The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985

President Lincoln's Overture to Sam Houston
HOWARD C. WESTWOOD*
N 1861 SAM HOUSTON WROTE A LETTER, PUBLISHED IN The Civilian
and Galveston Gazette of September 16, saying that, when civil war
was looming, he had been "tendered the aid of seventy thousand men
and means to sustain myself in Texas by adhering to the Union" but
that he had rejected the offer. Since then the story has been told, in
various versions, that President Abraham Lincoln had offered Houston
military support to resist rebellion in Texas. At least two major threads
of this story can be found and followed. One involves a message sent
through Frederick West Lander, a California Democrat who later be-
came a brigadier general in the Union army, and the other a message
brought by George H. Giddings, a pro-Union Houston supporter who
nevertheless ended up fighting for the Confederacy. What of the story
can be verified?
One thing is clear: from the time Texas became a state in the Union
it had excited great interest in the North. A congressional resolution of
March 1, 1845, that had provided for an agreement with the Republic
of Texas to join the Union, provided further that, by future agree-
ment, Texas might be divided into as many as five separate states (four
new states plus the original state of Texas). While some such potential
division doubtless had appeal to Southerners as one means of maintain-
ing slave state representation in the United States Senate, it must have
*Howard C. Westwood, a graduate of Columbia Law School (1933), is an attorney in
Washington, D.C. He has published a number of articles in historical journals. The
author wishes to thank Paul R. Scott, field archivist of the Texas State Library with
Texas A&M University, for generous help on many points.
1Sam Houston to the editors of the Civilian, Sept. 12, 1861, Sam Houston, The Writ-
ings of Sam Houston, z8z3-z863, ed. Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker (8 vols.;
Austin, 1938-1943), VIII, 310o-311, 312 (quotation), 313-314. Versions claiming that
Lincoln made an overture to Houston before his inauguration will be ignored here as
too farfetched to merit space. One, indeed, obviously amounted to an interviewer's put-
ting words into the mouth of a loo-year-old former Houston slave. William M. Baker, "A
Pivotal Point," Lippincott's Magazine, XXVI (Nov., 1880), 564; Marquis James, The
Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston (New York, 1929), 410-411; Jeff Hamilton, "My
Master": The Inside Story of Sam Houston and His Times (Dallas, 1940), v, 75-76.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/. Accessed July 31, 2014.