remember the Alamo, the Goliad
massacre and Sam Houston’s decisive victory at San
Jacinto on April 21, 1836, but some aspects of Texas’ struggle for independence
from Mexico have fallen through the figurative cracks in the floor of history’s
The Flash is a good example. A vessel with a name expressive
of speed and impact, she played a significant role in the Texas Revolution. But
unlike the human heroes of that now-distant bloody spring, she has all but been
Republic of Texas era government correspondence described the
Flash, which was owned by planter James Morgan, as a flat-bottomed sailing vessel
fitted with a large deck cabin. With her shallow draft, she could operate on rivers
and bays as well as along the coast.
When and where her keel went down
remains a mystery, as do her dimensions. It is known that before the smoldering
tensions in the Mexican province of Coahuila and Texas burst into full flame,
the Flash operated from New Washington, a town site laid out by Morgan at Buffalo
Bayou and San Jacinto Bay that later came to be called Morgan’s
Point. The vessel carried cotton and passengers
and New Orleans.
Seeing trouble with Mexico on the horizon, in 1835 Morgan
purchased “an eighteen pounder [pivot gun], Muskets, Cutlasses and everything
necessary” so that the Flash could defend herself. In January 1836, the Flash
brought volunteers and arms to Texas from New Orleans.
On March 12, 1836
– six days after the fall of the Alamo
– Secretary of the Navy Robert Potter commissioned Luke A. Falvel, the Flash’s
master, as a captain in the nascent Texas fleet. Falvel would operate the Flash
as a privateer in the service of Texas’ revolutionary government.
with his first orders, Falvel made for the mouth of the Brazos to take on board
a group of women and children fleeing the forces of Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez
de Santa Anna. Loading these refugees from what came to be called the Runaway
Scrap, Falvel took them to Morgan’s
Falvel had removed dozens of non-combatants from harm’s way,
but the Flash had carried more than people. When she tied up at Morgan’s
Point, in addition to her passengers she unloaded two critical pieces of cargo:
A pair of cannons donated to the Texas cause by the citizens of Cincinnati. From
Morgan’s Point, the
sloop Opie took the Ohio-made guns up Buffalo Bayou to Harrisburg.
two field pieces, better known today as the Twin
Sisters, are credited by historians as having a major part in the Texas victory
Two days before Houston’s sanguinary rout of Santa Anna,
the Flash loaded the remaining residents of Morgan’s
Point as well as provisional President David G. Burnet’s cabinet and their
families and set sail for Galveston.
The president stayed behind, but the next day -- Mexican soldiers hot behind him
-- he changed his mind and made it to the Flash in a row boat.
carried about 150 people to Galveston.
After unloading them, he stood off Fort Point in the event Mexico tried to attack
the island city from the sea. On April 26, the captain got orders to transport
Texas’ officials and their families to New Orleans.
The captain said he could not cross the sand bar off Galveston
until the wind changed. While he waited, a messenger arrived with the news of
Houston’s victory at San
Though Texas had won its independence, the Mexican government
considered that only a temporary reversal. A year after San
Jacinto, Mexico blockaded the Texas
April 15, 1837, new Secretary of the Navy Samuel Rhoads Fisher reported, “It is
said the Enemy have taken five American schooners bound for Texas, and I am sorry
to say that on night before last the schr. Flash went on shore on the west end
of the Island. Crew and passengers say she was boarded by one of the Mexican Brigs
and released in consequence of having so many women and children on board, thus
you see our coast is completely blockaded.”
“Went on shore” could have
meant only that the vessel had run around. It might have been refloated at high
A four-page letter written by Morgan on July 26, 1841 discusses his
financial woes, which he said included the “loss” of the Flash. Did he mean she
had broken up, or that he merely had lost ownership, perhaps over debt? And if
the schooner had been wrecked in 1837, why would he be writing about it four years
the Flash may have survived her beaching and continued in service along the Texas
coast – at least until another, broader war came along.
records show that on Nov. 25, 1864, the U.S.S. Princess Royal “ran down” a blockade
runner off Brazos Santiago. The master of the Princess Royal recorded the name
of the prize as the Flash, then under British registry.
The Flash would
have been escorted to New Orleans, the nearest federally-controlled port, and
sold in a prize court. Since she had been operating under the British flag, it
is not likely she stayed out of service long. Her cargo would have been seized,
fines paid, and then she and her crew set free.
After her federal detention,
the Flash and her crew may have made for the Caribbean.
it is not clear whether the Flash which figured in the Civil War was the same
vessel that carried the Twin Sisters to San
Jacinto, it is a matter of record that during the Civil War the 10th Texas
legislature appropriated money for Captain Falvel for his service during the revolution
Lawmakers approved $5,022.21 payment to Falvel “for services
as sailing master in the navy of the late Republic of Texas.” Unfortunately for
the captain, the state paid him in Confederate treasury notes.
10, 1865, a schooner named Flash “perished in sight of Birch’s Lookout” off one
of the islands comprising the Grand Turks. She had been bound for Puerto Rico
when she foundered close enough to land for her cargo to be saved.
Flash II -
news about the Flash, the vessel that carried the Twin Sisters most of the way
to the Texian army just in time for Sam Houston’s decisive defeat of Santa Anna
at San Jacinto... more
15, 2009 column
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