NOW ON EXHIBIT
From the Banks of the Sabine to the Rio Grande: A US Naval Presence since 1845
On June 16, 1845 Texas officially accepted the United States offer of Annexation. Due to rumblings of disapproval by Mexico, President James K. Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor to organize an army in the Corpus Christi area. Upon landing at St. Joseph’s Island, General Taylor would plant the United States flag on the beach. This was the first time a United States flag was flown on Texas soil. Commodore David Conner was placed in charge of the Gulf Squadron, thus marking the United States Navy entry into Texas history, the beginning of a relationship over 160 years old.
During the Civil War, the U.S. Navy took an active role along the Texas Coast through blockading. Liberty ships for transport would be constructed at Heldenfels Shipyard, Rockport, during World War I. World War II witnessed the pinnacle of U.S. Navy involvement on the coast as several coastal gun emplacements were utilized, subchasers were constructed, and Naval Aviators were trained at bases along the Coastal Bend. During the 1980’s Naval Station Ingleside was constructed and the Mine Warfare Training Center was established. Due to cutbacks this base would close under BRAC (Base Re-Alignment Commission) recommendations. The Navy’s presence is still strong on the coast with Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, and Naval Air Station Kingsville continuing their tradition of training Naval Aviators.
I must go down to the sea again, To the lonely sea and sky, And all I ask is a tall ship, And a star to steer her by… John Mansfield, 1902
North, South, East, West. The cardinal directions are a constant in our lives, but journey back to a time before direction. On land direction can be established by referring to a mountain, towards the sun, or away from the sea. Now place yourself in the middle of the Atlantic. What do you see? Ocean, sky…now head West. How would you know where to go?
These are the conditions early explorers faced.
Until the invention of electronic navigation equipment in the past 100 years, the stars have been the guiding factor in the creation of navigational tools. Devices such as the Cross Staff and the Astrolabe evolved from instruments used for the practice of astronomy, the study of the universe based on the behavior of astronomical objects. Explorers learned to use those same tools to measure the distance between the horizon line and the North Star, providing them with their location in an infinite ocean.
As expeditions traveled farther, the accurate measure of time became of great importance to maritime navigators. While latitude (North to South) could be accurately measured, the precise measure of longitude (East to West) is not calculated until the late 18th century with the invention of the Chronometer, a precise time keeping devise that could withstand the humidity and movement of an ocean voyage.
Journey through the timeline of maritime navigational tools and place yourself in the path of the explorers.