Samuel "Sam" Houston (1793-1863) was a soldier in the War of 1812, a Tennessee politician, an adopted member of the Cherokee nation, and one of the central figures (if not THE central) in the establishment of Texas as an independent republic. He served as a Senator from Tennessee and later from Texas, as well as President of Texas during its period as a republic. In 1861, Houston, now governor of Texas, sought to prevent his state from seceding from the U.S., but failed. He retired, and died in 1863.
- 1 Sam Houston in Trail of Glory
- 2 References
- 3 See Also
Sam Houston in Trail of Glory
Sam Houston was one of the pivotal figures (if not THE pivotal figure) in early 19th century North American history. A hero of the War of 1812, Houston used his reputation to help form the Confederacy of the Arkansas, forever altering U.S. history.
The War of 1812
Meeting with Andrew Jackson
Houston's political rise came at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the decisive defeat of the Red Sticks, and the end of the Creek War. On February 6, 1814, Houston was introduced to General Andrew Jackson while stationed at Fort Strother, Mississippi Territory.
Jackson was relieved that Houston was in the regular United States Army rather than in a militia. He knew something of Houston's history, including the fact that Houston had been adopted by the Cherokee. Jackson's disdain for the Cherokee became a small point of contention between Houston and Jackson, although Jackson did make a show of respecting Houston's feelings. Houston was kept on hand to act as a possible interpreter, although neither Jackson nor General John Coffee felt they particularly needed him.
The Battle of the Horseshoe Bend
It was clear early on that the Red Sticks had made the most of the time leading up to the battle to fortify their village. Houston, now under the command of Major Lemuel Montgomery was part of a frontal assault. Montgomery had personally volunteered to lead the assault, which Jackson accepted. Jackson also admonished Houston to carry on the assault should Montgomery fall.
Jackson proved prescient, as Montgomery was shot dead within seconds of reaching the top of a 10-foot wall. Houston rallied the troops, climbed the wall, and carried on with the attack. By some luck, his foot slipped, and an arrow that might have hit his groin grazed his leg. After falling onto the wall, he fought off attacking Red Sticks, and was soon joined by his unit.
The frontal assault combined with a rear attack lead by The Ridge broke the position. Jackson was witness to Houston's bravery, and was quite impressed. He promoted Houston to lieutenant and brought Houston into his inner circle.
In April, Jackson and Houston entered into an arrangement that would change the course of history. After Colonel Homer Milton had alienated Jackson's Cherokee allies, he turned to Houston to help mend fences. In a private meeting, Jackson made it clear that the Cherokee and the Choctaw would one day be broken right along with the Creek. Houston proposed the alternative of relocation. He agreed to start outlining a plan, but in exchange, wanted Jackson's full support for everything Houston did. Before Jackson could give an answer, William Weatherford, the leader of the Red Stick faction, interrupted the meeting by personally surrendering to Jackson.
Jackson was impressed by Weatherford's boldness, so much so that he agreed to Houston's plan. He proposed a delegation led by Houston travel to Washington, D.C.. He also shared his plan for dividing up Creek territory in such a way as to cut the Creeks off from Spanish territory, and his burning desire to push Spain out of North America altogether. While Houston was dubious about punishing the Creeks, and Jackson's long term schemes against Spain, he did accept Jackson's proposal to go to Washington, and agreed to return to Jackson in a year.
Gathering the Expedition Together
Houston immediately tapped his adopted kin, James Rogers and young Cherokee politician John Ross to come with him. Rogers wanted to bring his brother, John, and Ross wanted to see his wife. Thus, the trip took a while to get underway. Houston traveled to Oothcaloga to meet with Major Ridge.
Ridge refused the trip, knowing that if he went, he'd be viewed as compromised by his fellow Cherokee. He did convince Houston to take his son, John, his daughter, Nancy, and his nephew, Buck Watie with him, so they could be placed in an American school. Houston reluctantly agreed, knowing it would help gain Ridge's favor.
On June 28, the Cherokees, which now included James Rogers's sister Tiana, Sequoyah and Nancy Ward, met Houston at Oothcaloga. The Cherokee had been forced to fight off a group of Chickasaw during their trip. Houston was dubious about the inclusion of Tiana Rogers, who'd sworn that she'd marry Houston three years before. Ward, however, convinced Houston that Tiana should be allowed to come. Houston finally agreed. Ward herself stayed behind.
