Britton, Forbes (1812–1861)

By: Frank Wagner

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 17, 2022

Forbes Britton, soldier, businessman, and legislator, was born in 1812 in Clarksburg, Virginia, and is thought to have attended Kenyon College in Ohio. He was appointed from Virginia to the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated thirty-third in his class on July 1, 1834. He was brevetted a second lieutenant, Seventh Infantry, on July 1, 1834. He was appointed a second lieutenant on November 18, 1835, promoted to first lieutenant on July 7, 1838, and made a captain on February 16, 1847, after serving in the Mexican War. For most of his army career he moved Indians from the southeastern United States to sites in Indian Territory.

He resigned his commission on July 16, 1850, and moved to Corpus Christi to practice law and speculate in real estate. With Cornelius Cahill, Britton began a profitable commission business in 1850. In 1852 he was one of the incorporators of the Corpus Christi Navigation Company, formed for the purpose of dredging a ship channel into Corpus Christi Bay. He lobbied for construction of a road between Corpus Christi and El Paso and joined with William L. Cazneau, James Power, Henry L. Kinney, and others in forming the Texas Western Railroad Company on February 16, 1852; the company laid no track. Britton incorporated the Western Artesian Well Company with Charles Stillman, Henry Redmond, Frederick Belden, D. S. Howard, and Henry Clay Davis on November 14, 1857. He was elected senator from the Nueces district in the Seventh (1857–58) and Eighth (1859–60) Texas legislatures, where as a moderate and a Unionist he supported Gov. Sam Houston. While serving in the legislature he was commissioned chief of staff to General Houston, on February 25, 1860, with the rank of brigadier general.

Britton married Rebecca Millard of Washington, D.C., on March 13, 1836, and they had two sons and two daughters; their daughter Elisabeth Anne married Edmund J. Davis. Britton died in Austin on February 14, 1861, while attending a special session of the legislature, and was buried in the State Cemetery, the third person to be interred there.

Corpus Christi Ranchero, February 25, 1860, February 23, April 6, 1861. Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

  • Seventh Legislature (1857-1858)
  • Eighth Legislature (1859-1861)
  • Senate

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

Frank Wagner, “Britton, Forbes,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 17, 2022