Triumph and Tragedy: Presidents of the Republic of Texas

Introduction Growing Up Gone to Texas Path to Power Mister President Second Term

Houston Timeline

June 18, 1812 - United States declares war against Great Britain

March 24, 1813 - Enlists in the U.S. Army as a private

March 16, 1814 - Severely wounded at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, where Andrew Jackson defeats the Creek Indians

January 8, 1815 - Andrew Jackson smashes the British at New Orleans, secures U.S. possession of the Mississippi and American west

1817 - Appointed sub-agent to the Cherokees

1818 - Studies law and is elected prosecuting attorney of Nashville

1820 - Missouri Compromise maintains the balance between free and slave states, averts sectional crisis

1821 - Elected major general in the Tennessee militia

1821 - Mexican independence

1822 - Stephen F. Austin founds first American colony in Texas

1823 - Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives

1824 - Andrew Jackson defeated by John Quincy Adams for the presidency

1827 - Elected governor of Tennessee

1828 - Andrew Jackson elected President of the United States

January 22, 1829 - Marries Eliza Allen

April 16, 1829 - Resigns as governor and flees to Indian Territory

1830 - President Jackson authorizes forced removal of Indians from the eastern United States

April 13, 1832 - Canes Congressman William Stanberry on the streets of Washington

1832 - Andrew Jackson wins second term as president

December 2, 1832 - Arrives in Texas

Sam Houston

A Blazing Star Falls to Earth

At age 18, Houston left the Cherokees and spent two years teaching school to earn money. Then, adventure beckoned in the form of the outbreak of the War of 1812. Houston joined the U.S. Army as a private, quickly rising to the rank of third lieutenant. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. His courage in battle brought him to the attention of General Andrew Jackson, who became his mentor and surrogate father.

After the war, Houston was appointed a sub-agent to the Cherokees and assisted them in their move to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. He resigned from the army the next year and studied law. His rise in politics was meteoric. In quick succession, he became prosecuting attorney of Nashville, major general of the state militia, United States congressman, and governor of Tennessee. He was just 34 years old.

If Houston's life had seemed charmed, it now became a series of disasters. In January 1829, Houston married Eliza Allen, a local beauty. The marriage ended badly after only 11 weeks, with both parties evidently too traumatized to speak of it for the rest of their lives. Rumors flew around Nashville that Houston had abused the girl; others said that she was revolted by his war wounds, or in love with another man.

The reason for the break-up remains mysterious to history. Houston abruptly resigned as governor and fled to Indian Territory to rejoin the Cherokees. He rejected his previous success in the white world and lived as an Indian. He also drank so heavily that people began to say that his new Indian name was "Big Drunk." Though obviously in extreme emotional pain, Houston found time to become active in helping the tribe to keep peace with its neighbors in Indian Territory. Under Cherokee law, he married a Cherokee woman, Diana Rogers Gentry, and they opened a trading post on the Neosho River.

After three years, Houston began to gradually re-enter white society. He separated from Diana and traveled to Washington to represent the Cherokees, where he was involved in a much-publicized incident in which he caned a congressman whom he said had insulted him. Being back in the spotlight seemed to bring Houston back to himself. He turned his attention to the future.

In late 1832, Sam Houston moved to Texas. Although he was still drinking to excess, it was clear from the beginning that he was a revitalized man. He quickly became involved in the cause of rebellion against Mexico. Houston served as a delegate to a number of the conventions and mass meetings that led up to the Texas Revolution. During this time, he also moved on with his personal life, filing for divorce from Eliza Allen.

Sam Jacinto>>


Sam Houston wounded at Horseshoe Bend, 1813

Houston wounded at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. This engraving was approved by Houston for the book Sam Houston and His Republic, published in 1846.

Texas State Library and Archives, Prints and Photographs Collection, 1/102-280.

Document admitting Sam Houston to Cherokee nation, October 1829

This 1829 legal document grants Sam Houston permission to live with the Cherokees, with all the rights and responsibilities of a native-born member of the tribe.

Sam Houston to Andrew Jackson, December 1817

In this letter to his boss and mentor General Andrew Jackson, Houston reports on the complexities of managing the Cherokee agency. For the 24-year-old Houston, it was an education in cross-cultural politics.

Sam Houston denounces his enemies, 1831

An 1831 personal proclamation finds Sam Houston back in Nashville and ready for a fight.

Page last modified: March 13, 2015