| By the
spring of 1863, Sam Houston knew he had been right – Texas should not have joined
The state had been spared from the worst of the fighting,
but the South was failing in its bloody effort to pull away from the Union. And
so was Houston’s body. Having lived a hard life, the 68-year-old no longer enjoyed
After resigning as governor during the 1861 succession crisis,
the hero of San Jacinto had settled in Huntsville with his wife, Margaret Lea,
seven of their eight children and a dozen servants. With so many dependent on
him, Houston knew he had to think ahead.
“Fully aware of the uncertainty
of life and of the certainty of death,” Houston sat down and wrote his last will
and testament on April 2, 1863.
The document started off routinely enough
– Houston wanted his “just debts” paid out of his estate and bequeathed the rest
of his estate to “my beloved wife Margaret.” But the codicil also reflected Houston’s
strong view of what was right as well as his eccentricities.
is that my sons should receive solid and useful education,” he wrote, “and that
no portion of their time should be devoted to the study of abstract science; I
greatly desire that they may possess thorough knowledge of the English language
with a good knowledge of the Latin language.”
He wanted his boys versed
in the Bible as well as geography and history, he continued.
my sons to be early taught an utter contempt for novels and light reading,” Houston
went on in Article 3 of his will. “In all that pertains to my sons, I wish particular
regard to be paid to their Morals, as well as the character and morals of those
with whom they may be associated or by whom instructed.”
“To my eldest
son, Sam Houston, Jr., I bequeath my sword worn in the Battle of San Jacinto,
it never to be drawn only in defense of the Constitution, the Laws, and the Liberties
of his Country. If any attempt should ever be made to assail one of these, I wish
it to be used in its vindication.”
Houston left his library “at the disposition
of my dear wife,” as well as his watch and all his jewelry.
later, in the middle of a particularly hot summer, the first president of the
Republic of Texas died in his home. Shortly before his death, he rallied long
enough to say “Texas! Texas!” followed by “Margaret.”
As soon as she could,
Margaret wrote in her Bible: “Died on the 26th of July 1863, Genl Sam Houston,
the beloved and affectionate Husband, father, devoted patriot, the fearless soldier
— the meek and lowly Christian.”
Judge Joab Banton, Walker County’s representative
in the legislature, delivered the eulogy at Houston’s funeral.
say of Texas,” Banton intoned, “that she was his handiwork. And I doubt not that
as long as there are those who love Texas, and as long as her glorious history
is read, the name of Houston will be honored and revered.”
the Confederate Texas Legislature passed a resolution expressing it condolences.
Houston had enough friends left in the law-making body for the measure to include
“Resolved, That so great a light can by illy [sic] spared
in this dark hour of our country’s existence, and its going out is alike a State
and a national calamity.”
Of course, for Margaret and her children, Houston’s
passing amounted to deep personal calamity. She grieved intensely, but proceeded
with the things she had to do, like preparing an inventory of Houston’s estate
and probating his will.
On paper, the general had been worth more than
$89,000, but almost all of that was in land and accounts receivable. At his death,
he had only $250 in cash, five horses, four cows, three wheeled vehicles, a rifle
and a pair of pocket pistols.
As his eulogist had said, Houston’s greatest
bequest was Texas itself.