FORT LIPANTITLÁN. Fort Lipantitlán (meaning "Lipan land") was conceived about 1825 by José M. J. Carbajal. The site, now in northwestern Nueces County, was that of camping grounds of the Lipan Apache Indians on the west bank of the Nueces River about three miles upstream from the old town of San Patricio, which is on the east side of the river.
At the site a number of ancient trails beaten by game animals, Indians, and explorers crossed. An old presidio was also reportedly there as early as 1734 but had completely vanished. Mexican general Manuel de Mier y Terán, acting on the orders to restrict Anglo immigration into Texas, commissioned the fort and placed Capt. Enrique Villareal in command. He served until 1835, when he was relieved by Capt. Nicolás Rodríguez.
Author John Linn wrote, "The fort was a simple embankment of earth, lined within by fence-rails to hold the dirt in place, and would have answered tolerably well, perhaps, for a second-rate hog pen." After its construction it was garrisoned with from eighty to 120 men; however, many times the complement was much less. Each of the four parapets was designed for one cannon, but it is doubtful if the fort was ever fully armed. Evidently several buildings and at least one barracks were built surrounding the embankments. James McGloin, in his account of the battle of Lipantitlán (November 4, 1835), makes reference to burning several houses, including a barracks.
The Mexican armies, coming north by land out of Mexico, headed to Goliad, Refugio, and East Texas during the Texas Revolution and crossed the Nueces at either the De Leon Crossing at the fort or Paso de Santa Margarita near San Patricio. During this period Mexican troops were in almost constant occupancy of the fort. Captain Rodríguez was in command of the Mexican forces when Capt. Ira J. Westover and a force of about seventy Texans defeated the Mexicans on November 4, 1835. Since the Texans did not occupy the fort after their victory, Mexican forces continued to use the old fort on occasion.
Fort Lipantitlán played an important role in the years immediately after the war, when Federalist forces under Gen. Antonio Canales sought refuge on the Nueces River to regroup and to seek assistance from Americans. Gen. James Davis repulsed Mexican troops under Canales at Lipantitlán on July 7, 1842. After the Mexican War put an end to Mexican armies in Texas, Lipantitlán was abandoned and grew up in brush.
In the mid-1980s digs on private land uncovered a number of artifacts in a rather large camp adjacent to the old fort where families and army women lived. A population of 300 or more in the camp is considered likely. The site of the old fort is a state park, but no traces of the earthen embankments remain.
The archeological digs confirmed Indian presence before the Spanish and Mexican eras, as well as occupancy by Texas forces in 1842. Aboriginal ceramics, Indian artifacts, personal items, all types of military buttons and ordnance (Spanish, Mexican, and Texan), money, and miscellaneous hardware were among the hundreds of artifacts recovered.
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