Sam Houston Comes to Texas: 1832


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Uncle Sam

The History of Texas: Sam Houston

(Previous Section: Growing Political Power in Texas: 1832-1833)

Sam HoustonAmong the newcomers into Texas in the year 1832 was Sam Houston, late governor of the state of Tennessee, a man of extraordinary fortunes. By birth a Virginian, but brought up in Blount county, among the mountains of East Tennessee, he volunteered at an early age as a soldier in the army; was promoted to the rank of lieutenant; fought at the battle of the Horseshoe, in which he was severely wounded; returned to Tennessee, where he attracted the attention of General Jackson, and was taken into his military family; was appointed Indian agent for the Cherokees; he afterward studied law, was elected attorney-general for Tennessee, and major-general of the state militia; represented the Nashville district in Congress; was elected governor of the state; married—which soon proving unfortunate, he resigned his office of governor, and in April, 1829,* went into voluntary exile, among those Cherokee Indians for whom he had been agent twelve years before. But they had been removed, and in 1829 were living on the Indian lands near Cantonment Gibson.

* Houston was appointed second lieutenant in the 39th regiment of infantry, by President Madison, on the 20th of April, 1815, " to rank as such from the 20th of May, 1814;" and first lieutenant in the 1st regiment of infantry, by President Monroe, on the 5th of March, 1818, "to rank as such from the 1st of May, 1817." In November, 1817, he was appointed sub-agent of the Cherokee Indians. On the 14th of December, 1821, he was elected major-general of the middle division of Tennessee militia. In August of the years 1823 and 1825 he was elected a representative to Congress; and in August, 1827, he was chosen governor of the state of Tennessee.

Sam Houston Becomes a Cherokee

Houston had been adopted by the chief John Jolly, and on the 21st of October of the above-mentioned year was admitted to the rights of citizenship, by an official act of the authorities of the nation. Among these people he subsisted by trade, making an occasional trip to the older states until 1832. During the time of his exile, the papers were filled with stories in regard to the gigantic projects he had in view. At one time he was represented as intending to join Mexico against the Spanish invasion of 1829. At another, it was said that he intended to retreat into the Rocky mountains, and engage in the fur-trade. Again, that he intended to invade and detach Texas from the Mexican confederacy— one account stated, with the Cherokee Indians; another, with adventurers gathered from all parts of the United States, meeting at a rendezvous in Arkansas. All these reports were equally untrue. Houston, stricken with a grief strictly private, and of which the world knew not, had gone from society to find a resting-place for a troubled spirit. Time alone could restore his mind to its wonted elasticity. It may well be supposed that, during that period of depression and gloom, he was hatching no treason against the Union, nor was his mind employed in any such gigantic projects. These reports, however, had spread far and wide. They had reached the ears of President Jackson. A letter from him, dated at Washington city, June 21, 1829, shows that he disbelieved them; " It has been communicated to me," said he, " that you had the illegal enterprise in view of conquering Texas; that you had declared you would, in less than two years, be emperor of that country, by conquest. I must have really thought you deranged to have believed you had such a wild scheme in contemplation; and particularly, when it was communicated that the physical force to be employed was the Cherokee Indians! Indeed, my dear sir, I can not believe you have any such chimerical, visionary scheme in view. Your pledge of honor to the contrary is a sufficient guaranty that you will never engage in any enterprise injurious to your country, or that would tarnish your fame." *

* An eloquent passage from this same letter will not be unacceptable: "My affliction was great, and as much as I well could bear, when I parted with you on the 18th of January last. I then viewed you as on the brink of happiness, and rejoiced. About to be united in marriage to a beautiful young lady, of accomplished manners and of respectable connections, and of your own selection —you the governor of the state, and holding the affections of the people: these were your prospects when I shook you by the hand and bade you farewell!—You can well judge of my astonishment and grief in receiving a letter from you, dated at Little Rock, A. T., 11th of May, conveying the sad intelligence that you were then a private citizen, ' an exile from your country!' What reverse of fortune! How unstable are all human affairs!"

