Sam Houston’s Last Fight

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So Houston’s dream came to an end. He had waited too long to achieve it. Had he been younger, and had the Civil War been averted or postponed, he might have succeeded. As it was, his scheme was doomed to failure from the start. He had hoped to heal the division of the country through expansion; but the division, culminating in secession and war, made expansion impossible.∗ Even if Houston’s plan had succeeded, a Texas-initiated protectorate over Mexico might have precipitated the very conflict he sought to prevent, for the North undoubtedly would have regarded it as a Southern plot to extend the sway of slavery. Yet in waging his fight to keep Texas in the Union, or at least out of the Confederacy, he had displayed magnificent courage and prophetic foresight. There are those who would contend that this last battle, though it ended in defeat, was his greatest one.

After the outbreak of the war which he had feared and predicted, Houston loyally supported the Confederacy—in public. In private, he continued to speculate on the possibility of reviving the Lone Star Republic, and even dabbled in some intrigues to that purpose. He lived long enough to see his warning—that secession would lead to disaster for the South—begin to come true. Moreover, he had the satisfaction of knowing that he had regained much of his old popularity, as more and more Texans came to regret that they had not listened to him. By the summer of 1863 Texas newspapers were mentioning Houston as a likely candidate for governor, and most of them conceded that if he ran he would win.

So old Sam had been right after all: given time, he could always get Texans to come around to his way of thinking. Only now there was no more time. On July 26, 1863, after a short illness, he died at his ranch near Huntsville—truly the last of his race.