Diorama of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend
Upon his recovery, Sam Houston served as an Indian agent, began an apprenticeship with a judge in Nashville, and then opened a legal practice in Lebanon, Tennessee. His friend and patron Governor McMinn appointed the twenty-six-year-old lawyer a major-general in the Tennessee militia. By the 1820 census, his state was granted three representatives to Congress, and Houston’s political party, led by Andrew Jackson, enabled him to run unopposed for the 9th district seat. As an excellent public speaker and aggressive Congressman, Sam Houston won election to the governorship of Tennessee in 1827, from which office he helped Jackson get elected to the Presidency the following year.
Formal portrait of Sam Houston (1793-1863)
Sam’s first marriage fell apart, and he abandoned politics to move to Arkansas and live among the Cherokee once again, where he was accorded tribal membership and became a negotiator between the tribe and the national government. After election to Congress once again, the occasionally volatile Tennessean was involved in an “affaire d’honneur” in which he beat unconscious with a cane a fellow representative, and left office once more for the west.
A signed portrait of Houston as Senator from Texas, 1859
In 1832, with rumors of alcoholism and uncontrolled temper following him, Sam Houston made the fateful decision to settle in Mexican Texas. He wrote a petition to their government for independence and supported Texas statehood. When the new President of Mexico, Antonio de Santa Anna invaded Texas with an army, Houston helped organize the resistance and to write up a provisional constitution. The story of the War for Texas independence is well known, as Houston led the Texian Army to victory and played a decisive role in creating a successful government.
Mexican President Santa Anna surrenders to a wounded Sam Houston after the Battle of San Jacinto, 1836
In subsequent years he served as the Lone Star Republic’s President and then as Governor of the State of Texas and United States Senator. The largest city in Texas—600 square miles—is named for the well-read but “uneducated” Scots-Irish boy from Virginia. He overcame his weaknesses over a lifetime of struggle, and his accomplishments certainly would have made Sir Hugh proud of his descendant. The Providence of God often seems to be an inscrutable puzzle when occurring, but a fascinating wisdom when we reflect on the past.