Fort Sam Houston Quadrangle, Texas

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Quadrangle Tower

I need to make a post dedicated to this particular site. Yes, it is part of Fort Sam Houston but the historical significance of this compound is important enough to have a blog of its own. To begin our story, Deelow and I had explored this part of the Fort, and the tower located the quadrangle was our main clue on how to get there. We went back and forth inside the outside the Fort and finally saw the road leading to it.

We visited the different buildings surrounding it, and the information about those was located on my previous posts. We have to venture two times to the quadrangle because the first one we got there a few minutes before it closed and the second time we had the entire to look around and explore its surroundings.

The first visit, Deelow and I parked on the parking and we were not surprised that there were few vehicles parked. We first looked at the military vehicles displayed on the lot. We took our time there not knowing that our time was limited.

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M-1905 Field Gun

M-1905 Field Gun 3″ Towed on M-1902 carriageAdoption of the 3″ field gun in 1902 gave the US Army its first rapid fire, breechloading gun with a hydrospring recoil system capable of indirect fire. The complete gun section included the gun and a caisson with 70 rounds of fixed ammunition.

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M-56 Howtzer

M-56 Howtzer 105MM Towed (Yugoslavia)Based on the German M18/40 Light Field Howitzer used in World War II. This gun was probably sold to Iran, then captured by Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. It was damaged in a firefight with US forces in February 1991 north of Kuwait City and abandoned. Recovered by Maj Charles Meade, TASK FREEDOM, for Fort Sam Houston.

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M-48 Medium Tank

M-48 Medium Tank 90MM “Patton”Introduced in 1953 as part of a “family” of tank designs. The elliptical hull and turret provided greater armor protection while the M-41 90mm gun increased offensive power. Variants of the M-48 series saw service in Europe, the Middle East and Vietnam.

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M-5 Antitank Gun

M-59 Armored Personnel CarrierIntroduced in 1953 to provide armor protected mobility to infantry squad operating with tanks. Variants included cargo carrier, ambulance, mortar carrier and reconnaissance vehicle.

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M-5 Antitank Gun

M-5 Antitank Gun 3″ TowedWhen a larger caliber antitank gun was needed to defeat German tanks, the Army mounted a high-velocity 3″ antiaircraft gun on the carriage of the M-2 105mm howizter, adding a shield to protect the crew. Adopted in 1942, the M-5 was used in towed Tank Destroyer battalions. Its prime mover was the M-3 Halftrack. After the war, many were converted to salute guns.

After taking pictures we went to the entrance and to our disappointment the hours are 8am to 6pm and its already 5:55pm. The place was almost closing that the person at the entrance wasn’t even there. We still decided to go in and we saw her at the quadrangle sweeping or she was cleaning something. She approached us and nicely said that they are almost closing and we were allowed to stay to take a few shots. She even volunteer to take our pictures to get it over with and we couldn’t say no. I was interrupted by the walking peacocks around the area that I wanted to chase them unfortunately we have to leave and come back again.

After a couple of days we finally had the chance to come back and we did it a little earlier to be certain. Wearing our Navy and Airforce working uniforms we went in free and walked around. The first thing I did was take a picture of the big sign with the information about the quadrangle, and here is the history of the place.

The Quadrangle: Hub of military activity in Texas

After the Army arrived in San Antonio in 1845, facilities were stablished in San Antonio to command and support military operations in Texas. Headquarters for the Department of Texas were in the Vance Building. The Quartermaster Depot was in the Alamo. After the Civil War, the Army considered moving out of San Antonio but a gift of land by the city allowed the Army to stay. Construction on a new Quartermaster Depot was begun in 1876 on what would be called “Government Hill.”

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Quadrangle Tower through the years

The new building was constructed in the shape of a hollow square (a quadrangle) with storerooms on the ground floor on the east, west and south sides. The storerooms had more than 50,000 square feet of storage space. Along the north wall were blacksmith and wheelwright shops, with stables and corrals beyond that. Offices for the staff were built in the second story of the south side, taking up about one third of the building’s 624-foot width. The Quadrangle enclosed an area of almost nine acres. Construction was completed in 1877.

Finishing the inscriptions of the sign we went to the tower and took a photo of us standing with it. Then we saw the Visitor Center and decided to visit it first before exploring outside.

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Visitor Center

We went in and saw some exhibits of uniforms and items belonging to the Army, while information where mostly on the walls. The first information highlighted that San Antonio is a military city and point out other historical buildings related to the military around the city. Then I went to look at a sword by the Dragoons.

The Dragoons -The first U.S. Army soldiers to arrive in San Antonio were members of the Second Regiment of Dragoons. A type of heavily-armed cavalry, the Dragoons carried this saber. It was so heavy it was nicknamed “the wrist-breaker.”

When required to carry the saber while not on horseback, the Dragoons used white buff-leather belts and slings. The rectangular eagle belt buckle initially was for all soliders, but was later worn only by officers.

Shell Jacket – This short, “undress” jacket was worn for virtually all purposes except formal ones – fatigue duty, foraging, and fighting. It was considered a more casual and comfortable uniform than the skirted frock coat. This is the type of jacket worn by the U.S. Army during the Mexican War.

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Patches

Sack Coat, Infantry Sergeant – This loosely-fitted coat with a five-button front eventually took the place of the shell jacket as the routine work uniform. Evolving through number of pockets, color and type of fabric, the sack coat’s basic design has been used up to the Battle Dress Uniform.

