Palo Alto National Battlefield (RGV)…
Down in the southern most tip of Texas, in the RGV, is a small National Park that is really quite an interesting destination - The Palo Alto National Battlefield.
Before traveling to Texas and looking for all the National Parks that they offer, we had no knowledge of the battle that took place here, or the extent (time and distance) that the US-Mexican War covered.
This park is dedicated to the battle that happened on the grounds on May 8, 1846. The first major battle of the US-Mexican War. The visitor’s center is a small building with an informative film and displays that tell about both the battle that happened here, and the US-Mexican War in whole.
The US Fort Texas (now the present day location of Brownsville, TX) was being held under siege by Mexican General Mariano Arista. Fort Texas’ General Zachary Taylor (later to be President due to his popularity earned by war actions) left the fort with the majority of his army, and went to Port Isabel (25 miles away – a much further distance on horse than now by car!) to await a ship carrying the supplies that General Taylor would need to withstand the lengthy siege. General Arista couldn’t stop Taylor from leaving, so he waited for Taylor to return. When Taylor did return, along with 200-300 wagons full of supplies, enough for the fort to withstand siege for at least 4 months, Arista and his army were waiting for them on the edge of the Palo Alto prairie.
Outside is a walking route through the battlefield; it is not a very long walk at all (maybe 2 miles – it is not a loop, and does have some backtracking) that is level and paved. There are flags that mark the front lines (at the beginning of the battle) for each side, and some cannons that show where cannons were placed during the battle.
Since my guys are Civil War buffs, they found this plaque to be very interesting. Here they found out that the battle at Palo Alto was Ulysses S. Grant’s first service in action… Even though the Mexican army had 12 cannon to our 10, the battle was pretty one-sided; our cannons reached farther, and could be fired with better accuracy and speed than the Mexican cannons. In fact, the 2 armies never actually met on this field – no hand to hand combat, or musket shot – just mowing each other’s lines down with cannon balls. So 1-sided that at the end of the day, with the loss of 100 soldiers to our 9, the Mexican army retreated to Resaca de la Palma, a brush covered ravine, some 5 miles away (and 3 miles away from the Rio Grande River).
(here the battle would involve hand to hand combat in the dense thickets of this old riverbed. The US troops would force Arista’s army into a retreat across the Rio Grande, and there would not be another major Mexican attack in the area.) The landscape is much the same as it was at the time of the battle, though they say there are more desert plants… It was an interesting place to visit, and the walk through the battlefield was serene and scenic. A great destination if you find yourself in the RGV!
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