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Hurd, William A. (unknown–1838)

Thomas W. Cutrer Biography Entry

William A. Hurd, naval officer, commanded the armed schooner San Felipe, which returned Stephen F. Austin to Texas from New Orleans in August 1835 after his incarceration in Mexico. The ship also carried arms and ammunition for the Texas revolutionaries. On September 1, upon reaching the Velasco bar at the mouth of the Brazos River, the San Felipe engaged the Mexican revenue cutter Correo de México, which had been harassing ships out of the port of Brazoria. The more heavily armed Texas vessel, with a large force of volunteer "marines" aboard, badly damaged the Correo and wounded her captain, Thomas M. (Mexico) Thompson. The Mexican cutter took flight, but became becalmed during the night and was overtaken the next morning when the Texas steamer Laura towed Hurd's ship into position to rake the Correo's stern. Thereupon the Mexican cutter surrendered and was taken to New Orleans, where its captain and crew were tried on charges of piracy. The duel between the San Felipe and the Correo is regarded by many as the opening battle of the Texas Revolution.

Early in November Hurd and the San Felipe again engaged a Mexican revenue cutter, a larger and better armed one. Although details of the engagement are now lost, the episode ended when the San Felipe was run aground in Matagorda Bay and severely cannonaded by a Mexican man-of-war. That month the Matagorda Committee of Safety purchased the William Robbins, later renamed Liberty, and placed her under Hurd's command. On December 19, 1835, authorized by a letter of marque from the General Council, Hurd forced the surrender at Cavallo Pass of the Mexican man-of-war Bravo.

With the establishment of the regular Texas Navy Hurd was given command of the Brutus, a newly acquired schooner. In the spring of 1836 he and his crew convoyed a group of vessels from New Orleans to Galveston. Later that summer they participated in the Texas blockade of Matamoros. Hurd quit the blockade, however, and sailed to New York, apparently without either the knowledge or the permission of Commodore Charles E. Hawkins, the commander of the Texas Navy. The Brutus was in port at New York from September 1836 to February 1837. Hurd sailed from New York in March, reached Texas in April, and was immediately relieved of his command. He died in New Orleans on September 28, 1838. He has been characterized by naval historian Jim Dan Hill as "arrogant" and "swashbuckling."

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 in Forgotten Battles and Shirtsleeve Diplomacy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937; rpt., Austin: State House, 1987). Telegraph and Texas Register, October 20, 1838. Tom Henderson Wells, Commodore Moore and the Texas Navy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960). 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).

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Hurd, William A.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 22, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 8, 2019