By Laurel Shaper Walters. Laurel Shaper Walters is on the Monitor .
The Christian Science Monitor
ALTHOUGH he's known as the "father of Texas," Sam Houston was born in Virginia and served as the governor of Tennessee before his legendary days in Texas.
In honor of the 200th anniversary of Houston's birth, historian Marshall De Bruhl has written a compelling biography of this Texas hero. "Sword of San Jacinto: A Life of Sam Houston" draws from 5,000 letters and archival documents collected by Andrew Jackson Houston, Sam Houston's youngest son.
De Bruhl devoted five years to this project, and the result is a well-researched account of a remarkable life.
Veteran statesman Houston lived through the administrations of the first 14 presidents of the United States; he knew 12 of them personally. Houston spent his entire life in public service. As De Bruhl writes: "The man was synonymous with the province of Tejas in revolt, the independent Republic of Texas, and, finally, the state of Texas. For most Americans, he was the embodiment of everything Texan."
Houston "lived through the most tumultuous time in the nation's history," according to his biographer. And the era comes alive through De Bruhl's pen.
The biography begins with the Houston family and young Sam leaving Virginia to settle in Tennessee in the early 1800s and ends with Houston's peaceful death in 1863. Vivid details fill each page, yet De Bruhl never loses sight of the larger picture, and his practical, accessible approach debunks the many myths of embellished Texas history.
As a teenager growing up in Tennessee, Houston ran away to live with the Cherokee Indians. He had very little formal education and referred to his three years living with the Cherokee as his "university of the woods. …