Military Adventures Beyond the Mississippi

Sam Houstonís Career

The life of General Houston is full of romance and adventure. He was born in Virginia, March 2, 1793; taken by his widowed mother to Tennessee while yet a boy; abandoned school because he could not agree with his teacher about his studies; ran away from a store, employment in which was too confining for his tastes; lived among the Indians as an adopted son of one ff their chiefs for three years; returned home; entered the army as a private at the age of twenty; earned by his bravery promotions and the lasting friendship of General Jackson, under whom he served; obtained the appointment of Indian agent, in which office he distinguished himself by his zeal in preventing the importation of negroes through Florida, then a Spanish province, into the States; resigned his commission in the army; studied law six months; was forthwith elected prosecuting attorney, and honorably acquitted himself in this position; gained such popularity as to obtain almost without opposition any office the State of Tennessee could give him; was elected, first, Major-General of Militia, then Representative to Congress, then twice Governor of the State; in 1829 separated from his wife, resigned his gubernatorial office, left Tennessee forever to make his home thenceforth with the Indians; proved a faithful and valuable friend to them; accomplished the removal of several Indian agents for fraud; wearied in turn of this half savage life, emigrated to Texas; assumed at once a prominent position in this then nebulous republic as General-in-Chief of all her forces; defeated and captured Santa Anna, and secured the independence of the State in a brief but brilliant campaign; left the military command of the Lone Star Republic to accept its presidency; proved himself as able and efficient in managing its civil affairs as he had in wielding the sword; represented her subsequently for two successive terms in the Senate of the United States; left the Senate only to be made Governor; and continued, until a short period previous to his death, the most popular, as he certainly was the most able, man which the State contained.

The little republic of Texas thus launched, unfurled for its banner the Lone Star. Alone, indeed, it was, and for nine years maintained against the most serious difficulties a struggling and precarious existence until 1845, when it was annexed to the United States, under the administration of President Polk.

Neither the population nor the institutions of Texas are homogeneous. The western counties are settled chiefly by French and German emigrants. They are divided into small farms and plantations, and are tilled by free labor. These people are, upon principle, warm opponents of the slave system, with which they possess no sympathy, in which they have no interest. The eastern counties, on the other hand, are settled largely by political and commercial adventurers from the States, chiefly the Southwest. There are but few of them wealthy enough to be large slaveholders, but they are among the most virulent supporters of the system. Except in the wildest counties of Arkansas and Missouri, it would not be easy to find any where a more desperate class than are assembled in some parts of Eastern Texas.

Still the number of slaveholders is not large. In 1850, out of a population of 212,592, but 7747 were slaveholders. Most of their slaves were apparently household servants. Only a little over 450 of these slaveholders possessed more than 20 slaves. The general sentiment of the State is sufficiently indicated by the fact that in August, 1859, General Sam Houston, then sixty-six years of age, was triumphantly elected Governor of the State. Southern in birth, education, sympathy, and sentiment, he had nevertheless strongly opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and eloquently defended the petition of the 3000 clergymen of New England against it; and he was the distinctive and outspoken candidate of the Union party. It was upon this record he was chosen Governor.

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Last updated 10/11/2009.