San Bernard

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: June 1, 1995

The schooner San Bernard, a warship of the Navy of the Republic of Texas, was built in Baltimore and christened Scorpion. The ship was sixty-six feet long and 21½ feet across the beam; she displaced 170 tons and had a draft of eight feet. Fully manned, she carried a crew of thirteen officers and sixty-nine sailors and marines. The ship's armament consisted of four twelve-pound medium and one twelve-pound long cannons. The San Bernard was commanded from September through November 1839 by A. C. Hinton. Hinton was replaced by Lt. William R. Postell, who served as captain until May 1840, when he was in turn relieved by Lt. William S. Williamson; Williamson served until November. Lt. Thurston W. Taylor commanded the San Bernard until January 1841, when Lt. James O'Shaunesy took over. In March Lt. Armstrong I. Lewis held a brief command before being succeeded by Lt. Downing H. Crisp, who served as captain for the remainder of the ship's period of active duty.

The San Bernard was commissioned at Galveston on August 31, 1839, sailed for the rebellious Mexican state of Yucatán on July 26, 1840, and arrived at Sisal on July 31. Through August and September she patrolled between Campeche and Veracruz, cooperating with Mexican Federalists against Santa Anna's Centralist government. After a season of patrolling off the Texas coast to intercept smugglers and to engage in surveys and cartography, Crisp and the San Bernard conveyed Texas agent James Webb to Veracruz, where they reached port on May 31 but found themselves denied landing rights by Mexican officials. Crisp lingered offshore until the end of June and then steered for Yucatán. While he was crossing the Bay of Campeche his topmast was carried away, however, and he was compelled to return to Galveston, where he arrived on June 20.

After being rebuffed in his attempts to negotiate a permanent peace with Mexico, President Mirabeau B. Lamar once again ordered his fleet to Yucatán. Crisp sailed the San Bernard from Galveston on December 13, 1841, and arrived at Sisal on January 6, 1842. Once again he patrolled between the Yucatán port and Veracruz and occasionally as far north as Tuxpan; he participated in the capture of the Mexican merchant vessel Progreso on February 6 and the Dolorita and the Dos Amigos in April. Off Tampico, Crisp and his ship were ordered back to Galveston with dispatches and reports but returned to Commodore Edwin Ward Moore and the rest of the Texas fleet on April 24.

At the end of this cruise Crisp returned to Galveston, where, in early September, he reported his ship badly worm-eaten. He was authorized to have her repaired at New Orleans, but no funds were provided to pay for the work. Later that month the San Bernard was driven ashore by a gale, and for want of $500 required to refloat her and have her repaired she became a deserted, rotting hulk in Galveston harbor. Finally, after repair, the ship was transferred to the United States Navy, on May 11, 1846, but when the United States fleet found no place for her she was sold for $150.

C. L. Douglas, Thunder on the Gulf: The Story of the Texas Navy (Dallas: Turner, 1936; rpt., Fort Collins, Colorado: Old Army Press, 1973). 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). Jim Dan Hill, The Texas Navy (New York: Barnes, 1962). Tom Henderson Wells, Commodore Moore and the Texas Navy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960).
Time Periods:

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “San Bernard,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995