The City of Houston is named for General Sam Houston, one of Texas’ heroes and without whom the state would never have won its independence from Mexico and Generalissimo Santa Anna in 1836. Though Houston is itself one of the largest cities in the United States, the legend of Sam Houston is still greater and here we shall take a look at this true American hero.
Sam Houston was a Virginian by birth, being born on March 2, 1793 in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley. His early life was spent in Virginia and Tennessee and he also spent time with the Cherokee Nation by whom he was adopted by and later married into the tribe. he also spent time in the military and saw service in the War of 1812 and subsequently played an important role in the development of Tennessee as a state. In fact, Sam Houston is the only man in US history to have been elected as governor of two separate states, Tennessee and Texas.
When the Civil War started, Houston refused to swear allegiance to the Confederacy though he was a slave owner and an anti-abolitionist. Texas seceded from the Union but he refused to take up arms against his adopted home state and instead retired to Huntsville, Texas where he died a heart broken man before the end of the Civil War.
During his life, Houston was a crucial figure in the development of Texas both in gaining independence from the Mexicans and in becoming a state of the Union. he served as President of the Republic of Texas and then as Senator when it joined the Union and finally as Governor, retiring only when the Civil War brought his tenure to a premature end. Houston actually immigrated to Texas because of a highly publicized fight with a Congressman for which he was tried in an equally public court battle. Texas at that time was part of Mexico and outside the United States but he very soon became a leader within the Texas Revolutionary movement and decisively defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836 close to the site of modern day Houston, the city which bears his name.
At the Battle of San Jacinto, Houston and his 700 men took on several thousand Mexicans resulting in a decisive battle when Santa Anna became detached from his main force; with the defeat of the Mexicans and the capture of their leader, the rest of the Mexican army was compelled to withdraw leaving the way clear for the declaration of Texan independence and becoming a part of the United States. During this battle, Houston was wounded but he survived as did most of his men; in fact only 9 were killed during the battle which cost over 600 Mexican dead and 700 taken prisoner (including Santa Anna).
Houston was also decisive in Texas joining the Union rather than proceeding as an independent state and his leadership saw the opening up of the West to the United States which continued its expansion across the continent.
Sam Houston’s legacy survived his death and he has received widespread acclamation and commemoration including a memorial museum, a US Army base, a national forest, a historical park, a university and of all American’s, his is the largest free standing statue of any other, perhaps in keeping with Texans preferring everything to be larger than anything else