Samuel “Sam” Houston was born March 2, 1793 on a Plantation in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
He is perhaps best known for his role in bringing Texas into statehood, becoming the first and third President of the Republic of Texas and a United States Senator from Texas after it joined the United States.
Trivia fact: As a former President of Texas, Sam Houston became the last foreign head of state to serve in the US Congress.
Then Sam Houston ran for governor of Texas in 1857.
As a U.S. Senator, Sam had upset many voters with his pro-Union position. He was blocked from the Democratic Party nomination as they selected Hardin Richard Runnels instead.
Sam then decided to run for Governor as an independent on May 12, 1857, knowing he was unlikely to be reappointed to the U.S. Senate.
The subsequent campaign between Sam Houston and Hardin Runnels quickly became a contest of personalities, with Runnels defeating Houston by a vote of 38,552 to 23,628.
Then in 1859, Sam ran again for governor of Texas, this time defeating Hardin Runnels.
Upon taking office as the 7th Governor of Texas on December 31, 1859, Sam Houston became the only person elected to serve as governor of two U.S. states by popular vote (Sam had been elected as the 6th Governor of Tennessee from October 1, 1827 – April 16, 1829).
American Civil War
Although Sam Houston was a slave owner and opposed abolition, he refused to swear loyalty to the Confederacy.
Then to avoid bloodshed in Texas, Sam turned down U.S. Col. Frederick W. Lander’s offer from President Lincoln of 50,000 troops to prevent Texas’s secession.
He said, “Allow me to most respectfully decline any such assistance of the United States Government.”
Texas voted to secede from the Union on February 1, 1861.
Texas then officially joined the Confederate States of America on March 2, 1861.
Instead of resisting, Sam Houston simply stated:
“I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity, I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as Chief Executive of this State, except by the peaceful exercise of my functions … “
Sam was not allowed to remain as Governor, as he was evicted on March 16, 1861.
Just before leaving, he wrote to the people of Texas:
Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas….I protest….against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.
Sam was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark.
After leaving the Governor’s mansion, Sam Houston traveled to Galveston before renting the Steamboat House in the hills above Huntsville, Texas.
Along the way, many Texans demanded an explanation for his refusal to support the Confederacy.
On April 19, 1861 from a hotel window he told a crowd:
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.
His health deteriorated in 1863 due to a persistent cough.
By mid-July, Sam Houston had developed pneumonia.
He died before the end of the American Civil War on July 26, 1863 at Steamboat House, with his wife Margaret by his side.
Sam Houston was buried in Huntsville with this inscription on his tomb:
A Brave Soldier. A Fearless Statesman.
A Great Orator—A Pure Patriot.
A Faithful Friend, A Loyal Citizen.
A Devoted Husband and Father.
A Consistent Christian—An Honest Man.
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