REPUBLIC OF TEXAS MARINE CORPS
REPUBLIC OF TEXAS MARINE CORPS. Although a marine corps was suggested in the "Act and Decree Establishing a Navy," passed on November 25, 1835, it was not until acting governor James W. Robinson strongly urged the swift formation of such an organization in his message to the General Council on January 14, 1836, that steps were actually taken to commission officers of marines and recruit enlisted personnel. Before the end of the Republic of Texas and annexation to the United States, more than 350 men served with the Texas Marine Corps, and at least eighteen officers were commissioned to command them. The Texas Marine Corps served under the direction of the Navy Department of the Republic, and the duties of the corps were specifically ordained in fifteen articles passed by the Texas Congress on December 13, 1836. The corps was modeled upon the United States Marine Corps, but no post of commandant was ever established. Marines served under their own officers aboard ship and ashore but were subject to the orders of the senior naval officer present. Pay and allowances were based upon those of the United States Marine Corps, and the uniform of the Texas Marine came from discontinued USMC stocks, changing only the buttons and cap devices to those of Texas configuration.
Surviving records show that when the warships of the first Texas Navy set sail to interdict Mexican commerce and prevent coastal depredations, each vessel had a marine guard. Capt. Fenton Mercer Gibson commanded the guard aboard the Invincible, assisted by Lt. Thomas Francis Ward; Capt. Arthur Robertson and Lt. William C. Francis served aboard Brutus. Lt. Thomas Crosby commanded the Marine Guard of Independence. The primary duty of the Texas Marine was to enforce discipline aboard ship and to provide security at shore stations. Marines also acted as sharpshooters and boarders during engagements at sea. Texas Marines on the Liberty distinguished themselves in action against the Mexican Pelicano on March 3, 1836, when they joined the boarding party, quickly gained the deck, and secured the ship.
With the demise of the first Texas Navy, when all four commissioned vessels had been lost to storm, capture, and economics, there was little need for marines. Accordingly, all of the officers and enlisted men were discharged from the service. The government of the republic began rebuilding the Navy fleet to protect the Texas coast in 1839, when they purchased the steamship Zavala. Over the next several months, six more warships were purchased. As these vessels were fitted out, naval officers were recalled to duty, but none of the former marine officers were brought back to service. A second version of the Texas Marine Corps was better organized. The new officers were drawn from applicants with backgrounds in government service and the army. Enlistments in the ranks was stimulated by a twenty-five-dollar bounty given to each new marine recruit. A senior officer with the rank of major was established, and a captain was appointed to the positions of adjutant, quartermaster, and paymaster. Requirements for marines to serve aboard the warships of the Texas Navy were established.
The officers and men of the Texas Marine Corps served gallantly in all of the naval actions of the second phase of the Texas-Mexican conflict. The reputation of the corps was tarnished, however, when the marine guard of the San Antonio mutinied on February 11, 1842, for being restricted to the ship in New Orleans on a resupply mission from the fleet off the Yucatán. Most of the ship's officers went ashore. Resentful and probably fortified by liquor smuggled on board, many of the crew demanded shore leave. The marines and the crew of the ship attacked the ship's officers; Lt. Charles Fuller was killed, and two midshipmen were injured in the melee and locked up. The mutineers fled in two boats, but many were quickly rounded up by the New Orleans police when they reached the shore. They were kept in jail until they could be transferred to Texas Naval authorities in September; the mutineers were tried by court-martial aboard the Flagship Austin. The court martial of April 16, 1843, found marines Antonio Landois and William Simpson guilty in all counts, and they were subsequently hanged. Several other mutineers escaped.
During the years 1839–43, the second Texas Navy guarded the Gulf against potential seaborne supply routes to any Mexican overland invasion force seeking to reconquer Texas. However, the land-locked view of many governmental officials, including President Sam Houston, severely restricted the allocation of funds necessary to keep the navy at sea. Additionally, a dispute between President Houston and post Capt. Edwin W. Moore, commanding officer of the Texas squadron, resulted in official proclamations branding Captain Moore and those who served under him as pirates. It was the nadir of the Texas Navy. The Texas squadron left the Yucatán in June 1843 and returned to Galveston where it was laid up in ordinary. The officers, crew, and marines were kept on duty so long as their services were required. Finally, General Order No. 3, dated February 24, 1844, honorably discharged all officers not required for the minimum maintenance of the mothballed ships.
Alex Dienst, "The Navy of the Republic of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 12–13 (January-October 1909; rpt., Fort Collins, Colorado: Old Army Press, 1987). Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898).