In 1832, Sam Houston stood in the U.S. of Representatives, on trial for attacking Ohio Representative William Stanbery.
While Houston defended himself, a woman in the balcony threw him a bouquet of flowers and cried “I would rather be Sam Houston in a dungeon than Stanbery on a throne.”
We think we know about Sam Houston; general of the Texas armies, hero of San Jacinto, president of the Republic of Texas, senator of Texas, governor of Texas.
But Sam Houston was bigger than life and most people don’t know half the story.
Let’s start with his congressional trial.
While Stanbery was attacking Andrew Jackson’s administration, during a house speech, he accused someone in the administration of fraudulently giving Houston contracts to distribute food to Indians.
At the time this supposedly happened, Houston was Indian subagent in Tennessee.
Houston found out about Stanbery’s statement.
It was then against the law to physically attack congressman for statements they made on the House floor.
Houston, a former Tennessee congressman himself, knew this.
But when the two met on a Washington street, Houston ignored the rules and beat Stanbery with his cane.
During the fight, Stanbery pulled a gun and tried to shoot Houston in the chest.
Houston’s life was saved when the gun misfired.
After listening to Houston’s ringing self-defense, members voted to reprimand him.
The vote:106 to 89.
Houston’s life was filled with danger.
He fought in the war of 1812 and was twice wounded at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, in Alabama.
In 1826, when he was a Tennessee congressman, Gen. William White challenged him to a duel. The two men squared off at 15 paces and Houston shot White in the groin.
White thought he was dying and supposedly made amends with Houston while he lying on the ground. White survived.
Houston was a romantic and eventually fell in love with Eliza Allen, daughter of a wealthy Tennessee family.
Sam was 35-years-old. Eliza was 19.
The two were married in January, 1829.
Eliza left him three months later.
Nobody ever knew what happened.
Separation and divorce were huge scandals in the nineteenth century, particularly if the husband and wife were well known.
And Houston was governor of Tennessee.
America couldn’t talk about anything else but the marriage. Houston fans and biographers are still talking about it.
Houston said he would not “take up arms” against a woman, resigned as governor, and fled to the Cherokees, whom he had lived with as a boy.
The Cherokees called him “The Raven,” but also called him “Big Drunk,” as he apparently went on a years-long binge.
Sam eventually sobered up and left for Texas.
When Santa Ana invaded and Houston was asked to lead the miniscule Texas army, Houston urged Texans to fight: “Be men, be free men, so that your children may bless their father’s name.”
Houston was badly wounded at San Jacinto, but Texas carried the day.
A friend wrote Houston and said he supposed Houston’s sins were all washed away when he was baptized.
In his reply, Houston said, “I hope so, but if they were all washed away, the Lord help the fish down below.”
This is Houston’s greatest deed: He refused to lead Texas out of the Union and resigned as governor rather than doing so.
He warned Texans the Confederacy would lose the fight and it would be a ruinous, bloody war.
“Some of you laugh to scorn the idea of bloodshed as the result of secession, but let me tell you what is coming….Your fathers and husbands, your sons and brothers, will be herded at the point of the bayonet..”
Houston died, brokenhearted, in 1863.
His last words were “Texas, Texas, Margaret.”
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Julia Robb is the author of Scalp Mountain and Saint of the Burning Heart, eBooks for sale at amazon.com. She can be reached at juliarobb.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, venturegalleries.com, goodreads, pinterest, twitter, Facebook, iamatexan.com and amazon author pages.