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SAM HOUSTON



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BY C; EDWARDS LESTER,

Author of" The Glory ami Shame of England," " Th^ Comlition and Fate of Englaud," " The
Life and Voyages of Americus Vespuciu.s," Translator of the Medici
Series of Italian Prose, &c., &o., &c.



NEW YORK:

BURGESS, STRINGER & CO.,

222 Broadway, corner of Ann St.

1846.






Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1846, by

C. EDWARDS LESTER,

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court oi' the United States for the Southern

District of New York.



58754

S<»rtBrt4



S. W. BENEDICT, STER. k PRINT.,
16 Spruce Street, N. Y.



^






A WORD TO THE READER

BEFORE HE BEGINS THE BOOK OR THROWS IT DOWN.

I HAVE lived to see obloquy heaped by the Sons of the
Puritans upon an outraged People bravely struggling
for Independence, in the holy name of Liberty.

I have lived to see unmeasured calumny poured on
the head of an heroic Man who struck the fetter from
his bleeding country on the field, and preserved her
by his counsels in the Cabinet. And I have lived to
do justice to that man and that People by asserting
the truth.

This Book will lose me some friends, but it will
win me better ones in their places. But if it lost me
all and gained me none, in God's name, as I am a
free man, T would publish it.

I am no man's partizan, or eulogist. But I dare
tell the truth to the men of my own times, and leave
the men of other times to take care of my reputation.

1 do not ask the Reader to adopt my opinions — but
I do ask him to weigh my facts. I deprecate no
Critic's severity ; I only say to him as the old Greek
did to the man with the uplifted club — " Strike, sir, —
but hear me firsts Let us see if any good thing can
come out of Nazareth !

C. EDWARDS LESTER.

New York, 25th August, 1846.



SAM HOUSTON AND HIS EEPUBLIC.



CHAPTER I.



THE HERO-PEOPLE.



There are moments in our lives, on which fortune loves to
hang all our future history ; and, when we meet the crisis
like men, she takes care of the future for us. Once past the
hour of trial, there are no more hardships to undergo, no more
dangers to encounter. The gates, which guard the way to
glory, are swung wide open to the advancing hero, and he
treads the path of light and triumph, as the Roman conqueror
marched up to the temple of Jupiter through the streets of the
Eternal City.

So, too, there are days in the lives of nations, when fortune
loves TO suspend the glory of a people upon a single hour —
when they are called on to decide what their future history
shall be — whether their banners shall float over new empires,
extending their liberty, laws, and civilisation over oppressed
and benighted millions, crushing old structures of despot-
ism, breaking the arm of the tyrant, and melting away the
rotten fabrics of hoary superstitions, to emancipate whole
peoples — or, whether the wheels of their national greatness, like
the sun of Joshua, shall stand still in mid heaven, and the
solemn proclamation go forth, that they have reached the far-
thest limits of their civilisation — that the race of their daring
young men is suddenly arrested — that there shall be no new
field for untrodden adventure and lofty achievement — that the
world, and even despotism itself, may roll its wheels of con-
quest up to their frontier borders, and enlarge the empire of



b TRIAL DAYS TO NATIONS.

tyranny and superstition at its will, for they have done their
work. They have extended the bright circle of their freedom
and power till they can extend it no longer. No bold woods-
man may pass their limits, and plunge off into the wilds, to
cut out for himself and his children a home in God's own
forests, for his government will never protect the squatter ad-
venturer, albeit the James River settler, and the uncompromis-
ing Puritan, were nothing more.

And if so be one after another of these forest Heroes has
led the way through the green woods beyond the Sabine, and
they can at last show the traveller the smoke of ten thousand
new cottages, wreathing up into the clear blue sky of New
Estramadura ; and if so be this new race of Puritans, Cava-
liers, Huguenots, Catholics and Outlaws, all fraternally min-
gled, have built up the beautiful fabric of a new free common-
wealth, for all the world to come to for a home, and done it
withal while they were protecting their wives and little chil-
dren from savages, made remorseless by Vxxx\{?Lnfire-ivater^ and
from the enervated, but perfidious Mexicans — why, even after
these Hunter-Legislators, these Squatter-Founders of States,
have done all the hard work, this old republic, whose wheels
can roll no further, will not even accept, what no other nation
ever had to offer, the free gift of a mighty domain declared
independent, as New York and Virginia were seventy years
ago, although the offering be made without money and with-
out price.

