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This website provides a biography of General Sam Houston, Commander of the Texan Revolutionary Army, President of the Republic of Texas and Governor of the State of Texas.

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SAM HOUSTON, COMMANDER IN CHIEF AND PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS



Sam Houston was born on March 2, 1793 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, to parents Major Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton; one of nine children. Sam's father, Samual Houston, was of Scots-Irish decent, a Presbyterian, and a member of Morgan's Rifle Brigade during the American Revolutionary War.

Samual Houston died in 1807 and Elizabeth Paxton Houston moved the family to Maryville and then to Baker Creek, Tennessee.

As a teenager, Sam ran away to live with the Cherokees across the Tennessee River and was adopted by Chief Oolooteka on Hiwassee Island and given the name Colleneh or "the Raven". A couple of years later, Sam left the Cherokees to set up a school.

WAR OF 1812

In March 1813, Sam left his school and joined the U.S. Army 7th Regiment of Infantry to fight the British in the War of 1812. By December of 1813, he had risen from private to third lieutenant. Under Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814, he was wounded by a Creek arrow. His wound was bandaged, and he rejoined the fight. When Andrew Jackson called on volunteers to dislodge a group of Red Sticks (Creek Indians) from their breastworks (fortifications), Houston volunteered, but during the assault was struck by a bullet in the shoulder and arm.

Houston won the attention of General Jackson, who thereafter became his benefactor. Houston, in return, revered Jackson and became a staunch Jacksonian Democrat. While recovering from his wounds, Sam Houston was promoted to second lieutenant and traveled extensively-to Washington, New Orleans, New York, and points between.

HOUSTON ASSIGNED SUB-INDIAN AGENT DUTIES TO THE CHEROKEES

While stationed in Nashville, he was assigned as sub-Indian agent to the Cherokees. While in that official capacity, Sam assisted Oolooteka and his clan in their removal to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River, as stipulated by the Treaty of 1816. Houston, by then first lieutenant, resigned from the army on March 1, 1818, and shortly thereafter gave up his position as subagent, following difficulties with Secretary of War John C. Calhoun.

SAM HOUSTON-ATTORNEY AT LAW

Although in poor health due to his war wounds, Sam Houston studied law under Judge James Trimblein of Nashville for six months and subsequently opened a law practice in Lebanon, Tennessee.

With Andrew Jackson's help, Sam became adjutant general (with the rank of colonel) of the state militia through appointment by Governor Joseph McMinn. In late 1818, Houston was elected attorney general (prosecuting attorney) of the District of Nashville, where he took up residence. After returning to private practice in Nashville by late 1821, he was elected major general of the state militia by his fellow officers. He was likewise prominent in the Nash Masonic order by the early 1820s.

Houston's rapid rise in public office continued in 1823, when, as a member of Jackson's political circle, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the Ninth Tennessee District. As a member of Congress, he worked mightily, though unsuccessfully, for the election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency in 1824. In 1825 he was returned to Congress for a second and final term.

SAM HOUSTON ELECTED GOVERNOR OF TENNESSEE

In 1827, Houston was elected governor of Tennessee at the age of thirty-four. Standing six feet two inches tall and handsome, Sam cut a dashing figure wherever he went. On January 22, 1829, he married nineteen-year-old Eliza Allen of Gallatin, Tennessee. Houston subsequently announced his bid for reelection to the governorship. After eleven weeks and amid much mystery, the marriage ended. Eliza returned to her parents' home.

HOUSTON RESIGNS PUBLIC OFFICE AND GOES BACK TO THE CHEROKEES

Houston abruptly resigned from his office on April 16, 1829 and fled across the Mississippi River to Indian Territory. Sam and his wife Eliza maintained a lifelong silence about the affair. Houston's exit brought the Tennessee phase of his career to an end. As a possible heir apparent to Andrew Jackson, he may well have given up an opportunity to run eventually for president of the United States.

Sam made his way to the lodge of Oolooteka in what is now Oklahoma to live in self-imposed exile among the Cherokees, this time for three years. Among the Indians he tried to reestablish his tranquility. He dressed Indian-style and, although he corresponded with Andrew Jackson, initially secluded himself from contacts with white society. He drank so heavily that he earned the nickname "Big Drunk."

Houston became active in Indian affairs, especially in helping to keep peace between the various tribes in Indian Territory. He was granted Cherokee citizenship and often acted as a tribal emissary. Under Cherokee law, he married Diana Rogers Gentry, an Indian woman of mixed blood. Together, they established a residence and trading post called Wigwam Neosho on the Neosho River near Fort Gibson.

