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Siege of Fort Texas
Part of Mexican-American War
Siege of Fort Texas
Major Jacob Brown with his sword, commanding the defenders of Fort Texas.
Date May 3–9, 1846
Location near Brownsville, Texas
Result United States victory, Mexican withdrawal, siege lifted.
Belligerents
United States United States Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg Mexico
Commanders and leaders
United States Jacob BrownMexico Gen. Francisco Mejia
Strength
unknown 1,540 and 14 artillery pieces
Casualties and losses
2 killed
10 wounded [1]
2 killed
2 wounded [1]
Other Casualties: 3 Mexican prisoners wounded



The Siege of Fort Texas marked the beginning of active campaigning by the armies of the United States and Mexico during the Mexican-American War. The battle is sometimes called The Siege of Fort Brown, but this is not entirely accurate — the name Fort Brown was taken from Major Jacob Brown, who was one of the two Americans killed during the engagement. Major Jacob Brown should not to be confused with the War of 1812 hero Jacob Brown.

BackgroundEdit

On March 27, 1846, troops under the command of General Zachary Taylor advanced to a north bank of the Rio Grande and began construction of an earthen star fortress that they named Fort Taylor but was nicknamed "Fort Texas". Mexican forces ambushed a troop of United States Cavalry, and then lay siege to the unfinished Fort Texas. The American garrison consisted of Major Brown's 7th Infantry, Captain Loud's artillery company of four 18 pounders, and Lieutenant Bragg's light artillery company of four more guns.

SiegeEdit

Mexican General Mariano Arista began positioning his artillery, infantry and cavalry around the fort shortly after General Taylor departed on May 1, 1846. And, at 5:00 am on May 3, 1846, Mexican forces opened fire on the fort from guns placed directly across the Rio Grande at Matamoros. Troops of the United States 7th Infantry quickly responded with their own artillery. When additional cannon fire erupted from Mexican positions up and down the river's bank, fort commander Jacob Brown pointed his guns into the city of Matamoros. Fire continued on both sides until well into the night.

In time, however, this artillery exchange gave way to a prolonged standoff. Despite the steady Mexican fire of May 3, the earthen walls of the fort withstood the impacts well. Mexican leaders apparently acknowledged the lack of success and, in the ensuing days, firing on the fort diminished considerably. Apparently believing that a charge on the fort would produce heavy casualties in his own ranks, Mexican General Pedro de Ampudia instead settled in for a more traditional siege in the hope that General Arista's army could prevent American assistance from reaching the fort.

The cannonade from within the fort declined as well. Realizing that the shots directed on Matamoros were having minimal effect, Major Brown called for a halt to firing. Over the next several days, the United States troops conserved their limited ammunition, offered only brief flurries of return fire and concentrated on shoring up the defenses of their post. Otherwise, the soldiers could do little but wait for General Taylor to march to the rescue.

When that United States advance came, Mexican troops received orders to assist in efforts to halt the American Army. Although artillery continued a sporadic fire upon the fort, much of the Mexican infantry and cavalry (Gen. Pedro Ampudia's Brigade) surrounding the post moved forward to join the fighting at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. The remaining Mexican force ( 1,540 men) under Gen. Francisco Mejia consisted of Artillery (14 guns), the Matamoros National Grds. Battalion, and the Mexico, Puebla and Morelia Activos Battalions. The U.S. soldiers in Fort Texas first learned of the advance from the distant rumble of cannon fire at Palo Alto on May 8. Additional sounds of battle revealed that fighting had reached Resaca de la Palma on May 9. That afternoon, the sight of hundreds of Mexican soldiers rushing to crossing points on the Rio Grande indicated that Taylor's troops had been victorious. The American victory at Resaca de la Palma brought an end to the six-day bombardment of Fort Texas. Apparently concerned that the fire might strike their own retreating forces, Mexican gunners immediately halted their cannonade of the fort. The United States soldiers briefly fired upon the retreating Mexican troops, but they soon halted this activity when it appeared that they might strike their own compatriots, who followed in close pursuit.

Though the confrontation at Fort Texas lasted six days, with periods of heavy cannon fire, casualties were remarkably low. Only two U.S. soldiers died in the bombardment, but that toll included the fort commander Jacob Brown. Major Brown was struck in the leg by a cannon ball on May 6. He survived for several days only to die on May 9, just hours before the siege ended. Despite his wound, Brown had helped maintain troop morale throughout the siege, thus contributing to the success of the defense of the Fort. Mexican leaders reported two killed and two wounded from American artillery fire during the siege. The effect of artillery fire on the civilian population of Matamoros is unknown.

AftermathEdit

General Zachary Taylor came to the aid of the fort's defenders, which resulted in General Mariano Arista's order to position his forces on the nearby plains of Palo Alto, thereby lifting the siege. The fort commander, Major Jacob Brown, was killed during the siege and Fort Texas was renamed after him. Laundress and cook Sarah Borginnes, who refused to take shelter during the siege but instead provided food and coffee to the American troops, was named "Heroine of Fort Brown" by the American newspapers.

ReferencesEdit

  • Bauer, K. Jack, The Mexican-American War, 1846–1848
  • Brooks, N.C. ' ' A Complete History of The Mexican War
  • Handbook of Texas Online, Fort Brown, [1]
  • National Park Service, Palo Alto Battlefield NHS, [2]
  • Alcaraz, Ramon. Apuntes para La Historia De La Guerra Estes Mexico y los Estados-Unidos Tipografia De Manuel Payno Mexico (City) 1848

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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