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Sam Houston Review

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Courtney Kilday

Review of Sam Houston by James L. Haley

HIST 2301.CO1

November 27th, 2017



The biography I decided to write about was Sam Houston by Austin, Texas author  James L. Haley. Sam Houston was first published in 2002 then again in August 30th 2004 by Oklahoma Press. Not only did I find this book intriguing and an extraordinarily unique take on Houston’s life , many others did too. Haley has won many awards due to this biography including the Carol Horton Tullis Memorial Prize in 2002 and the Spur Award for Best Nonfiction Biography in 2003. (SAM HOUSTON) In this biography James not only highlights Houston’ s complex personality but he also show cases his major roles in Texas and America’ s history throughout the 19th century. James Haley provided an amazing, in- depth look into the man and his career.


Originally, Haley and his publishers planned on having the book out ten years earlier, the book was to be ready for Sam Houstons birthday in 1993 but by lucky chance Haley came across hundreds of papers at the Catholic Archives of Texas  that had yet to be reviewed for a biography. Haley researched Sam Houston for over fifteen years before this book was published, with over ninety pages of creditable sources and new journals none of Houston’s pervious biographies have ever seen and other papers in written by Houston’s friends, family and colleagues Hayley believed  that this book was the largest and most complete biography ever written about that legendary icon. (Krystyniak, Frank) He examined letters, editorials, speeches, news paper reports and other historic pieces to express the American hero and the spirit inside of him, you’ re left with what he did and what he believed.

        Sam Houston is a great book that properly showcases you all aspects of Houston’ life, after reading the book I knew not only his whole career but the man behind the suit. Although he was a Union member, slave holder, and Governor of a Texas we were able to see that his true ambition in his career and thought process was not what you would expect. Houston opposed Abolitionism, stood against the growing of slavery and stood up for the rights of Native American’s. (Haley, James) Haley then  continues to express to the reader Houston’s belief of equality of all humans. Houston was the protégé of the soon to be President Andrew Jackson and was assumed to be the next for presidency after Andrew Jackson retired until a failed marriage lead to scandal ending  his political career. Shortly after he leaves his old life he begins to live with the Cherokees until he marries again and becomes  a saved as a Baptist. His conversion was the domino that lead to his political career to start again. (Haley, James) Through and through Houston was a Union lover, he rather respectfully step down as governor of Texas than fall into secession. No matter what  was happening he continued to follow what he believed in instead of submitting to the pressure of the Confederacy. After finishing Haley’s book I found myself being extremely interested in his life. Because Haley focused on his life behind the career I got to see that Houston was human just like the rest of us. Haley showed us that he was a normal person even after being in the political spotlight  he still found himself living with the Cherokees. He was a complex man with complex thoughts living through adversity This books shows that the strong political and governor bled just the same as everyone else.

        Although the Sam Houston was a good read I found a few errors in Haley’s writing that were hard to miss. Throughout the book you get the sense that Haley truly finds Houston fascinating and took ample time to study him. Because he is so interested you can sense that he is biased, throughout the biography he rebukes many theories about the man and his career. Haley defends Houston on his accusations of being racist and continually defends his career. Many historians criticize his actions before the Battle of  San Jancito  calling him a cowards but Haley expresses the lack of support he  had crook Texas as a whole population where many of them would not fight, would eventually desert them or they would simply not follow orders. (Haley, James) Haley even states in his book that if any other Texas figure were to command that army the revolution would’ve ended in complete and total disaster.  

He is also biased when speaking about Houston’s short  marriage and his accusations of being a racist. After joining the army and getting wounded in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend he began his climb into politics and worked alongside Andrew Jackson and eventually becoming the mayor of Tennessee. He mentioned his first marriage often because it was believe to be  the reason he resigned as governor of Tennessee and a lost chance at ever becoming president. In the divorce most historians seek Eliza as the victim. Houston had sent his father in law a letter stating he had come to Eliza in a jealous rage claiming she was unfaithful , causing he to leave. (Monroe, Dan)  Haley,   however   gives an overwhelming amount of evidence to have you believe that Eliza Allen never truly wanted to be with Sam Houston. He expresses that Eliza was pressured to marry Sam even though  deep down she was in love with someone else leading up to their short lived eleven week marriage. Haley attempts to write as if he is unbiased but he did not attempt to place any blame on Houston’ s faults in the marriage.



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