From the Annals of the Loyal Unionists – In 1863, the First Texas Cavalry left New Orleans as part of a campaign to occupy south Texas and interfere with trade between the Confederacy and Mexico. The Rio Grande expedition landed on the south Texas coast on November 2 and occupied Brownsville four days later. The First Texas Cavalry included 16 officers and 205 enlisted men, but grew quickly added more than 100 new soldiers within a month. During this time the Second Texas Cavalry Regiment was formed at Brownsville. Both regiments left Texas in July 1864 for Louisiana. Two companies, however, of the First Texas Cavalry remained at Brownsville and did not rejoin their parent regiment until six months later. The First Texas was part of a little known Texas effort to support the Union. A total of 1,915 men from Texas served the Union. The Texas Union soldiers were primarily of Mexican heritage, German Unionists from the Hill Country or first generation Irish immigrants – all of whom were opposed to slavery.
From the Annals of the Border – In 1859, Mexican rancher, politician, military commander and at times outlaw Juan Cortina rode into Brownsville with a band of 80 men and seized control of the town. Cortina had a long running feud with the Anglos in south Texas who were attempting to oust him from his family’s extensive holdings on the north side of the Rio Grande in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. For his efforts, Cortina was viewed as a champion of Mexicans living along the border in the years after the War. The first “Cortina War” arose from an incident on July 13, 1859, when Cortina saw the Brownsville city marshall, Robert Shears, arrest and brutally beat a Mexican who had once been employed by Cortina. Cortina shot the marshall in the shoulder and rode out of town with the prisoner. Early on the morning of September 28, 1859, he rode into Brownsville again, and seized control of the town. Five men, including the city jailer, were shot during the raid. Cortina’s hold on Brownsville was short-lived as residents of Matamoros convinced him to return to Mexico which he did on September 30.