The Texas Secession: Sam Houston Ousted

March 18, 1861 – Delegates to the Texas State Convention removed Governor Sam Houston from office for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy.

Texas Governor Sam Houston | Image Credit:
Texas Governor Sam Houston | Image Credit:

On March 2, the Confederate Congress approved a measure admitting Texas into the Confederacy. However Texas Governor Sam Houston defied the state legislature by refusing to recognize the Confederacy’s legitimacy. As secessionists worked to remove Houston from office, the governor asserted: “I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity, I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as Chief Executive of this State, except by the peaceful exercise of my functions…”

Meanwhile, Texas officials continued seizing Federal property in the state throughout the month, including:

  • The Federal revenue cutter Henry Dodge at Galveston
  • Ringgold Barracks
  • Camps Verde, Wood, and Hudson
  • Forts McIntosh, Clark, Inge, Lancaster, Brown, Duncan, Chadbourne, Mason, and Bliss

Command changes also took place for both Federals and Confederates. Colonel Edwin V. Sumner of the 1st Cavalry was promoted to brigadier general to replace General David Twiggs in command of Federal forces in Texas. Twiggs had been dismissed from the U.S. army on 1 March for surrendering Federal forts to Texans. Colonel Earl Van Dorn arrived in Texas on the 26th to lead Confederate forces.

In mid-March, Governor Houston staged a dramatic protest at the state capitol in Austin. When called upon to swear loyalty to Confederacy as required by all Texas public officials, Houston ignored it. His name was called twice more and he ignored it twice more, instead whittling throughout the proceedings. Houston issued a statement:

“Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas… I protest… against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.”

The Texas Convention delegates accepted Houston’s resignation on the 18th, and he was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark. Houston retired to his home at Huntsville, explaining that he did not believe secession necessarily meant mandatory loyalty to a new nation. Houston said, “You may, after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasures and hundreds of thousands of precious lives, as a bare possibility, win Southern independence… but I doubt it.”

The Lincoln administration offered to provide Houston with 50,000 troops to help him regain his governorship and keep Texas in the Union by military force. Houston responded to this offer on March 29: “Allow me to most respectfully decline any such assistance of the United States Government.” Thus ended the career of one of the most prominent statesmen in Texas history.



  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 18-19
  • Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 2202
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 44, 48-52
  • Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 372
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 27
  • Wikipedia: Sam Houston; Timeline of Events Leading to the American Civil War

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