The group arrived in the city on August 24, just ahead of the British invasion. Rumors were already rampant that Admiral George Cockburn planned to burn the city down. As they entered, it occurred to Houston that, as he and John Ross were U.S. Army officers, they had a duty to defend the city, especially as rumor also held that the city was effectively undefended.
While tactful attempts were made to take the children of the group to a safe location, Tiana Rogers argued forcefully enough that Houston and Ross relented and kept the group together.
Upon arriving at the Executive Mansion, Houston learned that American forces had been defeated at the Battle of Bladensburg, and that General William Winder had ordered all American military personnel to regroup in Georgetown, leaving the capital city vulnerable. Houston saw two twelve-pound cannons about to be carried away under the direction of former War Department accountant William Simmons. After some cajoling and lying from Houston (which included a claim that John Ross was an artilleryman), Simmons relented, and left the guns. During this exchange, Lt. Patrick Driscol arrived with the various castaway soldiers and sailors he'd gathered on his way to the city. He agreed to stay with Houston, and presented actual naval gunners who could operate the twelve-pounders. Houston and Driscol quickly realized which of whom was the more experienced soldier, and Houston agreed to listen to Driscol's advice. Both realized that the Capitol Building was a virtual fortress, and relocated there. Houston did see the potential pitfalls of his rushed decision, as he still had the children with him. However, Driscol assured him that the Capitol would probably be safe. Houston had Sequoyah watch the children during the battle.
As they continued on, Houston was able to convince some of the soldiers they passed to join them. By the time they reached the Capitol, they'd managed to gain an estimated one thousand troops.
Upon arriving at the Capitol Building, Houston's hodgepodge force began setting up defenses, including positioning the cannons they had between the buildings for the House of Representatives and the Senate. When artilleryman Charles Ball pointed out that two guns left by the army were inoperable, one of the people who'd come with Driscol, teamster Henry Crowell, a free-born Negro, suggested that his employer, Foxall's Foundary, would have guns, ammunition, and shot. Houston dispatched McParland, Crowell, Ball, and a group of dragoons under Corporal John Pendleton to requisition what they could. Houston, Driscol and the remaining men continued to fortify the building as best they could.
Late in the evening, British troops turned over the injured Commodore Joshua Barney to Houston's custody. This gave the British an opportunity to see the defenses Houston and his men were erecting. Barney gave his blessing to Houston and Driscol, although his injury was too severe to allow him to participate directly.
For the remainder of the evening, Houston, followed closely by John Ross, wandered the Capitol, overseeing defenses and inspiring the troops. He did pointedly banish Tiana from his presence; he was already facing treason, he did not want to face accusations of sexual impropriety.
The Battle of the Capitol
The battle came late that night.
When the shooting began, Driscol closely advised Houston on how to proceed. Driscol had complete faith in the artillerymen, who were all seasoned veterans, and so convinced Houston to simply stay out of their way and let them do their job. When Driscol stated that he would move throughout the battle to make sure the less experienced men weren't flagging, Houston ordered Driscol to take James and John Rogers with him. During a barrage of Congreve rockets, Driscol, Houston and John Ross had a lengthy conversation about several subjects, pointedly ignoring the barrage in the hopes of keeping morale up.
Houston quickly realized that simply leaving the experienced artillerymen to their job was the best course of action. Within short time, the British frontal assault was smashed. Not long after the British retreat, U.S. Secretary of State James Monroe appeared. Monroe, who'd sneaked back into Washington when learned of Houston's efforts, congratulated Houston and Driscol for their efforts, and charged Houston with defending the Capitol only.
As the night progressed, it was clear that a storm was coming. Houston decided that he couldn't leave the wounded British soldiers in the open. He sent some of the militia under flag of truce to the British commander, General Robert Ross (who'd been injured leading the assault), who agreed to a truce to allow a collection of the wounded. Ross conveyed his wish that Houston be promoted from captain to major or colonel, as Ross couldn't bear the thought that he'd been defeated by a mere captain. When Barney heard it, he all but demanded Monroe do it. Monroe balked as he didn't have the authority. The conversation was interrupted when British troops under Admiral George Cockburn set fire to the Executive Mansion.
With this lull, Houston took the opportunity to explain to Monroe the original reason for his coming and Jackson's stated goal of crushing and removing the Indians. This planted the seeds for the future, as Monroe took to heart Houston's concerns.
