Tucson, Arizona

Day 620

     Rae G. Whitley is the founder and director of the Museum of The Horse Soldier, which he opened in 2011. The museum is a tribute to the U.S. Military mounted services from inception to the present, which also includes mules. He is a fascinating man with a vast knowledge of the history of horse (and mule) soldiers. We were fortunate to be the only ones there on this particular day, so we got a personal tour. He explained and showed us all about saddles, how the soldiers cared for the horses, and military protocol in relation to the soldier and his horse.


     On display he showed us the only compete Rough Rider uniform in the US, belonging to Wallace Nutting Batchelder. Rae explained why this is the only one in the Country, as well as who was Wallace Batchelder. 


     He spent over an hour talking to us, and we were spellbound.

     The McClellan Cavalry Saddle was designed by Captain George McClellan. It was adopted as the official troop saddle of the U.S. Army in 1859. The McClellan saddles were used from the Civil War through World War II. Simple, lightweight, durable and inexpensive to manufacture, the saddle was ideal for Calvary use. 

     All McClellan saddles have a deep gullet and a large open slot in the saddle tree. Do you know why?

Technical Stuff:

Las Cruces, New Mexico to Tucson, Arizona: 261.1 miles

4 hours 54 minutes

10.9 MPG

Diesel: $2.76

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Day 617

     We are back in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to visit bridge friends from Maryland. You can read about Las Cruces in my post of Day 498. (Isn’t this great, I now know how to link to a previous post).

     They live on top of a ridge overlooking the city.

     In their back yard are birds of the area, including the State bird of New Mexico, The Road Runner;

     as well as hawks


     In town, we saw the Big Chile of the Big Chile Inn:

Technical Stuff:

Fort Stockton, Texas to Las Cruces, New Mexico: 291 miles

6 hours 5 minutes

10.2 MPG

Diesel: $3.06

Fort Stockton, Texas

Day 615

     In the 17 & 1800’s The Great Comanche War trial came through this area. It was supported by a Spring named Comanche Springs, of course.

     In 1859 to protect the Military Road from San Antonio across West Texas, the army was looking for an outpost between Fort Davis and Fort Lancaster. Comanche Springs provided the perfect location and on March 23, 1859, Fort Stockton was founded. It was named for Commodore Robert Field Stockton, a hero of the California phase of the Mexican War.

     After abandoning the Fort to Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, who did not maintain it as it was too far West, the U.S. Army re-established Fort Stockton in July 1867 at the request of the settlements who wanted protection from raiding Indians. Garrisoned by four companies of the 9th U.S. Cavalry, Fort Stockton was home to the ex-slaves and black enlisted men known as Buffalo Soldiers. They got that name from the Indians who likened their hair to that of a buffalo’s neck and shoulders.

     The Fort had no walls or parapets. Back in those days, there were no trees or brush around the fort, just wide-open prairie.  You could see the dust of approaching riders from 10 miles away.

     The U.S. Army abandoned the fort for good on June 26, 1886, when the frontier and Indian Wars moved west beyond Texas. The community that had sprung up around the fort in the late 1860s lived on, though, nourished by Comanche Springs. 

     This wagon was used in the John Wayne movies “The Comancheros” and “Undefeated”.

     The town’s super-sized roadrunner mascot, Paisano Pete, although the roadrunner is the State Bird of New Mexico:

     Ok, What is this?

Technical Stuff:

Elmendorf, Texas to Fort Walton, Texas: 319.9

6 hours 2 minutes

9.0 MPG

Diesel: $2.69


Riverwalk, San Antonio, Texas

Day 614

     Paseo del Río, or River Walk, is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath the streets of San Antonio.

     In September 1921 a flood along the San Antonio River took 50 lives. Plans were then developed for flood control of the river. Work began on the Olmos Dam and bypass channel in 1926. So that is 5 years of bureaucratic talk.

     Born in San Antonio on February 8, 1902, Robert Harvey Harold Hugman became an architect.  In 1929 Hugman introduced a proposal called “The Shops of Aragon and Romula,” a beautification and flood-control plan for the heart of the city. It only took 10 years to get approval and funding, those bureaucrats, again. He was made project manager, and is now acknowledged as “the Father of the River Walk”.

     The River Walk is 2.5 miles and is lined with hotels, restaurants, and a variety of shops.

     Bridges allow you to get from one side to the other, and boat tours are available day and night. 

     We did walk the streets of Laredo 

     We also attended San Antonio, the Saga, which is a video art projected on the face of San Fernando Cathedral, in San Antonio.

     After dark, laser light were displayed on the church facade

     It told the history of San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas

Day 613

     Although the Alamo was the defining moment of the Texas Revolution, it was not the beginning. The first shot was at The Battle of Gonzales on October 2, 1835, the first military engagement between rebellious Texian settlers and a detachment of Mexican army soldiers.

     In 1831, Mexican authorities gave the settlers of Gonzales a small cannon to help protect them from frequent Comanche raids. As contentions grew between Mexico and Texas, Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea, the commander of all Mexican troops in Texas, felt it unwise to leave the residents of Gonzales with a weapon and requested the return of the cannon. 

     In response, the Texians raised a homemade white banner with an image of the cannon painted in black in the center, over the words “Come and Take It”. The makeshift flag evoked the American Revolutionary-era slogan “Don’t Tread on Me”.

     Texans then fired their cannon at the Mexican camp. Two Mexican soldiers were killed, and with no orders to fight, the Mexican’s left, with no Texan casualties.

     Although the skirmish had little military significance, it marked a clear break between the colonists and the Mexican government and is considered to have been the start of the Texas Revolution.

