Houston, Sam

views updated Jun 11 2018

Sam Houston

Sam Houston was the first president of the Independent Republic of Texas , and he later served as governor of the state of Texas.

Houston was born on March 2, 1793, and had little, if any, formal schooling. His family moved from Virginia to Tennessee in 1806, and there Houston grew to adulthood. He served in the War of 1812 (1812–15) as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army , commanded by General Andrew Jackson (1767–1845). After the war, Houston returned to Tennessee, studied law, and became an attorney.

Joins the Cherokees

Houston was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1823. Four years later, he became governor of Tennessee. In 1829, he married Eliza H. Allen, but the marriage soon came to a sudden end. Divorce was highly uncommon at the time, and the public was scandalized. Houston never told anyone what had gone wrong, but considering himself a ruined man, he resigned the governorship. He moved to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River to start a new life among a band of Cherokees that he had known since childhood.

In Indian Territory, Houston took a Native American name, wore Indian dress, became a tribal citizen, and married a Cherokee woman. He lived among the Cherokees until 1832, when he left his Indian wife and migrated to Texas. At that time, Texas was a Mexican province in political turmoil because of the increasing number of Anglo-Americans moving into the area.

Texas revolutionary

Houston took an active role with those in Texas who wanted more selfrule and less interference from Mexico City. He signed the Texas Declaration of Independence and was selected commanding general of the Texan army on March 4, 1836.

Soon, bands of Texans, disobeying Houston's orders, captured Mexican forts at the Alamo and Goliad. By the end of March 1836, both forts had been recaptured by Mexican troops and their Texan defenders wiped out. Nearly two hundred Americans were killed at the Alamo.

After the defeat at the Alamo, Houston turned his small army eastward and rapidly fled toward the Louisiana border in a retreat popularly known as the “Runaway Scrape.” The Mexican army, led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794–1876), pursued Houston's army. On April 21, 1836, Houston surprised the Mexican general by suddenly turning his troops and attacking the Mexican army. In the ensuing battle, known as the Battle of San Jacinto, nearly half the Mexicans died and the rest, including General Santa Anna, were taken prisoner. The Texans lost only six men.

President of Texas

Houston's spectacular victory in the Battle of San Jacinto ended the war and assured Texan independence. It also led to Houston's election as president of the Independent Republic of Texas in the summer of 1836. As president, Houston's main goal was to arrange for the United States to annex, or add, Texas to the Union as quickly as possible. American politics in the years leading to the American Civil War (1861–65) were divided, and delayed Texas's entry into the Union.

Texas finally became a state in 1845, and Houston was elected to represent the state in the U.S. Senate. Although Texas was firmly a part of the South, Houston rejected many of the Southern political causes of the 1850s. He believed in preserving the Union over Southern sectionalism (favoring one's region over one's country). In 1859, he became governor of Texas, and in early 1861 he refused to cooperate with the state's secession convention, the formal meeting at which Texas decided to withdraw from the Union. He also declined to take an oath of allegiance to the newly formed Confederate States of America .

Soon Houston was forced to retire from the governorship because of his Unionist views. His ejection from the governor's office embittered him and soured his few remaining years.

Houston, Sam

views updated May 29 2018

Houston, Sam ( Samuel) (1793–1863) US military and political leader. Governor of Tennessee (1827–29) before moving to Texas, he became commander in chief of the army when Texas rebelled against Mexican rule (1835). He was the first president of the Republic of Texas (1836–38, re-elected 1841–44). When Texas was annexed by the USA, he served in the Senate and as governor in 1859. Isolated by his support for the Union and for Native Americans, he was forced out of office when Texas voted to secede (1861).

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