Most important Texas seaport during the Civil War. Had consulates of England, France and Spain and worldwide recognition as a cotton exporter. Set up defenses including 10 mud forts and gun batteries on beaches, at railroad depot and on Pelican Spit.
Continued shipping cotton in spite of Federal blockade which began in July 1861. Blockade runners used speed, shallow draft ships, wit and courage to escape the Federal ships and haul cotton to Nassau, Havana or Europe and return with guns, medicines and other goods essential to the Confederacy.
In Oct. 1862, lack of guns large enough to stop a Federal bombardment caused Gov. F. R. Lubbock to call for evacuation of civilians. The 42nd Massachusetts regiment occupied the city Dec. 25. A week later, Jan. 1, 1863, Confederates recaptured it with forces led by Gen. John B. Magruder, Col. Tom Green and Capts. Leon Smith and Henry Lubbock with "Horse Marines" (mounted Rangers) and "Cotton Clads" (ships walled in cotton bales with gun embrasures).
The Trans-Miss. Dept., last Confederate force to surrender, signed terms here June 2, 1865. Federal occupation on June 19 proclaimed Emancipation, and ex-slaves afterwards celebrated "Juneteenth."