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In 1855, the Texas legislature officially condemned Houston for his opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a bill that repealed the Missouri Compromise and set the stage for the Civil War.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--"