Samuel Houston (March 2, 1793 - July 26, 1863) was a 19th century American statesman, politician, and soldier. Born on Timber Ridge, just north of Lexington in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, Houston was a key figure in the history of Texas, including periods as President of the Republic of Texas, Senator for Texas after it joined the United States, and finally as governor. Although a slaveowner and opponent of abolitionism, he refused, because of his unionist convictions, to swear loyalty to the Confederacy when Texas seceded from the Union, bringing his governorship to an end. To avoid bloodshed, he refused an offer of an army to put down the rebellion, and instead retired to Huntsville, Texas, where he died before the end of the Civil War.
Sam Houston was born on March 2, 1793,on his family's plantation near Timber Ridge Church, outside Lexington, Virginia, in Rockbridge County, to Major Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton Houston. He was one of nine children. His father was a member of Morgan's Rifle Brigade during the American Revolutionary War. He was of Scots-Irish descent.
War of 1812
In 1812 Houston reported to a training camp in Knoxville, Tennessee, and enlisted in the 7th Regiment of Infantry to fight the British in the War of 1812. By December of that year, he had risen from private to third lieutenant. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814, he was wounded in the thigh 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, he was struck by bullets in the shoulder and arm. He returned to Knoxville as a disabled veteran, but later took the army's offer of free surgery and convalescenced in a New Orleans, Louisiana, hospital. Houston became close to Jackson. Following his recovery he was assigned as an Indian agent to the Cherokees. He left the army in March 1818.
Following six months of study at the office of Judge James Trimble, Houston passed the bar examination in Nashville, after which he opened a legal practice in Lebanon, Tennessee. He was made attorney general of the Nashville district in late 1818, and was also given a command in the state militia. In 1822 he was elected to the House of Representatives for Tennessee, where he was a staunch supporter of fellow Tennessean and Democrat Andrew Jackson, and was widely considered to be Jackson's political protege, although their ideas as to the treatment of Indians differed greatly. He was a Congressman from 1823 to 1827, re-elected in 1824. In 1827 he declined to run for re-election to Congress and instead ran for, and won, the office of governor of Tennessee, defeating the former governor, William Carroll. He planned to stand for re-election in 1828, but resigned after marrying 18-year-old Eliza Allen. The marriage was forced by Eliza's father, Colonel John Allen, and never blossomed into a relationship. Houston and Eliza separated shortly after the marriage, for reasons Houston refused to discuss to the end of his life, and divorced in 1837, after he became President of Texas.
He spent time among the Cherokee, 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. During this time he was interviewed by Alexis De Tocqueville. 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.
Controversy and trial
During a business trip to New York and Washington, D.C., Houston was embroiled in 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 Van Fossen and Congressman Robert S. Rose.
The publicity surrounding the trial resurrected Houston's unfavorable political reputation, and Houston made plans to go to Texas. He asked his wife, Diana Rodgers (also known as Tieana Rodger) to go with him, but she preferred to stay at the log cabin and trading post. Later she married a man named Sam McGrady, and died of pneumonia in 1838. Houston married again after her death.
Republic of Texas
On March 2, 1836, his 43rd birthday, Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. He soon joined his volunteer army at Gonzales, but was soon forced to retreat in the face of the superior forces of Mexican General (and dictator) Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, whose soldiers killed all those at The Alamo Mission at the conclusion of the Battle of the Alamo on March 6.
At the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, however, Houston surprised Santa Anna and the Mexican forces during their afternoon siesta. In less than 18 minutes, the battle was over. Badly beaten, Santa Anna was forced to sign the Treaty of Velasco, granting Texas independence. Although Houston stayed on briefly for negotiations, he returned to the United States for treatment of a wound to his ankle.
Settlement of Houston
The settlement of Houston was founded in August 1836 by brothers J.K. Allen and A.C. Allen. It was named in Houston's honor, and served as capital. Gail Borden helped lay out Houston's streets.
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.
After the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845, Houston was elected to the U.S. Senate, along with Thomas Jefferson Rusk. Houston served from February 21, 1846, until March 4, 1859. He was a Senator during the Mexican-American War, when the U.S. acquired vast expanses of new territory in the Southwest from Mexico as part of the war's concluding treaty.
Governor of Texas
He twice ran for governor of Texas as a Unionist, unsuccessfully in 1857, and successfully against Hardin R. Runnels in 1859. When he was elected, it made him the only person in U.S. history to be the governor of two different states, as well as the only governor to have been a foreign head of state.
In 1854, Houston, having earlier made a profession of Christian faith, was baptized by the Baptist minister, Rufus C. Burleson, who was later the president of Baylor College (later, Baylor University). At the time Burleson was the pastor of the Independence, Texas, Baptist Church in Washington County, which Houston and his wife attended. Houston was also a close friend of another Baylor president and Burleson's predecessor as pastor at the Independence church, the Reverend George Washington Baines, maternal great-grandfather of Lyndon B. Johnson.
A Great Orator – A Pure Patriot.
A Faithful Friend, A Loyal Citizen.
A Devoted Husband and Father.
A Consistent Christian – An Honest Man.