The Texian Navy


The First & Second Texian/Texas Navy

Southwestern Historical Quarterly  The Navy



IV  The Navy

The Texas Navy 
Official Texas Navy website

The Invincible

The Texian

The Schooner San Antonio


DRT Texian Navy Insignia


Digitized pages about The Texas Navy from Texas Sketchbook, by F. T. Fields, Illustrated by E. M. Schiewetz.  Pub. by Humble Oil & Refining Company, Houston, TX, 1 Oct 1958

Two Stories of the Texas Navy

"This is Texas" by Mabelle & Stuart Purcell..and others"
p. 12, 13, 14

From Footnotes in Texas History, by Spike Gillespie, pub in Texas Co-Op Power, Jan 2004 p.20

"The City of Anahuac, Texas, is located near the site of a fort of the same name established by the Mexican Government in 1830-31.  General Mier Y. Teran sent 80 soldiers to erect the fort and also a customs house on the east bank of the Trinity River.  Both the fort and the barracks had brick walls four feet thick.  The bricks were made in a nearby kiln where imprisoned Texas colonists were forced to trample the clay and mold the bricks.  There was a well inside the fort, and two underground passageways led to a large magazine 40 yards back of the hill.  The garrison was soon reinforced with Mexican soldiers, and the ruins and payroll records indicate that about 162 troops wee stationed there.

Col. John D. Bradburn, an escaped American convict who had become a Mexican citizen and army officer, was in command.  He established his garrison with infantry, cavalry, and artillery; and his fort commanded a perfect view of the entrance of the Trinity River.  This was not a good site for a port because ships could not reach the docks at low tide.  however, Bradburn immediately declared al ports in Texas closed except Anahuac in order to be able to collect all the custom fees.  Mute evidence that this trade was extensive is shown by a Chinese 200 cash copper coin (value unknown) recently found buried in the sand by a boy at Anahuac.

On December 16, 1831, a group of colonists met at Brazoria and sent two men to request Bradburn to reopen Texas ports, and if this was not done, to threaten that war would follow.  This threat caused the tyrant to agree, and the two messengers further petitioned the Governor of Texas and Coahuila to appoint a commissioner to issue land titles and administer the law.  The appointee, Francis Madero, was arrested immediately by Bradburn; and martial law was declared over the entire area.  the Mexicans , many of whom were ex-convicts, then proceeded to steal property from the colonists and to disclaim their land titles.  Eleven person were killed by one soldier, a woman was attacked, and slaves were freed.   Protesting Texans were promptly jailed.

News of the arrest of the Texans caused another group of colonists to attempt their rescue.  A hoax pretending an army was advancing was tried on July 13, 1832, to force Bradburn to release the prisoners.  This maneuver failed, and the enraged commander captured and imprisoned in the empty brick kilns seventeen men including William Barrett Travis.

Upon hearing of this outrage, the Texans at San Felipe mustered an army of 160 angry colonists commanded by Francis W. Johnson and sent three schooners to blockade the port.  This first Texas navy not only blockaded the port but also maneuvered so as to draw enemy fire without sustaining any damage to the craft.  Still Bradburn refused to release Travis and the other prisoners, so two Texans crawled up to the fort and managed to kill two and wound several of the enemy.  This was the first blood drawn in the war for Texas independence.

A truce whereby the Texans were to exchange their prisoners for the colonists held by the Mexicans was broken by Bradburn, who used this method to reinforce his garrison.  As a result of this incident, the "Turtle Bayou Resolutions" wee drawn up declaring the Texans' allegiance to the Mexican Constitution of 1824; and runners were sent to appeal to all Texans to support the forces at Anahuac.  Bradburn also appealed for aid since his forces were stopped, but the Mexican Government finally realized that Bradburn had acted unwisely, and he was arrested.  This ended the incident, but the spark of resistance smoldered for three years.

Again the Mexicans started trouble, sending Capt. Antonio Tenoria and 40 soldiers to Anahuac to collect $265,000 in import duties they claimed were due.  One man was accidentally killed and another jailed; so the colonists met at Harrisburg and named William B. Travis, who was well acquainted with the fort, as captain.  The Texans captured the fort, and the Mexican Government failed to get them to surrender, so Bradburn was again sent to Anahuac.

The Mexicans had by that time invaded Texas in force, and there was fighting at the Alamo in San Antonio and at Goliad.  General Santa Anna planned to take his army of 1,200 men to join two other Mexican armies at Anahuac, but Gen. Sam Houston had learned of his plans and defeated him at the mouth of the San Jacinto River.  This defeat and the capture of Santa Anna himself brought an end to the war.

The Texans had only 800 men at San Jacinto, and the outcome could have been very different if the Mexicans had not been delayed by the earlier battles at the Alamo and elsewhere.  We can only wonder if the time Col. Travis spent imprisoned in Fort Anahuac made his hatred of Mexican tyranny so great that he would fight to his death at the Alamo, thus gaining time for Gen. Sam Houston to muster his forces at San Jacinto.

Today Fort Anahuac lies in ruins on the shore of Trinity Bay; but its witness to the first shot, the first bloodshed, and the first navy have surely earned for it the title "Birthplace of the Texas Revolution."  This town has its name inscribed on the floor of our state capitol as one enters from the south entrance.

