Center Acquires Revolutionary Era Naval Log
Rare Source Helps Outline the Revolution at Sea
November 16, 2015
The Briscoe Center has acquired the logbook of the Mexican Army’s schooner Bravo, which saw battle in the Texas Revolution.
“The Texas Revolution has been immortalized in accounts of brutal land battles such as the fall of the Alamo. However, naval operations were an important aspect of military proceedings,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “The logbook’s keeper, Juan Añorga, recorded naval battles and outlined daily routines. His ‘Diario‘ offers rare insights into the fight at sea.”
A hand-stitched folio, the “Diario de Navegacion” features daily charts that detail sailing direction, wind speeds, depth readings, and global positions as well as “acaecimientos” (events). For example, on Nov. 5–6, 1835 the Bravo encountered a Revolutionary privateer:
“In the Bay of Matagorda we found a schooner that had run aground … approaching within the distance of a cannon shot, we saw three tents created by the sails of the ship, and about 80 men, who unleashed three volleys. The schooner flew a flag with the [Mexican] union upside down … [The following morning] we approached the aforesaid ship at 8:15, and when we were within a cannon shot, it opened fire on us … without raising any flag, to which we replied with our own [guns] … We continued firing until 10:30, when, without the other ship returning fire, we ordered our own cannons to cease. At this time, we recognized it was the San Felipe.”
Between the opening shots of the revolution and Nov. 5, the San Felipe had been commissioned by the Texas revolutionaries to harass Mexican warships such as the Bravo that were blockading the coast in an attempt to stem the flow of men, munitions, and supplies. Engagements in the Gulf of Mexico increased throughout the fall of 1835 as Mexico upped its naval presence and revolutionaries commissioned privately owned craft (privateers) to keep supply lines with New Orleans open. The Texas Navy wasn’t created until 1836.
While the naval aspects of the Texan Revolution are historically important, primary documentation is scarce. The Bravo’s logbook therefore represents a significant addition to the primary source material available to naval historians in Texas.