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Fort Brown
Fort Brown Map.jpg
Period map of Fort Brown in the park exhibit.
Fort Brown is located in Texas
Fort Brown
Fort Brown
Location in Texas
Fort Brown is located in the United States
Fort Brown
Fort Brown
Location in the United States
Location S edge of Brownsville off International Blvd., Brownsville, Texas
Area 20 acres (8.1 ha)
Built 1846 (1846)
NRHP reference No. 66000811
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966
Designated NHLD December 19, 1960

Fort Brown (originally Fort Texas) was a military post of the United States Army in Cameron County, Texas during the later half of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. Established in 1846, it was the first United States Army military outpost of the recently annexed state. Confederate Army troops stationed there saw action during the American Civil War. In the early 20th century, it was garrisoned in relation to military activity over border conflicts with Mexico. Surviving elements of the fort were designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

Early years

In 1846, under orders from Zachary Taylor, Captain Joseph K. Mansfield built a star-shaped earthwork for 800 men called "Fort Texas" on the northern side of the Rio Grande, "by the order from General Taylor to command the city of Matamoros". The next year, the fort played a role during the opening of the Mexican–American War. During the Siege of Fort Texas, two Americans were killed, including Major Jacob Brown. In honor of the fallen major, General Zachary Taylor renamed the post Fort Brown. In 1849, the city of Brownsville, Texas, was established not far from the fort's grounds.


Major Samuel P. Heintzelman, while in command at the fort, coordinated with John Salmon Ford in the Cortina Troubles culminating in the Battle of Rio Grande City in 1859.

Civil War

In 1861 Confederate Col. John "Rip" Ford occupied the fort until 1863 when they were finally driven out by Union forces under General Nathaniel P. Banks, who then camped in tents erected at the fort site. This ended in 1864 when Confederate forces under General James E. Slaughter and Colonel Ford reoccupied the area. They would hold the post until the end of the war when it was occupied again by Union forces under General Egbert Brown.


From 1867–1869, a permanent fort was constructed under the supervision of Capt. William A. Wainwright.

William C. Gorgas

In 1882, Dr. William Crawford Gorgas was assigned to the hospital at Fort Brown during the height of the yellow fever outbreak. Using Fort Brown as his base of operations, Gorgas studied the disease for several years until he was sent to Cuba during the Spanish–American War.

Brownsville raid

On August 13 and 14, 1906, unknown persons "raided" Brownsville, indiscriminately shooting bystanders, wounded one man and killing a townsperson named Frank Natus. The townspeople of Brownsville quickly blamed the black soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Brown and, as such, the Army investigated the matter and concluded that the black soldiers were indeed guilty. William H. Taft, then President Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of War and soon to be President himself, discharged all 168 black soldiers "without honor". Sixty years later, another investigation was held and the black soldiers had their honor restored. However, by then, only 2 of the original 168 men were still alive. Recent theories have come out regarding who shot up Brownsville. The History Channel's program "History's Mysteries" attributed it to Brownsvillians shooting up the town with rifles using the same caliber ammunition as the soldiers and then framing the soldiers. (Three books have since been written devoted wholly to or partially to the Brownsville Raid, The Brownsville Raid and The Senator and the Sharecropper's Son by John D. Weaver and Racial Borders: Black Soldiers along the Rio Grande by James Leiker.)

First airplane to be attacked by hostile fire

On April 20, 1915, U.S. Signal Corps Officers Byron Q. Jones and Thomas Millings flew a Martin T.O. Curtiss over the fort to spot movements of Mexican Revolutionary leader Francisco "Pancho" Villa. The plane reached an altitude of 2,600 ft. and was up for 20 minutes. It did not cross the border into Mexico, although it was fired upon by machine guns and small arms. These frequent patrols lasted for a period of 6 weeks and were used more effectively in 1916.

124th Cavalry

The troopers stationed at Fort Brown from 1929-45 were from the 124th Cavalry Regiment, Texas National Guard, which became one of the last mounted cavalry regiments in the United States Army. On November 18, 1940, they went into active military training. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the division served with distinction, dismounted, in the China Burma India Theater, where a member of the unit from Fort Brown earned the theater's only Medal of Honor (awarded to Jack L. Knight, commanding F Troop).

United States Army Air Forces use

Fort Brown was transferred to the USAAF Training Command on 7 July 1943. The USAAF Gulf Coast Training Center (later Central Flying Training Command) used the fort for flexible gunnery training until the fort was inactivated on 1 February 1946.


On 1 Feb 1946 Fort Brown was decommissioned. Turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers on 25 April 1946. It was acquired by the City of Brownsville and Texas Southmost College in 1948.


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