Changing from buttons to zipper and Velcro closures (and more pockets), the basic design is still in use as Army Combat Uniform. The three chevrons is the insignia of the sergeant. Their blue color shows that the wearer belonged to the Corps of Infantry.

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Army covers
  • Dragoon forage cap – with folded-up havelock which would protect the neck from the sun.
  • Cavalry dress helmet – worn for decoration only. Made of pasteboard, it offered little protection from the weather and none in combat.
  • Campaign cap – worn in the field and combat, it protected from sun and rain, but not bullets.
  • M-1 Helmet – designed to be worn in combat, although it was frequently worn for ceremonial purposes too.

There is more information about the quadrangle that I will explain later. After looking around the Army’s uniforms we head back outside to see the tower up close. We looked around and took a couple of shots with the building. I tried opening the door but it was locked so I could only took pictures through the glass windows.  But what was the purpose of the tower? Here is a brief history of how this prominent landmark came to be.

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Fort Sam Tower

Tower

“Plans for the Quandrangle included a 90-foot stone tower with a station at the 60-foot level for a watchman and a water tank in the top. The Depot required water for the horses and mules and for fire fighting. Two cisterns augmented the tank in the tower and was completed in 1877. In 1882, the tower tank was replaced by a clock and this clock was replaced in 1907 and the clock face was changed to the way it looks today.”

Now that we learned more about the tower, we went to another marker which gives us an insight to the quadrangle’s most famous prisoner the Native American leader Geronimo. There were a lot of legends surrounding Geronimo and his days at the quadrangle, and so here are the given facts then the stories.

Geronimo

“On September 1886, after a grueling campaign across the Southwest, Geronimo surrendered to General Nelson Miles in Arizona and was ordered sent to Florida as a prisoner of war. He and 32 other Apaches departed Arizona by train on the 8th. Citizens of Arizona demanded Geronimo be returned to stand trial for murder and other crimes committed after his escape from the reservation.

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Geronimo

President Cleveland initially wanted to turn Geronimo over to the civil authorities, but General Miles insisted that the Apaches be treated as prisoner of war. President Cleveland ordered the train stopped at the nearest military post until he could settle the issue. The train stopped in San Antonio on 10 September and the Apaches were brought to the Quadrangle. They were kept there because the Guardhouse on what is now called the Infantry Post was not completed.

On 19 October 1886, the Secretary of War announced that the government would honor the terms of the surrender to Miles and that Geronimo and the male Apaches would be sent to Fort Pickens, Florida, the women and children were to be sent to Fort Marion. They left San Antonio on 22 October. After two years at Fort Pickens, Geronimo and his group were transferred to Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama. In 1894, they were transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Geronimo died there in 1909.

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Geronimo at the fort

Local legend asserts that Geronimo jumped from the tower. The observation platform is sixty feet from the ground. If Geronimo jumped from that height, he would be going 62 feet per second or 42 miles per hour upon impact with the ground, striking with a force of about 9,610 foot-pounds. Could he have survived a jump from that height?”

I doubt that he ever did that jump because it’s just too impossible in my opinion. I guess that’s where they got the habit of shouting “Geronimo!” every time they were jumping somewhere high like in diving board or waterfalls. Anyway beside its most famous prisoner the quadrangle is like a park and zoo with the animals walking beside you!

We were also surprised of the abundant animals roaming around free. The peacock we first saw on our first visit still astounds me, because I rarely see one free. I took a photo of it while Deelow pose with some of deers running around, drinking and in the pond and eating the grasses. Just like Geronimo the animals have their own legends.

The Quadrangle Animals

“For more than a hundred years, the Quadrangle has been known for its collection of deer and peacocks. The actual date and reason for their introduction into the Quadrangle has not been determined. Local folklore and legend attricutes their introduction to the arrival of Geronimo in 1886 but documentation for their introduction has never been found. As the story goes, Geronimo and the other Apaches did not like the Army rations they were fed during their stay in the Quadrangle.

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Deers

To provide a more suitable form of nourishment, the Army provided venison in the form of deer on the hoof. Newspaper reports from the period do state that the Apaches were hungry upon arrival in San Antonio and requested fresh meat. But it was further reported that they were provided with a fresh side of beef, not venison.

There is no mention of deer or venison in the newspapers during Geronimo’s stay in the Quadrangle and none of the photographs of Geronimo or the other Apaches include any deer. The first mention of deer in the Quadrangle occurs in the 15 December 1890 issue of the San Antonio Daily Light.

This would seem to prove that the legend is not based on fact. The earliest photos of fowl are of chickens and ducks from the late 19th century.  The earliest known photos of peacocks date from the period 1916-20. Other fowl have been introduced, including swans, geese, wild turkeys and guinea fowl. In 1899, an alligator was included in the animal population but it froze to death.”

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Peacock

So there it is no clear evidence about the legends Geronimo and his men hunting those animals for food to survive, they are added to the quadrangle later on. But it was a nice addition because you can feel the solitary of the enclosed quadrangle with those rare animals roaming freely. We felt accomplished after completing our tour around the tiny part of the huge Fort Sam and learning about Geronimo and his brief stay there. After our little tour of the quadrangle Deelow and I decided its time to go out and change to our civilian clothing and explore the other parts of San Antonio.

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Say Cheez!

 

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