A Brief History of Brownsville
In 1845, construction of a fort on the Mexican border was commissioned, due to increased instability in the region. Before completion, the Mexican Army began the Siege of Fort Texas, during the first active campaign in the Mexican-American War, between 3-9 May 1846. The first battle of the war occurred on 8 May 1846, when General Zachary Taylor received word of the siege of the fort. They rushed to help, but were intercepted, resulting in the Battle of Palo Alto about 5 miles (8.0 km) north of present-day Brownsville. The next morning the Mexican forces had retreated, and Taylor's troops caught up with them, resulting in the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, which was fought within the present city limits. When Taylor finally arrived at the besieged Fort Texas, it was found that two soldiers had died, one of which was the fort's commander, Major Jacob Brown. In his honor, General Taylor renamed the fort Fort Brown. An old cannon at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College marks the spot where Major Brown was fatally wounded.
Contrary to popular belief, however, there is little, if any, evidence that the Fort was called "Fort Texas." In fact, most official correspondence from the time describes the fort as "camp near Matamoros."
The city of Brownsville was originally established late in 1848 by Charles Stillman, and was made the county seat of the new Cameron County on 13 January 1849. The city was originally incorporated by the state on 24 January 1850. This was repealed on 1 April 1852, due to a land ownership dispute between Stillman and the former owners. The state reincorporated the city on 7 February 1853, which remains in effect. The issue of ownership was not decided until 1879, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Stillman.
On July 13, 1859, the First Cortina War started. Juan Nepomuceno Cortina would become one of the most important historical figures of the area, and continued to exert a decisive influence in the local events until his arrest in 1875. The First Cortina War ended on December 27, 1859. In May 1861, the brief Second Cortina War took place.
During the Civil War Brownsville was used as a smuggling point for Confederate goods into Mexico, most importantly cotton smuggled to European ships waiting at the Mexican port of Bagdad. Fort Brown was controlled by the Confederates. In November 1863, Union troops landed at Port Isabel and marched for Brownsville to stop the smuggling. Confederate forces abandoned the fort, blowing it up with 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg) of explosives. In 1864, the town was reoccupied by the Confederates under John Salmon 'Rip' Ford. On May 15, 1865, a month after the surrender had been signed at Appomattox Court House, the Battle of Palmito Ranch was fought and won by the Confederates. Ulysses S. Grant sent Union General Frederick Steele to Brownsville to patrol the Mexican-American border after Civil War to aid the Juaristas with military supplies.
On 13 and 14 August 1906, Brownsville was the site of the Brownsville Affair. Racial tensions were high between white townsfolk and black infantrymen stationed at Fort Brown. On the night of 13 August, one white bartender was killed and a white police officer was wounded by rifle shots in the street. Townsfolk, including the mayor, accused the infantrymen as the murderers. Without a chance to defend themselves in a hearing, President Theodore Roosevelt dishonorably discharged the entire 167 member regiment due to their accused "conspiracy of silence". Further investigations in the 1970s found that they were not at fault, and the Nixon Administration reversed all dishonorable discharges.
On September 8, 1926, The Junior College of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (later known as Texas Southmost College) admitted its first class. In 1945 Fort Brown was decommissioned and in 1948 the City and College acquired the land. Between 1945 to 1970 Brownsville population continued to grow gradually, doubled from 25,000 to 52,000 people. In 1991 Brownsville received a University via the partnership between the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
Brownsville was declared an All-America City in the year 2001.
On December 25, 2004, Brownsville had its first instance of measurable snow in 109 years, with 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), and the first recorded White Christmas. This was part of the 2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm.