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The Republic of Texas Marine Corps
Texas's Very Own Marine Corps
Were you aware that in the 1800s, before Texas became the 28th state in the United States, it was it's own country, with it's own form of government? It had everything including it's own military, which consisted of an Army, a Navy, and a Marine Corps.
Privateering had been the only way the Texas coastline was defended and secured up until 1835 when the provisional government of Texas saw the benefits of instituting a Navy. By November of that year the government had procured four schooners and the official Navy of the Republic of Texas had come into being.
On January 14, 1836 acting governor, James W. Robinson convinced the General Council to form a regular Marine Corps as part of the new Texas Navy. Modeled after the United States Marine Corps, the Republic of Texas Marine Corps served under the Navy Department of the Republic.
The Creation of the Corps
Once the process was begun things happened very quickly. The exact function of the Texas Marines was laid out in fifteen articles passed by the Texas Congress. Pay structure was copied from the pay structure of the Untied States Marine Corps, and uniforms were discontinued U.S. uniforms with the buttons changed to reflect the Republic of Texas.
Steps were immediately taken to recruit officers and enlisted personnel. By the time Texas joined the United States, nearly four-hundred men had served in the Texas Marine Corps, under the direction of eighteen commissioned officers.
Marines served under their own commanders on each ship, as well as when they went ashore, because no Post of the Commandant was ever created. This created some friction among the Marine Corps and the Navy because the Marines were also subject to the orders of the senior naval officer on the ship. The primary function of the Marines was to enforce discipline and provide security. During off-shore engagements with Mexico the Marines acted as sharpshooters, learning to identify and eliminate officers of the enemy ship. Once the ship was weakend, the Texas Marine Corps would board, and secure, the enemy vessel.
The Texas Marine Corps seemed to be destined to be short lived. The Treaty of Velasco was signed in May of 1836, due in part to the abilities of the Marines as a fighting unit. There were high hopes for resolution to the battle over the Texas coastline. By September of 1837 all four of the ships had been lost and the men of both the Texas Navy and the Marine Corps, were discharged and sent home. There seemed to be no need for their help.
By 1839 the young Republic saw the need to begin rebuilding the Navy, as well as restoring the Marine Corps. Over a period of months several steamships were purchased for use as warships. The first, the Zavala, had been in use for several years as a passenger ship. Texas purchased the ship for $120,000.00 and renamed it Zavala in honor of the first Vice President of the Republic of Texas. As the push to rebuild the Marine Corps continued, new officers were called to duty. None of the officers of the prior Marine Corps was asked to return. These new officers were chosen on the basis of prior government and military work.
This new Marine Corps was better organized than before. The rank of major was established as the senior officer, and captains were appointed to the positions of adjutant, quartermaster, and paymaster. Requirements for the Marines that were to serve aboard ship were established. A sign up bonus of $25.00 for each man that enlisted brought fresh troops to the growing organization.
While most of the men served well, and with the unquestioning loyalty that Marines are known for, there was one blot on the historical record with the mutiny aboard the San Antonio, February 11, 1842.
During a resupply mission to New Orleans, the Marine guard was restricted to the ship while the officers went ashore. The theory is that the resentful Marines got into some liquor that had been smuggled aboard the ship, and thus fortified, demanded shore leave. Leading the rest of the crew, the angry men attacked the ships officers, killing Lt. Charles Fuller and injuring two other men.
They then fled by two boats to New Orleans, where they were quickly picked up by the police and kept jailed until they were handed over to Naval officials in September, and subsequently court marshaled and hanged.
Lack of Funding
During the next few year, the Marine Corps of the Republic of Texas served valiantly, protecting Texas from any supply ships seeking to supply Santa Anna's armies. This effectively squelched any efforts to reconquer the Republic.
While Mirabeau Lamar had a vision for the continued independence of the Republic of Texas, and even it's growth as a significant governmental power, Sam Houston was known to be a supporter of annexation of Texas by the United States. Houston severely restricted the allocation of funds to the Navy which was the beginning of the end for the Texas Navy.What finished off the Navy, and therefore the Marines, was a dispute between Houston and Captain Edwin Moore, the commanding officer of the Texas squadron. Houston issued official proclamations naming Moore and those who served under him as pirates. Moore brought his ship back to Galveston where he was held until he was acquitted of all charges in 1844.
On February 24, 1844 Houston signed General Order #3, honorably discharging all officers except a minimum needed for the maintenance of the ships.
This story is one that is not very well known. Even having gone through high school in Texas, I never read about the Texas Navy or Marine Corps. It is a fascinating piece of American History that needs to be remembered.