Siege of Fort Texas

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Siege of Fort Texas
Part of Mexican–American War
Siege of Fort Texas.gif
Major Jacob Brown with his sword, commanding the defenders of Fort Texas, one of which is holding a sign stating, "Death or Victory".
DateMay 3–9, 1846

American victory

  • Mexican withdrawal, siege lifted
Flag of the United States (1845-1846).svg United States Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg Mexico
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United States (1846-1847).svg Jacob Brown  Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg Mariano Arista
Francisco Mejia
Pedro de Ampudia
500 1,600 [1]
14 artillery pieces
Casualties and losses
2 killed
10 wounded [2]
2 killed
2 wounded [2]
3 prisoners wounded
Disposition of American and Mexican forces Siege map of Fort Texas.jpg
Disposition of American and Mexican forces

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 General Jacob Brown.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Mexican–American War armed conflict between the United States of America and Mexico from 1846 to 1848

The Mexican–American War, also known in the United States as the Mexican War and in Mexico as the American intervention in Mexico, was an armed conflict between the United States of America and the United Mexican States (Mexico) from 1846 to 1848. It followed in the wake of the 1845 American annexation of the independent Republic of Texas. The unstable Mexican caudillo leadership of President/General Antonio López de Santa Anna still considered Texas to be its northeastern province and never recognized the Republic of Texas, which had seceded a decade earlier. In 1845, newly elected U.S. President James K. Polk sent troops to the disputed area and a diplomatic mission to Mexico. After Mexican forces attacked American forces, Polk cited this in his request that Congress declare war.



On 28 March 1846, the Army of Occupation under the command of General Zachary Taylor reached the north bank of the Rio Grande and he ordered Captain Joseph K. Mansfield to construct of an earthen star fortress for 800 men named "Fort Texas". [1] :40 The fort was garrisoned by 500 men under Major Jacob Brown, including the 7th Infantry, Capt. Allen Lowd's four 18-pounders, and Lt.  Braxton Bragg's field battery. [1] :49

Zachary Taylor 12th President of the United States

Zachary Taylor was the 12th president of the United States, serving from March 1849 until his death in July 1850. Taylor previously was a career officer in the United States Army, rose to the rank of major general and became a national hero as a result of his victories in the Mexican–American War. As a result, he won election to the White House despite his vague political beliefs. His top priority as president was preserving the Union, but he died sixteen months into his term, before making any progress on the status of slavery, which had been inflaming tensions in Congress.

Rio Grande river forming part of the US-Mexico border

The Rio Grande is one of the principal rivers in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The Rio Grande begins in south-central Colorado in the United States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, it forms part of the Mexico–United States border. According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, its total length was 1,896 miles (3,051 km) in the late 1980s, though course shifts occasionally result in length changes. Depending on how it is measured, the Rio Grande is either the fourth- or fifth-longest river system in North America.

Joseph K. Mansfield American general

Joseph King Fenno Mansfield was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, and a Union general in the American Civil War, mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam.

General Francisco Mejia's 2000 men erected fortifications for his twenty pieces of artillery, an earthwork for 800 men upstream at the Las Anacuitas ferry crossing called Fort Paredes, and two redoubts about 800 yards from Taylor's camp placing it in a crossfire. [1] :40 The largest cannon was a 12-pounder. [1] :40

Redoubt type of fort or fort system

A redoubt is a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on earthworks, although some are constructed of stone or brick. It is meant to protect soldiers outside the main defensive line and can be a permanent structure or a hastily constructed temporary fortification. The word means "a place of retreat". Redoubts were a component of the military strategies of most European empires during the colonial era, especially in the outer works of Vauban-style fortresses made popular during the 17th century, although the concept of redoubts has existed since medieval times. A redoubt differs from a redan in that the redan is open in the rear, whereas the redoubt was considered an enclosed work.

Crossfire military term for the siting of weapons so that their arcs of fire overlap

A crossfire is a military term for the siting of weapons so that their arcs of fire overlap. This tactic came to prominence in World War I.

