The site unofficially referred to as Fort Texas was an earthwork, in the rough shape of a six-sided star. Each earthen face of the fort extended from 125 to 150 yards. The walls were 9 feet high and 15 feet wide. A moat 20 feet wide and 8 feet deep circled the exterior. Inside, U.S. troops constructed a number of bomb-proofs and powder magazines to provide shelter from any incoming fire.
The Bombardment Begins
General Arista began positioning his artillery and troops around the fort shortly after General Taylor departed the fort on May 1, 1846. On May 3rd at 5 a.m., Mexican artillery opened fire on the fort from positions directly across the Rio Grande.
The artillery fire from within the fort decreased as well. Major Brown called for a halt to firing realizing the shots directed on Matamoros were having minimal effect. Over the next several days, U.S. troops conserved their limited ammunition and offered only brief flurries of return fire. Instead they 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 Taylor’s began their return march, Mexican troops received orders to assist in efforts to halt their advance. Although sporadic artillery fire on the fort continued, much of the Mexican infantry and cavalry surrounding the post had moved forward to join the fighting at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma.
Though Fort Texas withstood a siege of 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 fort commander Jacob Brown. Major Brown was struck in the leg by a cannon ball on May 6th. He survived for several days only to die on May 9th, just hours before the siege ended. Despite being wounded, Brown helped maintain troop morale throughout the siege. His men renamed the liberated post—Fort Brown—in his honor. Mexican leaders reported two killed and two wounded from U.S. artillery fire during the siege. The effect of artillery fire on the civilian population of Matamoros is unknown.
The Fort Today
The Fort Brown site has suffered the effects of natural and man-made activity in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Although Fort Brown remained an active post until after World War II, the original earthworks were abandoned shortly after the war with Mexico.
In recent years, a growing effort has emerged to preserve the remnants of Fort Brown. Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park is currently involved in activities to stabilize the surviving earthworks, to protect the site, and interpret this fort as a unit of the park.
Last updated: July 4, 2021