Gano's Brigade existed from its formation in the summer of 1863 to its reassignment under Gen. Hamilton Bee in early 1865. Though the units that composed the brigade changed throughout its existence, they were the Twenty-ninth Texas Cavalry Regiment, the Thirtieth Texas Cavalry Regiment, the First Regiment Arizona Brigade, the Fifth Texas Partisan Rangers, the Thirty-third Texas Cavalry Regiment, Welch's Texas Cavalry Company, Wells's Texas Battalion, the Eleventh Texas Field Artillery Battery, and the Seventeenth Texas Field Artillery Battery. Throughout its history Gano's Brigade fought alongside Confederate Indians, led by Gen. Stand Watie. The brigade's actions mainly consisted of raids on Union supply trains and troops maneuvering in Arkansas and the Indian Territory.
In August 1863, to combat the Indian depredations, Texas Gov. Francis R. Lubbock reinforced the frontier regiment with three Confederate units, the Thirtieth Texas Cavalry, the First Regiment Arizona Brigade, and Krumbhaar's Texas Battery. These units formed the new Fifth Texas Cavalry Brigade, better known at that time as Bankhead's brigade because Acting Brig. Gen. Smith P. Bankhead, commander of the Northern Subdistrict, received command. From the beginning, Bankhead's brigade suffered from every problem a command in the Civil War could have. The morale of the men had fallen extremely low for several reasons including being rushed into volunteering in the army through the Conscription Act, being stationed so close to their homes, and facing Indian raids on the Texas frontier, where some of the men's families resided. Desertions resulted because of these problems; it was so bad in one of Hardeman's companies that Bankhead disarmed the men.
The brigade's problems continued through the rest of the summer and fall. Brig. Gen. Henry McCulloch, the new commander of the Northern Subdistrict of Texas, relieved Bankhead from command of the brigade on October 16, 1863, and replaced him with Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery Gano who took command on October 24. Gano did not officially hold the rank of brigadier general until later but received the title because he performed the duties of that rank. Gano met his men as they assembled at Bonham, Texas, for supplies, and from there they successfully campaigned in Arkansas and the Indian Territory.
Gano, a native of Kentucky, moved to Grapevine, Texas, in 1857, where he distinguished himself as a pioneer, cattleman, and Indian fighter. By 1860 Gano represented Tarrant County in the Texas legislature until January 1862, when he joined the Confederate Army. Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, an old friend of Gano, gave him orders to raise two companies of Texas cavalry and bring them to Tennessee to serve as the general's escort. The two companies became known as Gano's squadron with the ranks filled by men from Tarrant County. Before Gano's squadron reached General Johnston at Shiloh, it received news that Johnston had died. When the squadron reached Shiloh, Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard, Johnston's replacement, ordered the unit to report to Gen. John H. Morgan in Kentucky. As a result of his exploits under General Morgan, Gano rose through the ranks from captain to acting brigadier general.
In June 1863 General Gano fell ill from "valvular heart disease with hypertrophy." Pronounced unfit for duty, Gano returned home to recuperate. By July Governor Lubbock placed Gano in command of all the cavalry in the Texas State Troops. On October 10, 1863, Gano arrived in Bonham, Texas, where Brig. Gen. Henry McCulloch encountered problems with the unruly nature of the Fifth Texas Cavalry brigade. Instead of having Gano command the state troops, McCulloch instructed him to command the rebellious brigade.
Immediately after Gano assumed command, Henry McCulloch ordered the withdrawal of the brigade from the Indian Territory to Bonham, Texas. Throughout the next few months Gano sent out parties of men to round up deserters and force them to rejoin the brigade. When springtime arrived, Gano's Brigade received orders to strengthen Confederate units in Arkansas, defending the state from a Union force participating in the Red River campaign. Gano's Brigade arrived too late to participate in any major engagements but participated in a raid with Confederate Indians against a Union foraging party consisting of African-American soldiers at Poison Spring. This engagement resulted in the largest massacre of African-American troops in the Trans-Mississippi.
Later that summer Confederates in the Trans-Mississippi received information about a major supply shipment between Union fortifications in the Indian Territory and Arkansas. Gano's Brigade along with Confederate Indians ventured deep into the Indian Territory in a major raid to capture the much needed supplies for their men. Additionally they wanted to deny the Union garrisons the necessary materials, hoping to force them to retreat from the fortifications without an open engagement. The Texans and Confederate Indians discovered the supply wagon train at Cabin Creek. After defeating the Union force escorting the train, the Confederates captured and destroyed approximately 1.5 million dollars worth of supplies. With their plunder Gano's Brigade returned to Texas, never to fight in the war again.
In early 1865 Texas troops pulled out of the Indian Territory to protect the Texas coast from a possible Union advance from New Orleans. This concentration of Confederate cavalry taxed the state's resources and forced Smith to dismount men.
On January 30, 1865, Gano's Brigade as a military unit ceased to exist, because Smith reorganized the Trans-Mississippi army by consolidating brigades or smaller units whose numbers dwindled from desertions or casualties. By May 1865 most of the men that once composed Gano's Brigade left the Confederate Army for their homes. Others left the United States and lived in exile in Central and South America.