The San Felipe Incident:
Opening Shot of the Texas Revolution
Throughout the first half of 1835, serious disturbances started up again between American-born merchants on the Texas coast and Mexican customs collectors. The government of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had instituted a new policy of closer control over Texas. A new garrison was established at Anahuac to support a new customs house there and at Galveston and Brazoria.
Prints and Photographs Collection,
Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1946/1-67.
In August 1835, in an act of deliberate provocation, merchant Thomas F. McKinney sent his schooner San Felipe from New Orleans to Brazoria, heavily armed and loaded with munitions meant for Texas revolutionaries. Also on board was Stephen F. Austin, just released from his imprisonment in Mexico. His presence was no coincidence, as Austin's ordeal had convinced him that peace with Mexico was hopeless. He was now committed to the revolutionary cause.
Volunteers march on Anahuac, 1835
Sam Houston orders the fortification of the port of Copano, 1835
Attack on the American schooner Hannah Elizabeth by the Mexican warship Bravo, 1835
On September 1, Austin, his fellow passengers, and most of the cargo had been transferred to a steamer, the Laura, by the time the San Felipe was approached by the Correo. Both ships made clear their intentions to board and capture the other, and the battle was on. Heavy cannon and rifle fire was exchanged for about an hour, with the Correo getting the worst of it. The next morning, pursued by both the San Felipe and the Laura, the Correo was forced to surrender.
Wrecked in a battle with the Montezuma,
the San Felipe was
The swashbuckling captain of the San Felipe, William A. Hurd, placed Mexico Thompson and his crew under arrest on charges of piracy and took them back to New Orleans in chains. The trial in January 1836 was a farce that climaxed with Thompson's lawyers and United States prosecutors in a shouting match and throwing inkstands and law books at one another. The disgusted judge declared a mistrial and set Thompson and his men free.
Though the trial was farcical, the result of the San Felipe incident was not. For a time, the San Felipe's victory cleared the Texas coast of the Mexican naval presence, thus allowing arms and volunteers from the United States to move unimpeded into Texas.