FROM PROTECTION TO EDUCATION
Fort Brown, located in Brownsville, served as fortification against Mexican soldiers, Native American incursions, the Confederacy, the Union Army, as well as providing a front for the battle against malaria, all in the course of its decades of military activation. Established in 1846, Fort Brown remained in service until it was deactivated by the military in 1945. Named in honor of Major Jacob Brown who fought, died, and was buried on the grounds, the Fort is considered the first United States military post in Texas. An upended cannon on the grounds, placed by General James Parker’s Commission in 1920-21, reportedly marks the spot Major Brown died.
Although many of the later buildings survive today, only ruins remain of the original, pre-Civil War fort. At its beginning, the fort was composed of earthen walls more than nine feet high and surrounded by a ditch fifteen feet deep and twenty feet wide. Within a few decades, however, more permanent structures were built and many are still in use, including the Post Hospital, built in 1869. The hospital was also the location of significant yellow fever research by then First Lieutenant Wm. C Gorgas, an army physician, who defied orders by his superior officer and performed autopsies on soldiers who had succumbed to the disease. Gorgas succeeded in determining the vector of malarial infection and yellow fever (the mosquito) thanks, in part, to his research at Fort Brown.
Today the Fort’s surviving buildings and grounds are part of the campuses of the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.