Harcourt, Edward (1797–1836)

By: Louis E. Brister

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 12, 2016

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Edward Harcourt (Harkort), colonel and chief engineer in the Texas army, son of Johann Caspar and Henrietta Catharina (Elbers) Harkort IV, was born on the family estate of Harkorten, near Hagen, Westphalia, on July 18, 1797. After completing his secondary education and an apprenticeship in surveying, he worked briefly in his father's steel manufacturing business, then for about a year as an independent surveyor. After serving a year in a Prussian artillery regiment, he worked as a surveyor for the land registry in Hagen. In March 1826 he was admitted to the Royal Mining Academy in Freiberg, Saxony. By September 1827, when he completed his studies in mineralogy and mining at the academy, he had already published a brief monograph describing a technique he had developed for the use of the blowpipe in the quantitative analysis of dry silver ore.

After his studies Harcourt was hired by a British mining enterprise, the Mexican Company, as chief director of reduction works at the firm's silver mines in Mexico. In March 1828 Eduardo Harcort, as he was called in Mexico, arrived in Veracruz, Mexico, with a group of smelting specialists. Three years later, in October 1831, he resigned his post as director of mines and reduction works in order to pursue a career in Mexico as a surveyor and cartographer. A few months later the political climate in Mexico prompted him to join Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna's revolutionary army in Veracruz as a volunteer, with the rank of captain. In March 1832 Harcourt was taken prisoner at Tolomé in the first battle of Santa Anna's campaign for the presidency of Mexico. Five months later he escaped his captors and rejoined Santa Anna's forces. He served as a colonel of artillery until the end of the revolution in December 1832. He spent the next fifteen months in the Mexican army, serving in Querétaro, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and Colima. During this time he prepared a brief monograph in Spanish on the geography and economy of Colima and a map of the territory, but they were not published until a few years later in Mexico. In April 1834, when Santa Anna repudiated the policies of his own government, Harcourt joined other Federalists who worked to overthrow Santa Anna's dictatorial regime. In May 1835 he was captured at the battle of Zacatecas and detained in Perote fortress until October, when he was deported from Mexico and sent to New Orleans.

Soon after his arrival in New Orleans on November 23, 1835, he met Stephen F. Austin, who persuaded him to join the Texans' struggle against Santa Anna. On March 14, 1836, Colonel Harcourt, as he called himself in Texas, proposed to the Texas convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos that a corps of army engineers be organized under his command. On March 28 Gen. Sam Houston appointed Harcourt chief engineer of the Texas army and ordered him to fortify the Texas coast near Columbia. Harcourt spent the spring and summer of 1836 at Galveston and Velasco, erecting fortifications against an invasion from Mexico by sea. At Galveston he worked to construct Fort Travis, and as commander of that crude fortress he was responsible for several hundred Mexican prisoners. On August 11, 1836, Harcourt died of a fever at the home of David L. Kokernot, a Dutch immigrant who operated a lumber business on nearby San Jacinto Bay. In 1837 a lithographic chart of the Galveston Bay area was printed in New Orleans bearing Harcourt's name, and in 1858 his son-in-law, Ferdinand Gustav Kühne, published a journal written in German in 1832 by Harcourt while he was in prison and in the field during Santa Anna's revolution in Mexico.

Louis E. Brister, trans. and ed., In Mexican Prisons: The Journal of Eduard Harkort, 1832–1834 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986).


  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Military
  • Soldiers

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution

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

Louis E. Brister, “Harcourt, Edward,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 18, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/harcourt-edward.

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April 12, 2016