By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 20, 2016

The Brutus, a schooner of about 160 tons displacement, was purchased in New Orleans for the Texas Navy, and Capt. William A. Hurd, former commander of the San Felipe and the William Robbins (later renamed Liberty), was appointed as her captain. She carried a crew of forty men. In New Orleans she was fitted with a long eighteen-pound swivel gun and nine "short guns." After considerable overhauling to accommodate crew and armament and a great deal of legal difficulty concerning payment for repairs, the Brutus put to sea and arrived in Texas waters in early February 1836. The ship was said to sail poorly. After the battle of San Jacinto she was sent to New Orleans for supplies and refitting and then returned to Texas waters, only to be blockaded at Matagorda by the heavily armed Mexican brig Vencedor del Álamo. Rescued by the Invincible and the privately owned Union and Ocean, the Brutus sailed for New York for refitting in September and was there in October 1836. This voyage was apparently undertaken with neither the knowledge nor the permission of Charles E. Hawkins, the commander of the Texas Navy, for upon his return Hurd was immediately relieved of his command.

Under the command of J. D. Boylan, the Brutus convoyed the supply ship Texas from Galveston to Matagorda and returned by midnight, June 10, 1837. Within an hour she was back at sea. She sailed first to the mouth of the Mississippi River, where she hoped to intercept Mexican merchant vessels, and then to the Yucatán coast, where she arrived by way of Cuba on July 8. In consort with the Invincible, the Brutus cruised down to Cozumel, which its crew claimed for the Republic of Texas, and then, on July 16, turned back up the coast. The two Texas schooners made prizes of the Union, the Telégrafo, and the Adventure off Sisal and on July 26 engaged the batteries defending the city's harbor. Sailing north, the tiny flotilla captured the Obispo and the Eliza Russel off the Alacranes and then doubled back down the Yucatán coast and took the Correo de Tabasco on August 12. The Brutus had captured the Rafaelita off Veracruz by August 17 and then ran farther up the coast to blockade Matamoros. With their water supply dangerously low, however, the Brutus and Invincible made for their home port, Galveston; the Brutus crossed the bar on August 27. With the approach later that day of two Mexican brigs of war, the Iturbide and Libertador, the Brutus attempted to rejoin the Invincible in open water and to engage the enemy. She ran aground in shoal water, however, and the steamer Branch T. Archer's attempt to render assistance resulted only in the unshipping of her rudder. Minutes later the Invincible, too, ran aground, where she was pounded to pieces by the surf. A few weeks later the Brutus, still held fast by the sands off the tip of Galveston Island, was battered to pieces by a storm. Thus was lost the last effective ship of the Texas Navy until the purchase of a second fleet in 1839.

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). C. L. Douglas, Thunder on the Gulf: The Story of the Texas Navy (Dallas: Turner, 1936; rpt., Fort Collins, Colorado: Old Army Press, 1973). Jim Dan Hill, The Texas Navy (New York: Barnes, 1962). Tom Henderson Wells, Commodore Moore and the Texas Navy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960).

Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution
  • Republic of Texas

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Brutus,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 19, 2022,

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May 20, 2016