Book Review: A Look into Sam Houston’s Life and Legacy

 

Ron Rozelle is a Texas treasure. What he writes is worth reading. Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston, by Rozelle, continues his string of books worth reading.

It is a biography of the father of Texas. Most biographers concentrate on Houston’s early career, especially the period where he led the Texian Army or served as the first president of the Republic of Texas. Rozelle uses a different tactic. This book focuses on the end of Houston’s public life, as Texas’ first US senator and as governor of the state of Texas.

For a century, from Houston’s death until the 1960s, in Texas these were the least popular part of Houston’s career. Houston opposed Texas joining the Confederacy. Yet Rozelle realized that is what made those years worth examining. They were neglected and they were fascinating.

Rozelle shows Houston as a Unionist, first and foremost. Sam Houston believed in the United States as firmly as his wife, Margaret, believed in her Bible. Union was almost as much his religion as the Baptist faith he accepted later in life. Houston had helped built the United States, and felt it a necessary bulwark to protect Texas from the chaos in Mexico.

As a result, Houston took a course deeply unpopular in Texas. As senator, he supported compromises which kept the Union patched together through the 1850s, opposing the fire-eating John C. Calhoun. As governor in 1860 and 1861, he blocked attempts of Texas to leave the Union for as long as he could. Then he resigned his position rather than swear allegiance to the Confederacy.

Houston’s predictions of what would happen during the Civil War were accurate. Had Houston’s advice for Texas to remain independent been followed, it is likely a neutral Republic of Texas would be independent today or have re-entered the Union on its own terms.

Rozelle reveals Houston’s weaknesses and strengths. Rozelle presents Houston as a complex, three-dimensional, yet very human character, a giant despite great flaws. “Exiled” tells the story of a great man standing athwart history, even when the tides of public opinion ran against him.

“Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston,” by Ron Rozelle, Texas A&M University Press, 2017, 232 pages, $29.95


I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review on Ricochet on the following Sunday.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Houston was quite a statesman.

    • #1
  2. Gumby Mark Thatcher
    Gumby Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Thanks for alerting us to this book.  Houston is one of the most interesting figures in American history.  Will definitely read it.

    • #2
  3. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Ah–the answer to the earlier trivia question as to whom (in addition to, potentially, Romney) was the governor of two states.

    They really don’t make ’em like this anymore.

    • #3
  4. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    Ah–the answer to the earlier trivia question as to whom (in addition to, potentially, Romney) was the governor of two states.

    They really don’t make ’em like this anymore.

    And a US Senator, too. Even if Romney gets elected governor of Utah he would have to get elected senator, too to match Sam Houston.

    Seawriter

    • #4
  5. Gumby Mark Thatcher
    Gumby Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    Ah–the answer to the earlier trivia question as to whom (in addition to, potentially, Romney) was the governor of two states.

    They really don’t make ’em like this anymore.

    And a US Senator, too. Even if Romney gets elected governor of Utah he would have to get elected senator, too to match Sam Houston.

    Seawriter

    And President of another country!

    And he ended up resigning before completing his terms as governor of both states.

    • #5
  6. Mike-K Member
    Mike-K
    @

    I would love to see a biography of Coke Stevenson. Robert Caro did a pretty good job in his “Means of Ascent” volume of Lyndon Johnson’s biography but, from what Caro said, Stevenson deserves a full biography. He was so thoroughly slandered by Johnson, even after Johnson stole the 1948 Senate election, that Caro found very little positive written abut him.

    I’ll read the Houston biography. It sounds interesting. Maybe the author is the guy to do one on Stevenson.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coke_R._Stevenson

    • #6
  7. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Mike-K (View Comment):
    I’ll read the Houston biography. It sounds interesting. Maybe the author is the guy to do one on Stevenson.

    Rozelle is an East Texas kind of guy. Nothing says you cannot write it.

    Sawriter

    • #7
  8. Mike-K Member
    Mike-K
    @

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Rozelle is an East Texas kind of guy.

    Stevenson was hill country I hear.

     

    I read history and have only written two books. Both sort of history but about something I know.

    https://www.amazon.com/War-Stories-50-Years-Medicine-ebook/dp/B00ZQLNHXU

    That’s the recent one.

    • #8
  9. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Mike-K (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Rozelle is an East Texas kind of guy.

    Stevenson was hill country I hear.

    I read history and have only written two books. Both sort of history but about something I know.

    https://www.amazon.com/War-Stories-50-Years-Medicine-ebook/dp/B00ZQLNHXU

    That’s the recent one.

    Yup. Stevenson was Hill Country. No reason you cannot write Stevenson’s biography. It matters little how much you know when you start a book project. What matters is how much you know when you finish.

    Seawriter

    • #9
  10. livingthenonStarWarslife Inactive
    livingthenonStarWarslife
    @livingthehighlife

    Thanks for posting this, Seawriter.  I’ve added it to my reading list.

    • #10
  11. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    Ah–the answer to the earlier trivia question as to whom (in addition to, potentially, Romney) was the governor of two states.

    They really don’t make ’em like this anymore.

    And a US Senator, too. Even if Romney gets elected governor of Utah he would have to get elected senator, too to match Sam Houston.

    Seawriter

    Looks like he’s starting with senator first.

    • #11
  12. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Thanks, Seawriter.

    • #12

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