Monday, November 8, 2010

Texas Tidbits: Big Drunk, A Texas Hero and Legend

Texas History is filled with men that are larger-than-life characters. A short list of such people would include James Bowie, Davy Crockett and William B. Travis, defenders of the Alamo, all. There's one man, however, that is, in my opinion, probably the most influential man in the history of Texas. The largest city in the state is named for him, a county is named for him, streets, arenas and schools are named for him. You've guessed by now that I am referring to Sam Houston. Houston was truly larger than life in one regard in that he was 6'6" tall, compared to the average man of the time who was about 5'7". (I'm working off memory here, so I may be off an inch or so for either number).

Houston not only cast a large shadow as a man, but also cast a mighty long shadow as a soldier and politician. He is the only man to ever be Governor of two states, Tennessee from 1827-1829 and, of course, Texas from 1859-1861. He was a Senator from Texas from 1846-1859 and was the first (elected) and the third President of Texas.

He was a veteran of the War of 1812, but Houston's greatest claim to fame, even if he never held elective office, was as the commander of the Texian Army that defeated General Santa Ana at San Jacinto, securing Texas' independence from Mexico and therefore assuring him a prominent place in Texas History. A quick piece of trivia here, Houston was born on March 2, which, as fate would have it, is same date as Texas Independence Day.

Sam Houston was also a great friend of and advocate for the Indians of Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas. At one time he was granted citizenship as member of the Cherokee Nation. Houston was known to partake in an adult beverage or twelve and the Cherokee gave him the nickname of Big Drunk. His close friendship with the Cherokee caused quite a stir in Washington, D.C., especially with Houston's friend and mentor, Andrew Jackson. Here's an excerpt from wikipedia regarding this matter, "In 1830 and again in 1832 Houston visited Washington, DC to expose the frauds which government agents committed against the Cherokee.[5] While he was in Washington in April 1832, anti-Jacksonian Congressman William Stanbery of Ohio made accusations about Houston in a speech on the floor of Congress. Attacking Jackson through his protégé, Stanbery accused Houston of being in league with John Van Fossen and Congressman Robert S. Rose. The three men had bid on supplying rations to the various tribes of Native Americans who were being forcibly relocated because of Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830. After Stanbery refused to answer Houston's letters about the accusation, Houston confronted him on Pennsylvania Avenue and beat him with a hickory cane. Stanbery drew one of his pistols and pulled the trigger—the gun misfired. On April 17 Congress ordered Houston's arrest. Pleading self-defense, he hired Francis Scott Key as his lawyer. Houston was found guilty, but thanks to highly placed friends (among them James K. Polk), he was only lightly reprimanded. Stanbery filed charges against Houston in civil court. Judge William Cranch found Houston liable, and fined him $500. Houston left the United States for Mexico, without paying the fine." And with that, Houston packed up his toys and headed for Texas. The rest of the Wikipedia article has some great biographical info on :Big Drunk". When you get a few minutes, it's well worth the read.

Years ago, I read an outstanding book on Sam Houston and I am ashamed to say that I don't remember the title nor the author. I say that in order to point out what a fascinating subject Sam Houston is and just about any book about him would make for some very interesting reading. He was quite a colorful character who was much more than just the man who won the decisive battle for Texas' independence, Sam Houston was a statesman, Governor, Senator and President and by the Grace of God, a Texan.

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