Texas was a republic for almost ten years before it joined the United States in 1845 as the 28nd state and a slave state. As a new republic fighting Santa Anna as he advanced into Texas, a Texas Navy was established to protect the coastline by keeping the lines of supply from New Orleans open and keep Mexican ships from delivering supplies to Santa Anna. Those first four schooners, Invincible, Brutus, Liberty and Independence played an important part in the victory at San Jacinto but the navy’s role is not as well known as most of the glory went to the victories on land.
In March of this year a permanent exhibit honoring the Texas Navy opened on the USS Lexington Museum, a WW II aircraft carrier berthed at Corpus Christi. The ship serves as a naval aviation museum, education facility and tourist attraction. Recently I visited after having lunch with Daughter who works on the Lexington. The ship has five self-guided tours and offers guided tours for behind the scenes. The Texas Navy exhibit is on the ” Lower Decks Tour”, tour number four.
Visitors are immediately drawn into the 1800s and a different kind of warfare and away from the WWII period.
These sailors seem to be welcoming you aboard; even the worn wooden flooring feels like the deck of a ship and much different from the metal and steel floors of a WWII ship.
Photos of these two story boards did not come out very well – Husband could have done better had he been along – but they do give information on the importance of the Texas Navy early on and later as it continued to protect the new republic.
I don’t know what the white object is on the left. Perhaps it was one of the rumored ghosts on the Lexington. It was a weekday afternoon and not very crowded, so I often found myself alone to leisurely view the Texas exhibit and WWII photos and documents also as I competed the Lower Decks Tour. OK, it was probably my finger that got in the way!
Take a turn at the ship’s wheel!
Visitors can get the feel of being on a ship in the heat of battle with this replica of a warship; note the Mexican flag on the ship being fired upon.
There were several displays like this one.
This is the Texas Naval flag. Texas Flag Park describes it this way:
Created by Charles Hawkins for the Texas Navy in April, 1836 the Lone Star and Stripes Flag was adopted and continued unchanged for the life of the Republic. It carried a single white star in the blue canton, and seven red stripes and six white stripes alternating in color. The stripes represented the original thirteen colonies of the U.S. The flag was deliberately designed to resemble the national flag of the U.S. When the flag hung limp, it could be mistaken for the American flag which gave the underdog Texan fleet the advantage of surprise, and it worked.
There is a small theater inside the exhibit, though I did not take a photo, with an excellent documentary, How the Texas Navy Saved the Revolution, a Kahunas USA / Texas Navy Association historic documentary. The film is available to all Texas teachers for free download at texasnavy.org under the “Teachers” button.
When Texas joined the Union the proud Texas Navy was absorbed into the United States Navy. “Texas Navy 1836-1846” is an excellent addition to the WWII exhibits on the Lexington for anyone who is interested in Texas history.