Johns, Edward (ca. 1824–ca. 1906)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 27, 2019

Edward Johns, Texas Navy midshipman, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, about 1824, the son of wealthy French Creole parents. He was educated in Paris and as a boy of fourteen became a midshipman in the Texas Navy. A friend later wrote that he was "highstrung and fearless" and "his career was tempestuous." In 1841 aboard the Texas schooner of war San Antonio, he took part in the naval blockade of the Mexican coast, cruising between Campeche and Veracruz. On January 29, 1842, after the vessel returned to Galveston, first lieutenant A. A. Waite drew up a list of specifications against Johns, charging him with "Frequent neglect of duty," "Disobedience of orders," and "Ungentlemanly and unofficerlike conduct." Charges against Johns were apparently dropped, for in February 1842 he sailed again for Mexico, this time aboard the sloop Austin, and remained on station until the following May. By June 28, 1842, he was back in New Orleans working as a merchant seaman.

Little is known of his later life except that in 1844 he was sailing in east Asia with the United States Merchant Marine, and in March 1847 he was serving aboard the brig Isaac Allerton out of Plymouth in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1901 he was working as a caretaker at the First California Cavalry armory in San Francisco, and three years later he retired to a home for the aged run by the Little Sisters of Charity. When his sight failed he was moved to the Home for the Blind in Oakland. Johns was said to have been an accomplished musician, and his French was flawless.

The present significance of the career of Edward Johns lies in the preservation by the Barker Texas History Center of his journals, "Journal of the Texas Schooner of War San Antonio, William Seeger, Lieutenant Commanding" (November 13, 1841, through December 25, 1841) and "Journal of the Texas Sloop of War Austin Bearing the Broad Pennant of Commodore Edwin W. Moore (February 1 through May 17, 1842). Commodore Moore required that every midshipman in his command maintain a journal, and that of Johns, despite its prosaic and highly matter-of-fact style, sheds light on the life of a junior officer in the Texas Navy. Although the journal entries deal mainly with winds and weather, Johns writes as well of desertions and punishments, of taking prizes along the Mexican coast, and of the court-martial of the San Antonio mutineers. His entry of March 20, 1842, is typical: "Light breezes from the N & E and clear pleasant weather. At 10:50 P.M. Francis McFarland (seaman) departed this life. Received 175 lbs. of fresh beef." Johns was also a talented illustrator, and his journals and other papers are enlivened by sketches in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolors. In 1906 he turned these papers over to his friend L. M. McKinney, who in 1925 donated them to the University of Texas together with a brief sketch of Johns's life.

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). Edward Johns Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. 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, “Johns, Edward,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 27, 2019