By: Robert W. Kesting

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: October 3, 2019

On March 22, 1836, the brig Durango, owned by James Reed and Company, a New Orleans mercantile house, and commanded by James C. Ryan, was seized by the Texas armed schooner Liberty, commanded by William S. Brown, somewhere in Matagorda Bay. The Durango was no stranger to the Texas trade. In fact, James Reed, the last recorded owner, purchased this vessel before July 9, 1835, while on a business trip to Texas. He obtained the Durango from Mexican authorities after the vessel was wrecked while attempting to cross the Brazos bar. He made repairs in Texas and sailed the vessel back to New Orleans, where the Durango was officially registered. He had several business connections with Texas and was sympathetic to the Texas cause.

Because of Reed's business interest in Texas, it seems unlikely that the Durango was carrying war contraband destined to assist Antonio López de Santa Anna's army. The documented and most logical reason why the Durango was seized is that Texas needed the supplies and the vessel, which was later used to transport troops and provisions along the Texas coast. Texas had issued orders to military leaders to press into service anything that could be used to support the war effort. The Durango fell victim to Texas impressment, despite the fact that it was displaying the Stars and Stripes on the day of its capture. Once the Durango was escorted into Matagorda, Texas marines were assigned to guard the vessel and cargo. Unable to reclaim his vessel, Ryan lodged a formal protest with Judge Charles Wilson before departing for the United States.

The Durango was taken to Galveston Island after impressment and kept there to avoid recapture by Santa Anna's advancing units. While it was there most of the supplies aboard the vessel were consumed by Texans; all that remained of the cargo recorded in an inventory conducted by William Lawrence, quartermaster for Galveston Island, on May 22, 1836, was forty-three barrels of damaged flour. The Durango disappeared from recorded history after the vessel was ordered to transport troops down the coast on September 16, 1836.

Texas was affected by the capture of the Durango in both a positive and negative way. The republic benefited because most of the cargo went to assist the army and aided some needy citizens who had hurriedly left behind all their possessions and fled for safety from the advance of Santa Anna's army. However, because of the Texas policy of attacking American merchant shipping, the Durango incident added to an already hostile attitude within the United States about attacks by both Mexico and Texas on United States vessels, which eventually led to the arrest of the crew of the Invincible after this vessel captured the United States merchant vessel Pocket.

A claim was later filed by the Sea Insurance Company of New York, the insurance carrier for the Durango and perhaps also the cargo. Added pressure by the United States Department of State compelled Texas into settling the claim for $8,050. However, Texas had no real objections to the settlement. The entire incident was closed officially on April 11, 1838, when a convention of indemnity was entered into by Texas and the United States. The total settlement, which also made provisions for the Pocket claims, was for $11,750 plus accrued interest.

Robert W. Kesting, William Bryan and the Navy from Abroad (M.A. thesis, St. Mary's University, 1985).

Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

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

Robert W. Kesting, “Durango,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/durango.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
October 3, 2019