On the San Jacinto Battleground in 1836, Texas won its independence from Mexico with a crushing surprise attack by the Texan forces, whose battle cry was "Remember the Alamo!" To commemorate that victory, civic leaders in 1936 built a towering obelisk as tall as the Washington Monument but topped with a Texas Lone Star. In the base of the monument is a small museum of Texas history with some interesting exhibits, such as one about the relatively unsung Texas hero "Deaf" Smith, and a collection of watercolors of the Mexican War painted by Sam Chamberlain. There is also a small auditorium where you can watch a 35-minute documentary of the battle. If you would like to view some of the Port of Houston as well as the rest of the land for miles around, you can take the elevator up to the observation room in the top floor of the tower, which is more than 500 feet above the ground.
Across from the monument, in roughly the same place where the Texans began their advance, is the USS Texas. Built in 1914, before improvements in warplane technology made these large dreadnought battleships vulnerable, she is the last of her kind. Between the wars, the navy modernized the ship with antiaircraft and torpedo defenses, but it's still surprising that it survived World War II, having fought in both the Atlantic and the Pacific theaters. When you visit, you can clamber up to its small-caliber guns or onto the navigation bridge, inspect the crew's quarters, and check out the engine room. Life onboard was no picnic -- the quarters were cramped and facilities were minimal -- so it's interesting to learn that this ship was considered a lucky assignment. Plan on at least an hour to see the Texas, and as much again for the monument.
- © Frommer's 2013
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