Houston (1793-1863) was the first elected President of the Republic
of Texas. At six feet, three inches tall, he was an imposing figure, a man of
character, strong will and courage. Houston
was a United States Senator, governor of Tennessee, lawyer, politician, land speculator,
drunk, general of an army, poet, father, husband, lover—and twice President of
the Republic that he helped create.|
In 1833 Antonio López de Santa Anna
was elected President of Mexico. He was also the commander of Mexico's army. In
March of 1836 he led a force of 1,500 soldiers to Bexar (San
Antonio) to subdue the Texas rebels, a force comprised mostly of former American
citizens, Hispanic ranchers and farmers who had joined the revolution for independence.
Six months earlier, General José Urrea's forces defeated the rebels at Goliad,
mostly farmers and ranchers who surrendered when promised fair treatment. Although
Santa Anna ordered them murdered, about thirty escaped while their comrades were
shot down in cold blood.
When Santa Anna's forces arrived in Bexar, he
found William Barrett Travis and less than 200 militia men fortified in the Alamo.
They'd been ordered by Houston
to abandon the site and join him, but they'd refused. Some think that was a strategic
error. Travis and his men fought as bravely as any could. They killed or wounded
about 600 Mexican soldiers, but were not victorious. Their defeat was costly to
the Texans, weakening Houston’s
already small army.
had a plan of defense which most Texans did not support—one of waiting and running
ahead of a much superior force than they had until he was in a position to win
a battle. Houston was determined
to lead the Mexican Army on a wild goose chase, utilizing a "scorched earth campaign"
beyond their supply lines, stretching them out geographically and logistically
until he could fight them at a time and place that he chose—one where he would
still have an army after the battle was over. Dead men can’t win wars. Houston's
men hated him for refusing to fight and many deserted, calling him a coward because
of his policy of running away, but run he did.
forces ran until the Mexicans began to straggle. When he made his camp beside
the Rio San Jacinto, Houston realized he was facing a forward element of the Mexican
army, but not the whole army. The Mexican force was much larger than his small
army by a wide margin, but not so large as to make it impossible for him to fight
them. If the enemy had been too strong, he would not have engaged them. Santa
Anna had about 1,500 men, while Houston had about 800, but Houston realized that
he had a chance to win the fight. Morale was low, so he had to take the chance
as his men were losing confidence in him.
Though he didn’t know it, Houston
was on the verge of winning the war. On April 21, 1836 he addressed his men, asking
them if they wanted to fight today. The surprised and disheartened men, sick to
death of retreating, cheered when they understood what he was about to do. Though
outnumbered and outgunned, this rag tag army of Texan and Mexican farmers and
ranchers, store merchants, and every other kind of civilian, attacked Santa Anna's
superior force. Mounted on his horse, Houston
led the charge. He was not a general who stayed behind, directing his men from
a place of safety. He was in front of his men at all times, inspiring them to
charge and charge they did. Houston
was on his third horse as two others had been shot out from under him. He stayed
in the fight even though his boot was full of blood from a shattered ankle. Houston
and his men killed about 600 Mexican soldiers, captured over 700, and chased the
rest out of the area on foot, many drowning in the nearby swamps.
casualty list was less than a dozen dead and less than two dozen wounded which
truly amounted to a miracle of generalship if there ever was one. Resupplied with
ordinance and supplies captured following the battle, Houston
and his small army were able to continue their campaign. The Texan forces were
stronger and the Mexican forces weaker after this battle. Compare San
Jacinto to the Alamo and you
know what a victory looks like and what a defeat looks like.
