HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, ARMY OF TEXAS,
Santa Gertrudes, November 8, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor, in making my official report, to state, for the information of the general commanding, that on the morning of the 2nd instant, at 3 a.m. I was advised that the enemy were in force off the Brazos Santiago Bar. In an hour afterward, I had dispatched Captain Taylor, Company A, Thirty-third Texas Cavalry, with 15 men, to the mouth of the Rio Grande, and Captain [Henry T.] Davis, Company F, same regiment, with the same number of men, to Point Isabel, with orders to give me constant information of the enemy's movements. The preparatory orders were also issued to evacuate the place. During the day I received constant information and before night I knew the fact that the enemy was landing in force on the Brazos and Padre Islands.
Tuesday morning, I received a dispatch from Captain Taylor, stating that the enemy's pickets held the Boca Chica during the night, and had landed cavalry. Upon this information, orders were sent to both Captains Taylor and Davis to hold their posts of observation as long as possible, and then to fall back to where the main road from Brownsville to the Arroyo Colorado strikes the chaparral on the north side of the Palo Alto Prairie, and to join the train which would leave Brownsville at 2 o'clock that evening on that road.
On the 3d, Captain Taylor informed me that the enemy had crossed their cavalry over the Boca Chica, and that he was falling back up the river. I then determined to move down the river with all my available force, and, if possible, divert the attention of the enemy from the train which left Brownsville at 12 m., with no guard except 10 men sent with the 8-inch howitzer which accompanied the train, as I had no forces to send with it. To make this movement, I found that I had but 80 men, including officers. Just as I was starting, a courier came in from Captain Taylor with the information that the enemy's cavalry were on the Palo Alto Prairie, 200 strong, and in rapid pursuit of him, and, if I intended to evacuate Brownsville, no time was to be lost. I immediately ordered the garrison to be fired, and in person superintended the burning of all cotton which was liable to fall into the hands of the enemy. At 5 o'clock I left Brownsville, and overtook the train at 9 o'clock that night, and proceeded with it to the center of the sand desert, where, deeming it safe, I proceeded to this place to send you this dispatch. I wish that I could make you a more definite report of the number of and the strength of the enemy, but I had to choose to remain long enough to do so and risking the safety of the train as the force of the enemy outnumbered mine perhaps 100 to 1, and as I could accomplish but the gratification of my personal feelings until they should come in force it was my duty to endeavor to save the latter.
I regret to say that the fire from the garrison extended to the town of Brownsville, and burned the block of buildings in front of the ferry. There were about 8,000 pounds of powder in the garrison, which had been condemned, and its explosion, though adding greatly to the terror and distress of the people, was of no loss to the Government. There were some commissary stores and a considerable amount of quartermaster's stores consumed, which it was impossible to save. Every wagon had been pressed into service, and large quantities had been reshipped across the river into Mexico, but there still remained a large amount which I could have wished wash with the troops in the field. By daylight on the 4th, I was joined by Captains Taylor and Davis, and proceeded without interruption with the command to the point before stated.