Battlefields and Rockets at Brownsville, Texas

March 10, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

For our Winter 2023 adventure, we came back to the Lone Star State, visited the southernmost fort, and found a Starbase... far out!.  

 

Goodbye Big RedGoodbye Big RedThe last gasp of our 2013 Ford F150 after compartment fire in Oklahoma.

 

But getting there was quite the task as we lost our truck in a blaze of glory along the way in Oklahoma (read more about that in our February newsletter here

That wasn't going to stop us though, as we were determined to travel south out of the Missouri Cold.

 

Kathy& Deb - Canton Trade DaysKathy& Deb - Canton Trade DaysKathy (right) and her Sister Deb at Canton Texas First Mondays Trade Days.

 

First things first, gotta experience First Mondays in Canton, Texas.  Always great to visit Kathy's sister Deb, and even better that she traveled with us to Canton. First Monday Trade Days, dubbed the World's Largest Flea Market, dates back to the 1850s when a judge made stops for court in Canton on the first Monday of each month. Citizens would gather around the courthouse, trade goods while they were in town on the square, and watch court proceedings and hangings for entertainment. The hangings and court watching stopped, but trading continued around the courthouse until 1965 when the city purchased 6 acres two blocks north of the courthouse and moved the event. According to organizers the event runs Thursday-Sunday (before the first Monday of the month) but will always be known as "First Monday Trade Days".  See more on their website here

 

On to Brownsville

Brownsville, TX - Colorful MuralBrownsville, TX - Colorful MuralA portion of a colorful street mural in downtown Brownsville, Texas. Photo by Carol Highsmith, 2014.

 

The land that includes Brownsville, Texas was part of a large land grant from the Spanish Government in 1804. Population in the area grew when the U.S. Government established Fort Texas, the first U.S. military post in the state, just months after Texas joined the Union in December of 1845. 

 

Brownsville, TX - Palo Alto Battlefield Highsmith2014Brownsville, TX - Palo Alto Battlefield Highsmith2014View of the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park in Brownsville, Texas. The park preserves the grounds of the May 8, 1846, Battle of Palo Alto, the first major conflict in a border dispute that soon precipitated the Mexican-American War. The United States Army victory here, and soon afterward at the battle of Resaca de la Plata a few miles away in what is now Brownsville, made the invasion of Mexico possible. The historic site portrays the battle and the war, and its causes and consequences, from the perspectives of both the United States and Mexico.

 

The first battle of the Mexican-American War occurred in May of 1846 when General and future U.S. President Zachary Taylor defeated the Mexicans at the Battle of Palo Alto. Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park preserves the site of this important battle and provides an understanding of the causes, events, and consequences of the U.S.-Mexican War. See more on their website here
 

 

Brownsville, TX - Fort BrownBrownsville, TX - Fort BrownSome of the buildings at Fort Brown in Brownsville, Texas. The fort was a military post of the United States Army in Texas during the latter half of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. In 1846, under orders from Zachary Taylor, Captain Joseph K. Mansfield built a star-shaped earthwork for 800 men called "Fort Texas" on the northern side of the Rio Grande, "by the order from General Taylor to command the city of Matamoros". The next year, the fort played a role during the opening of the Mexican-American War. During the Siege of Fort Texas, two Americans were killed, including Major Jacob Brown. In honor of the fallen major, General Zachary Taylor renamed the post Fort Brown. In 1849, the city of Brownsville, Texas, was established not far from the fort's grounds. Almost a century later, on Feburary 1, 1946, Fort Brown was decommissioned and turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers. It was acquired by the City of Brownsville in 1948 and became part of what is now the Texas Southmost College campus. Photo by Carol Highsmith.

 

After the battle, Fort Texas was renamed Fort Brown in honor of Major Jacob Brown, who was killed in its defense.

Brownsville was officially incorporated in 1850. With its location by the Rio Grande and Gulf of Mexico, the city was a major center for trade and businesses. This grew further with the opening of the Port of Brownsville in 1853. 

 

Brownsville, TX - Fort Brown Cavalry BuildingBrownsville, TX - Fort Brown Cavalry BuildingThe Cavalry Building, which served as barracks at Fort Brown in Brownsville, Texas, until World War I. The fort was a military post of the United States Army in Texas during the later half of 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. In 1846, under orders from Zachary Taylor, Captain Joseph K. Mansfield built a star-shaped earthwork for 800 men called "Fort Texas" on the northern side of the Rio Grande, "by the order from General Taylor to command the city of Matamoros". The next year, the fort played a role during the opening of the Mexican-American War. During the Siege of Fort Texas, two Americans were killed, including Major Jacob Brown. In honor of the fallen major, General Zachary Taylor renamed the post Fort Brown. In 1849, the city of Brownsville, Texas, was established not far from the fort's grounds. Almost a century later, on Feburary 1, 1946, Fort Brown was decommissioned and turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers. It was acquired by the City of Brownsville in 1948 and became part of what is now the Texas Southmost College campus. Photo by Carol Highsmith, 2014.