HOUSTON RETURNS TO THE WHITE WORLD

Sam made various trips East-to Tennessee, Washington, and New York. Then in December of 1831, while on the Arkansas River, Houston encountered Alexis de Tocqueville, a famous French traveller. Houston impressed Alexis as a man of great physical and moral energy.

.

SAM HOUSTON MARRIES A CHEROKEE.

Sam married a Cherokee widow named Tiana Rogers Gentry, and set up a trading post (Wigwam Neosho near Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation), apparently drinking heavily the entire time. His alleged drunkenness and abandonment of his office and wife caused a rift with his mentor Andrew Jackson, which would not be healed for several years.

SAM HOUSTON ASSAULTS REPRESENTATIVE STANBERRY (April 13, 1832)

On a trip to New York and Washington, D.C. on business, Houston got into a fight with an anti-Jacksonian Congressman. While Houston was in Washington in April 1832, Congressman William Stanbery of Ohio made accusations about Houston in a speech on the floor of Congress. Stanbery was attacking Jackson through Houston and accused Houston of being in league with John Von Fossen and Congressman Robert Rose.

The three men bid on the supplying of rations to immigrating Indians due to Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830. Stanbery, now carrying two pistols and a dirk, refused to answer Houston's letters; infuriated, Houston later confronted Stanbery on Pennsylvania Avenue on the evening of April 13, 1832 as Stanberry left Mrs. Queen's boarding house. Sam then proceeded to beat Stanberry with a hickory cane. Stanbery did manage to pull one of his pistols, place it at Houston's chest and pulled the trigger—the gun misfired.

On April 17 Congress ordered the arrest of Houston, who pleaded self-defense, and hired Francis Scott Key as his lawyer. Houston was found guilty in the high profile trial, but thanks to high placed friends (among them James K. Polk) was only lightly reprimanded. Stanbery then filed charges against Houston in civil court. Judge William Cranch found Houston liable and fined him $500, a fine he never paid before leaving the country.

The month-long proceedings ended in an official reprimand and a fine, but the affair catapulted Houston back into the political arena.

SAM HOUSTON COMES TO TEXAS (Dec 2, 1832)

Leaving Diana and his life among the Indians, Houston crossed the Red River into Mexican Texas on December 2, 1832, and began another phase of his career. His "true motives" for entering Texas have long been the source of much speculation. Whether he did so simply as a land speculator, as an agent provocateur for American expansion intent on wresting Texas from Mexico, or as someone scheming to establish an independent nation, Houston saw Texas as his "land of promise." For him, it represented a place for bold enterprise, rife with political and financial opportunity.

As a delegate from Nacogdoches at the Convention of 1833 in San Felipe, Sam Houston sided with the more radical faction under the leadership of William H. Wharton. He also pursued a law practice in Nacogdoches and filed for a divorce from Eliza. As prescribed by Mexican law, Sam Houston was baptized into the Catholic Church,under the name Samuel Pablo.

In September 1835, Sam Houston chaired a mass meeting in Nacogdoches to consider the possibility of convening a consultation. By October, Houston had expressed his belief that war between Texas and the central government was inevitable. That month he became commander in chief of troops for the Department of Nacogdoches and called for volunteers to begin the "work of liberty." He served as a delegate from Nacogdoches to the Consultation of 1835, which deliberated in Columbia in October and at San Felipe in November.

On November 12 the Consultation appointed Houston major general of the Texas army. On January 17, 1836, Sam Houston, the commander of the revolutionary troops, sent Colonel Jim Bowie and 25 men to San Antonio with orders to destroy the Alamo fortifications and retire eastward with the artillery.

But Bowie and Neill agreed that it would be impossible to remove the 24 captured cannons without oxen, mules or horses. And they deemed it foolhardy to abandon that much firepower--by far the most concentrated at any location during the Texas Revolution.

During February 1836, Houston and John Forbes, as commissioners for the provisional government, negotiated a treaty with the Cherokee Indians in East Texas, thus strategically establishing peace on that front.

Following the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836, Houston joined his volunteer army at Gonzales, and wisely elected to retreat in the face of over-whelming Mexican forces commanded by Antonio López de Santa Anna who had killed all Texans defending the Alamo.

SAM HOUSTON'S ARMY VICTORIOUS AT SAN JACINTO (April 21, 1836)

After a series of retreats to train his army and to gather additional volunteers, Houston led the Texans to victory over Santa Anna's mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. The Mexicans were taken by surprise and badly beaten by Houston and his forces; Santa Anna was captured the following day dressed as a private. Saluting soldiers gave away General Santa Anna's identity and he was put in irons until a treaty with Mexico could be signed.

