The San Jacinto, a schooner of war originally known as the Viper, was built by the Baltimore firm of Schott and Whitney and on June 27, 1839, was commissioned into the Texas Navy of the Republic of Texas. The sister ship of the San Antonio and the San Bernard was 66 feet long and 21½ feet across the beam and had a draft of 8 feet and a displacement of 170 tons. The ship carried a complement of thirteen officers and sixty-nine sailors and marines and was armed with four twelve-pound medium and one nine-pound long brass pivot cannon. The San Jacinto was commanded first by John T. K. Lothrop, who served as captain from June through November 1839. He was relieved by Lt. James E. Gibbons, who commanded from February through April; Gibbons was then replaced by Lt. Alexander Moore, who held the command through May. Lt. William R. Postell then served as captain until September, and Lt. James O'Shaunessy was in command when the ship was wrecked in a storm at Arcas Island on October 31, 1840.
On June 26, 1840, the San Jacinto sailed from its home port of Galveston for Point María Andréa, thirty-five miles north of Veracruz, with instructions to blockade the Mexican port and seize enemy ships. On August 20 the San Jacinto rejoined Commodore Edwin W. Moore's fleet and remained with Moore until being detached to Galveston with dispatches for the government. In search of drinking water, the San Jacinto called at Arcas Island. Soon a violent norther appeared, but Lt. O'Shaunessy nevertheless went ashore, leaving Lt. Alfred G. Gray as senior officer on board. When the ship's anchor failed to hold, Gray displayed great ingenuity and seamanship in an attempt to save it, but even a piece of the ship's artillery used as an additional anchor could not save the San Jacinto from being swept ashore by gale winds. It finally ran aground and broke up. All hands and stores were saved.