HOUSTON, SAM, or SAMUEL (1793-1863), American general and statesman, of Scotch-Irish descent, was born near Lexington, Virginia, on the 2nd of March 1793. His father, who had fought in the War of Independence, died in 1806, and soon afterward Samuel removed with his mother to the frontier in Blount county, Tennessee. When he was about fifteen his elder brothers obtained for him a place as clerk in a trader's store, but he ran away and lived with the Cherokee Indians of East Tennessee for nearly three years. On his return he opened a country school, and later attended a session or two of the Academy at Maryville. During theWarof 1812 he served under Andrew Jackson against the Creek Indians, and his bravery at the battle of Tohopeka, in which he was disabled by several wounds, won promotion to a lieutenancy. In 1817 he was appointed sub-agent in managing the business relating to the removal of the Cherokees from East Tennessee to a reservation in what is now Arkansas, but he was offended at a rebuke from John C. Calhoun, then secretary of war, for appearing before him in Indian garments, as well as at an inquiry into charges affecting his official integrity, and he resigned in 1818. He entered a law office in Nashville, and was admitted to the bar, and was soon elected a district attorney. From 1823 to 1827 Houston represented the ninth district of Tennessee in Congress, and in 1827 was elected governor of the state by the Jackson Democrats. He married Eliza Allen in January 1829; his wife left him three months later, and he resigned his office of governor, again took up his residence among the Cherokees, who were at this time about to remove to Indian Territory, and was formally adopted a member of their nation.
In 1830 and again in 1832 he visited Washington to expose the frauds practised upon the Cherokees by government agents, and attracted national attention by an encounter on the 13th of April 1832 with William Stanberry, a Congressman from Ohio, who intimated that Houston himself was seeking to defraud them. Commissioned by President Jackson, Houston went to Texas in December 1832 to negotiate treaties with the Indian tribes there for the protection of American traders on the border. He decided to remain in Texas, and was elected a delegate to the constitutional convention which met at San Felipe on the 1st of April 1833 to draw up a memorial to the Mexican Congress asking for the separation of Texas from Coahuila, in which the anti-American party was in control, as well as to frame a constitution for the commonwealth as a new member of the Mexican Republic, and he served as chairman of the drafting committee, and took a prominent part in the preparations for war when next year the petition was refused. In October 1835, soon after the outbreak of the War for Texan Independence, the committees of the township of Nacogdoches chose Houston as commanderin-chief of the forces in eastern Texas, and after the San Felipe convention in November he was chosen commander-in-chief of the Texan army. On the 21st of April 1836, while in command of 743 raw troops, he met. on the bank of the San Jacinto about 1600 Mexican veterans led by Santa Anna and completely routed them; on the next day Santa Anna was taken prisoner.
Absolute independence (recognized by a treaty signed on the 14th of May) was won by this decisive victory, and Houston was elected president of the new republic on the 1st of September and was inaugurated on the 22nd of October. His term expired in December 1838; he was elected again in 1841 and served until 1844. During his first term a newly founded city was named in his honour and this was the seat of government in 1837-39 ar >d in 1842-45. Texas having been admitted as a state of the American Union in 1845, Houston was elected one of its first two United States senators. He served as a stalwart Union Democrat from March 1846 until 1859; he opposed the Kansas-Nebraska bill in an able speech (3rd March 1854), and spoke frequently in defence of the rights of the Indians. In 1859 he was elected governor of Texas and tried to prevent the secession of his state; upon his refusal, in March 1861, to swear allegiance to the Confederacy he was declared deposed. He died at Huntsville, Texas, on the 26th of July 1863. Houston was an able soldier, wary, intrepid and resolute; and was a legislator of rare foresight, cool discrimination and fearless candour.
See A. M. Williams, Sam Houston and the War of Independence in Texas (Boston, 1893); Henry Bruce, Life of General Houston (New York, 1891); and W. C. Crane, Life and Select Literary Remains of Sam Houston (Philadelphia, 1884).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)