3Aataxoros, Port for raeas dmuig
the Civil War
ROBERT W. DELANEY
A THE BEGINNING Of the American Civil War, Matamoros,1
in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, was simply a sleepy
little border town across the Rio Grande from Browns-
ville, Texas. Located about thirty miles up the river from the
Gulf of Mexico, it had, for many years, been considered a port,
but was visited by relatively few ships.2 Yet, within four years,
because of its proximity to Texas, Matamoros was to assume
stature as a port, multiply its inhabitants many times over, and
be the subject of the following observation in 1865:
Matamoros is to the rebellion west of the Mississippi what New York
is to the United States-its great commercial and financial center,
feeding and clothing the rebellion, arming and equipping, furnishing
it materials of war and a specie basis of circulation that has almost
displaced Confederate paper. ... The entire Confederate Govern-
ment is greatly sustained by resources from this port. . 3
In four years, the cotton trade brought together in Bagdad
and Matamoros over 20,000 speculators from the Union and the
Confederacy, England, France, and Germany.4 Every house in
Matamoros was occupied and rents were enormously high. A store
building that formerly rented for a few hundred dollars com-
manded thousands. Carpenters and bricklayers were constantly
in demand for new construction, and as soon as a building was
iTwo versions of the spelling of this name are constantly encountered throughout
newspapers and dispatches of the period. Since the town was named for the patriot-
priest, Mariano Matamoros, that spelling will be observed throughout this paper
for the sake of consistency. For a brief history of Matamoros, see Rafael de Alba,
"Tamaulipas," La Repdblica Mexicana (Paris and Mexico, n.d.), 41-43.
SIn 1844 thirty-three vessels had entered the port, according to Carlos Butterfield,
United States and Mexican Mail Steamship Line and Statistics of Mexico (New
York, 186o), 116. A naval officer stated, however, that previous to the war not over
six ships per year visited the port. See The War of the Rebellion; A Compilation
of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (13o vols.; Washing-
ton, x88o-gox), Series I, Vol. XVII, 403.
8S. S. Brown to Lew Wallace, January 13, 1865, in ibid., Series I, Vol. XLVIII,
Pt. 1, pp. 512-513. Brown and Wallace had formerly been schoolmates in Indiana.
4New Orleans Times, June 1, 1865.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 58, July 1954 - April, 1955. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101158/. Accessed March 11, 2014.