The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974 Page: 230
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Grande intolerable and took their children to New York to live about I853-
He joined his family in New York during the summers, but he always felt
himself an alien there. A "granite-hewn Yankee" himself, he found Yankees
"haughty and domineering," "abolishing fanatics," and was a thorough-
going Confederate by 1861. "I still love our whole country, though I feel
that the Northern people are the most unworthy portion," he wrote his wife
when the crisis was building up, and after the shooting began he had no
trouble in deciding his course. "My sympathy is with the South," he wrote,
"in fact, I never desire to go north again."9
For Stillman sympathy and business interests happily coincided in 1861.
After the Federals threw a blockade around southern ports, the potential of
Mexico as an adjacent neutral nation became obvious. Goods could be
shipped freely between Mexico and other neutral nations, as well as between
Mexico and northern ports, and the transferral of goods from one side of
the Rio Grande to the other (that is, smuggling) had long been a fine art
along the border. From the birth of the Republic of Texas and until after
the Mexican War, the sovereignty of the area between the Rio Grande and
the Nueces River had been in question, and in I86I a cavalier attitude
toward statute law still persisted among the inhabitants. At various points
along the Rio Grande, companion cities faced each other, among them,
Matamoros and Brownsville about twenty-five miles from the river's mouth,
Laredo and Nuevo Laredo further upstream, and Eagle Pass and Piedras
Negras still further. Enterprising businessmen, of whom Stillman was fore-
most, often operated establishments in companion cities, transferring their
activities from one to the other as rebellions, taxes, flurries of strict law
enforcement, or convenience dictated.'o
Neither the Texan Revolution, the Mexican War, nor Mexico's chronic
internal problems interfered more than briefly with Stillman's business.
Throughout them all he continued his trading operations: importing food,
manufactured goods, and luxuries, and shipping out hides, bullion, and
other products. By 1861 he was considered a millionaire and, commented
one observer, "he had little to learn."'1
9Stillman, Charles Stillman, 14, 26 (second, third, fourth, and fifth quotations), 32-33
(sixth quotation), 34 (first quotation).
1OThe best description of commerce along the Rio Grande appears in LeRoy P. Graf,
"The Economic History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, 1820-1875" (Ph.D. disserta-
tion, Harvard University, 1942). An excellent consideration of the war years is Ronnie
C. Tyler, "Cotton on the Border, 1861-1865," Southwestern Historical Quarterly,
LXXIII (April, 1970), 456-477.
11John Salmon Ford, Rip Ford's Texas, edited by Stephen B. Oates (Austin, I963),
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974, periodical, 1973/1974; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/m1/264/: accessed February 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.