Houston stayed on briefly for negotiations, before returning to the United States for treatment of a wound to his ankle.

SAM HOUSTON ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS (OCT 22, 1836)

Houston became the first regularly elected president of the Republic of Texas, defeating Stephen F. Austin. During his two presidential terms he successfully guided the Republic of Texas through some extremely difficult times. Houston's first term lasted from October 22, 1836, to December 10, 1838.

The town of Houston was founded in 1836, named in his honor, and served as the capital of the republic during most of his first administration. During this term Houston sought to demilitarize Texas by cannily furloughing much of the army. He also tried, with limited success, to avoid trouble between white settlers and Indians. One of his biggest crises came with the Córdova Rebellion, an unsuccessful revolt in 1838 by a group of Kickapoo Indians and Mexican residents along the Angelina River. In late 1836, Houston sent Santa Anna, then a prisoner of war, to Washington to seek the annexation of Texas to the United States. Although Houston favored annexation, his initial efforts to bring Texas into the Union proved futile, and he formally withdrew the offer by the end of his first term.

MIRABEAU B. LAMAR SUCCEEDS HOSTON AS PRESIDENT OF TEXAS(1839)

After leaving office because the Constitution of the Republic of Texas barred a president from succeeding himself, Sam Houston served in the Texas House of Representatives as a congressman from San Augustine from 1839 to 1841. He was in the forefront of the opposition to President Mirabeau B. Lamar, who had been his vice president. Houston particularly criticized Lamar's expansionist tendencies and harsh measures toward the Indians.



HOUSTON MARRIES MARGARET LEA (May 9, 1840)

On May 9, 1840, Houston married twenty-one-year-old Margaret Moffette Lea of Marion, Alabama. Margaret was a strict Baptist and served as a restraining influence on her husband and especially in regard to his drinking.

Margaret and Sam had eight children:
Sam Houston, Jr.,(1843)
Nancy Elizabeth (1846)
Margaret (1848)
Mary William (1850)
Antoinette Power (1852)
Andrew Jackson Houston (1854)
William Rogers (1858)
and Temple Lea Houston (1860)

Houston succeeded Lamar to a second term as president from December 12, 1841, to December 9, 1844 during which he pressed for financial responsibility and drastically reduced government offices and salaries. He and the Congress even tried to sell the four-ship Texas Navy, an effort forcibly prevented by the people of Galveston.

Houston reestablished peace with the Indians by making treaties with the bands that still remained in Texas. Although many Texans clamored for action, President Houston deftly managed to avoid war with Mexico after the two Mexican invasions of 1842.

After the first incursion, Houston directed that the government archives be moved from Austin, an order that ultimately resulted in the "Archive War," in which residents of Austin forcibly prevented removal of the files.

After the second invasion, Houston authorized a force under Gen. Alexander Somervell to pursue the enemy to the Rio Grande and, if conditions warranted, to attack Mexico.

Part of Somervell's legion became the disastrous Mier expedition, an escapade that Houston opposed. In 1843 Houston approved of the abortive Snively expedition, which sought to interdict trade along the Santa Fe Trail. In 1844 Houston found it necessary to send the militia to quell the Regulator-Moderator War in Shelby County, an East Texas feud that presented one of the most vexing problems of his second administration.

Houston was succeeded to the presidency by Anson Jones, whom the electorate viewed as a "Houston man." Sam Houston's name had become synonymous with Texas. Indeed, Texas politics during the republic had been characterized by a struggle between Houston and anti-Houston factions.

When Texas joined the union, Houston became one of its two United States senators, along with Thomas Jefferson Rusk. Houston served in the Senate from February 21, 1846, until March 4, 1859. Beginning with the 1848 election, he was mentioned as a possible candidate for president. He even had a biography published in 1846 by Charles Edwards Lester entitled, "Sam Houston and His Republic", which amounted to campaign publicity. As senator, Houston emerged as an ardent Unionist, true to his association with Andrew Jackson, a stand that made him an increasingly controversial figure. He stridently opposed the rising sectionalism of the antebellum period and delivered eloquent speeches on the issue. A supporter of the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which banned slavery north of latitude 36°30', Houston voted in 1848 for the Oregon Bill prohibiting the "peculiar institution" in that territory, a vote proslavery Southerners later held against him.

Although he was a slaveowner who defended slavery in the South, Houston again clashed with his old nemesis who led the proslavery forces when he opposed John C. Calhoun's Southern Address in 1849.

