Sam Houston to retreat to Victoria just a few weeks later. Not long after Fannin’s company had begun their march to Victoria, they were pursued by an army of Mexican troops led by General José de Urrea. Surrounded on all sides and heavily outnumbered, Colonel Fannin surrendered, and terms of the capitulation were agreed upon near Coleto Creek. According to the written terms, Fannin’s men were to be treated as prisoners of war under international custom and would be released back to the United States.
John C. Duval and the remainder of Fannin’s men were brought back to Goliad where they were confined in Presidio la Bahía for the following week. He recalled that on the morning of March 27, 1836, a Mexican officer told the men “to get ready for a march. [They were] to be liberated on ‘parole,’ and that arrangements had been made to send [them] to New Orleans on board of vessels then at Copano.” Duval joined the division that was marched northwest “along the road leading to San Antonio.” Upon hearing “heavy firing of musketry in the directions taken by the other two divisions, [one of the men] exclaimed ‘Boys! They are going to shoot us!’ and at the same instant [John] heard the clicking of musket locks all along the Mexican line.”
Dodging the first round of fire and avoiding a close encounter with the end of a bayonet, John C. Duval was subsequently able to reach the San Antonio River without being struck by the barrage of bullets that followed. Duval and the few other men who escaped the massacre were heavily pursued by Mexican troops for the following days. The next month and a half was ultimately spent traveling on foot as he battled the harsh Texas frontier. Within his journal, John recounts adventures involving fellow Goliad survivors, a “Mexican lion,” Indians, rattlesnakes, and much more before he was able to reach civilization around May 4, 1836.
Records of John C. Duval’s service in the Republic of Texas Army and his escape from Goliad can be found in the Archives of the General Land Office. He received land certificates for his service, including a 640-acre Donation specifically for his service under Fannin at Goliad, and a 1,280-acre Bounty for the full term of his enlistment. He appears in the Muster Roll of the Republic of Texas as a Private serving under Fannin, and mention of his escape from the massacre appears in the “Remarks” column. Later in 1883 while living in El Paso County, he applied for and received an additional donation as a surviving veteran of the Texas Revolution.
After his brush with death at Goliad, John C. Duval lived a long, distinguished life. He served with Bigfoot Wallace and Jack Hays in the Texas Rangers and was a veteran of the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. His literary contributions, including Early Times in Texas, were said to have inspired the famous short story writer (and one-time GLO employee) O. Henry. Upon his death in 1897 at the age of 81, Duval was the last living survivor of the Goliad Massacre.
 The execution of the Texan soldiers, however horrific, was not without precedent. From the viewpoint of the Mexican Army, Santa Anna’s command was justified by a law of December 30, 1835, stipulating that any foreigners caught in the act of taking up arms against Mexico were to be considered pirates and summarily executed. Harbert Davenport and Craig H. Roell, “Goliad Massacre,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qeg02), accessed June 10, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
 J. Frank Dobie, “John C. Duval: First Texas Man of Letters,” Southwest Review Vol. 24, №3, Dallas, TX: Southern Methodist University, April 1939.
 John C. Duval, Early Times in Texas, or, the Adventures of Jack Dobell, ed. Mabel Major and Rebecca W. Smith, (Austin, TX: H.P.N. Gammel & Co., 1892; Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), XV.
 Ibid., 54.
 Ibid., 261.
 Ibid., 88.
 Ibid., 89–90.
 Ibid., XV.
 640-acre Donation certificates were issued for participating in any one of the following engagements: the Siege of Bexar, the Battle of the Alamo, the Goliad Massacre, and the Battle of San Jacinto. Bounty certificates were issued at the rate of 320 acres for every three months of service.
 Jay A. Stout, Massacre at Goliad, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2008, p. 212.