Austin and Houston, Part Two

(working out the history on these two, here is part one)

Sam Houston moved from Virginia to Tennessee with his widowed mother when he was thirteen, in 1806. Imagine what Virginia was like, let alone Tennessee, in 1806. At sixteen, Sam ran away and lived with the Cherokee Indians. He learned to speak their language, hunted with them in the woods. At age twenty he fought with the US Army in the War of 1812. Fighting Creek Indians under Andrew Jackson, he was wounded three times, and got his commander’s attention.

As part of Jackson’s political machine slash semi-dictatorship of Tennessee, Houston served two terms in Congress, then became governor. However, when his wife, Eliza Allen, left him after two months, Sam resigned as governor, went to live with the Cherokee again, took a Cherokee wife, got malaria, and become such an alcoholic mess that the Cherokee nicknamed him something like “Big Drunk” (or maybe it was like “Drunk Clown,” would love to hear from any Cherokee speakers/translators.)

On a mission to Washington for the Cherokee, Sam Houston beat up an Ohio congressman and was put on trial and convicted. (Francis Scott Key was his lawyer). The whole incident turned out to be good for Houston’s reputation, at least around Andrew Jackson’s crew, a rowdy bunch. Jackson welcomed Houston back into his circle.

Andrew Jackson hated the British. As a boy, Jackson had been captured by the British. The British had killed two of his brothers, and contributed to the death of his mother. Jackson was worried his enemy Britain might get their hands on Texas from the newly independent, and quite unstable, Mexico. The US had tried and failed to buy Texas from Mexico, and were left unsatisified.

Jackson decided to send Sam Houston down to Texas. “Stir up a rebellion, create opportunities for the US take this territory,” might’ve been the instruction. I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

Down in Mexico City, the capitol of newly free Mexico, there had been instability. Coups, counter-coups. During the uncertainty, the American settlers of Texas had pulled together two conventions, with the idea of trying to separate from the state of Coahuilla. To get Texas as its own (Mexican) state. The Texans felt underrepresented in the state legislature, plus the capital in Saltillo was too far away.

The conventions agreed to petition for statehood. The man appointed to take the results down to Mexico City was Stephen Austin.

Sam Houston, meanwhile, had arrived in Texas.

Part three to come.

(source on that photo, most of my info here coming from James L. Haley’s Passionate Nation: The Epic History of Texas).

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