Gray, Alfred Gilliat (1818–1876)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 1, 1995

Alfred Gilliat Gray, officer of the Texas Navy, was born in July 1818 in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of Sarah (Scott) and William Gray, a British consul. He moved to the Republic of Texas in 1839 and was appointed a midshipman on the Wharton. Promoted to first lieutenant of the San Jacinto, Gray was senior officer aboard that unfortunate ship on the night of October 14, 1840, when it was run aground by a norther on Arcas Island. He displayed great ingenuity and seamanship in attempting to save the ship, which was ultimately broken up by the surf. Gray commanded the flagship of the Texas Navy, the Austin, while she was undergoing repairs at Galveston from July through December 1841. As second in command of the Austin, Gray was in command of the vessel on January 6, 1842, when Commodore Edwin W. Moore went ashore at Sisal, Yucatán, on a diplomatic mission. Fearing treachery when Federalist rebels and Centralist army officers met in the city and Moore did not return, Gray seized several high-ranking Yucatán officials from the American barque Louisa and held them as hostages until Moore's safe return. Gray was a member of the court-martial that tried and convicted the San Antonio mutineers, personally fitting the nooses to the sailors hanged aboard the Austin on April 26, 1843. Gray distinguished himself in the duel between the Austin and the Mexican steam frigate Moctezuma off Campeche on April 30, 1843. In May he was temporarily detached to command the Yucatán gunboat Independencia, harassing the Mexican fleet off Telchac. In this command he captured at least one prize. On July 25, 1843, President Sam Houston dishonorably discharged Commodore Moore from the navy, and the next day Gray, then commanding the Austin, resigned in protest. Almost ten years later, in 1854, Gray was at last paid by the United States government for his services to the Texas Navy, over Houston's strenuous objections. In 1845 Gray was appointed captain of a vessel of the Pacific Steamship Company out of Saint John, New Britain. He married his second cousin, Sarah Elizabeth Gray, on August 15, 1849; they had five children. With the outbreak of the Civil War he returned to the United States and was appointed to the command of a chartered steamer, the Atlantic. In September 1861 he was transferred to the command of the army transport McClellan, which he commanded for three years. His brother, Andrew B. Gray, served in the Confederate Army. In 1874 Alfred Gray was promoted to commodore of the Pacific Steamship Company. He died on November 10, 1876.

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). Andrew Belcher Gray Collection, Texas State Archives, Austin. Jim Dan Hill, Texas Navy in Forgotten Battles and Shirtsleeve Diplomacy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937; rpt., Austin: State House, 1987). Tom Henderson Wells, Commodore Moore and the Texas Navy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960).

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Gray, Alfred Gilliat,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 17, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995