Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston

Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston

Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston

Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston


After an undisputed record of political achievement--leading the decisive battle for Texas independence at San Jacinto, serving twice as president of the Republic of Texas, twice again as a United States senator after annexation, and finally as governor of Texas--Sam Houston found himself in the winter of his life in a self-imposed exile among the pines of East Texas.

Houston was often a bundle of complicated contradictions. He was a spirited advocate for public education but had little formal education himself. He was very much "a Jackson man" but disagreed with his mentor on the treatment of Native Americans. He was a slaveholder who opposed abolition but scuttled his own political reputation by resisting the South's move toward secession.

After refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy in 1861, Houston was swiftly evicted from the governor's office. "Let me tell you what is coming," he later said from a window at the Tremont Hotel in Galveston. "After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it." Houston died just two years later, and the nation was indeed fractured.

Ron Rozelle's masterful biographical portrait here lingers on Houston's final years, especially as lived out in Huntsville, when so much of his life's work seemed on the verge of coming undone. Artfully written for the general reader, Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston is a compelling look at Sam Houston's legacy and twilight years.


Huntsville, Texas

May 1863

It was barely half a mile between his house and the prison, a short walk in former times and better days. and downhill most of the way. But he had turned seventy a couple of months before, and, given the stubborn aggravation of several decades-old war wounds and the natural decline caused by the decades themselves, what would have once been a pleasant stroll would prove a slow, painful trek. and the return trip would be uphill. So either Joshua or Jeff—slaves or servants, depending on if he had actually freed all his slaves in October of the previous year, as one popular yet unverified legend maintains—would have driven him in the buggy.

It’s possible he got a few waves or the tips of a couple of hats along the way, from people on horses or in wagons or walking up the hill from town, under fragrant pines and cedars interspersed with oaks, sycamores, and pecans in full leaf by early May. But many folks would not have acknowledged him, especially if they had known what he was up to. and they would have known, because he had made this trip at least once by then and because Huntsville was a small town, where everybody pretty much knew everybody else’s business.

He might have been wearing a blue velvet smoking cap he had lately taken a liking to instead of the wide-brimmed beaver hat he had long favored. and instead of his ever-present walking stick, by now a crutch might have leaned against the seat.

Even though the chills of early spring had come and gone, he might still have draped a multihued Indian blanket over his shoulders, probably woven by either Cherokees or Coushattas. the first tribe had provided frequent sanctuary in his boyhood and early adulthood; the second, native to the Huntsville area and considerably friendlier than the belligerent, angry nations to the west and north, had recently sought and received his assistance when the Confederacy attempted to conscript Indians into its army.

If not a native blanket, he might have worn a color-splashed cape or a . . .

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