Triumph and Tragedy: Presidents of the Republic of Texas

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Introduction Growing Up Gone to Texas Path to Power Mister President Later Years

Lamar Timeline

Summer 1843 - Lamar's daughter Rebecca Ann dies at age 16

February 19, 1846 - Texas annexation

Spring 1846 - Joins the U.S. army in Matamoros as a lieutenant colonel

September 1846 - Battle of Monterrey

1846-47 - Military administrator of Laredo

1847 - Represents Laredo in Texas House of Representatives

1848 - Mexico cedes most of its western territory to the United States

1850 - Compromise of 1850 (which Lamar opposes) attempts to settle the question of expansion of slavery into the new territories; Texas gives up New Mexico territorial claims

1850 - The U.S. and Great Britain claim rights to trade route through Nicaragua

February 1851 - Marries Henrietta Maffit

1852 - Loretto Evaline Lamar born

1853 - Gadsden Purchase of Mexican border territory

1854 - Indian reservations established in Texas

1856 - American adventurer William Walker takes control of Nicaragua

September 1857 - Publication of Verse Memorials

1857 - Appointed U.S. minister to Nicaragua and Costa Rica

July 1859 - Texas Indians moved from Texas reservations to Indian Territory

December 19, 1859 - Mirabeau B. Lamar dies at Richmond

October 6, 1891 - Henrietta Lamar dies

Mirabeau B. Lamar

Happy at Last

Alone in the world: Smarting under criticism, Lamar returned to his home near Richmond at the end of 1841. He busied himself with defending his reputation, managing his plantation, and collecting historical materials. In 1842, he traveled to Georgia to spend time with his daughter, now 15 years old. Rebecca had inherited the frail health of her mother, and not long after Lamar returned to Texas, he received word from his brother that she had died. Lamar was plunged into grief and depression by this latest loss.

As with earlier losses, Lamar found solace in travel. He had changed his position on annexation and spent some time lobbying for the Texas cause. He also devoted much time to his poetry.

Streets of Laredo: Texas was formally annexed by the United States on February 19, 1846. Mexico objected to the annexation, especially to the U.S. claim to the land between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Anticipating trouble, the United States stationed General Zachary Taylor and his troops at the mouth of the Rio Grande. In April 1846, Mexico crossed the river on a raid, killing several of Taylor's men. The Mexican War was underway.

Lamar volunteered to serve on the staff of Governor James Pinckney Henderson, who took a leave of absence as governor to personally command troops in the field. Lamar fought in the Battle of Monterrey before being assigned to secure Laredo, 150 miles to the rear of the fighting. Lamar chafed at the inglorious assignment, finding Laredo to be an impoverished backwater, but he administered the town and its small frontier garrison with as much efficiency as he could muster. In 1847, he traveled to Austin to represent Laredo in the Texas House of Representatives.

At Long Last Love: When the war ended in 1848, Lamar again took up a restless life of almost constant travel. While visiting friends in New Orleans, he met Henrietta Maffitt, a 23-year-old Galveston beauty who was the daughter of a well-known Methodist preacher. Although there was a thirty-year difference in their ages, the two of them fell in love. They were married in February 1851. They spent their early married life in Macon, Georgia, and within a year became the parents of a daughter, Loretto Evaline.

After Loretto's birth, the Lamars moved back to Texas and began to renovate the long-neglected Richmond plantation. Henrietta cultivated flowers, and Loretto grew into a healthy, playful child whom Lamar called his "pretty angel." For perhaps the first time in his life, Mirabeau Lamar was truly happy. He kept busy with his efforts to collect and preserve the papers of early Texas, engaged in a voluminous correspondence, and became involved with efforts to promote the economic development of the southern states. Perhaps his proudest achievement came in 1857 with the publication of Verse Memorials, a collection of his poetry. But Lamar's happiness came at a price. He eventually realized that he needed an income to sustain his family's genteel lifestyle.

Ambassador to Nicaragua: Working through friends, Lamar was appointed United States minister to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, a post he held for twenty months while Henrietta stayed in Texas and managed the plantation. The position was well paid but extremely challenging. In 1855, a group of American filibusters led by William Walker had invaded Nicaragua and taken over the country. They legalized slavery, made English the official language, and terrorized the Nicaraguan people. Walker was finally expelled, but the people of Central America were extremely bitter against the United States as a result of the Walker affair.

President Buchanan charged Lamar with the duty of negotiating a treaty with Nicaragua to operate a trade route across the isthmus. He quickly made friends among the ruling elite in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica but was unable to secure approval of the treaty. Eventually, France won the opportunity for the trade route. Weary and feeling himself in ill health, Lamar returned home to Texas. He brought a parrot and a monkey home with him, to the delight of seven-year-old Loretto.

Death at Richmond: Two months after returning to Richmond, on December 19, 1859, Mirabeau B.Lamar suffered a massive heart attack and died at the age of 61.

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Rebecca Lamar to Mirabeau Lamar, October 1840

Although she lived with relatives in Macon while Mirabeau Lamar was president, young Rebecca Lamar and her father were frequent correspondents. In this letter, written when she was 13 years old, Rebecca tells Lamar of an election-day brawl in which Lamar's brother Jefferson was shot, and relates her dreams of traveling to Paris and then living with Lamar "always."

Mirabeau Lamar to Zachary Taylor, February 1847

In this draft of a letter to commanding general Zachary Taylor, Lamar reports on conditions on the Laredo frontier. The place Lamar considered a sleepy backwater included bands of "marauders" and attacking Comanches.

"In Deathless Beauty"

Lamar carefully penned this poem, "In Deathless Beauty," for Henrietta Maffitt during their courtship in New Orleans. It is believed to have been written shortly before their marriage in 1851.

Lamar to Lewis Cass, February 1858

As U.S. minister to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, Lamar wrote many dispatches to Secretary of State Lewis Cass. This official correspondence is often as dramatic and candid as Lamar himself.


Page last modified: March 19, 2015