The British didn't attack again, and retreated the following day. General Robert Ross arranged to surrender himself to the Americans.
Aftermath at the Capitol
After giving a speech to his men, Houston was approached by Secretary Monroe, who proposed the early plan that became the Confederacy of the Arkansas. Houston was all for it, but John Ross and, just as importantly, Patrick Driscol had to be convinced. Monroe did precisely that. Driscol, in turn, helped convince Ross.
The group remained in Washington until October in order to assemble a new unit to support General Andrew Jackson in New Orleans. In that time, Houston's reputation grew. He also saw to it that Driscol's grew as well. Much to Houston's envy, Tiana Rogers, tired of waiting for him, turned her affection to Driscol. Houston did get past that rather quickly, but it precipitated many a drunken evening.
Houston took advantage of his status as hero of the hour by making sure that Henry Crowell and his group of freedmen teamsters were responsible for the logistics of the new unit Houston was raising for the New Orleans expedition. The black sailors who'd helped defend the Capitol, led by Charles Ball, also joined the new unit. Houston's participation also meant additional Cherokee fighters. John Ross was able to convince Major Ridge, who in turn was able to gather some two-hundred Cherokee for the fight in New Orleans.
Houston and his men disembarked on October 9, 1814. They arrived in New Orleans on December 14, to relative chaos behind the American lines. Louisiana governor William C.C. Claiborne had proposed that freedmen form two battalions, and Jackson had accepted those battalions, one under the command of Majors Louis Daquin and Pierre Lacoste respectively. This did not sit well with plantation owners all over Louisiana, who protested to Jackson. Jackson, while holding an ill-view of blacks, was utterly disgusted with the plantation owners for their short-sightedness. Houston and Driscol were present for the aftermath of a loud confrontation between Jackson and several plantation men.
Time was of the essence, however, as Admiral Alexander Cochrane was known to be on his way. Jackson enlisted Driscol (with Houston's support) to train the two Negro battalions, fully expecting to meet the British in two weeks at most. Driscol agreed, after convincing Jackson to detach Charles Ball and the black sailors, as well as three cannons. Jackson agreed, although not without some grumbling. Driscol also convinced Jackson to award a $200 bonus to any freedmen who joined, particularly laborers (most Negroes in the city being ironworkers of some sort). Houston also backed Driscol's requests, knowing full well that Driscol was also laying a foundation for his future. Driscol confirmed this when they were out of Jackson's office.
Houston helped with preparations throughout the remainder of December. On January 1, 1815, Houston, at Jackson's order, met with the British in a parlay to transfer the custody of Robert Ross to the Americans. Ross had grown increasingly ill while in Louisiana, and requested that he be given to the Americans, who were in a far better position to tend to him than than the British were. During the course of the parlay, Houston took note of the British positions, and shared his observations with Jackson. Specifically, Houston was concerned that the British were widening the canals southern of their lines. Jackson realized that the British could be preparing to land a force on the other side of the river. He also realized that the only force to meet them would be under the command of General Daniel Morgan, who had no taste for fighting. Jackson ordered Houston to prepare to cross the river to support Morgan. He also ordered Patrick Driscol and his new unit be ready as well.
For his part, Driscol was quite open about his belief that the British plan was to overwhelm Morgan's position, take the guns under his command, and turn them against the Americans. Houston had no choice but to accept the logic of this. To that end, Houston and Driscol positioned themselves along the Mississippi River on January 7. When the British attack began early on January 8, Driscol was alerted and in turn, Anthony McParland launched a flare, alerting Houston, who immediately moved cross the river and meet the British attack. Driscol and his Iron Battalion held down Colonel William Thornton's advance until Houston's regiment could get into position. When Thornton opted to go around the Iron Battalion, the British met Houston's men. Houston's regiment quickly pounded the British. Thornton and his second-in-command, Richard Gubbins were both killed in short order. A flanking attack by Major Ridge's Cherokee killed the next senior officer, Navy Captain James Money. Still despite these heavy losses, the British were able to reform their line. Houston realized an attack would be foolish, and instead formed a line to prepare for the oncoming British.
- 1812: The Rivers of War, Ch. 32.
- Ibid., CH. 36.
- Ibid., ch. 40.
- Ibid., pg. 44.
- Ibid., Ch. 46.
- Sam Houston at the Harry Turtledove Wiki