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Sam Houston: A Legend of the Lone Star State


Happy birthday to a legend of the Lone Star State, Sam Houston, born on this day in 1793.

A native son of Virginia, Houston served as a lawyer and politician in Tennessee before making his way to Texas in 1832. A veteran of the War of 1812 and an honorary member of the Cherokee tribe in eastern Tennessee, he went on to play a leading role in the Texas Revolution. After Texas declared independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836, Houston was selected as commander-in-chief of the Texas Army.

Just days after independence was declared, around 200 Texians defending the Alamo, a former Franciscan mission located near the present-day city of San Antonio, were massacred by Mexican forces under General Antonio López de Santa Anna. This setback forced Houston and his small, ill-equipped, and poorly supplied army into a series of strategic withdrawals. Although these actions were unpopular with his men, they bought the Texians much needed time, preparing them for a momentous revenge against the enemy.

On April 21, 1836, Houston presided over one of the most dominant battlefield victories in American history. With shouts of “Remember the Alamo!,” his 900 men routed Santa Anna’s 1,200-strong army at the Battle of San Jacinto, near the present-day city of Houston, which is named in honor of the Texas revolutionary hero. In only 18 minutes, Houston’s outnumbered Texians achieved a war-winning victory. Over 600 Mexicans are estimated to have been killed and around 700 taken prisoner, including Santa Anna. Only nine of Houston's men were killed or mortally wounded as a result of the battle. After Santa Anna's surrender, he subsequently signed an armistice granting Texas independence.

Santa Anna surrenders to Houston following his crushing defeat at San Jacinto. Houston is reclining beneath a tree and resting an ankle that was shot during the battle. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

With independence secured, Houston became the first elected President of the Republic of Texas on September 5, 1836. He served two nonconsecutive terms as president and laid the groundwork for Texas being admitted to the United States as the 28th state in 1845.

During the fateful buildup to the American Civil War, Houston was serving as governor of Texas. He was the only Southern governor to oppose secession, and despite his pro-Union sentiments, a state convention voted to secede from the Union on February 1, 1861. The following month, Houston refused to swear allegiance to the Confederate States of America. As a result, he was deposed by the Texas legislature and replaced by a lieutenant governor with Confederate sympathies.

A photo of Sam Houston taken between 1848 and 1850. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Although Houston rejected an offer to lead Federal troops against the rebellion, he left supporters of secession with words of warning:“If you go to war with the United States, you will never conquer her, as she has the money and the men. If she does not whip you by guns, powder, and steel, she will starve you to death. It will take the flower of the country - the young men.” Houston did not live to see the final outcome of the Civil War, passing away in July 1863, but his words were prophetic.

Sources

Encyclopædia Britannica: Sam Houston.

History.com: 7 Things You May Not Know About Sam Houston.

History.com: Sam Houston.

PBS: Sam Houston.

San Jacinto Museum of History: Victory at San Jacinto.

The Sam Houston Memorial Museum: Notable Quotes of Sam Houston.

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