Texas Originals

Sam Houston

March 2, 1793–July 26, 1863

In 1861, as the Civil War loomed, Texas Governor Sam Houston watched his constituents vote to secede from the Union. Houston could not believe that two decades of his work was about to unravel. His loyalty to the Union was genuine, and he was not willing to switch his allegiance to the Confederacy. Houston was forced out of office, but not before saying, "I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her."

Houston had never refused a fight in his life. But he understood how disastrous the Civil War would ultimately be.

Sam Houston had arrived in Texas, almost thirty years prior, in 1832. The former congressman and governor of Tennessee's new cause was Texas independence. He led the army that defeated Mexican General Santa Anna at San Jacinto—an achievement that secured his place in Texas history.

Sam Houston’s next challenge was convincing Texans to join the United States. It took almost a decade, but annexation occurred in 1845.

Just fifteen years later, the Civil War was about to tear his country apart. At sixty-seven, Sam Houston’s fighting days were behind him, and he retired to a quiet life in Huntsville. Two years later in 1863, as the Civil War was raging, Sam Houston died.

His final home still stands on the grounds of Sam Houston State University and is visited annually by thousands who pay tribute to this iconic Texan.

For More about Sam Houston

The Portal to Texas History has digital facsimiles of numerous primary sources related to Houston’s life and times.

Huntsville’s Sam Houston Memorial Museum maintains a website with quotations, photographs, frequently asked questions about Houston’s life, and more.

The Sam Houston Regional Library and Resource Center, located in Liberty, Texas, holds the Jean Houston Baldwin Collection of Sam Houston images, the largest known collection of photographs and illustrations of the Texas hero.

The documentary film Sam Houston: American Statesman, Soldier, and Pioneer has an informative website that includes extensive resources for educators.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has images and a transcript of General Sam Houston's report on the Battle of San Jacinto, at which Texas secured its independence.

The Sam Houston Papers at the Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin document Houston’s military service under Andrew Jackson; his terms as congressman and governor of Tennessee; his life among the Indians; and his service to Texas as commander-in-chief of the army in the Texas Revolution, president of the Republic of Texas, one of Texas's first two senators, and governor of the state.

The Sam Houston Papers at Rice University contain government letters and documents written by Sam Houston, letters to Sam Houston from other government officials, and people seeking favors, and personal materials such as letters to and from family members, and bills.

Selected Bibliography

Brands, H. W. Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence—and Changed America. New York: Doubleday, 2004.

Campbell, Randolph B. Sam Houston and the American Southwest. Edited by Oscar Handlin. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Cantrell, Gregg. "Sam Houston and the Know-Nothings: A Reappraisal." Southwestern Historical Quarterly 96, no. 3 (1993): 326–343.

DeBruhl, Marshall. Sword of San Jacinto: A Life of Sam Houston. New York: Random House, 1993.

Haley, James L. Sam Houston. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

Houston, Sam. The Personal Correspondence of Sam Houston: 1839–1845. Edited by Madge Thornall Roberts. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 1996.

Kreneck, Thomas "H. Houston, Samuel". Handbook of Texas Online.

Williams, Amelia W. and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863. 8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970.

Williams, John Hoyt. Sam Houston: A Biography of the Father of Texas. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

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Engraved portrait of Sam Houston. Image courtesy of the Star of the Republic Museum.
Credentials of the Honorable Sam Houston, Senator from Texas, 1846. Image courtesy of the National Archives.
Sam Houston, ca. 1848–1850. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.