Summer Reading

Summer Reading

Lone Star Navy: Texas, the Fight for the Gulf of Mexico, and the Shaping of the American West

by Jonathan W. Jordan

Potomac Books, 381 pp., $35

Here's a multiple-choice question to test your Texacentric knowledge quotient: Texas would have never earned its independence from Mexico in 1836 if not for: A) the brave (if foolhardy) last stand of the Bonham/Bowie/Crockett contingent at the Alamo; B) Sam Houston's bloody victory over Santa Ana's troops during their siesta nap at San Jacinto; or C) the tiny but vitally important Texas Navy. If you answered B), you're forgiven for being at least half-right, but if you answered C), give yourself extra points for knowing about this criminally overlooked yet fascinating aspect of the history of the Lone Star State. Naval power played a crucial role during the revolution, beginning in 1835, though the really interesting period, 1839 through 1841, was the one during which the amazing Commodore Edwin Moore ran the navy of the Republic of Texas practically single-handedly, defying and defeating not only Mexico, but much more formidable foes: the towering Sam Houston and the spineless politicians of the cash-poor Republic.

According to Jonathan W. Jordan's expansive and cogent new book, it wasn't that Houston didn't like naval officers and men, even though he did his best to ensure that Texas' warships fell apart and its sailors deserted – both effects achieved largely by refusing or withdrawing appropriations. Moore outmaneuvered Houston in many ways, one of the more ingenious being the way he extorted $25,000 from the rebel leadership in the Yucatan to keep his ships afloat and his sailors fed. Moore's exploits made him the toast of the Texian nation, but only briefly: Houston labeled him a traitor and had him hauled back to port to be tried for treason.

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