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German scientist concludes tour of Texas
May 08, 1847

On this day in 1847, the German scientist Ferdinand von Roemer concluded his tour of Texas, begun in November 1845. Roemer, born in Hanover in 1818, studied the flora, fauna, and geology of Texas from Galveston to Houston, as far west as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg, and as far north as Waco. During the course of his wanderings, he befriended such influential German Texans as John O. Meusebach and Ferdinand Lindheimer. Roemer's account of his travels, published in Germany in 1849, became an influential source of information for European emigrants, though he did not romanticize what he found: after noting that the early settlers of Texas had included "the most degraded riff-raff, adventurers, gamblers, swindlers and murderers--the scum not only of the United States but of all nations," he added with faint praise that "the present morals and respect for the laws of the land are as a general rule not any lower than in the adjoining Southwestern States." In his native Germany, Roemer enjoyed a long and distinguished academic career before his death in 1891.

First battle of Mexican War fought in South Texas
May 08, 1846

On this day in 1846, the battle of Palo Alto, the first major engagement of the Mexican War, was fought. At the site north of Brownsville, American forces under Gen. Zachary Taylor clashed with Mexican troops commanded by Gen. Mariano Arista. The battle, which began about 2:00 P.M. and lasted until twilight, resulted in a standoff. After darkness ended the action, both armies bivouacked on the battlefield. Of 3,461 troops that formed the Mexican Army of the North, Arista's commissary reported 102 killed, 129 wounded, and 26 missing, including deserters. The American army, which totaled over 2,200 soldiers, reported five dead and forty-three wounded. The Mexican army was decisively defeated the following day at the battle of Resaca de la Palma.

Training camp for "ninety-day wonders" opens at Leon Springs
May 08, 1917

On this day in 1917, the First Officers Training Camp was established just north of Anderson Hill at Camp Funston on the Leon Springs Military Reservation, near San Antonio. As part of America's mobilization for World War I, the FOTC was to provide in ninety days most of the junior officers for newly formed divisions. The trainees became known as "ninety-day wonders." By the end of World War I more than 32,000 acres near Leon Springs was in use by the army.