Triumph and Tragedy: Presidents of the Republic of Texas

President John Tyler First use of anesthesia (ether) in surgery Dickens' A Christmas Carol Minstrel shows

Introduction Houston in Love Mister President Later Years

Houston Timeline

March 1, 1845 - Texas annexation passes Congress

October 13, 1845 - Texas votes overwhelmingly to accept annexation

December 29, 1845 - Texas annexation becomes law

February 19, 1846 - Formal transfer of power from Republic of Texas to United States of America

March 1846 - Takes office as U.S. Senator

May 1846 - Mexican War begins

February 2, 1848 - Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends Mexican War, sets Rio Grande as boundary of Texas

August 1848 - Speaks in favor of bill to prohibit slavery in the Oregon Territory

1849 - Speaks out against John C. Calhoun's "Southern Address"

1850 - Helps pass Compromise of 1850, which attempts to settle question of slavery in western territories; Texas gives up territorial claims in order to settle its debts.

February 1854 - Campaigns against Kansas-Nebraska bill, which would repeal the Missouri Compromise

May 30, 1854 - Kansas-Nebraska Act passes

November 1854 - Baptized into Baptist Church

August 1857 - Defeated for governor by Hardin Runnels

March 1859 - Leaves U.S. Senate

August 1859 - Elected governor in narrow victory over Hardin Runnels

October 16, 1859 - John Brown's attack on Harper's Ferry

December 21, 1859 - Sworn in as Texas governor

May 1860 - Loses out to John Bell as presidential candidate for Union party

November 6, 1860 - Abraham Lincoln elected president

February 8, 1861 - Confederate States of America established

March 2, 1861 - Texas secedes from the Union

March 16, 1861 - Refuses to take oath of allegiance to Confederacy; deposed as governor

April 12, 1861 - Battle of Fort Sumter; Civil War begins

April 1862 - Sam Houston, Jr. badly wounded at Shiloh

July 26, 1863 - Dies in Huntsville

December 3, 1867 - Margaret Houston dies at age 48 in yellow fever epidemic

Sam Houston

The Union Forever

Houston's years after the presidency were as eventful as those that went before.

Domesticated: Sam and Margaret started a family that eventually grew to four sons and four daughters.

Margaret's campaign to reform her husband reached its high point in 1854. At the age of 61, Sam Houston was baptized and became a member of the Baptist Church. He joked that the fish probably died when the water washed away all his sins. He also became involved in the temperance movement, much to the amusement of his old friends.

Senator and presidential contender: Texas annexation finally passed the Senate in 1845, and Sam Houston became one of Texas's two United States senators. He served in the Senate until 1859. As a passionately pro-Union southerner, Houston won many admirers. He was one of the most popular speakers in the country and was frequently mentioned as a presidential candidate. Though he was a slave owner and defended the practice of slavery, Houston was hated by many of his fellow southerners for his willingness to compromise in the interests of preserving the Union.

In 1855, the Texas legislature officially condemned Houston for his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a bill that repealed the Missouri Compromise and set the stage for the Civil War. Houston knew that he would not be selected again for another term in the Senate (in those days senators were chosen by vote of the legislature). In 1857, he ran for governor of Texas but was defeated by Hardin Runnels.

Fight to the Finish: Texas, like the rest of the nation, was deeply divided over disunion, slavery, states' rights, and secession. In 1859, running as a "Democrat of the Old School" and promising to prevent the calamity of secession, Houston was elected governor in a rematch against Runnels. Houston warned that secession would lead to civil war, a Northern victory, and the destruction of the South. But even Sam Houston could no longer stand in the way of events. Despite Houston's effort, Texas voted to secede and leave the Union that Houston had fought so hard to join. When he refused to take a loyalty oath to the Confederacy, he was deposed as governor.

Undefeated: During the Civil War, age and time finally caught up with Sam Houston. He, Margaret, and their younger children moved back to their home at Cedar Point. Their oldest son, Sam Jr., joined the Confederate Army and was wounded at Shiloh. He was taken prisoner but later exchanged and allowed to return home.

Old Sam restlessly rambled around east Texas, visiting friends in defiance of travel restrictions imposed by martial law. Challenged once by a young sentry who demanded to see his travel permit, Houston said, "Go to San Jacinto and learn my right to travel in Texas." As his health deteriorated, he was forced to stop traveling. At the end of 1862, the family moved to Huntsville, where Sam often spent time visiting a Union prisoner of war camp that had been set up at the Texas State Penitentiary.

He lived to see the South defeated at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. There was no joy in knowing he had been right. On July 26, 1863, Houston died of pneumonia with his wife by his side. According to legend, his last words were, "Texas--Texas--Margaret--"

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Sam Houston in 1856

Photograph of Sam Houston taken in 1856, when he was a member of the United States Senate. Texas State Library and Archives, Prints and Photographs Collection, 1/102-271.

Sam to Margaret Houston, January 1859

After almost 20 years of marriage, Sam Houston was still writing love letters to Margaret. In this warm letter, he also writes of the antics of his children and of the Protectorate, a short-lived scheme in which he advocated the invasion of Mexico and the establishment of an American protectorate over that country. Houston hoped the idea would give common purpose to the United States and avert the onrush of the Civil War.

Page last modified: March 19, 2015