Tag Archives: Sam Houston

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: Wikimedia.org

Texas Governor Sam Houston | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

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.

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Sources

  • 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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The Texas Secession

February 1, 1861 – Delegates to the Texas State Convention at Austin voted 166 to 7 to secede from the United States.

Texas State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Texas State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Texas became the seventh state to leave the Union. The attorney general “led a company of ladies down the aisle,” and “they unfurled a Lone Star flag.” In accordance with legislative requirements, a popular election was scheduled for February 23. Governor Sam Houston’s vocal opposition to secession alienated him from many formerly loyal Texans.

Ten days later, convention delegates approved the forming a southern Confederacy and elected seven representatives to the new Confederate Congress. The strong movement toward the Confederacy prompted Brevet Major General David E. Twiggs, commanding the Federal Department of Texas, to comply with demands from state civil commissioners to surrender all Federal forts and property to the state. Some 1,000 militia under Colonel Ben McCulloch seized the Federal arsenal at San Antonio.

Twiggs, one of the top four ranking officers in the U.S. Army, explained that he surrendered due to a threat of attack, as state troops had surrounded the 160-man garrison holding San Antonio. But then Twiggs also said, “If an old woman with a broomstick should come with full authority from the state of Texas to demand the public property, I would give it up to her.”

Twiggs had asked his superior, Brevet Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, to be relieved so he could join his home state of Georgia in seceding. Federal officials quickly accused Twiggs of treason, and he was dishonorably discharged from the service. Twiggs angrily wrote to President James Buchanan “for the sole purpose of a personal interview,” intimating a challenge to a duel. Twiggs’s capitulation spread fear among Federal officials that other southern commanders could give up other Federal posts just as easily.

On the 19th, Colonel Carlos A. Waite replaced Twiggs as commander of the Department of Texas at Camp Verde, even though Twiggs had already surrendered the Federal posts in the state. Federal forces soon abandoned Camp Cooper and Camp Colorado, and Texas militia took Federal property at Brazos Santiago.

Voters upheld the Texas Convention’s decision to secede. In the popular election mandated by the convention, Texans approved secession by a 74-percent majority—34,794 to 11,235.

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Sources

  • Davis, William C., Brother Against Brother: The War Begins (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 129-31
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 14
  • Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 17-19
  • Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 253-54
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 31, 35-36, 38-42
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 46
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161

Other Secession Considerations

January 31, 1861 – By the end of January, all 15 slaveholding states had either seceded or contemplated secession. Some continued debating whether to secede into February.

Early this month, the Delaware legislature unanimously expressed “unqualified disapproval” of secession after hearing from a Mississippi representative. Delaware permitted slavery, but less than two percent of black residents were slaves while 90 percent of the state’s blacks were free. The few slaveholders mainly resided in Delaware’s southern counties bordering Maryland.

In Missouri, secessionist Claiborne F. Jackson became governor on the 5th. He declared in his inaugural address: “Common origin, pursuits, tastes, manners and customs… bind together in one brotherhood the States of the South… (Missouri should make) a timely declaration of her determination to stand by her sister slave-holding States.” Jackson received support from the lieutenant governor, house speaker, and a majority of the Democrats controlling the state legislature.

The next day, Maryland Governor Thomas Hicks delivered a message to the people of his state strongly opposing secession. Three days later, 30 U.S. Marines from the Washington Navy Yard occupied Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor to protect it from secessionists. The Marines held the fort until relieved by Regular Army troops.

On January 7, Virginia Governor John Letcher delivered a message to the state legislature opposing South Carolina’s actions but also opposing any Federal attempt to move Federal troops through Virginia to suppress southern states. Letcher called for a national convention to discuss compromise options.

Texas Governor Sam Houston | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Texas Governor Sam Houston | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Texas officials began arranging an election of delegates to a state secession convention after Governor Sam Houston refused to convene the legislature to consider the issue. Houston then assembled the legislature in the hope that it would reject secession before the convention opened on the 28th.

Houston declared that although he considered secession legal under the U.S. Constitution, Texas should stay in the Union. He also acknowledged the large petition in favor of secession, stating that “the people, as the source of all power,” would ultimately choose “the course that Texas shall pursue… Should the Legislature in its wisdom deem it necessary to carry a convention of delegates fresh from the people, the Executive will not oppose the same.”

To Houston’s dismay, the legislature overwhelmingly endorsed the secession convention and then overrode Houston’s veto of the endorsement. Delegates to the convention assembled as scheduled, and they debated whether to secede into February.

In North Carolina, militia seized Fort Johnson. Residents of Smithville and Wilmington also seized Fort Caswell, but state officials later repudiated this move. On the 24th, the legislature approved a measure calling for a state convention but submitting the question of secession to a popular vote.

A special session of the Tennessee legislature convened on the 7th. Ten days later, the Arkansas legislature approved a measure calling for a popular vote to decide whether to secede. And on January 25 the Kentucky legislature approved a measure calling for a national convention to resolve the sectional crisis.

Debate over whether to secede continued into February in several states.

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Sources

  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 9
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 22-25, 27, 29, 31
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 290
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161
  • Wikipedia: Timeline of Events Leading to the American Civil War