The Rio Grande Expedition, 1863-1865

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In October 1863 the United States Army's Rio Grande Expedition left New Orleans, bound for the Texas coast. Reacting to the recent French occupation of Mexico, President Abraham Lincoln believed that the presence of U.S. troops in Texas would dissuade the French from intervening in the American Civil War. The first major objective of this campaign was Brownsville, Texas, a port city on the lower Rio Grande. Its capture would not only serve as a warning to the French in Mexico; it would also disrupt a lucrative Confederate cotton trade across the border. The expedition had a mixed record of ... continued below

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Townsend, Stephen A. May 2001.

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  • Townsend, Stephen A.

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In October 1863 the United States Army's Rio Grande Expedition left New Orleans, bound for the Texas coast. Reacting to the recent French occupation of Mexico, President Abraham Lincoln believed that the presence of U.S. troops in Texas would dissuade the French from intervening in the American Civil War. The first major objective of this campaign was Brownsville, Texas, a port city on the lower Rio Grande. Its capture would not only serve as a warning to the French in Mexico; it would also disrupt a lucrative Confederate cotton trade across the border. The expedition had a mixed record of achievement. It succeeded in disrupting the cotton trade, but not stopping it. Federal forces installed a military governor, Andrew J. Hamilton, in Brownsville, but his authority extended only to the occupied part of Texas, a strip of land along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The campaign also created considerable fear among Confederate soldiers and civilians that the ravages of civil war had now come to the Lone Star State. Although short-lived, the panic generated by the Rio Grande Expedition left an indelible mark on the memories of Texans who lived through the campaign. The expedition achieved its greatest success by establishing a permanent Federal presence in Texas as a warning against possible French meddling north of the Rio Grande.

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  • May 2001

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  • Sept. 25, 2007, 9:33 p.m.

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  • Jan. 16, 2014, 12:30 p.m.

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Townsend, Stephen A. The Rio Grande Expedition, 1863-1865, dissertation, May 2001; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc2744/: accessed May 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .