As the sun slides down behind the barracks wall, I hear hammers nailing tent stakes into the ground. The hum of the air-conditioned port-a-potties outside the wall contrasts with the sound of the drummer practicing for tomorrow’s battle.
The modern pickup trucks seem out of place amidst the cannons and period tents.
The people gathered here are clearly from the 21st century, but tomorrow will be different. Now, they are members of the Crossroads of Texas Living History Association. Tomorrow, the pickups, cell phones and jeans-clad people will be replaced with gunshots, cannon fire and 1836 Texians.
There will be Mexican soldiers of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna battling the Texians under Col. James W. Fannin, for control of “Fort Defiance,” now known as Presidio La Bahia.
It will be March 26, 1836, and the battles will begin. By the next night, the Mexicans will be in control and the Texians will be prisoners.
The wounded will lie in the chapel in a make-shift hospital while a doctor tries desperately to save them with little water, few bandages, and no medicine.
The next day the unthinkable will happen.
All prisoners able to walk will be marched to a nearby creek.
Having been told previously that they would be sent to a waiting ship and released, the Texians offer no resistance.
As they approach the water, gunshots can be heard all around. One by one, the soldiers are massacred.
A few, lucky enough to crawl away and hide in the creek, will survive to tell the tale.
Back at the fort, the wounded are dragged out of the chapel and lined up against the side wall, where they, too, will be shot.
The leader of these brave men sits silently by, blindfolded, as he awaits his fate. He has been promised two things: that his belongings will be returned to his family, and that the Mexican soldiers will not shoot him in the face.
Neither of these promises is kept.
Fannin’s family never receives his personal effects, and they shoot him in the face.
A plastic Macy’s bag blows into the bastion where I stand observing the Friday-night preparations. It quickly jerks me back to the 21st century.
I will be among those reenactors next weekend. Dressed as a camp follower, my job will be to help cook lunch for the hungry soldiers after the morning’s battle.
Sunday, I will lead several tours around the compound, where visitors can observe scenes of different events that occurred during this time, including when two former classmates from a college in the States meet on different sides of the battle.
One, a Mexican officer will have to face his former friend, who is among the Texian prisoners.
Other skits include a discussion between Col. Fannin and the wife of a wounded Texian soldier, a heated discussion among the Mexican soldiers when a rider brings the orders to kill them all, and a visit to the chapel, where wounded soldiers lie in pain and thirst, begging for relief.
I invite you to attend this year’s reenactment of the massacre of Fannin’s men, held March 27 and 28.
It will be an entertaining and enlightening experience. It is impossible to witness the events of this battle without feeling a new respect for those who gave their lives so we could proudly say, “I am from Texas.”
For additional information on times and prices, visit www.presidiolabahia.org, or call 361-645-3752.
My name is Carol Riley Cain. I am a teacher, a writer, a paranormal investigator, and once a year, I am a historical reenactor. Those who know me know that I am usually in search of a ghost, and Presidio La Bahia is known to have its share, but that’s another story…