The write first learned the story of Anahuac when she taught there a number of years ago.  not many present-day Texans are familiar with the incidents related here, and this story is included in the conviction that they ought to be more widely known.  The story was compiled from Chambers County historical records provided by Erwin S. Barrow, Jr.

By Mabelle Purcell"

"Say the words Texas Navy"--even in a crowd of Texans--and chances are you'll get a puzzled look in response.  In fact, Texas actually had two navies.  Neither lasted very long, but each served its purpose, traversing the Gulf of Mexico, helping to liberate Texas from Mexico and then protecting (or trying to, anyway) the shore3s of the fledgling Lone Star Republic.

But first, before any of this, in the summer of 1835, there was the dramatic incident of the San Felipe, a merchant schooner headed from New Orleans to Velasco, south of Galveston.  The rig's deck was outfitted with guns because Captain William Hurd had very precious cargo on board--Stephen F. Austin, fresh from a Mexican prison, and Don Lorenzo de Zavala, former personal secretary of Mexican President Santa Anna.

Not far off the harbor was Correro Mexicano, a "rakish, low-lying, sloop-of-war," as described by C. L. Douglas in his book, Thunder of the Gulf: Story of the Texas Navy.  The Correro made the mistake of approaching the San Felipe.  A battle and chase ensued, and the Correro was captured by the Texans.  It as the first major engagement of the Texas Revolution.  Soon after, the Texas Provisional Government decided an official navy was needed, but Provisional Governor Henry Smith and his general council had a little  problem: a severe lack of funding.  An alternate plan was struck.  "Letters of Marque and Reprisal" were issued to private ship owners; essentially, these were government-sanctioned licenses for privateers to pirate Mexican ships.

As Douglas put it: "The lure of buccaneering has always held attraction for the venturesome, so in this Texas situation arrived many willing seamen, all seek a fortune under the new-made Texas flag."

Some, such as Captain Hoyt of the Thomas Toby and Captain Allen of the Terrible, baited the Mexicans, their desire fueled by the knowledge that they could lay claim to 80 percent of their take.  Being of the renegade mindset, these fellows were hardly the best record keepers.  If they didn't report all their triumphs, they wouldn't have to turn in a full 20 percent cut to the government.  Douglas speculates that this may have been why the government eventually called back in as many Letters of Marque as possible.

In January 1836 the provisional government, using private funding, purchased a fleet of four ships: the Liberty (formerly the William Robbins), Independence, Invincible and Brutus.  The Liberty managed to overpower the Mexican Pelicano, which carried "loaded" barrels of flour.  Concealed inside the flour barrels were gunpowder kegs--providing food and ammunition to a military starving for both.

The first navy didn't last two years.  When he Liberty was detained for repairs in New Orleans, the bill proved too costly for the Texas government, so she was auctioned off.  The Independence was captured, the Invincible destroyed in battle, and the Brutus lost at sea.

The second Texas Navy formed in March 1839 with the commissioning of the Zavala, a steamship.  Between June 1839 and April 1840, the navy grew to include the San Jacinto, San Antonio, San Bernard, Wharton and Austin.  These ships patrolled the Gulf while the Potomac, a former merchant brig, sat permanently in Galveston's port to protect the harbor.

This new fleet--except for the anchored Potomac--had many adventures. There was the short-lived mutiny of the San Antonio, pulled off by a half-besotted crew.  The drunkards were captured after killing their lieutenant, but before they reached shore in a smaller boat.  ironically, their arrest prolonged their lives because not long after, the San Antonio disappeared, never to be heard from again, rumored to have been taken by pirates, or perhaps, to have turned into a ghost ship.

All this drama climaxed in January 1843 when the Texas Congress (under President Sam Houston) passed an act to sell the entire navy outright.  The people of Galveston put up a mighty protest, blocking bids at an auction.  In March a disgusted Houston declared all his republic's navy to be pirates, and invited friendly countries to capture the Texas ships and bring them back to Galveston.  Three years later, the remaining ships were transferred to the U.S.Navy, whereupon all were deemed unseaworthy.

Despite sundry mishaps, a glaring lack of financing, and the short tenure of each incarnation of the Texas navy, there were moments when the ships and their men shone.

Douglas, defending the navies, laments, "History has dealt unfairly, and unjustly, with the Texan a result, few people to this day are aware of the misery it caused Mexico, the prime purpose for which it was sent to sea.  Like the hornet, the Lone Star Navy was ever small; but, again like the hornet, it had a stinger--and it  placed that stinger in every port of the Mexican seacoast from Yucatan to Matamoros."

Did you know?

Popeye, the Sailor Man  
Have you heard his song?  Just click the link!  Popeye thought he was born in Victoria.  Though there is no proof he really was born here, it's fun to think Popeye is a Victoria Native Texan!

Henry Wolff, local historian, said the 88th Anniversary edition of the Advocate in 1934 featured a nice cartoon from cartoonist E.C. Segar with Popeye saying that "Victoria is me ol' hometown on account of tha's where I got born'd at."  The King Features syndicated cartoon was called "Thimble Theatre."  The old Sunday comics were not saved from that time and it is not known just when the cartoon made an appearance in the Advocate, though there was an advertisement promoting Thimble Theater and Popeye on April 30, 1931.

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Updated 31 Oct 2012