Yes, these trial days come to nations as they come to men.
One of those Rubicon-hours came on the cold bleak Rock of
Plymouth, where a little band of liberty-loving men landed,
under the cover of a keen northern blast, to begin the great
business for which Anglo-Saxons crossed the Atlantic, of
founding free commonwealths. Virginia, too, had her hour,
and her Cavaliers went through Indian-haunted woods, as
Marshal Ney's cavalry charged through the Black Forest.

At last, after much debate and more stupid misconception,
the New Republic, par excellence, came and laid on our federal
altars her young shield. It was riddled with rifle-bullets, and



THE HERO-PEOPLE. 7

battered by the trenchant strokes of the tomahawk. You need
not have looked very close to have seen, too, the ghostly image
of Mexican treachery filling up the interstices. What an offer-
ing was this ! A young hero-people, a new Rome, coming
out of the forests, walking in light, and clothed in strength,
and advancing in manliness up to our altars.

"When the future historian shall tell his readers that the
Young Republic was driven away from our Capitol, and her
shield hurled back in her face, they will not believe it. That
the Representatives of America debated, hesitated, laughed
Texas to scorn, will, to the next generation, seem a malignant
invention of the historian. But it was so, and the last re-
source of republicanism was resorted to. The Texian ban-
ner was flung to the breeze, and the People of this country
were asked to settle the question. And over the hills of New
England, the rallying cry rang where the young American
Eagle first unfurled his wings, and far up the Valley of the
Mississippi, and down to the Florida coast, and back came
the glorious shout of a grateful welcome, and Texas came
into the Union.

It was a proud day when her Senators took their seats.
Greatest, and most daring of all the Texians, came that won-
drous man, who had stood by the side of the Young Repub-
lic, leaning on his rifle, and rocked her infancy in those far-off
wilds. Yes, there he stood, on the threshold of the Senate
Chamber, bringing in his arms, not like the triumphant Gene-
rals of Rome, the fine gold or precious stones of distant bar-
baric princes, lashed to his victorious car, but a new and a
vast empire. There stood the tall, erect, ample form of the
care-worn chieftain — his locks turned prematurely grey by the
hardships of a revolutionary frontier life. His wounds were
upon him, for he had bled freely in the service of two Repub-
lics. Let us inquire something of the history of this Man.



CHAPTER II.



THE BEGINNING OF LIFE.



Gen. Sam Houston was born the 2d of March, 1793, in
Rockbridge County, Virginia, seven miles east of Lexington,
at a place known as Timber Ridge Church. The day of his
birth, he was, many years afterwards, to celebrate as the anni-
versary of the birth of a new Republic — for it was on his
natal day that Texas declared herself, by the grace of God
and her own brave riflemen, free and independent.

His ancestors, on his father's and mother's side, are traced
back to the Highlands of Scotland. They are there found
fighting for " God and Liberty," by the side of John Knox.
During those times of trouble, they emigrated with that nu-
merous throng of brave men and women who were driven
away from their Highland homes, to seek a refuge in the
North of Ireland. Here they remained till the siege of Derry,
in which they were engaged, when they emigrated to Pennsyl-
vania. For more than a century, these families seemed to have
kept together in all their wanderings, and at last a union was
formed between them by the marriage of his parents, who had
been some time settled in Virginia, when the birth of the sub-
ject of these pages took place.

His father was a man of moderate fortune ; indeed, he
seems to have possessed only the means of a comfortable
subsistence. He was known only for one passion, and this
was for a military life. He had borne his part in the Revolu-
tion, and was successively the Inspector of Gen. Bowyer's
and Gen. Moore's Brigades, The latter post he held till his
death, which took place in 1807, while he was on a tour of
inspection among the Alleghany Mountains. He was a man
of powerful frame, fine bearing, and indomitable courage.
These qualities his son inherited, and they were the only
legacy he had to leave him.



