Sam Houston

1793 - 1863

Sam Houston (1793-1863), American statesman and military commander, who led the fight for Texas independence from Mexico and later its admission into the United States.

Houston was born Samuel Houston on March 2, 1793, near Lexington, Virginia. After the death of his father in 1807, his mother moved the family to Tennessee. When Houston was about 15 years old, he ran away from home and lived with the Cherokee people of eastern Tennessee for nearly three years. During the War of 1812 he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private and fought against the Creek under Andrew Jackson (later U.S. president). In 1814 he was made lieutenant.

In 1818 Houston entered a law office in Nashville, Tennessee, and was admitted to the bar. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1823 until 1827, when he was elected governor of Tennessee. In 1829, after a brief, unsuccessful marriage, he resigned the governorship and returned to live with the Cherokee, who formally adopted him as a member of their nation. He later represented the Cherokee in Washington, D.C., to expose the frauds practiced on them by government agents.

In 1832 he was commissioned by President Jackson to negotiate treaties with the Native American tribes in Texas, which then belonged to Mexico, for the protection of U.S. traders. He decided to settle in Texas and became a popular leader and an outstanding figure in its early history. In November 1835 he was chosen commander in chief of the Texan army in the revolution against Mexico. His victory at San Jacinto and capture of the Mexican president, Antonio López de Santa Anna, won the Texans their independence. In 1836 Houston was elected president of the Republic of Texas, and he served until 1838; he was elected again in 1841 and served for three years. When Texas was admitted as a state of the Union in 1845, Houston was elected one of its first senators, serving from 1846 to 1859. In the latter year he was elected governor of Texas. As such, he opposed secession of the state from the Union, and in March 1861, after the outbreak of the American Civil War, he refused to swear allegiance to the Confederacy; he was then declared deposed. He died at Huntsville on July 26, 1863. The city of Houston was named in his honor.