The Texas Navy Fortune Favors the Brave - The Story of the Texas Navy

Introduction | San Felipe: Opening Shots | Privateers | The First Navy | War with Mexico

After San Jacinto | The Second Navy | The Tabasco Incident | The Yucatán Alliance | Mutiny! | Blood Feud |

Back to Yucatán | The Trial of  Edwin Moore | Epilogue | Resources & Finding Aids | Bibliography

Founding of the Second Navy

With all its ships wrecked, captured, or seized by creditors, by the middle of 1837 Texas was vulnerable to another Mexican invasion to retake the territory. With the Mexican blockade in place, any ships that tried to enter Texas waters were subject to seizure. Both immigration and shipping slowed to a trickle; even shippers who were willing to take the risk to get into Texas found they could not get insurance for their cargos. Only the privateer Thomas Toby provided any harassment of Mexican vessels.

Sketch by F. Wells, March 1838

Sketch from a letter from F. Wells
to J.W. Welshmeir, Velasco, March 4, 1838.

Texas Navy Papers, Archives and Information Services Division,
Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 401-1310.

Fortunately for Texas, Mexico had its own troubles during this vulnerable period. A dispute with France led to an incident called the "Pastry War," in which the French seized the Mexican port of Veracruz. In a battle to try to retake the port, the Mexican army was routed, the Mexican navy captured, and General Santa Anna was severely wounded, losing a leg. The French admiral Charles Baudin was given a hero's welcome in Galveston soon after.

S. Rhodes Fisher to A.S. Thurston, March 1837
S. Rhoads Fisher, the Secretary of the Navy, expressing his frustration with a proposal to purchase the Tom Toby

Report of George Wheelwright, April 1838
George Wheelwright reports on progress at the Texas Navy Yard, April 1838

James Hamilton on the purchase of the Zavala, 1838
James Hamilton on the purchase of the Zavala, November 1838

Meanwhile, the Texas Congress authorized the spending of $280,000 and made plans to borrow five million dollars to buy new ships. Samuel M. Williams was appointed to go to Baltimore as Texas agent to procure the ships. When he arrived, he found that the loan had fallen through, severely handicapping his efforts. With help from several benefactors, and the issuing of $500,000 in bonds, Williams was eventually able to contract to purchase the side-wheel steamer Charleston (renamed the Zavala), and arrange for the construction of one sloop of war, two brigs, and three schooners, to be delivered in Galveston upon completion. The financier then returned to Texas, and was replaced in Baltimore by Captain John G. Tod, a former officer of the United States Navy.

A.C. Hinton to Louis P. Cooke, November 1839
Commander A.C. Hinton struggles to refit the Zavala, November 1839

The three schooners, San Jacinto, San Antonio, and San Bernard, were all delivered in the summer of 1839, and the brig Colorado (later renamed the Wharton) was delivered in October 1839. The sloop and flagship of the line Austin sailed into Galveston in December 1839. Finally, the brig Archer was delivered in April 1840. Texas had a navy again. And with Mexico still on the ropes after the seizure of their navy by France, Texas was poised to take command of the Gulf.

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Page last modified: June 24, 2019