Following the Thornton Affair, Mexican forces under General Mariano Arista crossed the Rio Grande and then lay siege to the fort, [1] :49 after realizing Taylor had taken most of his forces to Fort Polk on Point Isabel to protect his supply depot on 1 May. [1] :50

Thornton Affair

The Thornton Affair, also known as the Thornton Skirmish, Thornton's Defeat, or Rancho Carricitos was a battle in 1846 between the military forces of the United States and Mexico twenty miles west upriver from Zachary Taylor's camp along the Rio Grande. The much larger Mexican force defeated the Americans in the opening of hostilities, and was the primary justification for U.S. President James K. Polk's call to Congress to declare war.

Mariano Arista President of Mexico (1851–1853)

José Mariano Martín Buenaventura Ignacio Nepomuceno García de Arista Nuez was a noted veteran of many of Mexico's nineteenth-century wars. He served as president of Mexico from 15 January 1851 to 6 January 1853.


At daylight on 3 May 1846, Mexican forces started the bombardment of Fort Texas, but were silenced by the American response, although the Mexican artillery down the river was more successful. [1] :50 Lowd attempted to set fire to Matamoros with "hot shot". [1] :50 Mexican fire stopped at 7:30 PM, the American's at 11 PM. [1] :50 On 4 May, Mexican guns and a mortar were placed on the northern bank of the Rio Grande and on 5 May General Pedro de Ampudia arrived with 1,230 men and four guns. [1] :50 Since Ampudia's artillery was too light to breach the earthworks and the infantry disinclined to make an assault, the siege continued until 9 May with General Antonio Canales Rosillo's irregular cavalry astride the Point Isabel road preventing supplies from reaching the fort. [1] :50

Matamoros, Tamaulipas City in Tamaulipas, Mexico

Matamoros, officially known as Heroica Matamoros, is a city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. It is located on the southern bank of the Rio Grande, directly across the border from Brownsville, Texas, in the United States. Matamoros is the second largest city in the state of Tamaulipas. As of 2016, Matamoros had a population of 520,367. In addition, the Matamoros–Brownsville Metropolitan Area has a population of 1,387,985, making it the 4th largest metropolitan area on the Mexico–US border. Matamoros is the 39th largest city in Mexico and anchors the second largest metropolitan area in Tamaulipas.

Heated shot

Heated shot or hot shot is round shot that is heated before firing from muzzle-loading cannons, for the purpose of setting fire to enemy warships, buildings, or equipment. The use of hot shot dates back centuries and only ceased when vessels armored with iron replaced wooden warships in the world's navies. It was a powerful weapon against wooden warships, where fire was always a hazard. Its use was mainly confined to shore batteries and forts, due to the need for a special furnace to heat the shot, and their use from a ship was in fact against Royal Navy regulations because they were so dangerous, although the American ship USS Constitution had a shot furnace installed for hot shot to be fired from her carronades. The French Romaine-class frigates originally also featured the device, but they proved impractical, dangerous to the ships themselves, and were later discarded.

Mortar (weapon) Artillery weapon that launches explosive projectiles at high angles

A mortar is usually a simple, lightweight, man portable, muzzle-loaded weapon, consisting of a smooth-bore metal tube fixed to a base plate with a lightweight bipod mount and a sight. They launch explosive shells in high-arcing ballistic trajectories. Mortars are typically used as indirect fire weapons for close fire support with a variety of ammunition.

Captain Edgar S. Hawkins took command of Fort Texas when Major Brown was mortally wounded on 6 May at ten o'clock. [1] :50 When Arista demanded the fort's surrender at 4:30 that afternoon, Hawkins responded with "My interpreter is not skilled in your language but if I understand you correctly...I must respectfully decline to surrender." [1] :52

As soon as it became clear Taylor was leaving Fort Polk, Arista moved his army from his camp at Tanques del Ramiereno to block Taylor's path leading to the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. [1] :52


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. Major Brown was struck in the leg by a cannonball on May 6 and survived for several days only to die on May 9, just hours before the siege ended. [4] Despite his wound, Major 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. 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.

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Bauer, K.J., The Mexican War, 1846–1848, New York: Mcmillan, ISBN   0803261071
  2. 1 2 The Siege of Fort Texas
  3. Smith, J.H., 1919, The War with Mexico, New York: Macmillan
  4. National Park Service