The Birthday of Sam Houston on Texas Independence Day

United States - Scott #1242 (1964)
United States – Scott #1242 (1964)

March 2 is Texas Independence Day (Día de la Independencia de Texas) which celebrates the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos on this date in 1836, creating the Republic of Texas (República de Tejas). Having been born in Dallas, I am fiercely loyal to my home state and have featured it on numerous occasions here on A Stamp A Day, including last year’s Texas Independence Day, plus articles about the Texas Post Office Department, the establishment of Fort Bliss (where my father was once stationed), its admittance to the Union as the 28th state after nearly ten years of independence, and the inauguration of Sam Houston as the Republic’s first president. The last-mentioned article includes a fairly extensive biography of Houston and I initially thought to find a different topic to write about today. In the end, my true Texas nature won and I will give a brief profile, accompanied by United States Scott #1242.

Sam Houston was an American soldier and politician. His victory at the Battle of San Jacinto secured the independence of Texas from Mexico in one of the shortest decisive battles in modern history. He was also the only governor within a future Confederate state to oppose secession (which led to the outbreak of the American Civil War) and to refuse an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, a decision that led to his removal from office by the Texas secession convention.

Houston was born at Timber Ridge Plantation in Rockbridge County, Virginia on March 2, 1793. He was of Scots-Irish descent. After moving to Tennessee after his father died, he spent time with the Cherokee Nation, into which he later was adopted as a citizen and into which he married. He performed military service during the War of 1812 and successfully participated in Tennessee politics. In 1827, Houston was elected Governor of Tennessee as a Jacksonian. In 1829, he resigned as governor and relocated to the Arkansas Territory.

Sam Houston, circa 1862
Sam Houston, circa 1862

In 1832, Houston was involved in an altercation with a U.S. Congressman, followed by a high-profile trial. Shortly afterwards, he moved west to Coahuila y Tejas, then a Mexican state, and became a leader of the Texas Revolution.

After the war, Houston became a key figure in Texas and was elected as the first and third President of the Republic of Texas. He supported annexation by the United States and he became a U.S. Senator upon achieving it in 1845, and finally a governor of the State of Texas in 1859, whereby Houston became the only person to have become the governor of two different U.S. states through popular election, as well as the only state governor to have been a foreign head of state.

As governor, he refused to swear loyalty to the Confederacy when Texas seceded from the Union in 1861 with the outbreak of the American Civil War, and he was removed from office. To avoid bloodshed, he refused an offer of a Union army to put down the Confederate rebellion. Instead, he retired to Huntsville, Texas, where he died on July 26, 1863 at Steamboat House, with his wife Margaret by his side. Houston’s funeral was held in the upstairs parlor. The house is now part of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum complex.

The inscription on his tomb reads:

A Brave Soldier. A Fearless Statesman.
A Great Orator—A Pure Patriot.
A Faithful Friend, A Loyal Citizen.
A Devoted Husband and Father.
A Consistent Christian—An Honest Man.

United States - Scott #1242 (1964) first day cover
United States – Scott #1242 (1964) first day cover

Houston’s name has been honored in numerous ways. He is the namesake of the city of Houston, Texas’s most populous city and the fourth most populous city in the United States. Other things named for Sam Houston include Sam Houston State University, a memorial museum, the USS Sam Houston (SSBN-609) naval vessel, Fort Sam Houston, Sam Houston National Forest, a historical park, an elementary school in Lebanon, TN (Sam Houston Elementary), a prominent roadside statue outside of Huntsville, and major streets in many Texas cities.

Scott #1242 is the second stamp to picture Sam Houston (the first was Scott #776 in 1936). The five-cent stamp was designed by Texas artist Tom Lea. Although he based his portrait of Houston on an 1848 lithograph by F. Davingnon, Lea’s depiction presented Houston as he appeared ca.1836-1838, the years during which he served as the first president of the Republic of Texas. The Stamp measures 0.84 x 1.44 inches vertical and was printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on a rotary press, perforated 10½x11, with a total printing of 125,995,000. It was first issued at the Houston, Texas, Post Office on January 10, 1964.

In addition to being Texas Independence Day, March 2 is also observed as Texas Flag Day and Sam Houston Day.

Texas state flagGreat Seal of the State of TexasRepublic of Texas Flag (1836-1839)Great Seal of the Republic of Texas

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