ustxtxb_obs_1993_07_30_50_00017-00000_000.pdf

Page 17

by

MICHAEL ALEXANDER Knowing Our Fathers BY PAT LITTLEDOG SAM HOUSTON: A BIOGRAPHY OF THE FATHER OF TEXAS By John Hoyt Williams 448 pp. New York: Simon and Schuster, $25.00 THE RAVEN’S BRIDE By Elizabeth Crook 432 pp. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press. $19.95. WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, part of a military bratpack following my father from base to base, he celebrated three special days with us every year. He let my Mother take care of the hullabaloo of Christmas, and couldn’t remember birthdays or anniversaries. But March 2, Texas Independence Day, he flew the Lone Star Flag; March 6, the Fall of the Alamo, he recalled and many times performed on his old A&M bugle the haunting “No Quarter,” Santa Anna’s battle call. And on April 23 he would tell us all again about Sam Houston and the Battle of San Jacinto, and the two musicians who led the Texian troops with an old love song. My father was an East Texas sharecropping farmboy whose life was transformed by the 1941 call to war and a subsequent career in the military. If he hadn’t taken the military route, I doubt that he would have remained in back of a single-mule plow anyway, as prosperity in generous measure to the men of his generation who left the uncertainties of farm revenues for the steady salaries of defense industries. All of this to say, yes as John Hoyt Williams confers the title of “Father of Texas” on the San Jacinto hero, so I’m sure my own Texas soldier-dad wouldn’t mind being named in the lineage as one of General Sam’s boys. Now this of course doesn’t contradict those who would call the great land developer Stephen Austin Dad, or the many Spanish Padres, or the mythical Mound Building Fathers, the black Father known throughout the South as King Cotton, or Father Bill who rolled out of the wagon west of the Pecos to run with the wolves. But it does focus on a particular population the fighting men Houston called to himself the army he raised and subsequently led as well as the char Pat Littledog is a peripatetic freelance writer in Austin. acter of the Republic he shaped, whose birth certificate he signed on his own birthday. It is this focus that John Hoyt Williams brings to Sam Houston’s biography, making his book as much a military history as a story of a man’s life, with as much attention paid to the covert actions of the times as to the more public reports. Williams manages to sort through many of the threads of conspiracies and secret deals that lay at the heart of the American dream of manifest destiny a vision Houston shared from an early age with his mentor Andrew Jackson. I doubt that any historian will ever be able to lay bare all the many covert military plans and strategies that have gone into defining our current geographical boundaries and determining what flags are flown over which designated capitols. Too much of the planning happened in the privacy of exclusive clubs, secret societies and military fraternities that fostered powerful friendships, organizations such as the Freemasons, in which Jackson and Houston were lodge brothers. \(Houston received degrees in the Tennessee Cumberland Lodge that Jackson had founded an organization so concerned with keeping potentially incriminating records of any kind, that part of the Master Mason’s oath is to promise and swear not to write, print, stamp, stain, hew, cut, carve, indent, paint or engrave any Masonic secrets of anything moveable or immovable, else the tongue will be torn out by the roots, the body buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours … This is one of the milder liams speculates that Houston did in fact come to Texas with a secret plan that had been formulated within a small circle of a powerful brotherhood. Houston quite probably belonged as well to the Order of the Lone Star of the West, dedicated to the conquest of Mexico, and the Knights of the Golden Circle, whose dream saw Havana as the center of a slave empire with a radius of 1,200 miles, embracing the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, the northernmost portions of South America and the slave states of the South. Houston was a Big Man in many senses, of heroic proportions and large appetites. Not only was he called Ka’lanu, the Raven leader of War Parties by his Cherokee family, but also Oo-Tse-tee Ar-dee-tah-skee, the Big Drunk. And he had a Big Plan for Texas. So when the boundaries of the state were finally determined he was quite dissatisfied, having envisioned instead a Texas that would stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, as well as a dream to acquire California, Santa Fe and all of Mexico, “to revel in the halls of Montezuma.” If he actually put his plans for conquest into motion as a secret agent of the United States THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17