Yankee Invasion of Texas
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
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In October 1863 the U.S. Army launched the Rio Grande expedition from NewOrleans. The third of four Federal campaigns against ConfederateTexas, this expedition was led by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, who had been ordered by Pres. Abraham Lincoln to plant the flag in Texas as a warning to the French in Mexico. Banks was also to stop the export of cotton through Brownsville, Texas. By December, Union forces controlled the Texas coast from Brownsville to the Matagorda Peninsula. By January 1864, however, the expedition had ground to a halt as Banks prepared for the fourth and final attempt to invade Texas—in the Red River campaign.
1. To Plant the Flag in Texas
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During the Civil War, the year 1863 marked a turning point for Union armies on the battlefield. The two July victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg and the crushing Confederate defeat at Chattanooga marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Pres. Abraham Lincoln had waited a long time for such victories to come. Perhaps the Union would be preserved after all.
2. The Finest Campaign of the War
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Once Brownsville was under Union control, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks continued to advance up the coast, intending to occupy all of the ports and passes between the Rio Grande and the border with Louisiana. Once the Texas coast was secured, his forces would move inland, capture Houston, and destroy rebel authority within the state. Another military option also presented itself to Banks. By cooperating with Union forces under Brig. Gen. James Carleton in New Mexico, Banks contemplated the capture of the Texas border from Brownsville west to El Paso. This move would not only ...
3. Fall Back and Save the Cotton
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On July 13, 1863, the commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department, Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, issued an invitation to the civilian leaders of the four states within his region.1 Prompted by the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, Smith asked these leaders to attend a conference in Marshall, Texas, sometime in the middle of August. The loss of the Mississippi had severed ties with Richmond; consequently, Smith realized the Trans-Mississippi “must be self-sustaining and self-reliant in every ...
4. The Red River Beckons
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By the end of 1863, the Rio Grande expedition had achieved few significant results for Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks. Galveston, Houston, and Sabine Pass (on the border with Louisiana) still remained in Confederate hands. When Ulysses S. Grant became general in chief of all U.S. armies in March 1864, he ordered the abandonment of the entire Texas coast except for the Brownsville area. By that time, even Banks had to admit that the opportunities in Texas did not seem “as large as when we started.”1
5. The Cavalry of the West
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On December 22, 1863, Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder wrote a letter to the conscript officer in Austin, Col. John S. (“Rip”) Ford. In it he suggested that Ford undertake a secret campaign to drive the Federals out of Brownsville and restore the cotton trade through that city. Magruder wanted Ford to make a feint toward the coast, thus creating confusion among the enemy as to his true objective, Brownsville. Ford and Magruder had both received appeals from Brownsville citizens to come to their rescue. With this public pressure weighing on him, Magruder relieved Ford of conscript duty and ordered him to San Antonio to begin organizing the “Cavalry of the West.”1
6. Troubles South of the Border
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“The French invasion of Mexico was so closely related to the Rebellion as to be essentially a part of it,” commented General in Chief Ulysses S. Grant to Maj. Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan on the relationship between the American and Mexican wars. The Union Rio Grande expedition in November 1863 was designed partly to provide a buffer against the French presence in Mexico and the civil unrest it generated. As the Federal presence in South Texas was reduced to only twelve hundred men on the island of Brazos Santiago by August 1864, incidents at the mouth of the Rio Grande increased.
7. The War Ends in Texas
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Despite his failed efforts to obtain the surrender of the Trans-Mississippi Department, Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace did procure a two-month truce between Union and Confederate forces on the lower Rio Grande. That ceasefire ended on May 13, 1865, however, when opposing troops clashed at Palmito Hill, about ten miles east of Brownsville. This was the last battle of the Civil War, fought nearly five weeks after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox.1
8. War and the Lower Rio Grande Valley
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Texas, especially the lower Rio Grande Valley, has a distinctive place in American history. The first battle of the Mexican War was fought there, and the last engagement of the Civil War took place in the same region. In the Mexican War, the Rio Grande served as a disputed boundary between the United States and Mexico. In the Civil War, the Rio Grande divided not just two nations but also two nations that were engulfed in civil wars. Texas was the only rebelling Confederate state that bordered a foreign country. Mexico, ...
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Page Count: 194
Illustrations: 1 b&w photo. 3 maps.
Publication Year: 2006
Series Title: Canseco-Keck History Series