Fort Brown, originally called Fort Texas, was established when Zachary Taylor and the United States forces of occupation arrived on the Rio Grande on March 26, 1846, to establish the river as the southern boundary of Texas. In April 1846 Taylor built an earthen fort of 800 yards perimeter, with six bastions, walls more than nine feet high, a parapet of fifteen feet, and the whole surrounded by a ditch fifteen feet deep and twenty feet wide. Armament was four eighteen-pound guns. The Seventh Infantry, with Company I of the Second Artillery and Company E, Third Artillery, commanded by Maj. Jacob Brown, garrisoned the fort. Mexican troops led by Mariano Arista intercepted United States troops as they brought supplies from Fort Polk at Point Isabel to Fort Brown, leading to the opening battles of the war, Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, fought on May 8 and 9, 1846. On May 9 Major Brown died from injuries received during the bombardment of the fort by Mexican forces in Matamoros. Shortly after his death he was buried within the fortifications, and the post was named in his honor. The fort was held by a strong force during the Mexican War. In 1848 quarters for officers and enlisted men and a permanent post were built a quarter mile north of the first site. The land was purchased from heirs of José Salvador de la Garza, recipient of the Potrero del Espíritu Santo land grant and one of José de Escandón's colonists. A brick wall, called the Quarter Master's Fence, divided the fort and the community that became the city of Brownsville. Rumors that the fort was to be abandoned started circulating in 1848; however, Indian raids in 1852 made it a necessary fortification for the town, and from one to four companies of troops were stationed there for protection from Indians and as a show of force against potential incursions into Texas by Mexico. In 1859 Juan Nepomuceno Cortina occupied the fort as a refuge. In 1860 Robert E. Lee was stationed at Fort Brown on assignment to quell border disturbances. The post was abandoned by United States troops in March 1861 and occupied by troops of the state of Texas. Fort Brown was garrisoned by a small force of Confederates until November 1863. On the approach of Union forces, the Confederates retreated and burned all stored cotton and the fort buildings. Union forces occupied the fort until July 1864, when it was again taken by Confederates forces, who held it until November 1865. During Confederate occupation the fort was described as a field work of six bastion fronts with a defense line of 950 yards garrisoned by 2,000 men with an armament of guns of different calibers. The fort was reoccupied by federal forces after the Civil War, again as a protection against Mexican invasion. Fort Brown was rebuilt with brick buildings starting in 1869. Among the buildings were the post hospital, an administration building, a large officers' quarters, and the chapel. In 1882 Dr. William Crawford Gorgas was sent to the post in response to the last and worst yellow fever epidemic at Fort Brown.
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