I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Edwin Moore is the single greatest hero in all of Texas history. His competence, daring, and integrity place him far above all other candidates to the title. Not to mention his success against overwhelming odds.
And yet, despite being a name on the required Texas State History Standards, Edwin Moore is almost entirely unknown to Texas history students. This is unsurprising, since during his later years he was the target of character assassination by powerful enemies, and he died in relative obscurity – his grave in Philadelphia is entirely unremarkable. It is likely that he felt that his entire life was one of ultimate failure.
So, what did he do to earn such simultaneous esteem and denigration? As the Commodore of the 2nd Texas Navy, he decided to take a wooden sailing ship, the Austin, and singlehandedly attack the two most powerful warships on the planet, the steam-powered ironclads Guadalupe, and Moctezuma. This occurred during the naval Battle of Campeche, in April and May of 1843. This is the most important battle in Texas history, because it finally brought the Texas Revolution to a close – Texas was never again in danger of a foreign invasion after this battle.
At the same time, President Houston was trying to sell off the Navy in order to save money. Moore had been ordered to bring the remaining ships to Galveston for auction, but he went to Yucatan and fought a battle instead. When Houston found out, he immediately issued a declaration of piracy against Moore. Moore’s response? He immediately returned home, turned himself in to the shocked law enforcement officers, and demanded a court martial to clear his name. And then he won in court, too.
Unfortunately, Houston had it in for Moore after this, and used every means at his disposal to stymie Moore’s career. As a U.S. Senator, Houston prevented Moore from being reinstated as an officer in the U.S. Navy, to the point where Moore challenged him to several duels (he never accepted them, of course).
Over time, I will be unpacking the role of Edwin Moore and analyzing how exactly he joined and ran the Texas Navy, as well as how he actually won the Battle of Campeche.