The Startup of 1836
There is a photography meetup group I belong to that has random events. Back in the Spring I went with them to see the Bald Eagles on the East side of town and wrote up an adventure called Urban Birding. Recently they sent out a mail about bird activity near the San Jacinto Monument. That sparked my interest; if you grew up in this area I am sure you have visited the monument as a child. And maybe even the Battleship of Texas which is nearby. Both are well worth a trip, birds or no birds.
It was a cloudy, overcast day and I got through the morning rush hour traffic surprisingly fast. Maybe all you working folks took off for the holidays. But, it is an easy drive and as I have said before, it is good for Houstonians to see and appreciate the East side of town. The wealth of the petrochemical and shipping industries is what keeps us going.
The San Jacinto Monument commemorates the battle that established the independence of Texas. Briefly, the story goes like this:
The early settlers of Texas had a charter from Spain and were initially treated very well, paying no taxes and generally left alone. Then, Mexico declared its independence from Spain and the new government had other ideas. Terms of the grants were changed, restrictions were placed on immigration and tariffs enacted. By 1833 there were over 30,000 colonists in Texas but the Mexican government would not allow statehood until the population reached 80,000. Great grumbling was heard in the land.
Things went from bad to worse with the Mexican government imprisoning Wm. B. Travis unjustly, and then a bitter dispute over possession of a cannon at Gonzales. The Texians (that is what they called themselves back then) raised an army and established a provisional government. And over the next 3 months, all the Mexican forces were repelled. But, after Texas declared its independence in March 1836, the Mexicans got serious about the uprising. Declaring and implementing are two different things even today. The Alamo was lost, and the Texians met defeat at Refugio and Goliad. Finally, the tide turned and the war ended at the Battle of San Jacinto where Santa Anna surrendered a superior force to General Sam Houston after a surprise attack. If you want to brush up on this part of Texas History, try this link about the Texas Revolution.
Did you know there is a reenactment of the Battle of San Jacinto every April? That might be fun to attend and photograph!
Ground was broken for the 567.31 (172,92m) high reinforced concrete, limestone faced column in 1936 as part of the Texas Centennial Celebrations. There is a museum at ground level that I remember visiting as a child. It had the coolest dioramas of tiny soldiers and twigs that explained the various battles for Independence.
I didn't go inside this visit; there were at least a dozen school buses there with lots junior high aged school kids. You wouldn't have gone inside either...
There is an elevator to the top where I think you can look out those windows. I never did that as a kid, and I am not positive they still work. Don't you know the view would be fantastic? I vaguely remember the monument viewing platform was closed after the sniper event at UT. Probably after 9/11 as well.
And there are some park roads that wind around to the mud flats where I hoped to find some birds. The park area is bounded by the Houston Ship Channel on one side, but actual battleground area is low and marshy. This is where Santa Anna's army got stuck in the mud as they tried to retreat. Santa Anna himself was supposed to be having a nap with a captured slave girl when the battle started; he was literally caught with his pants down. Locals know that story is the basis of the song The Yellow Rose of Texas. At least that is what I always heard.
This little bridge was closed to walkers, but not to the birds. Of course they all flew away as I edged closer! You think this bird photography is easy? They flew over to the mud flats and then proceeded to stay just out of range of my camera. There were Great Egrets and Godwits and even some American Avocets. You will just have to imagine.
Have you ever been to the San Jacinto Monument? Do you remember the dioramas in the museum? Did you ever take the elevator to the top?
Let me know in the comments. Click on the little balloon below and sign in as a Guest with a fake name or your real one.