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Presidents, Republic of Texas, Part 2 (1836-1841)

23 Jul

Sam Houston and Mirabeau B. Lamar:

Sam Houston always had people who opposed him, whether it concerned his political philosophy, his lifestyle or his military strategy.  One such individual was Mirabeau B. Lamar.  These two men would serve as the first two Presidents of the young Republic of Texas.

Houston had been elected as the first President of the Republic of Texas over Stephen F. Austin by an overwhelming majority and took office on October 22, 1836.  He favored the annexation of Texas by the United States.  Houston trusted the United States and felt that Texas could benefit from the financial and military resources and that it would help Texas to be able to secure the common border with Mexico.  He was compassionate toward the Indians, particularly the Cherokees with whom he lived for a number of years, and from whom he took a wife.  Houston served  a two year term as provided by the Texas Constitution.  Alongside him was Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar, his Vice President.

During this period, the temporary capital was moved to Harrisburg, now part of Houston.  The United States recognized the Republic of Texas.  Houston help engineer a treaty with the Cherokees and their associated bands, but the treaty was tabled by the Texas Senate on December 29, 1836 and later nullified by that body on December 16, 1837.  The treaty would have given land to the Cherokees.  Its failure served to heighten the tensions in East Texas.  On October 5, 1838, members of the tribe took part in what is referred to as the Killough Massacre near the present town of Jacksonville in which 18 members of the Killough family were killed.  This was thought to be the largest and last Indian attack on Texas settlers  in East Texas.  A few months later, Mirabeau B. Lamar was elected the second President of the Republic.

Lamar had entered the Texas Army as a private and received repeated promotions for bravery.  He was well known around the Republic.  His election was also nearly unanimous due to two of his strongest opponents having committed suicide during the election.  His Vice President was David G. Burnet.  In contrast to Houston’s vision, Lamar felt that Texas should expand to the West Coast.  He believed in education and during his three year term, Lamar created a basic public school system for the children of Texas.

Notable events in 1839 included the Córdova Rebellion, an armed uprising of Tejanos from the Nacogdoches area who favored Mexico.  This was followed by Lamar’s unsuccessful proposal to the Cherokees that they relocate to the Arkansas Territory in response to which the Cherokees refused to go, leading to the Battle of the Neches in which Cherokee Chief Bowl and Chief Big Mush were killed.  Texas forces were led by General Rusk (Secretary of War under Houston during the Revolution) and General Edward Burleson.  France recognized the Republic of Texas and in October, 1839 the capital was relocated to Austin from Houston.

In 1840, the Council House Fight occurred in San Antonio at a meeting between Republic leaders and a Comanche peace delegation.  The meeting ended with 12 Comanches being shot to death in the Council House, 23 shot on the streets and 30 taken captive.  The Comanches were enraged with this having happened under a truce, thus leading to more hostilities between the Texans and the Comanches.  Later that year, insurgents led by Jesús de Cárdenas (and privately supported by President Lamar) led the unsuccessful effort to forcibly create the Republic of the Rio Grande in Mexico, culminating in the Battle of Saltillo, Mexico in October.  In the late summer, Comanche raids resulted in the sacking of Victoria and Linnville.  Following this, the Battle of Plumb Creek (probably more accurately described as a running gun battle) occurred where the Comanche under Chief Buffalo Hump were met by Texas Rangers, a loosely organized militia and members of the Tonkawa tribe near the present town of Lockhart.  The Comanches were slowed by transporting their plunder from earlier raids.  80 Comanches were reportedly killed, but they were driven from the area by the Texans led by Matthew Caldwell of Gonzales and Edward Burleson of Bastrop.  This was a significant defeat in terms of Comanche numbers lost, but Chief Buffalo Hump would escape.

The year 1841 was marked in June by the unsuccessful invasion of Santa Fe in which the Texas forces were captured without firing a shot near the current town of Tucumcari, New Mexico.  They were marched to prison in Veracruz and not released until the following year.  This was a notably negative point in the Lamar administration.  Along with the administration’s significant fiscal troubles, this led to the return of Sam Houston as President in 1841.

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