Brownsville, city (1990 pop. 98,962), seat of Cameron co., extreme S Tex., on the Rio Grande c.17 mi (30 km) from its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico; inc. 1850. It is an important port of entry across the river from Matamoros, Mexico. A deepwater channel was dredged (1936) to accommodate ocean vessels; a land cut NE to the Brazos Santiago Pass, which bypasses the Rio Grande channel, is the southern terminus of the Intracoastal Waterway. Brownsville is a trade, processing, and distribution point for the rich, irrigated lower Rio Grande valley; it has many industries connected with oil and natural gas. Other products include shrimp, electronic equipment, and aircraft and auto parts. The establishment of Fort Texas there by Gen. Zachary Taylor in 1846 invited a Mexican attack that precipitated the Mexican War. The fort was renamed (1846) for Major Jacob Brown, killed while commanding its defense. Active until 1944, Fort Brown was held briefly by Union forces in the Civil War. The town of Brownsville grew around the fort and was a cattle-shipping point in the late 19th cent. In 1906 a group of African-American soldiers stationed at Fort Brown were blamed for a night gun raid on the town that resulted in an innocent civilian's death. President Theodore Roosevelt, in a highly controversial directive, ordered the dishonorable discharge of 167 of the soldiers. In 1972 the secretary of the army reversed that order. Brownsville has an international airport, and a zoo. Nearby recreation areas include Padre Island National Seashore (see under Padre Island).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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