     Mission San Antonio de Valero became an official military installation in 1803 when it became the barracks of the Spanish Army. From that time until 1877 it was a military base for any government seeking to control Texas. 

       One of the first companies to be assigned here was the mounted lancers from Álamo de Parras, designated as the “Flying Company” because their mobility made it possible for them to respond rapidly to the threat of attack by Comanche or other Indian raiders. 

       It wasn’t until 1850, during US War with Mexico, when the US Army inhabited the Alamo that they added the famous curved parapet. It was not present at the Battle of the Alamo (which is probably why you did not recognize Mission San Antonio de Valero when I posted it’s picture).

     Let’s face it, most of our knowledge of The Texas Revolution and The Alamo comes from Walt Disney. He brought to our attention Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William B. Travis. But what about the other 186 men who died at The Alamo, like Charles Zanco?

     Charles Zanco was born in Randers, Denmark, in 1808. Zanco and his father emigrated to America in 1834 after the death of Charles’s mother. They settled in Harris County, Texas. The Zancos were farmers, and Charles was also a painter. In the fall of 1835 Zanco joined the first volunteers at Lynchburg for service in the Texas Revolution. He served under Lt. Col. James Clinton Neill, the 45-year-old North Carolinian at the Battle of Gonzales a few weeks earlier, as I noted above.

     Zanco helped design the company’s flag, which featured a painted star and the legend, “Independence.” Zanko was the first person ever to paint a Lone Star on a Texan flag.

     Zanco entered the Alamo on February 23, 1836, as the Mexican Army was approaching. He died defending the Alamo on March 6, 1836, at age 28. So, it appears, that Charles Zanko, not even an American Citizen, is responsible for Texas being called “The Lone Star State”.

     After the Alamo was over run, Santa Ana ordered all the bodies of the defenders placed in a pile and burned. A year later those ashes were gathered and in 1938 placed in this tomb at San Fernando Cathedral, in San Antonio.

     A year later? Really? I bet there is at least one rodent’s ashes in there.  

     Of course, they do have a tribute to John Wayne.

Missions of San Antonio, Texas

Day 612

     In 1493 Pope Alexander VI divided the known world between Spain and Portugal and gave the Spanish king authority to occupy the Americas. From the 1500’s to the 1800’s Spain controlled the largest empire in the world. However by the early 1700’s France was encroaching on Spanish claimed lands in what is now Texas.

     Spain had tried to colonize the area, but Spaniards were not interested. Spain came up with the idea to make the local Indians Spanish citizens and thereby populate the area with tax paying people. The Payaya were the local indigenous people whose territory encompassed the area of present-day San Antonio, Texas.

     To become a citizen the Indians must first become catholics. To that end Franciscan monks were sent here to build missions for that purpose.

     This area was first exploded by the Spaniards in 1691. San Antonio, and the San Antonio River, were named by that expedition for Saint Anthony of Padua. The colonial settlement began here on May 1, 1718 with the founding of the Franciscan Mission San Antonio de Valero.

     In vicinity of the Mission was the Presidio (a fortified military settlement) San Antonio de Bexar, named for one of the great heroes of Spain, Due de Bexar. The place was named San Fernando de Bexar in 1731, when it became a municipality, but the locals still called it San Antonio, Spanish for “Saint Anthony”. Today it is San Antonio in the County of Bexar.

     The mission community was part of Spain’s plan to protect her interests and educate and convert the Indians. The missions were more than churches, they were fortified communities.

     The compound walls that surrounded the church provided protection from raiding Apaches and Comanches and created a secure space in which to live, work, and attend church.

     Spain built 43 missions in what is now the State of Texas. Six of those missions are along the San Antonio River, of which the first was San Antonio de Valero. By 1739, 300 Indian converts lived in that compound.

     Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo was the second of the six missions and named for the Spanish Governor of the providence at the time who approved the building of the mission. 

     It was well fortified, with gun ports at the entrance gate

and along all the walls. The walls also encased the living quarters of the Indians. It was two stories, the top with musket ports, and the lower for cannon:

     Mission San Juan Capistrano was named for Giovanni di Capistrano, the Franciscan priest who commanded the Christian forces that pushed the Turks back from Hungary in 1456. He died of the plague after this successful campaign. (Isn’t that where the birds go?)

      Mission Concepción de Acuña: This mission was named in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Juan de Acuña, the Marqués de Casafuerte. The Marqués was Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico). Originally founded in 1716 in what is now eastern Texas, the mission was one of the six authorized by the government to serve as a buffer against the threat of French incursion into Spanish territory from Louisiana.

     Mission San Francisco Xavier de Nájera was established in 1722 at the request of the chief of a band of Rancheria Grande natives who had guided an expedition to reopen the Missions of East Texas. No permanent buildings were established (hence nothing to take a picture of). By 1726, Mission San Francisco Xavier de Najera was abandoned and the remaining inhabitants were absorbed into Mission San Antonio de Valero

     Mission San Francisco de la Espada was the final mission of the six. On March 5, 1731, Mission San Francisco de la Espada was established along the banks of the San Antonio River.

     The inside of all the missions looked pretty much the same. 

     Like the other missions, the walls surrounding the courtyard housed the living quarters of the Indians. 

     This was rugged wilderness at the time, but those Franciscan monks sure new how to live in comfort:

      Now that you know all about the missions, which one do we now know as “The Alamo”?

Elmendorf, Texas

Day 611

     Elmendorf, Texas, was founded in 1885 and named after Henry Elmendorf, a former mayor of San Antonio. Born April 7, 1849 and died 52 years later. We are staying here because it is just outside San Antonio, Texas.

Technical Stuff:

Alleyton, Texas to Elmendorf, Texas: 132.3 miles

2 hours 42 minutes

9.2 MPG

Diesel: $2.65