The Yankee Invasion of Texas

The Yankee Invasion of Texas

The Yankee Invasion of Texas

The Yankee Invasion of Texas


In 1863 the Union capture of Texas was viewed as crucial to the strategy to deny the Confederacy the territory west of the Mississippi and thus to break the back of Southern military force.

Overland, Texas supplied Louisiana and points east with needed goods; by way of Mexico, Texas offered a detour around the blockade of Southern ports and thus an economic link to England and France. But Union forces had no good base from which to interdict either part of the Texas trade. Their efforts were characterized by short, unsuccessful forays, primarily in East and South Texas. One of these, which left New Orleans on October 26, 1863, and was known as the Rio Grande Expedition, forms the centerpiece of this book.

Stephen A. Townsend carefully traces the actions--and inaction--of the Union forces from the capture of Brownsville by troops under Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, through the advance up the coast with the help of Union Loyalists, until General Ulysses S. Grant ordered the abandonment of all of Texas except Brownsville in March 1864. Townsend analyzes the effects of the campaign on the local populace, the morale and good order of the two armies involved, U.S. diplomatic relations with France, the Texas cotton trade, and postwar politics in the state. He thoughtfully assesses the benefits and losses to the Northern war effort of this only sustained occupation of Texas.

No understanding of the Civil War west of the Mississippi--or its place in the Union strategy for the Deep South--will be complete without this informative study.


In October 1863 the U.S. Army launched the Rio Grande expedition from New Orleans. The third of four Federal campaigns against Confederate Texas, this expedition was led by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, who had been ordered by Pres. Abraham Lincoln to plant the flag in Texas as a warning to the French in Mexico. Banks was also to stop the export of cotton through Brownsville, Texas. By December, Union forces controlled the Texas coast from Brownsville to the Matagorda Peninsula. By January 1864, however, the expedition had ground to a halt as Banks prepared for the fourth and final attempt to invade Texas—in the Red River campaign.

This book tells the story of the Rio Grande expedition. It examines not only the military activities of Union and Confederate forces but also the fear generated within the civilian population of Texas as Union invaders threatened to overrun the state. It also considers the impact that Federal troops had on events in Mexico, both during and after the war.

I would like to thank several people who helped in the writing of this book. I want to thank Richard Lowe, my major professor at the University of North Texas, for encouraging me to take my dissertation and publish it as a book. I would also like to thank my family, especially my wife, Jill, whose gentle prodding kept me moving forward. In addition, I extend my thanks to Deborah Reade for drawing two maps that appear here and to Jerry Thompson for contributing a map. Finally, I would like to thank Carol Hoke for her careful editing of the final manuscript.

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