In this letter, one can almost feel the desperation of Commander A.C. Hinton as he struggles to refit the Zavala and feed and clothe his sailors on the budge allowed him by the impoverished Republic of Texas.
A.C. Hinton had served for seven years in the United States Navy before joining the Texas Navy in 1837. In April 1839, Hinton was given command of the Zavala, the first steam man-of-war in the Gulf and probably the first Hinton had ever seen. He was also in command of the new ship San Bernard. Hinton's main tasks in New Orleans were to refit the Zavala and to recruit crews for the ships of the Texas Navy. He was unable to do either and ran up $14,000 in repair charges beyond what he was authorized to spend. Just two months after sending this letter, Hinton was fired, though he was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. His eventual fate is unknown.
The recipient of this letter, Louis P. Cooke, served as secretary of the navy under President Lamar. In 1842, after leaving office, he was involved in a shooting scrape on the streets of Austin that resulted in the deaths of three men. Cooke was tried for murder but escaped after a trial resulted in a hung jury. He took up life in Corpus Christi, where he was shot in the face with an arrow during a Comanche raid and lost an eye. He died of cholera in Brownsville in 1849.
Hon L.P. CookeTexas. Steamership Zavala
Sec: of the NavyNew Orleans Nov 29th 1839
Prior to my departure from
Galveston a requisition was made out, in triplicate
for clothing cheifly [sic] for the Firemen of this vessel,
signed by myself. Approved by Com: Moore and given
to the Navy Agent for supply. [P]rior to leaving, most of
them being almost in a state of nudity—not being sup-
plied there, Com: Moore informed me, Mr. Brannum
would meet it here. Mr. Brannum brought the
requisition with him—I awaited some days expecting
the supply from the agent, but not hearing anything
of them, & four of my men having deserted in consequence
of their beggared condition, I called on the Navy-agent,
two, three, several times to purchase the clothing simply
called for in the requisition, as the crew were shivering
with cold, and on the eve of general desertion to proc-
ure by some other means the clothing necessary to
protect them from the severityof the weather, being very
cold, windy, and rainy—in this state of things. Mr.
Brannum refused positively to furnish the clothing,
until all the provisions ordered to be purchased, were
procured, and paid for, whereupon I deemed it my duty
to demand the requisition from the Agent, and procure
the necessary clothing in the best manner I could. I have,
accordingly ordered Purser Kerr to procure a supply of clothing