Houston always characterized himself as a Southern man for the Union and opposed any threats of disunity, whether from Northern or Southern agitators. He incurred the permanent wrath of proslavery elements by supporting the Compromise of 1850, a series of measures designed to ensure sectional harmony. In 1854, Houston alienated Democrats in Texas and the South even further by opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Bill because it allowed the status of slavery to be determined by popular sovereignty, a concept he saw as potentially destabilizing to the nation. He likewise embraced the principles of the American (Know-Nothing) party as a response to growing states'-rights sentiment among the Democrats.

In 1854, he joined the Baptist Church, no doubt in partial response to the troubles of this period of his life. His career in the Senate was effectively ended when, in 1855, the Texas legislature officially condemned his position on the Kansas-Nebraska Act. As a lame-duck senator, Houston ran for governor of Texas in 1857. He was defeated in a rigorous campaign by the state Democratic party's official nominee, Hardin R. Runnels. Predictably, the state legislature did not reelect Houston to the Senate; instead, in late 1857, it replaced him with John Hemphill.qv The replacement took place at the end of Houston's term, in 1859. So concerned was Houston about sectional strife that during his final year in the Senate he advocated establishing a protectorate over Mexico and Central America as a way to bring unity to the United States. Out of the Senate, Houston ran a second time for governor in 1859. Because of his name recognition, a temporary lull in the sectional conflict, and other factors, he defeated the incumbent, Runnels, in the August election and assumed office on December 21. As governor he continued to pursue his fanciful plans for a protectorate over Mexico, and envisioned the use of Texas Rangers and volunteers to accomplish that end. He likewise tried to enlist the aid of Robert E. Lee, Benjamin McCulloch, and some New York financiers for his scheme.

Because of his staunch Unionism, Houston was nearly nominated for the presidency in May 1860 by the National Union party convention in Baltimore, but narrowly lost to John Bell. His possible candidacy received favorable mention by people in many regions of the nation who longed to prevent sectional strife. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States, the clamor of discontent in Texas prompted Houston to call a special session of the state legislature.

Adamantly opposed to secession,Houston warned Texans that civil war would result in a Northern victory and destruction of the South, a prophecy that was borne out by future events. The Secession Convention, however, convened a week later and began a series of actions that withdrew Texas from the Union; Houston acquiesced to these events rather than bring civil strife and bloodshed to his beloved state. But when he refused to take the oath of loyalty to the newly formed Confederate States of America, the Texas convention removed him from office on March 16 and replaced him with Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark two days later.

Reportedly, during these traumatic days President Lincoln twice offered Houston the use of federal troops to keep him in office and Texas in the Union, offers that Houston declined, again to avoid making Texas a scene of violence.

Instead, the Raven-now sixty-eight years of age, weary, with a family of small children, and recognizing the inevitable-again chose exile. After leaving the Governor's Mansion, Houston at least verbally supported the Southern cause. Against his father's advice, Sam, Jr., eagerly joined the Confederate Army and was wounded at the battle of Shiloh.

Houston moved his wife and other children in the fall of 1862 to Huntsville, where they rented a two-story residence known as the Steamboat House, so called because it resembled a riverboat. Rumors abounded that Houston, though ailing and aged, harbored plans to run again for governor.

But on July 26, 1863, after being ill for several weeks, he died in the downstairs bedroom of the Steamboat House, succumbing to pneumonia at age seventy. Dressed in Masonic ceremonial trappings, he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery at Huntsville

As a popular General of the Texas army, Houston was twice elected president of the Republic of Texas (the first time on September 5, 1836). Houston served from October 22, 1836, to December 10, 1838, and again from December 12, 1841 to December 9, 1844. On December 20, 1837, Houston presided over the convention of Free masons that formed the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas, now the Grand Lodge of Texas.



Houston put down the Cordova Rebellion of 1838 and while initially seeking annexation by the U.S. he dropped that hope during his first term. In his second term, he strove for financial prudence and worked to make peace with the Indians and avoid war with Mexico, following the two invasions of 1842. He had to act over the Regulator-Moderator War of 1844 and sent in the militia.

The settlement of Houston was founded in August 1836 by brothers J.K. Allen and A.C. Allen and named in Houston's honor and served for a short time as capital of the Republic of Texas. Gail Borden helped lay out Houston's streets.

The capital of the Republic of Texas was then moved from Houston to Austin January 14, 1839 by President Mirabeau Lamar. Between his presidential terms (the constitution did not allow a president to serve consecutive terms), Houston was elected state representative for San Augustine and was a major critic of President Mirabeau Lamar, who advocated continuing independence of Texas and its extension to the Pacific Ocean.

