A Guide to the Military Operations in Texas Collection, 1862-1864
During the Civil War, the U.S. Army created the Department of the Gulf and the Army of the Gulf following the capture of New Orleans, Louisiana, by Admiral David G. Farragut in 1862. Major General Benjamin F. Butler took command of the Union occupation forces as well as the Department of the Gulf. The soldiers in the new department were then designated as the Army of the Gulf. Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks succeeded Butler on December 17, 1862. Under Banks, the army fought its first battles, including the Siege of Port Hudson, their first major battle and victory, in July 1863.
Next, the Army attempted to regain control of Texas and influence the French in Mexico, who the Union forces worried would assist the Confederate Army. Banks’s plan included sending Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin’s 4,000 troops on a march from Sabine Pass through Houston and finally to Galveston. Unfortunately, Franklin lost at the Battle of Sabine Pass in September 1863. However, in November, Banks gained control of Brownsville, stationed Fort Brown, and cut off cotton trade on the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico. On November 30, 1863, the Army captured Fort Esperanza on Matagorda Island. During this time, constant supply shortages plagued the Union troops in Texas. Some provisioning problems were based on natural shortages in the South Texas location; others were due to the failure of the U.S. Army to send adequate supplies; and still others were because of the weather, which prevented ships from landing along the coast. The political and military situation in Mexico caused many problems as well for the Department of the Gulf during its Texas occupation. For example, in January 1864, fighting broke out in the streets of Matamoros between French sympathizers and those forces loyal to Juarez. The city’s U.S. Consul, Leonard Pierce, had to be escorted by the Army of the Gulf from the consulate into Texas. Unfortunately, Banks’s superiors insisted upon launching the Red River Campaign, an offensive into Louisiana and Alabama intended to capture Mobile. In the spring of 1864, several thousand soldiers were sent to Louisiana from Texas, allowing the Confederates to recapture Brownsville and reestablish trade with Mexico. Meanwhile, the Red River Campaign ended disastrously due to poor planning. Banks was removed from command, and Maj. Gen. Stephen A. Hulbut became commander in September 1864. The Army split to fight in both the Shenandoah Valley and the Battle of Mobile Bay.
After the war ended, Banks returned to command of the Army of the Gulf from April to June 1865, when Maj. Gen. Edward Canby replaced him until the department disbanded on June 27, 1865.
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss," http://www.tshaonline.org /handbook/online/articles/BB/fba56.html (accessed July 26, 2010).
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Civil War," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook /online/articles/CC/qdc2.html (accessed July 26, 2010).
Military Operations in Texas Collection, 1862-1864, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Weeks, Dick. "Army and Department of the Gulf." Shotgun’s Home of the American Civil War. http://www.civilwarhome.com/armyofgulf.htm (accessed July 26, 2010).
The Military Operations in Texas Collection, 1862-1864, consists of official copies of correspondence concerning Union military operations along the Texas Gulf coast and the Texas-Mexico border. These letters are reports of various officers to the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s Department of the Gulf in New Orleans, Louisiana. Furthermore, the correspondence discusses information concerning the Confederate military operations in Texas and French intervention in Mexican affairs. Several letters report in detail the November 30, 1863, capture of Fort Esperanza on Matagorda Island and information on several skirmishes, such as location, strategy, numbers killed or wounded, and the actions of specific soldiers. Many of the letters discuss the conflicts of authority between officers stationed at Fort Brown in Brownsville, the murder of Union Captain William Montgomery by men reported to be “rebels,” and subsequent attempts to extradite one of the accused. The reports describe constant supply shortages due to the nature of the region, ineptitude of the U.S. Army, or preventions by the weather. Additionally, the documents relate to the political and military situation in Mexico as well as the ships in the service of the federal troops, including supply ships and gunboats, used in the fight on Matagorda and other Gulf Coast islands.
The collection is open for research.
Military Operations in Texas Collection, 1862-1864, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Julia M. Payne, December 1981.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers