Notes and Documents
Business Travel Out of Texas During the Civil
War: The Travel Diary of S. B. Brush,
Pioneer Austin Merchant
PEYTON O. ABBOTT*
BY LATE DECEMBER 1863, TWO YEARS AND EIGHT MONTHS INTO THE
Civil War, the isolation of the South was virtually complete. The
Mississippi River, from Cairo, Illinois, to its mouth, was controlled by
Union forces. Despite moderate success by blockade runners, Confed-
erate ports were cut off from world commerce by the Union naval
blockade. The port of Brownsville, Texas, near the mouth of the Rio
Grande, had been an exception. From Brownsville and its sister city of
Matamoros, across the river in Mexico, cotton, the Confederacy's prin-
cipal cash crop, was flowing to the markets of Europe and to New York.
Much-needed supplies of all descriptions moved from many parts of
the world-including New York, Boston, and New Orleans-through
these ports toward the Southern consumer. To stanch this flow, on No-
vember 3, 1863, twenty-six transports carrying Union troops landed at
Brazos Santiago. That same day Hamilton P. Bee, Confederate com-
mander of the Rio Grande, abandoned Brownsville, and the citizens of
that city loyal to the Confederacy retreated across the river into Mata-
moros. By November 6 Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks had marched into
Brownsville and placed it under Union command.'
Brownsville's capture had little effect on trade into and out of Texas,
and served only to change the border crossings to points higher on the
*Peyton O. Abbott, a retired hydrologist, resides in Pueblo, Colorado. He holds a B.S. degree
in geology from the University of Texas at Austin. He is the great-grandson of S. B. Brush.
SFor descriptions of commerce through Brownsville, Matamoros, and Bagdad at the time of
the Civil War see L Tuffly Ells, "Maritime Commerce on the Far Western Gulf, 1861-1865,"
Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LXXVII (Oct., 1973), 167-226, Robert W Delaney, "Mata-
moros, Port for Texas during the Civil War," ibid., LVIII (Apr., 1955), 473-487; Ronnle C
Tyler, "Cotton on the Border, 1861-1865," ibid., LXXIII (Apr., 1970), 456-477; Avila Larios,
"Brownsville-Matamoros. Confederate Lifeline," Mad-America, XL (Apr., 1958), 67-89, Tom
Lea, The King Ranch (2 vols.; Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1957), I, 175-290; and James W.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed May 5, 2015.