José de Urrea
José de Urrea (March 19, 1797 – August 1, 1849) was a noted general for Mexico. He fought under General Antonio López de Santa Anna during the Texas Revolution. Urrea's forces were never defeated in battle during the Texas Revolution. His most notable success was that of the Goliad Campaign, in which James Fannin's 300 soldiers were surrounded and induced to capitulate under terms, but were massacred in Urrea's absence on the orders of Santa Anna.
Urrea was born at El Presidio de San Augustín de Tucson (present day Tucson, Arizona). Despite being born on the northern frontier of Mexico, his family had deep roots in the state of Durango.
In 1807 Urrea entered the Spanish army. In 1824 he rose to the rank of captain, but he resigned from the army and entered private life. In 1829 he rejoined the military as a major and helped to liberate the city of Durango, allying himself with Antonio López de Santa Anna. He was promoted to colonel for his actions. In 1835 he reluctantly took part in Santa Anna's attack on the state of Zacatecas (the state had openly rebelled against his rise to power). He was promoted to Brigadier General for his role in this.
When the Mexican state of Texas also revolted against Santa Anna's Centralist government, Urrea was sent there to help put down the colonists. He defeated the Texas forces at the Battle of San Patricio, Battle of Refugio, Goliad and Battle of Coleto. The last, also known as the "Goliad Massacre", included the deliberate slaughter of Texans who had surrendered. The execution of prisoners, however, was not Urrea's choice, but an order by General Santa Anna.
Due to Urrea's string of victories, Santa Anna decided to stay in Texas and personally finish off the rebellious Texas government. His motives were personal and political as Urrea was getting all the headlines and would be seen back in Mexico as a more popular figure.
The military defeat of Santa Anna's forces at the Battle of San Jacinto resulted in Santa Anna's capture, and him being forced to order all Mexican forces to withdraw from Texas soil. Urrea was infuriated and after linking up with Vicente Filisola's forces, wanted to continue the war against the Texans since the Mexicans still had over 2,500 troops in Texas against less than 900 of Sam Houston's Texans. But Urrea and Filisola had no choice but to comply with Santa Anna's orders, and by June, Urrea and all Mexican forces had withdrawn from Texas. In 1837, Urrea turned against Santa Anna upon his return to Mexico, and fought against him at the Battle of Mazatlán in 1838. The attempted uprising resulted in his eventual arrest, and he was sent to Perote Prison. He later revived his military career with the invasion of French forces into Mexico, and another failed coup attempt followed.
The Mexican-American War saw Urrea leading a cavalry division against invading American troops. Urrea died in 1849 of cholera shortly after the war ended.
Diary of the Military Operations of the Division which under the Command of General José Urrea Campaigned in Texas February to March 1836:
".......I was unable, therefore, to carry out the good intentions dictated by my feelings.....overcome by the difficult circumstances that surrounded me. I authorized the execution.....of thirty adventurers taken prisoners......setting free those who were colonists or Mexicans
.....These orders always seemed to me harsh, but they were the inevitable result of the barbarous and inhuman decree which declared outlaws those whom it wished to convert into citizens of the republic......I wished to elude these orders as far as possible without compromising my personal responsibility......They doubtlessly surrendered confident that Mexican generosity would not make their surrender useless, for under any other circumstances they would have sold their lives dearly, fighting to the last. I had due regard for the motives that induced them to surrender, and for this reason I used my influence with the general-in-chief to save them, if possible, from being butchered......"