Sam Houston was one of those larger than life characters in United States history who left an indelible footprint on the North American Continent. That footprint is Texas, which, by the way, celebrates its independence from Mexico today. Houston was a large man at 6’2” when the average height of an adult anglo male at the time was 5’6” or 5’7”. With his large stature and force of personality Houston would dominate his chosen venue, battlefield or state house, for close to 50 years.
With no formal education beyond the 6th grade, Houston accomplished all of the following during his lifetime.
- Fought in the War of 1812 under Andrew Jackson.
- Fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend against the Red Sticks where he was wounded twice.
- Elected twice as Congressman from Tennessee
- Elected Governor of Tennessee
- Signed the Texas Declaration of Independence
- Defeated Mexican dictator, Santa Anna, at the Battle of San Jacinto and personally dictated Texas’ independence to Santa Ann while lying wounded under an oak tree.
- Elected twice as President of the Republic of Texas
- Elected Congressman to the Republic of Texas Congress
- Elected Senator to the U.S. Senate
- Elected Governor of the State of Texas
Houston was a slave owner and anti-abolitionist. However he was bitterly opposed Texas’ secession from the Union. When a Texas convention voted to secede in 1861, Governor Houston refused to sign an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy and was forcibly evicted from his office in Austin. He moved to Galveston and gave this address to a crowd of Texans who were angry that he didn’t support the Confederacy:
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 if God be not against you, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states’ rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.
Interesting footnote: One of Sam Houston’s sons, Andrew Jackson Houston was born in 1854 and was named for Sam’s mentor, Andrew Jackson. In 1941, John Morris Shepherd, one of Texas’ 2 U.S. senators, died while in office. Governor Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel appointed Andrew Jackson Houston to serve out the 2 remaining years of Shepherd’s term. Andrew was 86 and at the time, was the oldest person to enter the Senate. He was sworn in as Senator on April 21, 1941. He died in office 2 months later on June 26, 1941, just 5 days after his 87th birthday. Andrew’s term as a senator came 82 years after his father served in that position.
I highly recommend this Houston biography by John Hoyt Williams.