The southeast baluarte at Presidio San Sabá (41MN1), Menard, Texas: An analysis of the documentary and archaeological evidence
Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas, better known as Presidio San Sabá, was founded in 1757 in what is now Menard County, Texas. The presidio was part of the Spanish crown’s effort to expand its northern frontier in New Spain and likely was intended as a part of a chain of settlements between San Antonio and Santa Fe. The presidio also was built to protect nearby Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá. Spain’s plan for northward expansion was dramatically halted on March 16, 1758, when a coalition of Wichita, Comanche, and various Caddoan groups, known as Norteños, burned the mission and killed a number of mission residents, including two priests. The mission effort there was abandoned, but the presidio remained in use until 1770 when it was relocated to the Rio Grande. A number of historical documents relating to the presidio survive, including three contemporary plan maps of the fortifications. Interestingly, these three plan maps differ in a number of ways, including the shape of the southeast bastion.
Archaeological investigations by Texas Tech University and the Texas Archeological Society have uncovered large portions of the presidio foundations including the entire southeast bastion. This thesis uses a middle-range approach to examine the archaeological and documentary evidence to determine the accuracy of the maps and other historical sources concerning the southeast bastion. A construction sequence for the structure is also proposed, while the bastion’s appearance in its final form is addressed. Analysis of the artifacts found within the bastion aid in understanding of life within the bastion for soldiers on duty. The effectiveness of the bastion as a defensive structure based on the archaeological and documentary evidence is also examined.
In this case, it is only through a critical analysis of the archaeological and documentary data that a fuller understanding of the form and function of the southeast bastion at San Sabá is obtained. Information obtained from this study can help to illuminate one aspect of life on the military frontier of eighteenth- century Texas.