Sam Houston, an American soldier, born near Lexington, Va., March 2, 1793, died at Huntersville, Texas, July 25, 1863. His father served in the revolutionary war, and held the post of inspector of brigade till his death in 1807. His mother, after her husband's death, emigrated with her six sons and three daughters to East Tennessee, within 8 m. of the Cherokee country. Sam had read a few books, among them Pope's translation of the Iliad, of which he could repeat nearly the whole from memory. He desired to learn Greek and Latin, but was refused by his schoolmaster, upon which he left the school, and entered a store as clerk. This occupation he had no relish for, and absconding, he crossed the Tennessee river, and lived with the Indians about three years. Though under 18 years of age, he was six feet high and an active hunter, and stood high in the esteem of his savage associates. Oolooteka, one of their chiefs, adopted him as his son. In 1811 he returned to his family, and opened a school. In 1813, during the war with Great Britain, he enlisted as a common soldier, was promoted to be an ensign, and fought under Jackson against the Indians at the battle of the great bend of the Tallapoosa, March 24, 1814, where he was severely wounded.
After the ratification of peace in 1815 he was promoted to be a lieutenant, and was stationed near Knoxville, Tenn., and afterward at New Orleans. In November, 1817, he was appointed a subordinate Indian agent to carry out the treaty with the Cherokees which had just been ratified. In the following winter he conducted a delegation of Indians to Washington. Complaints were made against him to the government on account of his exertions to prevent the unlawful importation of African negroes through Florida, then a Spanish province. He was acquitted of all blame by the government; but conceiving himself to be ill treated, ho resigned his commission in the army, March 1, 1818, settled in Nashville, and began to study law. In six months he was admitted to the bar, and began practice in Lebanon, 30 m. E. of Nashville. He was soon appointed adjutant general of the state, with the rank of colonel; and in 1819 he was elected district attorney of the Davidson district, and took up his residence in Nashville. In 1821 he was elected major general of militia, and in 1823 a representative in congress.
He was reelected in 1825 by an almost unanimous vote, and in August, 1827, was chosen governor of Tennessee. In January, 1829, he was married, and in April, for reasons unknown to the public, separated from his wife, resigned his office, went to the west of Arkansas, to which his former friends the Cherokees had removed, and presented himself before Oolooteka, who had now become the principal chief of the tribe. He was kindly received, and by an official act of the ruling chiefs, Oct. 21, 1829, was formally admitted to all the rights and privileges of the Cherokee nation. In 1832 he went to Washington to remonstrate against the frauds and outrages practised upon the Indians. This resulted in the removal of five government agents from office, and he became involved in a series of personal and legal contests with the removed agents and their friends. He was accused in the house of representatives by W. R. Stansbury of Ohio of having attempted to obtain from government a fraudulent contract for Indian rations. This led to a personal rencontre between Houston and Stansbury, who was severely beaten. For this Houston was arrested, and publicly cen-.sured by the speaker of the house.
He was also tried for assault, and fined $500; but the sentence of the court was not enforced, and the fine was afterward remitted by President Jackson. A committee of which Mr. Stansbury was chairman was appointed to investigate the charge of fraud, but reported that it was not sustained. Houston returned to his wigwam, and in December, 1832, went to Texas, where a revolutionary movement was organizing against the Mexican government. In the constitutional convention, which met April 1, 1833, Houston exercised a controlling influence. When the war with Mexico began he was chosen general of the military district east of the Trinity, and in October, 1835, mustered his forces and led them to the camp of Gen. Austin, who was besieging Bexar. He was soon elected commander-in-chief of the Texan army. After the declaration of Texan independence, he resigned his command, and was immediately reelected commander-in-chief of the army of the new republic. On March 10,1836, he went to the camp of Gonzalez and took command of the army of 374 men, ill organized, poorly armed, and without supplies. The fort of the Alamo had just been taken by the Mexicans, and its garrison of about 170 put to death.
On March 12 information reached the camp of this massacre, accompanied by the statement that the president of Mexico, Santa Anna, was close at hand with an army of 5,000 men. The wildest panic seized the Texan camp. Houston promptly restored order, and fell back to the Colorado, receiving from time to time small reinforcements, till at length the entire number of his force was 650 men. He had no artillery, and Col. Fannin, who was stationed at Goliad with 500 men well armed and supplied with artillery, was ordered to join him; but he was intercepted by a vastly superior force, and after a desperate defence capitulated, March, 20, and with his command of 357 was massacre'd in cold blood, March 27. Santa Anna advanced to Harris-burg, the capital, which he laid in ashes, and marched upon the town called New Washington. Here upon the San Jacinto he was encountered by Houston, who had at length received two six-pounders from Cincinnati. His force had been increased till it numbered 783 men, all volunteers, most of whom had never seen a battle; but, led in a general charge by Houston, with shouts of " Remember the Alamo! " "Remember Goliad! " they utterly routed (April 21) the Mexican force of 1,600 regulars, of whom 630 were killed and nearly all the remainder captured.
The Texans had only 8 killed and 25 wounded. The next day Santa Anna, disguised as a common soldier, was captured and brought before Houston, who rebuked him for the cruel and perfidious massacres of Goliad and the Alamo, but protected him from the wrath of the Texans. A treaty made with the captive president secured the independence of Texas. Houston, who had been severely wounded in the ankle, was relieved from the command of the army, and sailed for New Orleans, where he arrived almost in a dying condition. In July, however, he returned to his home in Nacogdoches. In the following September he was elected president of Texas, and was inaugurated Oct. 22, 1836. He appointed his political rivals to important offices, liberated Santa Anna, and opened negotiations with the United States government for the annexation of Texas to the Union. His presidential term expired Dec. 12, 1838; and as the constitution made him ineligible for the next term, he was succeeded by Mirabeau B. Lamar. During the three years of the next presidential term Texas became involved in wars with the Indian tribes on her borders, in disastrous expeditions against the Mexican territories, and in debt to an enormous amount.
The expenditures for the year 1841 amounted to $1,176,288, and the receipts to only $442,604. Houston, who had meantime been twice elected to congress, was reelected president in September, 1841, by more than three quarters of the votes. After a stormy administration, beset at the outset with difficulties of the gravest character, which were met with firmness and overcome with great judgment and ability, he retired from his second presidential term in December, 1844. He had paid off" a large amount of the national debt, had kept the expenditures far within the revenues, restored peace and trade with Mexico, made treaties with all the hostile Indian tribes, and lastly had negotiated successfully the great measure of annexation to the United States, though its final consummation did not take place till after the expiration of his constitutional term of office, when he was once more ineligible. Texas became one of the United States in 1845, and Sam Houston and Thomas J. Rusk were the first senators she sent to Washington. Houston was reelected at the end of his term in 1853, and remained in the senate till March 4, 1859. As a senator, he was the zealous advocate of justice and humanity to the Indians. He opposed the Kansas and Nebraska bill, in a speech March 3,1854, and gave in his adhesion to the "Know-Nothing" or American party.
In 1858 he voted against the Lecompton constitution of Kansas. On Aug. 1, 1859, he was elected governor of Texas, He opposed secession in 1861, and long resisted the clamor for an extra session of the Texas legislature; and he finally resigned his office in preference to taking the oath required by the convention.