The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970 Page: 456
Cotton on the Border, 1861-1865
RONNIE C. TYLER*
W HEN HE LATER RECALLED HIS WARTIME ESCAPADES, JOHN WARREN
Hunter realized that as a teamster on a cotton wagon en route
to Brownsville he had participated in a significant aspect of the Civil
War. Hoping to write an interesting and accurate account of his ex-
periences during the conflict, the farmer, newspaper editor, and ama-
teur historian reflected upon some of his youthful adventures and
concluded that war had been very profitable for several residents of
the lower Rio Grande Valley. Although only fourteen when the war
began, he vividly recalled "a never ending stream of cotton pouring
into Brownsville." After he crossed into Mexico, he saw "ox trains,
mule trains, and trains of Mexican carts, all laden with cotton coming
from almost every town in Texas," converging on what had been the
only open port in the Confederacy since the Union navy had blockaded
all the harbors. "Brownsville became the greatest shipping point in
the South," he concluded; and "Matamoros became a great commercial
center," with "cotton and other commodities . . . pouring into her
The primary product in this burgeoning exchange, of course, was
cotton, the fiber that had sustained the industrial revolution in Great
Britain, that had provided the bulwark of America's economy for over
half a century, and that had relentlessly bound Negro slavery on the
southern United States. Cotton was the "glittering attraction" that
kept the commerce moving. It was expected to work miracles for the
new Confederacy; it was to bring hundreds of foreign ships to southern
ports gasping for the staple so necessary for the textile mills of
*Ronnie C. Tyler, the curator of history at the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth,
is the author of Joseph Wade Hampton: Editor and Individualist, and of articles which
have appeared in Arizona and the West, The Americas, The Chronicles of Oklahoma,
'John Warren Hunter, "The Fall of Brownsville on the Rio Grande, November, 1863"
(typescript, Biographical File, Barker Texas History Library, University of Texas, Austin),
4-5. For discussions of Matamoros during the Civil War, see Robert W. Delaney, "Mata-
moros: Port for Texas during the Civil War," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LVIII
(April, 1955), 473-487, and Avila Larios, "Brownsville-Matamoros: Confederate Lifeline,"
Mid-America, XL (April, 1958), 67-89.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970, periodical, 1970; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117147/m1/502/ocr/: accessed April 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.