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The First Attack
by Jim Mathews

Captain G.B. Elliot of the HMS Spartan, acting as a Naval Military Observer to the Mexican Military, reported to the British Admiralty on 25 April, 1843, "...Campeche will very shortly have to surrender and leave the squadron free to engage in operations against Texas."1

Van Zandt on 21 April wrote that Daniel Webster had frequently told him "...the favorable or unfavorable termination of that (Yucatan) campaign would determine the ability or inability of Mexico to reinvade Texas."

This above message was sent to the Texas Secretary of State.2 Therefore, the Mexicans were warned that Commodore Moore and the Texas Navy were on their way.  Arrangois of the Mexican Government had warned Commodore Lopez, Commander of the Mexican Squadron.3

Commodore Lopez in turn took the schooner Fanny (American Registry) under charter and sent her off to instruct the "Eagle" and the "Montezuma" to immediately rejoin the Mexican squadron.4

Meanwhile the "Austin" and Moore arrived at Telchac and found the enemy had gone 24 hours before.5 They were joined there by the "Wharton" and sailing in company immediately set off in pursuit of the elusive "Montezuma" and her consort "Eagle."

Hoping to overtake the Mexican Steamer, Moore kept close by the Yucatan Coast, and in the early afternoon learned from the Port of Sisal that the Mexican Squadron was off Campeche.

Even though the Texas ships had missed their quarry, the warmth with which they were received by Governor Barbachano of Yucatan and the rapidity with which armistice negotiations were broken off with Santa Anna's besieging forces at Campeche was most gratifying to the tiny Texas squadron.  Both ships immediately filled away and running at 10.5 knots set their course for Campeche.  Commodore Moore on the evening of the 29th of April determined his position to be just off Campeche.  Here the "Austin" and "Wharton" stayed at anchor until the morning's first light.  Moore expected to meet some or all of the Mexican Squadron, and wanted to meet them while the early morning breeze still allowed his ships to operate effectively.  Moore ordered both Texas ships to make preparations for their own destruction by magazine explosion if capture seemed likely.6

Two small warships were moving to engage a larger force--for a contest between sail and steam; solid shot against shell guns.  One Texas Sloop of War, and one Texas Armed Brig against the entire Mexican Navy; whose seven ships included three fast steamers which carried heavier guns.

Dawn broke of the 30th of April with the Texas Navy underway fifteen miles northwest of Lerma, and the breeze from ESE.  The Mexican ships; "Montezuma" (8 guns-Paixhans), "Yucateco" (17 guns), "Eagle" (7 guns-Paixhans). "Iman" (9 guns), "Campecheano" (3 guns) were sighted about ten miles to the South.  The "Guadelupe" (flagship of Lopez) was coaling ship close inshore to Lerma.7

Moore faced the above force with the "Austin's" 20 guns (2 long 18s, 16 medium 24s and 2 medium 18s) supplemented by the "Wharton's" 16 guns (1 long nine, 15 medium 18s).  Moore also expected some assistance from the Yucatan Squadron under Captain James Boylan (formerly of the Lone Star Navy).  However, these two schooners "Siselano" and "Independencia" were small, slow and poorly armed (8 guns-two long 12s, 5 long 9s and 1 long 6) and each of the five accompanying Yucatan gunboats only mounted one 6 pounder each.

It cannot be said of Commodore Moore that he faltered in the presence of the enemy.  Making some allowance for the fact that Texan figures have been followed as to the armament of the sail ships in the Centralist (Mexican) fleet, Moore with his ships manned by almost exactly half of their full war strength, would have been justified in approaching the blockaders with extreme caution and trepidation, if not waiting for another night when a union with the Yucatan schooners at Campeche might have been made under cover of darkness.

However, apparently, this did not occur to the Texas Commodore, and he felt that he had already waited far too long for this move against the enemy.  The first attack was begun.


(1)--Elliot to Adam, 25 April,1843--(Public Record Office, London ADM 1/5529);

(2)--George P. Garrison (ed.) Diplomatic Correspondence of the Republic of Texas II (1), Part II, 168;

(3)--Pena y Barragan Minister of War, 16 May 1843 (Archivo Historico, Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional, Mexico, D.F., XI/481.3/1928);

(4)--Lopez to Secretary o State, 29 April, 1843 (Archvo Historico, Secretaria de la Defensa, Mexico D.F., XI/481.3/1986);

(5)--Edwin Ward Moore, To the People of Texas, P.172;

(6)--Telegraph and Texas Register, 28 August, 1844, p. 2, col.1;

(7)--Lopez to Secretary of State, 1 May, 1843 (Archivo de Cancelados, Mexico D.F.,Caja 546);

Further References:

Hill, "The Texas Navy";

Douglas, "Thunder On the Gulf";

Wells, "Commodore Moore and the Texas Navy."

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