HIS MOTHER THR FIELD-SCHOOL. 9

His mother was an extraordinary woman. She was dis-
tinguished by a full, rather tall, and matronly form, a fine car-
riage, and an impressive and dignified countenance. She was
gifted with intellectual and moral qualities, which elevated her
in a still more striking manner above most of her sex. Her
life shone with purity and benevolence, and yet she was nerved
with a stern fortitude which never gave way in the midst of
the wild scenes that chequer the history of the frontier settler.
Her beneficence was universal, and her name was called with
gratitude by the poor and the suffering. Many years after-
ward, her son returned from his distant exile to weep by her
bed-side when she came to die.

Such were the parents of this Man. Those who know his
history will not be astonished to find that they were of that
noble race which first subdued the wildness of Viririnia and
Tennessee forests, and the ferocity of their savage inhabitants.
It is a matter of some interest to inquire, what were the means
of education offered to this Virginia boy. We have learned
from all quarters, that he never could be got into a school-
house till he was eight years old, nor can we learn that he ever
accomplished much in a literary way after he did enter. Vir-
ginia, which has never become very famous for her schools at
any period, had still less to boast of forty years ago. The
state made little or no provision by law for the education of
its citizens, and each neighborhood was obliged to take care
of its rising population. Long before this period, Washing-
ton College had been removed to Lexington, and a Field
School was kept in the ruined old edifice once occupied by
that institution. This school seems, from all accounts (and we
have taken some pains to inform ourselves about this matter),
to have been of doubtful utility. He is said, however, to have
learned to read and write — to have gained some imperfect
ideas of cyphering. Late in the fall and the winter, were the
only seasons he was allowed to improve even the dubious ad-
vantages of such a school. The rest of the year he was kept
to hard work. If he worked very well he was sometimes per-
mitted to run home from the fields to be in time to retain his



10 THE HFROINE AND HER CHILDREN.

place in spelling. But it is doubtful if he ever went to such
a school more than six months in all, till the death of his
father, which took place when he was thirteen years old. This
event changed at once the fortunes of the family. They had
been mahitained in comfortable circumstances, chiefly through
the exertions of the father, and now they were to seek for
other reliances.

Mrs. Houston was left with the heavy burden of a nu-
merous family. She had six sons and three daughters. But
she was not a woman to succumb to misfortune, and she
immediately sold out the homestead and prepared to cross the
Alleghany Mountains, and find a new home on the fertile
banks of the Tennessee River. Those of our readers who
live in the midst of a crowded population, surrounded by
aU that embellishes civilized life, may be struck with the
heroism of a Virginia woman who, forty years ago, took up
her journey through those unpeopled regions ; and yet few of
them can have any adequate conception of the hardships such
a heroine had to encounter. We hope the day may come
when our young authors will stop writing and dreaming about
European castles, with their crazy knights and lady-loves, and
hunting through the mummy-haunted halls of the pyramids,
and set themselves to work to glean the unwritten legends of
heroism and adventure, which the old men would tell them,
who are now smoking their pipes around the roof-trees of
Kentucky and Tennessee.

There is room for the imagination to play around the toil-
some path of this widow and her children, as she pushed her
adventurous way to her forest home. Some facts, too, of wild
interest are in our possession — but we shall hurry on with our
story, for, if we mistake not, our readers will find romance
enough in this history to satisfy the wildest fancy.

Fired still with the same heroic spirit which first led them to
try the woods, our daring little party stopped not till they
reached the limits of the emigration of those days. They
halted eight miles from the Tennessee river, which was then
the boundary between white men and the Cherokee Indians.



THE ACADEMY AND POPe's ILIAD. 11

Young Houston was now set to work with the rest of the
family in breaking up the virgin soil, and providing the means
of subsistence. There seems to have been very little fancy
in his occupations now for some time ; he became better
acquainted than ever with what is called hard work, — a term
which has a similar signification in all the languages and
countries we happen to be acquainted with.

