Carlos de la Garza, who led a force of rancheros allied with Gen. José de Urrea's army and was responsible for Amon B. King's defeat in the battle of Refugio, was born at La Bahía presidio in 1807, the son of Antonio de la Garza, a soldier and rancher stationed at Goliad. As a young man Garza served in the Mexican army. He married in 1829 and that year or the next moved with his wife, Tomasita, to the family ranch established by his father at Carlos Crossing on the San Antonio River, on the Victoria-Refugio road about twelve miles below Goliad. On October 28, 1834, Garza obtained title as a Power and Hewetson colonist to a league of land, including the area of the old Garza ranch, bordering the San Antonio River in what is now Victoria County. A community called Carlos Rancho already had developed at Carlos Crossing, where Garza operated a commissary and supervised his extensive livestock holdings.
Although Garza was a sincere republican, he found himself unable to align himself with Texas when the Texas Revolution erupted. When Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos was at Refugio in September-October 1835, Garza, like many other prominent Mexican rancheros of the area, offered his services to the government. The capture of Goliad by George M. Collinsworth in October separated Garza from the Mexican government in Bexar, so he remained at the ranch to await the turn of events. He gave asylum to the Mexican citizens of Goliad as they gradually abandoned their town during the occupation of La Bahía presidio by Philip Dimmitt and especially James W. Fannin; several of Fannin's men apparently got drunk and terrorized the town. Since Garza gave these people asylum, his ranch came under Texan suspicion as a nest of spies. Fannin sent at least two expeditions against it, one of which captured several residents of Carlos Rancho.
In the spring of 1836 Garza, leading about eighty rancheros known as Victoriana Guardes, served as scouts and advance cavalry for Gen. José de Urrea's invading army. Most of these experienced horsemen had been forced to abandon Goliad and therefore resented Fannin's command. "He [Garza] and his men were `everywhere' after General Urrea came," wrote historian Harbert Davenport. Clearly, Fannin underestimated the importance of these people, who were very familiar with the countryside. In early March 1836 Garza's men raided Refugio, causing the confusion that prompted Colonel Fannin to dispatch a force under Amon B. King to evacuate the citizens there. Garza, however, forced King to take refuge in Nuestra Señora del Refugio Mission, leading Fannin to send William Ward and the Georgia Battalion to their rescue. In the resulting battle of Refugio, Garza and his men kept Ward and King besieged at the mission until Urrea's main force was able to defeat them. Garza's scouts also kept Fannin's movements under surveillance and so contributed to Urrea's success.
Thus Garza played a significant role in the events that disastrously divided Fannin's command and in those that led to the Mexican victory in the battle of Coleto. After Fannin's surrender, Garza was one of the prominent Mexicans consulted regarding the fate of certain colonists caught with Fannin's army. Among those spared from execution in the Goliad Massacre through Garza's influence were his neighbors James W. Byrne, John and Nicholas Fagan, Edward Perry, and Anthony and John B. Sydick, who were in Hugh McDonald Frazer's Refugio militia company.
After the Goliad campaign, Garza apparently retired to private life. Though somewhat resented for his role, he was not molested, evidently because of the general recognition that he had been sincere in his convictions. In the years after the revolution he was an important figure in the San Antonio-Guadalupe River area, particularly as the operator of a ferry at Carlos Crossing and as an Indian fighter. His ranch was a common refuge from Indians and desperados, and citizens of Goliad and Refugio retreated there during the 1842 invasions of Rafael Vásquez and Adrián Woll. Carlos Rancho served as the Refugio county seat several times during these episodes.
Garza aided Thomas O'Connor and others in driving the Karankawas out of this region of Texas after John Kemper was killed in 1845 (see KEMPER CITY, TEXAS). In an Indian fight, possibly in 1852 at Hynes Bay, Garza received an arrow wound that crippled him for the rest of his life, though he did not die until March 5, 1882. His wife survived him by several years. Both were buried on the ranch, a portion of which is still owned by descendants.
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Harbert Davenport, "Men of Goliad," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 43 (July 1939). John Crittenden Duval, Early Times in Texas, or the Adventures of Jack Dobell (Austin: Gammel, 1892; new ed., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986). Roy Grimes, ed., 300 Years in Victoria County (Victoria, Texas: Victoria Advocate, 1968; rpt., Austin: Nortex, 1985). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955). Kathryn Stoner O'Connor, The Presidio La Bahía del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, 1721 to 1846 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1966). Victor Marion Rose, History of Victoria (Laredo, 1883; rpt., Victoria, Texas: Book Mart, 1961).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Garza, Carlos de la,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 18, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
January 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
March 23, 2021
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