After San Jacinto
Several ships of the Texas Navy played important roles in the aftermath of San Jacinto. The Independence, the flagship of the Texas fleet, carried the Texas commissioners to the United States to New Orleans to begin their negotiations for recognition by the U.S. The Liberty also went to New Orleans as an escort for the Flora, which carried the wounded Sam Houston on board. In New Orleans, the Liberty was sold to pay the cost of its own repairs.
Detail from Republic of Texas currency (1839 $500 serial)
Prints and Photographs Collection,
Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1989/84-19.
The Invincible, back from its piracy hearing in New Orleans, was assigned to carry General Santa Anna back to Mexico; the general had been a prisoner of war since his defeat in the battle of San Jacinto. In an exciting incident, the Invincible was intercepted by another Texas vessel, the steamship Ocean, and prevented from carrying out its mission by army officers who disagreed with the treaty that ended the fighting. (Santa Anna eventually made it home via Washington, D.C.)
The Mexican government did not accept Santa Anna's treaty any more readily than the Texans. President Burnet ordered the Brutus and the Invincible to blockade Matamoros and prevent the Mexicans from renewing the war by receiving supplies and moving troops by sea. But soon the deteriorating ships had to leave Texas to be refitted and repaired, and the Texas coast once again become subject to a Mexican blockade.
In April 1837, the Independence returned from New Orleans, where it encountered two Mexican blockaders within view of the Texas seaport of Velasco. After a six-hour battle, the Independence was forced to surrender and was taken as a prize by the Mexicans. The prisoners later escaped, but the Independence was now in the service of the Mexican navy.
Determined to do something about the Mexican blockade, in June 1837 Secretary of War S. Rhoads Fisher and his commodore, Henry L. Thompson, left Texas on a cruise with the two remaining vessels, the Invincible and the Brutus. In doing so, they were in defiance of the wishes of President Sam Houston. The cruise became quite an adventure. Over the next several months, the ships bombarded the town of Sisal, took and lost several prizes, claimed possession of several Mexican islands, including Cozumel, and captured the British merchantman Eliza Russell and sent the vessel to Galveston as a prize. Upon returning to Galveston, the ships did battle with two Mexican brigs that were hunting a Texas merchantman. Both ships ran aground in Galveston Harbor and were wrecked by storms before they could be salvaged.
President Houston was furious at Fisher, and the secretary was forced to resign. Commodore Thompson was threatened with court-martial but died before the proceedings could be instituted. The Texas Navy consisted now only of unpaid bills.
Charles E. Hawkins served in both the United States Navy and in the Mexican navy in the 1820s. He also worked as a river captain on the Chattahoochee before becoming involved in the Tampico insurrection against Santa Anna's government in 1835. Hawkins's seagoing experience and revolutionary enthusiasm impressed Henry Smith, governor of the rebellious Texans, and won Hawkins a commission as captain of the Texas warship Independence. By March 12, 1836, Hawkins had been promoted to commodore and given command of the entire Texas Navy. He died of smallpox in New Orleans in 1837 while overseeing the refitting of the Independence.