San Patricio, Battle of

By: Keith Guthrie

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: August 4, 2020

The battle of San Patricio was an outgrowth of the Matamoros expedition of 1835–36. Shortly after the defeat of Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos at the Alamo there was a clamor among newly arrived volunteers from the United States to mount a campaign to strike a crippling blow on the Mexican army in their homeland. This tied in with crosscurrents of a revolt against Antonio López de Santa Anna in Mexico. Liberal forces at the Consultation, who were aligned with Mexican liberals, somehow managed to send Stephen F. Austin to the United States as a commissioner and deprive Gen. Sam Houston of power by appointing Col. James W. Fannin, Jr., as the General Council's agent, with similar powers given to Houston. Simplified, the problem facing the new Texas government was one of supply. Houston proposed to concentrate forces at port El Cópano in order to be able to control supplies to Texas and also to withhold them from any Mexican army. The picture was further clouded by Dr. James Grant and Col. Francis W. Johnson, who set up an independent Matamoros expedition under their private control, with the approval of the Council. After raiding supply warehouses in San Antonio, Grant moved to Goliad and took horses and other supplies from Philip Dimmitt's command. Houston spoke to assembled troops in Refugio and convinced some of the men under Johnson and Grant that the Matamoros expedition was folly. Johnson and Grant took the remaining men, estimated at from sixty to 100 by historians, to San Patricio. Grant learned that Capt. Nicolás Rodríguez was in the area with a few men. He surprised them and took the prisoners and their horses to San Patricio, where in a few days the prisoners escaped. In order to get more horses the Texans went all the way to the Santa Rosa Ranch (near the site of present-day Raymondville). Johnson took the horses and returned to San Patricio while Grant sought additional horses. Upon his return Johnson sent horses to the ranch of Julián de la Garza about four miles south of San Patricio. The men divided up, with Captain Pearson and eight men camping on the public square and the rest in three different houses. Gen. José de Urrea, through a network of spies, had kept track of the Johnson-Grant forces and had left Matamoros with about 400 men. Upon learning that Johnson was camped at San Patricio, he put his men through a forced march during a bitterly cold, wet night and arrived at San Patricio at 3:00 A.M. on February 27. His first action was to send thirty men under Capt. Rafael Pretala to the ranch where the horses had been taken. In the attack four men were killed and eight taken prisoner. In San Patricio Urrea reported sixteen killed and twenty-four taken prisoner. Johnson and four men quartered with him managed to escape and made their way back to Goliad. Legend tells the story that Urrea sent word ahead to loyalists to leave a light burning in their homes and they would not be molested. It so happened that Johnson was working late—with a light. Of the thirty-four Texans at San Patricio eight were killed, thirteen taken prisoner, and six escaped. At least seven of them were Mexicans. Possibly two other Texans, whose names have not been uncovered, were also killed. Urrea reported that "the town and the rest of the inhabitants did not suffer the least damage." McGloin reported that those killed were "interred next day by the Rev. T. J. Malloy in the church yard of the same place." Legend also tells that the dead were buried in the Old Cemetery on the Hill. On March 2 Urrea's men ambushed Grant's men near a creek crossing at Agua Dulce; all except six were killed or captured. Grant was killed. Urrea remained camped somewhere in the vicinity of San Patricio until March 12, when he took some of the cattle, arms, and ammunition that Grant and Johnson had gathered.

Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). Harbert Davenport, "Men of Goliad," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 43 (July 1939). Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898). Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Keith Guthrie, History of San Patricio County (Austin: Nortex, 1986). Rachel Bluntzer Hébert, The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1981). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Antonio López de Santa Anna et al., The Mexican Side of the Texan Revolution, trans. Carlos E. Castañeda (Dallas: Turner, 1928; 2d ed., Austin: Graphic Ideas, 1970). Henderson K. Yoakum, History of Texas from Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846 (2 vols., New York: Redfield, 1855).

Time Periods:

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Keith Guthrie, “San Patricio, Battle of,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 4, 2020