The Presidio (fort) La Bahia was built in 1749 to protect the Spanish missions including Mission Espíritu Santo which is just across the San Antonio River. The soldier’s chapel is the only part of the fort that did not suffer a lot damage over the years. The rest of the fort, the compound walls, commanding officers’ quarters, arsenal, guard house, workshops, and bastions were rebuilt in the 1960s to their 1836 appearance. Even though the mission and the fort are closely connected the fort is managed by the Catholic Diocese of Victoria and has a separate entrance fee.
The fort played a big role in Texas War for Independence. The history of Texas and especially the involvement of US citizens is confusing but basically Mexico (which included Texas and a vast swath of land west to the coast) won its independence from Spain in 1824. The new government invited foreigners to settle in Texas. A large group of slaveholding US citizens settled in east Texas however by 1830 further immigration from the US was banned. In 1833 Santa Anna overthrew Bustamante, the Mexican president, and Texans, fearing more restrictions, pushed to make Texas an independent state. In 1835 Texans marched to Presidio La Bahia and took control of the fort but in March 1836 the garrison under Colonel James Fannin was ordered to retreat to Victoria, Texas ahead of a large, advancing, Mexican army. They did not get far. Fannin and his troops were captured on March 19 and on March 27 all 400 hundred were executed as ordered by Santa Anna. A large memorial marks their burial spot.
The Presidio La Bahia is partly accessible. The museum, housed in the officers’ quarters, is accessible but has a steep ramp between the rooms. The chapel is accessible. The rest of the fort has many difficult areas including narrow doors, rough ground and ramps that are not functional due to poor design.
RVs will fit in the parking lot if parked lengthwise across the spaces.