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Texas Navy


TEXAS NAVY. The southwestern borderlands were a serious barrier in 1836 to Mexico's attempts to crush the Texas revolution. Although Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna's advisers warned him to establish a Mexican Gulf fleet to protect the flow of seaborne military supplies along the coast before launching an overland campaign, Santa Anna refused to wait. In the meantime, the Texans, with only four small armed ships, seized control of the Gulf and disrupted Mexican supply routes throughout the war.

By the summer of 1837, however, Mexico had blockaded Texas and many residents feared a sea invasion. In 1838, France's navy fortuitously surrounded Mexico and destroyed its fleet. Alarmed by French withdrawal in 1839, President Mirabeau B. Lamar committed Texas to a naval program. By 1840, the new fleet consisted of an eleven-gun steamer, a twenty-two-gun flagship, and five smaller but effective men-of-war. The collapse of Texan James Treat's peace negotiations with Mexico caused Lamar to enter into a de facto alliance with the state of Yucatán, then fighting for independence from the Mexican union. As allies of Yucatán, the Texas navy captured Tabasco and, as late as the spring of 1843, fought engagements with new Mexican steam warships built and commanded by the British.

The Texas fleet kept Mexico busy and saved the young republic from re-invasion. By 1843, United States annexation was close at hand, and the president of Texas, Sam Houston, recalled the navy because he believed it was too expensive and was jeopardizing his diplomacy. After annexation, the remaining ships in the Texas navy became the property of the U.S. government.


Francaviglia, Richard V. From Sail to Steam: Four Centuries of Texas Maritime History, 1500–1900. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.

Hill, Jim D. The Texas Navy: In Forgotten Battles and Shirtsleeve Diplomacy. Austin, Tex.: State House Press, 1987.

Montejano, David. Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987.

Jim DanHill/e. m.

See alsoAnnexation of Territory ; Armored Ships ; Mexican-American War ; Mexico, Relations with .

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