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FORT POLK

FORT POLK. In 1840 the government of the Republic of Texas debated the construction of a fort on the north end of Brazos Island in what is now Cameron County, six miles north of the Rio Grande at Brazos Santiago Pass. This installation would not only have controlled navigation through the vital pass between Padre and Brazos islands, but would also have established a Texas military presence in the disputed territory below the Nueces River. Since the site lay 120 miles to the south of the nearest white Texan settlement, however, only nominally in Texas territory and on the site of Brazos de Santiago, a customhouse and outpost of the Mexican army, the planned fort never materialized. But in 1846, with the heightening of international tension after the annexation of Texas to the United States, Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor's army of observation marched to the Rio Grande and established itself opposite Matamoros, from where it drove the Mexican garrison at Brazos Santiago back across the Rio Grande while converting the Mexican installation to an arsenal. On March 6 Taylor's men established a military depot near the Brazos Santiago arsenal and named it Fort Polk, in honor of the president of the United States. The fort was also known as Fort Brazos Santiago. Fort Polk was garrisoned from 1848 until 1850 by Capt. F. C. Hunt's company of the Fourth United States Artillery regiment. By January 1849, however, the buildings were being moved to different locations on the Rio Grande, and on February 9, 1850, the post was abandoned. The location was used as a transit depot for materials for Fort Brown in 1852, and on February 21, 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, it was seized by a Confederate artillery company from Galveston. Long afterward, the United States Army Corps of Engineers straightened the channel and installed jetties in the pass, obliterating the site of both the Mexican fort at Brazos Santiago and Fort Polk.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

K. Jack Bauer, The Mexican War, 1846–1848 (New York: Macmillan, 1974). Gerald S. Pierce, Texas Under Arms: The Camps, Posts, Forts, and Military Towns of the Republic of Texas (Austin: Encino, 1969).

Thomas W. Cutrer

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Thomas W. Cutrer, "FORT POLK," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qcf10), accessed April 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.