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HARBY, CHARLES LEVI (1793–1870). Charles Levi Harby, naval officer, was born in Georgetown, South Carolina, on September 21, 1793. In the War of 1812 he served as a midshipman in the United States Navy. He left Charleston on the privateer Saucy Jack and was involved in many naval battles. He was serving on the Providence when it was captured by a British man-of-war. Harby was taken prisoner and remained in England in Dartmoor Prison until the close of the war. Harby served with Commodore Porter, and he also served under General Bolivar during the Bolivian war for independence and was wounded in battle. Harby participated in every war of the United States from 1812 to 1865. When Texas was in its struggle for independence, he took a furlough and fought in the Texas Navy. Consequently he was dismissed by the United States Navy, as Mexico was considered a friendly nation then. Later he was allowed to return to the U.S. Navy but was put at the bottom of the promotion list. He fought in the Mexican War and also in the Seminole Wars.

On January 31, 1842, he married Leonora R. D'Lyon of Savannah, Georgia. She was the teenage daughter of Judge Levi Sheftall D'Lyon, a prominent Jewish attorney in Savannah. They had three children and resided in Savannah. When they moved to Galveston, Leonora Harby established the first Jewish Sunday school in Texas. While in Galveston Harby was a captain in the Revenue Service, and when his native South Carolina seceded, he turned in his cutter, resigned his commission, and joined the Confederate States Service as a heavy artillery captain.

He was artillery commander of the guns on the Neptune at the battle of Galveston when he engaged with the Union steamer Harriet Lane. Eight of his fifteen gunners were killed in that battle along with his lieutenant, Harvey Clark. During the fight the Neptune was sunk, and Harby, nearly seventy years of age, was the last off the boat. After the battle of Sabine Pass he was made commodore of ships there.

At the end of the war he was in command of Galveston harbor. He resided in that city until his death on December 3, 1870. His obituary was short and made no mention of service other than commanding a cutter in Galveston Bay. "We continue to lose our old Texans," the Galveston Daily News reported. Harby had neither asked for nor received a pardon from the U.S. government after serving her faithfully for forty-eight years. His tombstone read, "And with my last breath on the threshold of death, I proclaim my faith in Israel's God."

He had two sons and a son-in-law who served in Texas units during the Civil War. The youngest son, Jacob, was very active in the United Confederate Veterans in Texas and New York.


Clement A. Evans, ed., Confederate Military History (extended ed., Wilmington, North Carolina: Broadfoot, 1987–1989). Confederate Veteran Magazine (January 1917). The Jewish Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas at San Antonio Institute of Texan Cultures, 1974).

Gary Whitfield


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Gary Whitfield, "HARBY, CHARLES LEVI," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed January 31, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.