Today, December 20, is the anniversary of the creation in 1822 of the U.S. Navy’s West Indies Squadron, under the command of Commodore James Biddle (above). That event often doesn’t get the recognition it warrants as an early example of the United States’ emergence as a power on the world stage. The Navy’s pursuit of pirates in the West Indies and Caribbean in the 1820s was one of the earliest examples of American power projection (to use a more modern term) in international policy. It’s a role that both the U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard continue to this day.
Biddle was succeeded in the West Indies by Commodore David Porter, a hero of the War of 1812. That ended up having important consequences for Texas, because service in that theater introduced Porter to Midshipman Charles E. Hawkins, who would serve in the theater aboard both the U.S. frigate Constellation and the schooner Ferret. Later, after Porter was court-martialed for raiding a Spanish town that he felt had been insufficiently respectful to one of his officers and the United States generally, Hawkins followed Porter into the naval service of the new Republic of Mexico. That proved to be a pivotal event in Hawkins’ career and set him on the path that would eventually lead him to a commission in early 1836 in the newly-formed Texian Navy. Read more about Hawkins here.