There was an academy established in that part of East
Tennessee about this time, and he went to it for a while, just
after Hon. Mr. Jarnagin, who now represents his State in the
U. S. Senate, had left it. He had got possession, in some way,
of two or three books, which had a great power over his ima-
gination. No boy ever reads well till he feels a thirst for intel-
ligence, and no surer indication is needed that this period has
come, than to see the mind directed towards those gigantic
heroes who rise like spectres from the ruins of Greece and
Rome, towering high and clear above the darkness and gloom
of the Middle Ages. He had, among other works. Pope's
Iliad, which he read so constantly, we have been assured on
the most reliable authority, he could repeat it almost entire
from beginning to end. His imagination was now fully
awakened, and his emulation began to be stirred. Reading
translations from Latin and Greek soon kindled his desire to
study those primal languages ; and so decided did this pro-
pensity become, that on being refused when he asked the mas-
ter's permission, he turned on his heel, and declared solemnly
that he would never recite another lesson of any other kind
while he lived — and from vv^hat we have been able to learn of
his history, we think it very probable that he kept his word
most sacredly ! But he had gathered from the classic world
more through Pope's Iliad than many a ghostly book-worm,
who has read Euripides or^schylus among the solemn ruins
of the Portico itself. He had caught " the wonted fire" that
still " lives in the ashes" of their heroes, and his future life was
to furnish the materials of an epic more wondrous than many
a man's whose name has become immortal.

His eider brothers seem to have crossed his wishes occasion-



12 LIFE AMONG THE INDIANS.

ally, and by a sort of fraternal tyranny quite common, exer-
cised over him some severe restraints. At last they compelled
him to go into a merchant's store, and stand behind the coun-
ter. This kind of life he had little relish for, and he suddenly
disappeared. A great search was made for him, but he was
nowhere to be found for several weeks. At last intelligence
reached the family that Sara had crossed the Tennessee river,
and gone to live among the Indians, where, from all accounts,
he seemed to be living much more to his liking. They found
him, and began to question him on the motives for this novel
proceeding. Sam was now, although so very young, nearly
six feet high, and standing straight as an Indian, coolly replied
that " he preferred measuring deer tracks to tape — that he
liked the wild liberty of the red men better than the tyranny of
his own brothers, and if he could not study Latin in the
academy, he could, at least, read a translation from the Greek
in the woods, and read it in peace. So they could go home
as soon as they liked."

His family, however, thinking this a freak from which he
would soon recover when he got tired of the Indians, gave
themselves no great uneasiness about him. But week after
week passed away, and Sam did not make his appearance.
At last his clothes were worn out, and he returned to be
refitted. He was kindly received by his mother, and for awhile
his brothers treated him with due propriety. But the first act
of tyranny they showed drove him to the woods again, where
he passed entire months with his Indian mates, chasing the
deer through the forest with a fleetness little short of their own,
engaging in all those gay sports of the happy Indian boys, and
wandering along the banks of the streams by the side of some
Indian maiden, sheltered by the deep woods, conversing in
that universal language which finds its sure way to the heart.
From a strange source we have learned much of his Indian
history during these three or four years, and in the absence of
facts it would be no difficult matter to fancy what must have
been his occupations. It was the moulding period of life,
when the heart, just charmed into the fevered hopes and dreams



THE ROMANCE OF YOUTH. 13

of youth, looks wistfully around on all things for light and
beauty — " when every idea of gratification fires the blood and
flashes on the fancy — when the heart is vacant to every fresh
form of delight, and has no rival engagements to withdraw it
from the importunities of a new desire." The poets of
Europe, in fancying such scenes, have borrowed their sweetest
images from the wild idolatry of the Indian maiden. Hous-
ton has since seen nearly all there is in life to live for, and yet
he has been heard to say that, as he looks back over the waste
of life, there's nothing half so sweet to remember as this
sojourn he made among the untutored children of the forest.

And yet this running wild among the Indians, sleeping on
the ground, chasing wild game, making love to Indian maid-
ens, and reading Homer's Iliad withal, seemed a pretty strange
business, and people used to say that Sam Houston would
either be a great Indian chief, or die in a mad-house, or be
Governor of the State — for it was very certain that some
dreadful thing would overtake him !

Well, it may have been doubtful, and it was for a long
time, what all this would end in. But the mystery has cleared
away, somewhat, since the battle of San Jacinto. Certain it is
that his early life among the Indians was, as the event proved,
a necessary portion of that wonderful training that fitted him
for his strange destiny. There it was he became initiated into
the profound mysteries of the red man's character, and a taste
was formed for wild forest life, which made him, many years
after, abandon once more the habitations of civilized men,
with their coldness, their treachery, and their vices, and pass
years among the children of the Great Spirit, till he finally led
the way to the achievement of the independence of a great
domain and the consolidation of a powerful Commonwealth.

