The noble tree is no doubt, used to her influential role during the world's most pivotal moments. Be it Buddha's Bodhi Tree, Eve's Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, George Washington's Cherry Tree or Boston's Liberty Tree where pre-American Revo-lutionary sentiment was nur-tured, the tree takes her place in religion, history and myth.
And so it was that this raggedy Pine Tree offered up her shade to planners of the Battle of San Pasqual, the bloodiest and most controversial battle of the Mexican-American War.
San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park in Escondido, (literally right around the corner form the San Diego Zoo Safari Park,) honors the soldiers who fought in the battle between the U.S. and Californio (Mexican) forces on December 6, 1846. Generals Stephen Kearny and Andres Pico both claimed victory.
Although the battle was only one of the war's military encounters, it proved to be the most costly in terms of human life, and the most disputed as to the outcome. The museum and adjacent battlefield have been set aside as a reminder of the human ideals, actions and passions that can drive nations to bloodshed.
The small museum is an easy but informative thirty minute walk through for the casual tourist. For those who are interested in the specific battle movements as they are re-enactmented from time to time at the park, there are very detailed "play by play" docu-ments. I will admit that I've often scratched my head as to why some folks are drawn to war re-enactments. As I flipped through a few of the pages, I found I was at least able to identify with it from the standpoint of a puzzle, a chess match, or even stage directions . Beyond that, I guess it's something I will never completely "get."
For the most part, the museum tells the history of not only the Battle of San Pasqual, but of the entire area going back thousands of years when the ancestors of the Kumeyaay Indians were the only inhabitants of the region.
What I especially enjoyed about this museum was that it pulled together the many snippets of history that are sometimes presented in isolation at other historic sites around the state.
The history is told on large story boards, well lit and easy to read in both English y Espanol. Each segment is beautifully illustrated by a drawing, painting, stained glass or costumed mannequin.
Beginning with the story of the indi-genous popula-tion, it continues through Spanish acquisition, the building of the Spanish Missions, Mexican indepen-dence from Spain, Mexico's secu-larization of the state and finally the Mexican American War when the United States acquired California.
A ten minute film about President Polk's War was available for viewing by request. The film focused on the political climate of the country and the controversy surrounding the acquisition of western lands. President Polk was an advocate of Manifest Destiny and aggressively went after new territories, but by no means did he have the support of the entire country.
Outside of the museum is a one mile nature trail, dogs allowed! The hike along the hillside had numbered sign-posts describing various plant and rock life, and panoramic views of the battlefield. A small amphitheatre hosts occasional multi-cultural concerts, recitals and lectures.
As I have mentioned before, Roxy is a dog I fostered through an organization called Guardian Angels for Soldiers Pets, taking care of dogs and cats belonging to deployed military personnel. She is a "navy brat" from the San Diego area. I wondered if she knew that she was only moments away from her southern California home.
Back inside the museum, a smaller desktop story board detailed the day by day gains and losses of the five day battle. There is way to much information to get into here, so if you want to know those details I guess you'll just have to visit the museum which is still open on weekends until July 1. I hope to take friends there before closure, combining it with a trip to the Wildlife Park and Stone Brewery!
In the end, the Battle of San Pasqual was the bloodiest battle of the Mexican Ameri-can War. Arguments will con-tinue to infinity with both sides claiming victory. Yet, it was a battle fought for reasons not clearly defined. Both sides made costly blunders and neither side gained significant advantage. The overall war continued unchanged by San Pasqual’s losses. So, while the museum presents a clear picture of the battle, the same clarity cannot be found within the battle itself.
As I drove away I saw a large animal in the battlefield. An escapee from the wildlife park perhaps? Ah,no. Tis a Coyote. It seems that the Trickster gets the last word on this trip. I wonder if that's who planted the Pine Tree.
I hope to see you at the state parks.