Refugio to Zapata: Texans at War
War has always played a major role in shaping the state’s history.
Texans served in the Texas Revolution, of course, and in the Mexican American War, the Civil War, both World Wars, and every conflict since.
Along with hosting our veterans, Texas is home to military facilities that are often the driving economic force in many of our communities. To explore the legacy left by our war veterans you might travel a route beginning in Refugio, site of the Battle of Refugio, a Texas Revolution watermark with significant consequences. Historical markers throughout the Refugio community commemorate our fallen including the final resting place of Amon Butler King and his men who were executed by the Mexican army. Refugio survived, however, and offers a lot of our early military history to explore in a single afternoon. The battle weary may want to take a break and visit the Braman Winery Tasting Room downtown while contemplating the transformation of the winery owners, a south Texas ranching family, from cowkeepers to vintners.
Down the road and to the coast, the island town of Port Aransas provides an opportunity to explore a war veteran of another sort—the Lydia Ann Lighthouse. The brick lighthouse, completed in 1857 and designed to guide ships through Aransas Pass, entered the Civil War soon after it began, vacillating between Union and Confederacy control until Confederate General John B. Magruder ordered its destruction. Two kegs of exploding powder damaged much of the brickwork and most of the staircase. Today, fully restored although in private hands, great views of the lighthouse can be seen from a kayak along the Lighthouse Lakes Paddling Trail.
Neighboring Corpus Christi casts a wide net when commemorating our military heritage, particularly with the U.S.S. Lexington, the record-setting World War II aircraft carrier that Tokyo Rose called “The Blue Ghost.” Heroism and sacrifice are on display here across the carrier’s 11 decks, and touring programs include an overnight onboard for kids. See the stuff of more ancient wars at the Corpus Christi Museum of History and Science.
Driving southwest to Hebbronville introduces survivors of another kind of battle altogether. Scotus College, a handsome three-story structure built in the Spanish Colonial vernacular, once housed Franciscans escaping the persecution of anti-clerical provisions in Mexico, which led to the Cristero War. Westward to Zapata, the river border town, landmarks the nearby headquarters of what was once the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande, all chronicled in artful exhibits at the Zapata County Museum of History. Today, revolutionaries are replaced with anglers and birders, and history enthusiasts looking for Texas adventure and the bragging rights they will take home.