 

Federal troops left the fort with Texas' secession from the Union during the Civil War. It was then occupied by Confederate Colonel John "Rip" Ford and his troops until 1863 when Union forces finally drove them out under General Nathaniel P. Banks, who then camped in tents erected at the fort site. However, in 1864, Confederate forces under General J. S. Slaughter and Colonel Ford reoccupied the area and held the post until the war's end. In 1867, a permanent fort was constructed by the U.S. military. Regiments of Buffalo Soldiers were often assigned to the post. 

 

Buffalo SoldiersBuffalo SoldiersBuffalo Soldiers 1916.

On August 13 and 14, 1906, the Brownsville Affair occurred, in which several unknown individuals raided the city, indiscriminately shooting up the town, killing one man, and wounding another. The townspeople quickly blamed the black soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Brown, and when the Army investigated the matter, they came to the same conclusion. Secretary of War, William H. Taft, discharged all 168 black soldiers “without honor.”  It would be another 60 years before a second investigation was held, and the black soldiers had their honor restored. Only two of the original 168 men were alive by then. Historians believe that the real culprits who shot up the town used the same caliber ammunition as the soldiers to frame them.
 

 

Brownsville, TX - Fort Brown Champion HallBrownsville, TX - Fort Brown Champion HallChampion Hall, which served as the medical laboratory and isolation ward at Fort Brown in Brownsville, Texas, until World War I. The fort was a military post of the United States Army in Texas during the later half of 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. In 1846, under orders from Zachary Taylor, Captain Joseph K. Mansfield built a star-shaped earthwork for 800 men called "Fort Texas" on the northern side of the Rio Grande, "by the order from General Taylor to command the city of Matamoros". The next year, the fort played a role during the opening of the Mexican-American War. During the Siege of Fort Texas, two Americans were killed, including Major Jacob Brown. In honor of the fallen major, General Zachary Taylor renamed the post Fort Brown. In 1849, the city of Brownsville, Texas, was established not far from the fort's grounds. Almost a century later, on Feburary 1, 1946, Fort Brown was decommissioned and turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers. It was acquired by the City of Brownsville in 1948 and became part of what is now the Texas Southmost College campus. Photo by Carol Highsmith.

 

On April 20, 1915, the first U.S. military airplane to be attacked by hostile fire came from Fort Brown. The plane was looking to spot the movements of Mexican Revolutionary leader Francisco “Pancho” Villa. Though it did not cross the border into Mexico, it was fired upon by machine guns and small arms. Other tensions between countries and in the area led to Revolutionaries raiding Brownsville in 1916. Allegedly this was part of the Plan of San Diego, drafted by Mexican rebels in San Diego, Texas, whose ultimate goal was to regain Texas, along with New Mexico, Arizona and California for Mexico. 

 

Fort Brown - Gorgas HallFort Brown - Gorgas HallBuildings at Fort Brown, now used as part of a school.

 

Fort Brown remained active through World War II but was decommissioned in 1944. In 1948, the land was acquired by the City of Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. The fort buildings were sold or donated to various organizations and schools in the Brownsville area. Several buildings remain dating from the post-Civil War era, many located on the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost Jr. College campuses. A small portion of the earthwork fort remains as well.

See our story of Fort Brown Here

 

Brownsville, Tx SpaceX StarbaseBrownsville, Tx SpaceX StarbaseStarbase built by SpaceX just south of Brownsville.

 

While you are visiting Brownsville, be sure to visit Boca Chica Beach northwest of town. Right before you get to the beach you'll pass by Starbase, part of a sprawling aerospace facility owned by SpaceX. The company also has its tracking station next door.

 

BrownsvilleSpaceEXBrownsville SpaceXSpaceX at Boca Chica (south of Brownsville)

 

Then as you get closer to the beach you'll pass right by the launch facility, which during our visit was bustling with construction. 

 

SpaceX - Boca Chica Launch PadSpaceX - Boca Chica Launch PadBoca Chica Launch Pad, as seen from Boca Chica Beach, is part of SpaceX Starbase facility outside of Brownsville, Texas.

 

It made for some interesting views from Boca Chica beach.  Before you go, be sure to check the current road and beach closures around SpaceX here

 

South Padre Island TxSouth Padre Island TxWelcome to South Padre Island.

 

Speaking of beaches, don't forget South Padre Island is also not far from Brownsville :) 

 

Brownsville - Tropical Trails RV ResortBrownsville - Tropical Trails RV ResortBrownsville - Tropical Trails RV Resort

 

We stayed at Tropical Trails RV Resort while in the area. Would have enjoyed staying longer as they have a lot of activities and snowbirds to visit with. As a side note, it was windy during our stay, which seems to be the norm during this time of year. The annual average wind speed is 16mph. 

For more information on the sites to see and do in Brownsville, see Visit Brownsville Texas

Also See:

The Mexican-American War

Texas Forts of the Old West

 

Gulf Coast by SpaceXGulf Coast by SpaceX

Next up, we visit the birthplace of the nation known as Texas. 

 


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