Tag Archives: Sam Houston

Today in Texas History – August 15

Thomas Flintoff - Sam Houston - Google Art Project.jpg

From the Annals of the Republic –  In 1836, following winning independence from Mexico, Sam Houston was nominated to be the first president of the Republic of Texas.  The nomination was placed by Phillip Sublett who had come to Texas in 1824 and settled near San Augustine.  Sublett was engaged in the early conflicts of the Texas Revolution including the Battle for Bexar, but returned to his home after the Battle of Concepcion.  Houston recuperated in Sublett’s home after the Battle of San Jacinto.

Houston won the election handily despite declaring his candidacy only 11 days before the election.  Until that point, it seemed all but certain that Stephen F. Austin would be elected, but once the Raven entered the race, Austin’s defeat was inevitable.  Austin finished third behind Houston and Henry Smith of Wharton.

Portrait of Houston by Thomas Flintoff.

Today in Texas History – April 21


From the Annals of the Revolution  – In 1836, Texian forces under the command of Gen. Sam Houston defeated part of the Mexican Army encamped at San Jacinto under the command of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.  Santa Anna overextended his troops by crossing the San Jacinto River without his full field artillery and isolating his unit from the larger commands of General Filosola and Urea.  Houston would likely not have attacked but for learning that Santa Anna had divided his army and only had about 1200 troops at San Jacinto.  It was as close to a chance at an even fight as Houston would ever have.  Convinced that the Texians would not attack even though they were less than a mile away, Santa Anna incredibly failed to take necessary precautions and the Mexicans were routed in a surprise attack that lasted only about 18 minutes.  Had Santa Anna attacked the Texians in battle formation, they likely would have been routed and the idea of an independent Texas would have been dead for years to come.  Santa Anna was captured after the battle.  Houston realized that his chances of defeating the rest of the Mexican Army were not good and that Santa Anna was his best bargaining chip.  He resisted calls to execute “El Presidente” and to save his life, Santa Anna ordered the remainder of the still overwhelming Mexican forces in Texas to return to Mexico.  If Urea and Filosola had refused to obey the order they likely would have been Mexican heroes for generations and Texas independence would have been problematic at best.  But the generals grudgingly complied and withdrew.

Today in Texas History – January 29

From the Annals of Stupidity – In 1861, the Secession Convention of the state of Texas voted overwhelmingly to secede from the United States.  Support for a convention to consider the issue began to swell in October 1860, when it became apparent that Abraham Lincoln would be elected to the presidency. Only the governor could call the legislature into special session and only the legislature could call a convention. Sam Houston who was strongly opposed to secession refused to act hoping that the secessionist furor would die down.  In a blatantly illegal and unconstitutional act, Oran M. Roberts, chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court and several other prominent Texans took the law into their own hands and called a convention.

Once it was clear that some sort of secession convention would meet, Houston called the legislature into session hoping that it would declare the convention illegal.  Houston was rebuffed and the legislature validated the calling of a convention, turned over the House chambers to the convention, and adjourned.

The result was almost a foregone conclusion because of the election process for the delegates.  Delegates were often elected by voice votes at public meetings at which Unionists were not welcomed.  Other Unionists ignored what they viewed to be as an illegal process.  As a result the delegates disproportionally favored secession and the vote of 166 to 8 clearly did not represent the substantial opposition to secession.

The Texas Ordinance of Secession passed by the Convention is certainly one of the most vile racist screeds ever enacted by a representative body in the history of the United States.  It is a direct rebuff to revisionists who claim that the Civil War was not about slavery.

In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon the unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race or color–a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and the negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States. By the secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.

While Texas was largely spared the ravages of the Civil War by virtue of geography, the defense of slavery cost the lives of thousands of Texans in a cause doomed to failure.

Today in Texas History – January 21

From the Annals of Stupidity –  In 1856, the American or Know-Nothing party of Texas came out of the closet and met for the first time in open convention in Austin. The party was formed by the members of the xenophobic, racist and anti-Catholic secret society known as the American Order. The origin of the “Know Nothing” term was in the semi-secret organization of the party. When a member was asked about its activities, he was supposed to reply, “I know nothing.” Outsiders called them “Know-Nothings”, and the name stuck. In 1855, the Know-Nothings first entered politics as the American Party.  The Texas Know-Nothings, led by Lieutenant Governor David C. Dickson – a former Democrat, attempted to gain control of the State.   Dickson was the candidate for governor.  Most members and Know-Nothing candidates continued to deny that they were members of the American Order.  The campaign was helped by Sam Houston who drafted a public letter endorsing the principles of the American Order. In the August election, incumbent Democratic governor Elisha M. Pease defeated Dickson.  However, the Know-Nothings had other successes.  The voters elected Lemuel D. Evans to Congress and won several seats in the state house.  The party was short-lived coming apart over the issue of slavery.  By 1857, the Know-Nothings had virtually ceased to exist in Texas.

Image of David Catchings Dickson.

Today in Texas History – November 16

From the Annals of the Republic –  In 1845, the Republic of Texas concluded its last Indian treaty.  The agreement was the culmination of the Tehuacana Creek Councils, which began in the spring of 1843.  Jesse Chisholm has worked to convince a number of Indian groups, including the Caddos, Tawakonis, Delawares, Lipan Apaches, and Tonkawas, to meet on Tehuacana Creek near the Torrey Brothers trading post south of present Waco. A second council met at Fort Bird on the Trinity River in the fall of 1843.  These councils resulted in a peace treaty between the Republic and the Wacos, Caddos, and others.  However, the Comanches were not represented.  President Sam Houston called another council meeting at Tehuacana in April 1844. The Comanches were yet again absent, but by October 9, 1844, Houston had negotiated a treaty with a part of the southern Comanches, Kichais, Wacos, Caddos, Anadarkos, Hainais, Delawares, Shawnees, Cherokees, Lipan Apaches, and Tawakonis. At the November 1845 council the Wacos, Tawakonis, Kichais, and Wichitas agreed to the treaty of October 9, 1844.

Today in Texas History – October 22


rom the Annals of the Republic – In 1836, Sam Houston was inaugurated as the first constitutionally elected President of the Republic of Texas.  Among the most pressing issues facing the new President were relations with the Native Americans who still dominated much of the claimed national territory. Houston’s years living with the Cherokees and actually becoming a Cherokee citizen gave him a different perspective than most.  During his first term, Houston held conferences with tribal leaders in an attempt to address past grievances and establish new trust. He appointed agents to deal with the tribes and to run government trading houses.  Houston attempted to limit further settlement by pulling back surveyors and military companies from the frontier.  He did recognize that Anglos needed some protection.  He created a force of 280 mounted riflemen to enforce the trade laws and deal fairly with both sides, removing white trespassers and arresting Indian raiders.  But there was to be no peace between whites and Indians. Many Texans refused to wait for Houston’s policy to work and demanded that the Indians be removed from Texas and violence inevitably resulted – instigated by both sides.  By the end of Houston’s term in 1838, a change in policy was inevitable.

Today in Texas History

From the Annals of the Republic –  In 1848, Sam Houston dedicated the Monument Hill cemetery just south of La Grange on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River. Those to be buried there had died in the Dawson Massacre and other conflicts between the Republic of Texas and Mexico in the years after independence.  On September 18, 1842, Capt. Nicholas Dawson and his fifty-eight volunteers fought a losing battle against 500 irregular Mexican cavalrymen and their two cannons. The Texans were slaughtered. A few escaped, and fifteen were carted off to Perote Prison.  Nine survivors from the brutal imprisonment were eventually released. The dead were later transferred to Monument Hill.

Photo from Texas Parks & Wildlife.