A History of the Texas Navy

The Texian Navy, or the First Texas Navy, was the naval branch of the Texian forces during the Texas Revolution. It was created to protect and defend the coastline of Texas and offer protection for the shipping and trade that was desperately needed for the growing republic.

The Texas Revolution, from October 2, 1835, to April 21, 1836, is a historic tale of courage. The declaration from the Tornel Decree of the Mexican Congress stated that any foreigners going against President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna “will be deemed pirates and dealt with as such, being citizens of no nation presently at war with the Republic and fighting under no recognized flag”. Land across southern Texas was the scene of most revolutionary battles, but a need to combat Mexican forces arose on the water. As well as escort rebel ships containing volunteer soldiers and supplies from the United States to aid in their effort.

The Republic of Texas Navy Ship, the Zavala
Drawing of the Armed Steamboat ZAVALA by artist Frank Karppi.

Before Formation

The Texas Navy is 2 separate factions. The Texian Navy from November 2, 1835–August 26, 1837, and then later the Texas Navy from March 23, 1839–February 19, 1846.

Texas had six privateers and two vessels, an American owed shipped named San Felipe and a steamer named Laura. Both used in the first naval battle on September 1, 1835, resulting in a win for Texas. Shortly after, The Texan government purchased four additional schooners, forming the Texian Navy.

The Independence (previously known as USRC Ingham), a former revenue service ship, became the flagship of the navy, alongside the Brutus, the Liberty (previously known as the William Robbins), and the Invincible. These ships constantly fought skirmishes against the Mexican Navy, as well as captured many of their ships during the revolution. While the Treaty of Velasco ended the revolution on May 14, 1836, naval warfare continued for another year. Mexican ships chased the Invincible and Brutus into Galveston Bay running aground and sinking both, dissolving of the Texian Navy.

Officially Established

The Congress of the Republic of Texas officially established the Texas Navy (or the Second Texas Navy) on March 23, 1839, after two failed attempts. The acquisition of 6 ships and a packet steamer renamed the Zavala formed the navy. Like that of the Texian Navy, one of their focuses was to draw the attention of the Mexican Army by raiding coastal towns. A major skirmish between the Texas and Mexican Navy was the Battle of Campeche on May 16, 1843, with Texas Navy ships Austin and Wharton. This battle is unique, as it is the only occasion where a sailing warship and a steam-powered warship came to a draw.

When Texas merged with the United States, the Texas Navy dissolved into the United States Navy. A little over 100 years later, Gor Marion Price Daniel, Sr. would create a third Texas Navy to preserve history of the Texas Navy and bring people together to celebrate the history of Texas.

Come visit our Texas Navy Theater and learn about the impact that the navy had for the independence of Texas! To learn more about history of the Texas Navy, visit the Texas State Historical Association as well as the Texas Navy Association!

One Comment

  1. Dear Maritime staff,
    Is there any way I can get a larger picture of the Zavala (by artist Frank Karppi) or any other photos/drawings/plans of the Charleston/Zavala. I am doing research and would be glad to pay for services.
    Thank you
    Robert Weeks
    512 517-0092

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