The first and third president of the Republic of Texas arguably shaped the West as much as any other president.
When it came to ranking presidents based on how much impact they had on the West, we were tempted to include Sam Houston. Granted, he wasn’t a U.S. president, but he was an important president and had an incalculable impact nonetheless. Twice elected president of the independent Republic of Texas — he served 1836 – 1838 and 1841 – 1844 — the Virginia native led the fight to wrest Texas from Mexico and facilitated its annexation by the United States.
More than that, Houston lived as full a frontier life as any American ever. Consider just one episode, the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, in which Houston’s forces destroyed the Mexican army, an important step in securing Texas independence. Biographer John Hoyt Williams’ description reads like a classic western potboiler, but it’s hardly exaggerated: “Sam Houston, riding before his screaming men, sword glistening in his hand, reeled in his saddle, his breath torn from him by pain. A Mexican musket ball had shattered his right leg just above the ankle, smashing bone, tearing cartilage and pushing pieces of torn boot leather deep into the mangled flesh. Somehow he stayed in the saddle and within minutes knew that the day was won.”
The man who lived for years among the Cherokee — he was a legal citizen of the Cherokee Nation, spoke the language, and received the name Colenneh, or Raven — put his irrevocable stamp on the West as a soldier, Indian agent, attorney, Tennessee and Texas congressman and governor, Texas rebel military commander, president, and visionary force of nature.
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Photography: Image courtesy Wikipedia, Library of Congress