Matamoras was a Wretched Place

  • David Montejano UC Berkeley


Once New Orleans and Galveston were blockaded by the Union navy in late 1861, the only stable link the trans-Mississippi Confederacy had to world markets was through Matamoros in neutral Mexico. At the height of this trade, up to 200 hundred ships were anchored off the mouth of the Rio Grande on the Mexican side. Herein lies the significance of a cache of letters written by a Baltimore shipmaster to his New York investors in 1864 and early 1865. The letters provide a rare window into the thinking of northern merchant mariners engaged in the Matamoros trade. Unpredictable weather and unpredictable workers surface as the most prominent concerns of the letter-writing shipmaster.