If that wasn't
enough of a victory, the next day brought the Texans an even greater victory—they
captured General Santa Anna, the president of Mexico. Incredible as that seems,
the dictator who envisioned himself the best general in the entire world was actually
leading a forward group of soldiers. He was the one man in the entire world who
could end the war, which he wanted to do to save his own neck, now in the hands
of the men whose farms he had destroyed. These men were the survivors of other
battles or relatives of those Santa Anna had murdered, wives and children he had
caused to be killed or raped and robbed. There was not one man in all of Texas
who wouldn't have wanted to tear Santa Anna to pieces with his bare hands. Houston’s
men wanted to hang Santa Anna from the nearest tree and Santa Anna knew it. Nothing
stood between he and that last step off the back of a wagon with a rope around
his neck except for one wounded man—Sam
Houston. Houston knew what an asset they had and he stopped his men. They
didn’t like it, but they obeyed because of the victory he had brought them.
does Sam Houston have to do with the California Gold Rush of 1848-49?
Stamp Commemorating the 1849 Gold Rush|
Rush Miners |
Photo courtesy U of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
does Sam Houston have to do with the California Gold Rush of 1848-49? |
the Mexican defeat at San
Jacinto, Sam Houston and
General Santa Anna signed the Treaty
of Velasco where it was agreed that Mexican troops would be withdrawn from
Texas soil and that the Rio Grande River would be the boundary between Mexico
and the new Texas republic. In exchange for safe conduct back to Mexico,
Santa Anna agreed to "lobby" his government for recognition of the new republic
of Texas. However, that didn't happen. Instead, Santa Anna was held as a prisoner
of war for six months, and then taken to Washington, D.C. By the time he returned
to Mexico in early 1837,
Texas independence was a fait accompli, although Mexico
did not officially recognize the new republic until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
was signed on February 2, 1848 (the peace treaty ending the Mexican-American War
On December 29, 1845, the Republic of Texas was annexed to
the United States, becoming the 28th state in the union. As a result, the United
States "inherited" the territorial claims of the former republic, including the
disputed area between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers (which led to the Mexican
American War that was concluded by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo.) The first
of five laws passed as part of the Compromise of 1850 set the present boundaries
of the state of Texas in return for payment of $10 million, the amount of debt
accumulated by the Republic of Texas during its struggles with Mexico.
Territory in 1850. Wikipedia|
|The second law passed
as part of the Compromise of 1850 provided for the organization of two new territories:
New Mexico and Utah. The land transferred from Mexico to the United States (referred
to as the Mexican Cession of 1848) included all of present-day California, Nevada,
and Utah, most of present-day Arizona, the western half of present-day New Mexico,
part of present-day Colorado, and a small part of present-day Wyoming. The land
for the Utah Territory had been claimed by the Republic of Texas and included
the eastern half of present-day New Mexico, southern and western parts of present-day
Colorado, and parts of present-day Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. |
third law passed as part of the Compromise of 1850 allowed for California's admission
to the Union on September 9, 1850. The Gold Rush in 1848-1849 brought enough people
into California to make it eligible to become a state.
In some ways, Sam
Houston was the "the father of his country", the Republic of Texas. He led
an army to victory over Mexico
and not only gained independence for the new republic, but ultimately enlarged
the United States with the annexation of more than 500,000 square miles of land.
At the end of his life's journey, Houston
was lying in his bed, unconscious, while his wife Margaret read to him. She later
wrote, “His is lips moved” and she heard him say, “Texas—Texas—Margaret" — And
he left us." The doctor said he died of pneumonia, but I think it's more likely
that he died of a broken heart as he watched American fathers and sons kill each
other and tear his country and Texas to pieces for no sensible reason.
Frank W. Lewis,|
They Shoe Horses,
Don't They? April
11, 2011 guest column
Frank W. Lewis’ name is engraved at the state
capitol in Carson City as one of Nevada’s leading prospectors.
book is The Gold Rush: 1847-1849. Visit the author at www.rumpah.com
and join his fans on Facebook.
The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston [a Pulitzer Prize winning
biography] by Marquis James, University of Texas Press (1988). The conclusions
and interpretations of the words quoted in the last paragraph are those of Frank
W. Lewis, the author of this article.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
articles: the "Battle of the Alamo," the "Battle of San Jacinto," the "Treaty
of Velasco," the "Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo," and the "Compromise of 1850"
(including the "Map of Territorial Growth" illustration.)