In December, 1830, President Jackson received a letter from a Dr. Mayo, stating that Houston had imparted to him his design of conquering Texas by means of the "Indians in the Arkansas territory, and recruits among the citizens of the United States." The president, on receipt of this letter, wrote confidentially to William Fulton, secretary of state for Arkansas, at Little Rock, stating the intelligence he had received, and that, although he "believed the information was erroneous," yet such was his detestation of the criminal steps alluded to, that he wished him to watch the course of things, and keep him constantly advised of any such movements. Colonel Fulton made the proper inquiries, and informed the president that there were no such hostile movements on foot in Arkansas against Texas or Mexico. This correspondence obtained consequence from the use made of it by Ex-President John Quincy Adams in 1838.

Sam Houston Visits Texas

As to the time when Houston first determined to come to Texas, it is useless to inquire; it is, however, tolerably certain that he did not determine to make it his home until 1833. As early as the autumn of 1829, he received strong solicitations from his friends to immigrate hither. It was on the 10th of December, 1832, that he first crossed Red river, near Jonesborough, on his way to Nacogdoches. He had two objects in view; first, to act as a confidential agent of the government of the United States in looking into the condition and disposition of the Indian tribes, particularly the great nation of the Comanches; and to examine into the character of the country, with a view to its value to the United States should they purchase it. His second object was that of an agent for claimants of lands. In furtherance of the first object, he was furnished by the secretary of war with a passport requesting all the, tribes of Indians, "whether in amity with the United States, or, as yet, not allied to them by treaties," to permit him to pass freely through their territories. He was also furnished with secret instructions to induce those Indians who had come to Texas from the United States to return. Sam Houston provided a detailed account of his activities in a Letter to Andrew Jackson in 1833.

Sam Houston Negotiates with the Indians of Texas

Between Jonesborough and Nacogdoches, Houston found but two houses. After remaining a while at the latter place, he proceeded to San Felipe, with a view to meet Colonel Austin; but the latter was not at home. Houston, after partaking of a Christmas dinner at San Felipe, set out for San Antonio, in company with Colonel James Bowie. Arriving there, he made the acquaintance of Beramendi, the vice-governor of the state, and father-in-law of Bowie; also that of Ruis, the Mexican commandant. Having stated his object, with their permission he held a consultation with the Comanche chiefs, and distributed to them medals. He then returned to Nacogdoches, by way of San Felipe, where he reported himself to Colonel Austin, and made his acquaintance. At Nacogdoches, Houston was urged by the American residents to settle among them, which he partially promised, and shortly afterward concluded to do. On his return to Natchitoches, he reported to the president, and also to the commissioner for Indian affairs.

Notwithstanding the consultation with the Comanche chiefs was held in the presence of the Mexican officers at San Antonio, and through their interpreter, and they were distinctly informed that the object of the United States was to get them to meet commissioners at Cantonment Gibson to make a treaty of peace, yet a feeling of jealousy prevented the consummation of that desirable end. Although the authorities at San Antonio did not openly oppose it, they did not aid it, but, on the contrary, by their conduct and objections prevented it.

The Indians along the Texan frontier were generally mischievous. In fact, there was scarcely a month that passed, but some murder or robbery was perpetrated by them. The year 1832 was not an exception. Hence it was some consolation to the Texans that, during that year, the different tribes had a good deal of fighting among themselves, especially a great battle between the Comanches and Shawnees, in which the former were badly defeated.*

* In 1832, a party of five hundred Comanches came into San Antonio. At that time a party of Shawnees, twenty-five in number, were encamped in the hills, about thirty-five miles north of the town. A Comanche Indian attempted to carry off one of the Shawnee women, who was in the town. She fled to her people, gave them information of what had occurred, and they prepared an ambush for their enemies at a point where they expected them to encamp. The Comanches came as anticipated, and took off their packs. Just at this time the Shawnees opened afire on them; and, though they rallied often, so deadly was the fire, and so secure the position of the attacking party, that the Comanches at last fled, leaving one hundred and seventy-five dead on the field! The discomfited party returned to San Antonio, and the Mexican authorities sent out a large force to assist them. —Telegraph and Texas Register, August 14, 1839.

[Next Section of Texas History: Santa Anna Elected President of Mexico]




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