On May 9, 1840, in Marion, Alabama, Houston married Margaret Moffette Lea, with whom he had eight children. He was 47 and she was 21. Margaret acted as a tempering influence on Houston. Although the Houstons had numerous houses, only one was kept continuously, Cedar Point, on Trinity Bay from ca. 1840 through 1863.

HOUSTON ELECTED TO U.S. SENATE (1846)

Sam Houston as a U.S. senator.After the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845, he was elected to the U.S. Senate along with Thomas Jefferson Rusk. Houston served there from February 21, 1846, until March 4, 1859. He was a Senator during the Mexican-American War, when the U.S. acquired from Mexico vast new territory in the Southwest. Throughout his term in the Senate, Houston spoke out against the growing sectionalism of the country, and blamed the extremists of both the North and South, saying: "Whatever is calculated to weaken or impair the strength of the Union, — whether originating at the North or the South, — whether arising from the incendiary violence of abolitionists, or from the coalition of nullifiers, will never meet with my unqualified approval." Houston supported the Oregon Bill in 1848, which was opposed by many Southerners. In his passionate speech in support of the Compromise of 1850, Houston said "A nation divided against itself cannot stand". Eight years later, Abraham Lincoln would express a similar sentiment.

Houston opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, and correctly predicted that it would cause a sectional rift in the country that would eventually lead to war: "…what fields of blood, what scenes of horror, what mighty cities in smoke and ruins — it is brother murdering brother… I see my beloved South go down in the unequal contest, in a sea of blood and smoking ruin." He was considered a potential candidate for president. But, despite the fact that he was a slave-owner, his strong Unionism and opposition to the extension of slavery alienated the Texas legislature and other southern States. He was a lame duck senator from 1857.

SAM HOUSTON - ELECTED GOVENOR OF TEXAS

Sam Houston ran for governor of Texas twice. He was unsuccessful in 1857 but elected Governor of Texas in 1859 when he ran against Hardin R. Runnels in 1859. This made Sam Houston the only person in U.S. history to be the governor of two different states . Despitebeing a slave owner and against abolition, Houston publicly opposed the secession of Texas from the Union. In 1860, he offered the following prediction: "Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives you may win Southern independence, but I doubt it. The North is determined to preserve this Union."



SAM HOUSTON REMOVED FROM OFFICE IN 1861

Texas proceeded to seceed from the United States on February 1, 1861, and joined the Confederate States of America March 2, 1861. The political forces that brought about Texas's secession also were powerful enough to replace her Unionist governor.

Houston chose not to resist, stating that, "I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity, I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as Chief Executive of this State, except by the peaceful exercise of my functions...." He was evicted from his office on March 16, 1861, for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, writing

"Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies....I refuse to take this oath."

Houston was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark. To avoid more bloodshed in Texas, Houston turned down U.S. Col. Frederick W. Lander's offer from President Lincoln of 50,000 troops to prevent Texas's secession, stating in his response, "Allow me to most respectfully decline any such assistance of the United States Government."

HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS-FINAL RESTING PLACE OF SAM HOUSTON

In 1862, Houston retired to his farm in Huntsville, Texas, because the hills there reminded him of his boyhood home near Maryville, Tennessee. His health deteriorated quickly over the next few months as he developed a persistent cough. In mid-July, Houston was struck with a severe chill which progressed into pneumonia. Despite the efforts of Drs. Markham and Kittrell, on July 26, 1863, at 6:16 p.m, Houston died quietly in his Steamboat House with his wife Margaret by his side. His last recorded words were "Texas. Texas. Margaret". Sam Houston was buried in Huntsville, Texas.

The inscription on Sam Houston's tomb reads: A Brave Soldier. A Fearless Statesman. A Great Orator — A Pure Patriot. A Faithful Friend, A Loyal Citizen. A Devoted Husband and Father. A Consistent Christian — An Honest Man.


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Donald Braider, Solitary Star: A Biography of Sam Houston (New York: Putnam, 1974). Randolph B. Campbell, Sam Houston and the American Southwest (New York: HarperCollins, 1993). Marshall De Bruhl, Sword of San Jacinto: A Life of Sam Houston (New York: Random House, 1993). Llerena B. Friend, Sam Houston: The Great Designer (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1969). Jack Gregory and Rennard Strickland, Sam Houston with the Cherokees, 1829-1833 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1976). Clifford Hopewell, Sam Houston: Man of Destiny (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987). Marquis James, The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1929; rpts., New York: Paperback Library, 1967, Atlanta: Mockingbird Books, 1977). The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813-1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938-43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). John Hoyt Williams, Sam Houston: A Biography of the Father of Texas (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993). Marion Karl Wisehart, Sam Houston (Washington: Luce, 1962).






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