Guided by a wisdom all His own, the Ruler of Nations led
him by an unknown path, and his wild history reminds us of
the story of Romulus, who was nurtured by the beasts of the
forest till he planted the foundation of a mighty empire.
With the history of the Father of Rome, the pen of poets has
played — and it would seem, after all, to have been but a pro-



14 MEETING WITH INDIAN CHIEFTAINS.

phecy in fable, whose fulfilment the world has waited for till
our days. Certain it is, too, that no man has ever lived on this
continent (whose history we know) who has had so complete
a knowledge of the Indian character — none who oould sway
so powerful a control over the savage mind. During his en-
tire administration of the Government of Texas, not an Indian
tribe violated a treaty with the Republic ; and it is nearly as
safe to say, that during the administration of others, not a
tribe was known to make or regard one.

During the latter part of June (just past), General More-
head arrived at Washington with forty wild Indians from Texas
— belonging to more than a dozen tribes. We saw their
3meeting with Gen. Houston. One and all ran to him and
clasped him in their brawny arms, and hugged him like bears to
their naked breasts, and called him Father — beneath the cop-
per skin and thick paint, the blood rushed, and their faces
changed, and the lip of many a warrior trembled, although the
Indian may not weep. These wild men knew him and rever-
ed him as one who was too directly descended from the Great
Spirit, to be approached with familiarity, and yet they loved
him so well they could not help it. These were the men "he
had been," in the fine language of Acquiquosk, whose words
we quote, " too subtle for, on the war path — too powerful in
battle, too magnanimous in victory, too wise in council, and
too true in faith." They had flung away their arms in Texas,
and with the Comanche Chief who headed iheir file, they had
come to Washington to see their Father. I said these iron
warriors shed no tears, when they met their old friend — but
white men who stood by will tell us what they did. We
were there, and we have witnessed few scenes in which min-
gled more of what is called the moral sublime. In the gigan-
tic form of Houston, on whose ample brow the beneficent love
of a father was struggling with the sternness of the patriarch
warrior, we saw civilisation awing the savage at its feet. We
needed no interpreter to tell us that this impressive supremacy
was gained in the forest.

But we have quite lost the thread of our story. This wild



KEEPS SCHOOL ENLISTS IN THE ARMY. 15

life among the Indians lasted till his eighteenth year. He had,
during his visits once or twice a year to his family, to be refitted
in his dress, purchased many little articles of taste or utility to
use among the Indians. In this manner, he had incurred a
debt which he was bound in honor to pay. To meet this en-
gagement, he had no other resource left but to abandon his
" dusky companions," and teach the children of pale-faces.
As may naturally be supposed, it was no easy matter for him
to get a school, and on the first start, the enterprise moved
very slowly. But as the idea of abandoning anything on
which he had once fixed his purpose, was no part of his
character, he persevered, and in a short time he had more scho-
lars to turn away, than he had at first to begin with. He was
also paid what was considered an exorbitant price. Formerly,
no master had hinted above $6 per annum. Houston, who
probably thought that one who had been graduated at an In-
dian university ought to hold his lore at a dearer rate, raised
the price to $8 — one-third to be paid in corn, delivered at the
mill, at 33^ cents per bushel — ^one-third in cash, and one-third
in domestic cotton cloth, of variegated colors, in which our In-
dian Professor was dressed. He also wore his hair behind, in
a snug queue, and is said to have been very much in love with it,
probably from an idea that it added somewhat to the adornment
of his person — in which, too, he probably was sadly mistaken.

When he had made money enough to pay his debts, he
shut up his school, and went back to his old master, to study.
He put Euclid into his hands. He carried that ugly, unro-
mantic book back and forth to and from the school a few days,
without trying to solve even so much as the first problem, and
then he came to the very sensible conclusion, that he would


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Online LibraryC. Edwards (Charles Edwards) LesterSam Houston and his republic → online text (page 1 of 18)