Sam Houston Biography

Governor, Military Leader, Lawyer(1793–1863)
Statesman Samuel Houston was a key political figure in the creation of the state of Texas. He was elected the first president of the Republic of Texas in 1836.

Synopsis

Samuel Houston was born on March 2, 1793, near Lexington, Virginia. From 1813 to 1814, he fought in the Creek War and was wounded at Horseshoe Bend. He was elected to Congress in 1823 and 1825. In 1827, he became Tennessee governor. He was made the first president of the Republic of Texas in 1836 and was re-elected in 1841. From 1849 to 1859, he was a Texas state senator and briefly governor before he was ousted for not supporting the Confederacy. He died on July 26, 1863, in Huntsville, Texas.

Early Years

Lawyer, military leader and governor Samuel Houston, a key figure in the creation of the state of Texas, was born on March 2, 1793, in an area near Lexington, Virginia. His father was a Revolutionary War veteran who died when Houston was 14.

After her husband's passing, Houston's mother moved the family to eastern Tennessee. There, Houston became close to the neighboring Cherokee Indians. He became versed in their ways of life, even their language.

Following in his late father's footsteps, Houston joined the military. His valor in the War of 1812, in which he served under Andrew Jackson, earned him praise and Jackson's approval.

Political Beginnings

Houston's relationship with Jackson proved crucial. On the advice of the future president, Houston returned to Tennessee and embarked on a successful political career. He studied law and was elected the district attorney in Nashville. Houston's first real taste of national politics came in 1823 when he was elected to Congress, where he served two terms. In 1827 Tennessee voters elected him their governor.

But his political ambitions were complicated by personal problems. Houston was a known drinker, and following the marriage to his first wife, Eliza Allen, rumors circulated about his alcoholism and apparent infidelity.

His marriage soon fell apart, and in 1829, Houston left Tennessee for Arkansas, where he renewed his close contact with the Cherokee Indians. He married a Cherokee woman, Tiana Rodgers, in 1830, and began representing the Cherokee Nation and other Native Americans in Washington D.C. in Indian affairs.

Texas Calls

In 1832, Houston moved again, this time to the Mexican territory of Texas, where he was soon a prominent voice in pushing for secession. As tensions mounted, Houston accepted an appointment to command a ragtag Texan army against Mexican forces.

Still known for his excessive drinking, Houston nonetheless showed himself to be a brilliant military leader. Outnumbered and underpowered by Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna, Houston and his men were given a reprieve on April 21, 1836, when Anna split his forces. Seeing his chance, Houston ordered the attack at San Jacinto. Victory proved decisive and secured Texas its independence.

In this newly formed country, Sam Houston became its George Washington. The city of Houston was named in his honor in 1836, and that same year, the newly christened Lone Star Republic elected him as its president. After Texas joined the United States in 1846, Houston served as a U.S. Senator until 1860.

If Houston had his eye on the White House, he was no doubt compromised by his personal transgressions with women and alcohol. In addition, his views on slavery put him in conflict with the country's southern states. Although he was a slave owner himself, Houston was opposed to the expansion of slavery in the new territories.

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Houston, who'd been elected governor of Texas in 1859, refused to pledge his allegiance to the Confederate States of America. An infuriated Texas legislature discharged him of his duties.

Houston, who had married for a third time in 1840, to Margaret Lea, with whom he had eight children, retired from politics. He died at his home in Huntsville, Texas, on July 26, 1863.

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