The island is also known as Brazos Santiago Island, a reference to the port of Brazos Santiago, the first Spanish settlement on the island. Later it became the Port of Matamoros. With a draft of 31 feet, it was perhaps the best naturally occurring seaport in the Western Gulf of Mexico. No one knows who named this excellent seaport, but many think it was Alonso Alvarez de Pineda in 1519. Mystery surrounds the subject, as the existence of a natural seaport in those days would have been an important military secret. Later, in 1846, it was the first military objective of the US Navy, in support of General Zachary Taylor's invasion of Mexico. Control over this important seaport was said by Harvard historian Leroy Graf to be the primary reason for the US aggression against Mexico.
The island is the southernmost barrier island in Texas, separated from the delta landmass of the Rio Grande by unnamed channels. The island's northern end is separated from South Padre Island by the Brazos Santiago Pass. The island is oriented generally north-south, with the Gulf of Mexico on the east, and South Bay on the west. In the course of the natural processes of erosion and sedimentation, the island is not always surrounded by water, but can be connected to the mainland.
During the 1860s Union soldiers occupied the island and its strategic harbor and launched the Brazos Santiago Expedition from the island which led to the Civil War's last battle, known as the Battle of Palmito Ranch.
The island is uninhabited. Brazos Santiago Pass, on its north end, is the current ship channel for the Port of Brownsville. Brazos Island State Scenic Park, also known as Brazos Island State Recreation Area, is located on the island. The beach at this state park is known as "Boca Chica."
- Brazos Island from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Brazos Island State Scenic Park from the Handbook of Texas Online
- "A Decade of Beneficial Use, Brazos Island Harbor, Dredging" by T. Neil McLellan, P.E., Herbie Maurer, P.E., Bob Fudge, P.E., and Dan J. Heilman, P.E.
- A description of the Expedition from Brazos Santiago
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