Brannum, William Thomas (1816–1842)

By: Mary Smith Fay

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

William Thomas Brannum, naval agent of the Republic of Texas, was born around 1816 in Georgia, traveled to Texas as a bachelor in December 1835, and was awarded a first-class headright certificate dated January 25, 1838, for one-third of a league of land. He was initiated into Holland Lodge No. 1 of the Masonic order in Houston on February 13, 1837. Brannum married Elizabeth Tritton Shelton in New Orleans on July 13, 1840, and they had one daughter, who married John Miller Haden.

Brannum joined the Texas Navy in 1836 under Commodore Charles E. Hawkins as clerk to Capt. George Washington Wheelwright on the flagship Independence, where he rose to the position of purser. Brannum then served as agent for the second Republic of Texas Navy under Edwin Ward Moore. As navy agent he made on-the-spot investigations and reported on the condition of foreign vessels, their armament, and their munitions; inventoried and divided the spoils of captured ships; and recruited men and arranged for all payrolls and supplies. He was also responsible for selling Texas treasury notes at the highest market price available in New Orleans and other places in the United States. Brannum served as enrolling clerk for the Republic of Texas Senate from November 5, 1838, to January 24, 1839. On September 25, 1839, he was responsible for the purchase for the Texas Navy of the ninety-five-ton schooner Louisville.

Commodore Moore dispatched the schooner San Antonio to Yucatán on August 27, 1842, in an effort to collect enough money to keep the Texas fleet afloat and to pay bills already incurred. Brannum signed on as purser. The San Antonio never reached Campeche and was never again heard from.

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). Navy of the Republic Service Records, Adjutant General's Record Group, Texas State Archives, Austin. Tom Henderson Wells, Commodore Moore and the Texas Navy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960).
Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Mary Smith Fay, “Brannum, William Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994