While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Louis E. Brister

HARCOURT, EDWARD (1797–1836). Edward Harcourt (Harkort), colonel and chief engineer in the Texas army, son of Johann Caspar and Henrietta Catharina (Elbers) Harkort IV, was born on the family estate of Harkorten, near Hagen, Westphalia, on July 18, 1797. After completing his secondary education and an apprenticeship in surveying, he worked briefly in his father's steel manufacturing business, then for about a year as an independent surveyor. After serving a year in a Prussian artillery regiment, he worked as a surveyor for the land registry in Hagen. In March 1826 he was admitted to the Royal Mining Academy in Freiberg, Saxony. By September 1827, when he completed his studies in mineralogy and mining at the academy, he had already published a brief monograph describing a technique he had developed for the use of the blowpipe in the quantitative analysis of dry silver ore.

Santa Anna
Portrait of Antonio López de Santa Anna. Image courtesy of the San Jacinto Museum of History. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

After his studies Harcourt was hired by a British mining enterprise, the Mexican Company, as chief director of reduction works at the firm's silver mines in Mexico. In March 1828 Eduardo Harcort, as he was called in Mexico, arrived in Veracruz, Mexico, with a group of smelting specialists. Three years later, in October 1831, he resigned his post as director of mines and reduction works in order to pursue a career in Mexico as a surveyor and cartographer. A few months later the political climate in Mexico prompted him to join Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna's revolutionary army in Veracruz as a volunteer, with the rank of captain. In March 1832 Harcourt was taken prisoner at Tolomé in the first battle of Santa Anna's campaign for the presidency of Mexico. Five months later he escaped his captors and rejoined Santa Anna's forces. He served as a colonel of artillery until the end of the revolution in December 1832. He spent the next fifteen months in the Mexican army, serving in Querétaro, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and Colima. During this time he prepared a brief monograph in Spanish on the geography and economy of Colima and a map of the territory, but they were not published until a few years later in Mexico. In April 1834, when Santa Anna repudiated the policies of his own government, Harcourt joined other Federalists who worked to overthrow Santa Anna's dictatorial regime. In May 1835 he was captured at the battle of Zacatecas and detained in Perote fortress until October, when he was deported from Mexico and sent to New Orleans.

Painting, Stephen F. Austin (1833)
Painting, Stephen F. Austin (1833) by Brand and hanging in the Texas House Chamber. Courtesy of the State Preservation Board. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Death notice for Edward Harcourt
Death notice for Edward Harcourt in the Telegraph and Texas Register. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Soon after his arrival in New Orleans on November 23, 1835, he met Stephen F. Austin, who persuaded him to join the Texans' struggle against Santa Anna. On March 14, 1836, Colonel Harcourt, as he called himself in Texas, proposed to the Texas convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos that a corps of army engineers be organized under his command. On March 28 Gen. Sam Houston appointed Harcourt chief engineer of the Texas army and ordered him to fortify the Texas coast near Columbia. Harcourt spent the spring and summer of 1836 at Galveston and Velasco, erecting fortifications against an invasion from Mexico by sea. At Galveston he worked to construct Fort Travis, and as commander of that crude fortress he was responsible for several hundred Mexican prisoners. On August 11, 1836, Harcourt died of a fever at the home of David L. Kokernot, a Dutch immigrant who operated a lumber business on nearby San Jacinto Bay. In 1837 a lithographic chart of the Galveston Bay area was printed in New Orleans bearing Harcourt's name, and in 1858 his son-in-law, Ferdinand Gustav Kühne, published a journal written in German in 1832 by Harcourt while he was in prison and in the field during Santa Anna's revolution in Mexico.


Louis E. Brister, trans. and ed., In Mexican Prisons: The Journal of Eduard Harkort, 1832–1834 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Louis E. Brister, "HARCOURT, EDWARD," accessed May 26, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fha55.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 18, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...