Sunday, January 27, 2013

History under the Border Fence, Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park

Border Fence at Brownsville, Texas
Located on the north bank of the Rio Grand, a unique piece of shared history sits in exile stuck between two nations. Not much is left of the historic Fort Brown site other than a few earth works and a rich archaeological record. A vertical canon sticking out of the ground is the only clear evidence of the events that unfolded at this location. 

As part of military tradition, the vertical canon identifies the spot where Major Jacob Brown fell during the siege of Fort Texas. Following the battle the fort was renamed in his honor, as was the town of Brownsville, which developed around the fort.

Sitting between a fourteen-foot border fence and the Mexican border, this historic site rests in a kind of no-man’s land between two countries. The geographic situation presents a real challenge for both the historic preservation of the site and the interpretation of its lasting legacy.

The challenges Fort Brown faces today are fitting given its history. 

Palo Alto National Battlefield Park 
Visitor Center

Established in 1845 by Zachary Taylor’s Army of Occupation, the fort played a pivotal role of instigating a war with the neighbors just south of the U.S. border. Following the annexation of Texas and a few tense months on a disputed borderline north of the Rio Grande, hostilities broke out when a Mexican siege attacked the fort, resulting in the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma.

These events led to the U.S.- Mexican War, a war that would forever change the fortunes and futures of both nations. America would fulfill its manifest destiny, reaching to the Pacific Ocean, while Mexico was reduced to roughly half its size. 

Mexican Lines on the Palo Alto Battlefield

This unique chapter in the history of both nations can be experienced at the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, where the Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma battlefields are protected and interpreted for visitors.

What about Fort Brown?  

Stuck in the neutral zone between the border fence and Mexico, the fort is symbolic of a legacy shared by two nations, trapped behind a wall of ignorance and fear.

U.S. Lines on the Palo Alto Battlefield 

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