AUSTIN, Texas — An historically valuable letter written by Sam Houston in 1848 has found its way back to Texas thanks to Gov. George W. Bush and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.
Bush and Bullock each personally donated $2,250 to purchase the letter at a New York City auction. The letter, which Houston wrote to his friend Col. Thomas “Pegleg” Ward (1807-1872) to discuss financial matters, will be added to the Texas collection at The University of Texas Center for American History.
A reception to thank Bush and Bullock for their help in acquiring the letter will be held at 3:30 p.m. Monday (July 13) in the Governor’s Reception Room at the Capitol. The letter will be on exhibit, and Bush and Bullock are expected to attend.
At home in Huntsville on summer recess from the U.S. Senate in October of 1848, Houston (1793-1863) wrote the letter to Ward, who often served as his debt collector. Recently defeated for re-election as land commissioner, Ward was a hero of the Texas Revolution and had lost a leg during the siege of Bexar. Ward noted on the back of the letter that he had received it on Oct. 21, 1848, and that Houston, “Wants money.”
“I am grateful to Gov. Bush and Lt. Gov. Bullock for making it possible for us to acquire this outstanding historical document,” said Dr. Don E. Carleton, director of the UT Center for American History. “Sam Houston’s letter, which sheds light on the state of his personal finances at the time, as well as his thoughts about the 1848 presidential election, will find an appropriate home in the center’s Barker Texas History Collection.”
The Barker is the largest single collection of Texana in existence. Its holdings include an extensive collection of Sam Houston’s papers, as well as the papers of significant contemporaries such as Stephen F. Austin, Lorenzo de Zavala, James Harper Starr and Anson Jones.
Houston’s relationship with Ward deteriorated in 1853, when the senator sued Ward for allegedly keeping some of the collected money for himself. After his defeat for re-election as land commissioner, Ward sought a presidential appointment as a customs collector and asked for Houston’s help.
“Obviously frustrated, Houston admitted in this letter that he and his colleagues in the Texas congressional delegation had no influence with President James K. Polk, his old friend from Tennessee,” Carleton said. “Houston stated his firm belief, however, that Lewis Cass, the recently nominated Democratic candidate for president in 1848, would respond more favorably to Houston’s recommendations for political appointments in Texas.”
Carleton noted that despite Houston’s optimism about Cass’s election (“of his success, I have no doubt,” Houston stated in the letter), he was defeated by the Whig candidate, Gen. Zachary Taylor. Later, Ward served as mayor of Austin, U.S. Counsel to Panama under President Franklin Pierce, and customs collector at Corpus Christi under President Andrew Johnson.