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HUSTON, FELIX

HUSTON, FELIX (1800–1857). Felix Huston, lawyer, military adventurer, and commanding officer of the Army of the Republic of Texas, was born in Kentucky in 1800 and was practicing law in Natchez, Mississippi, when word of the Texas Revolution reached him. On July 14, 1835, he presided over a meeting in Natchez advocating Texas independence and soliciting aid for the cause. As a propagandist for the revolution, he raised troops and money throughout Mississippi and Kentucky and incurred a personal debt of $40,000 raising and equipping soldiers for service in Texas. He left Natchez on May 5, 1836, with Rezin P. Bowie and an estimated 500 to 700 volunteers for the Texas army, marched across Louisiana, and arrived at army headquarters on July 4, too late to participate in the war for independence.

After San Jacinto, Sam Houston left the army to seek treatment in New Orleans for a wounded ankle, leaving Thomas Jefferson Rusk in command. When ad interim president David G. Burnet attempted to relieve Rusk and place Mirabeau B. Lamar in command of the army, Huston was selected by his fellow officers to chair a committee called to deal with the government's "interference." Huston's committee resolved to support Rusk as general in chief, but when Lamar arrived in camp, Rusk called for a vote of the troops. Though Rusk was confirmed overwhelmingly, Lamar continued to issue orders as commander in chief until Huston and other officers pressured him into resigning. Rusk continued in command until Houston's inauguration as first president of the republic, then reluctantly accepted a cabinet post as secretary of war in Houston's cabinet. On December 20, 1836, Sam Houston appointed Huston junior brigadier general of the army and temporary commander in chief. Command of the 2,000-man army thus devolved upon Felix Huston, a Mississippi planter of volatile temper and decidedly aggressive intentions toward Mexico. Huston's headquarters and the bulk of the army were located at Camp Johnson, on the Lavaca River; a small mounted detachment under Lt. Col. Juan N. Seguín reoccupied San Antonio. Galveston and Velasco also quartered small garrisons, and a line of crude forts on the Indian frontier was manned by small groups of mounted volunteers. Under Huston the camps of the army became the resting place for idlers and brawlers, and when Houston appointed Albert Sidney Johnston senior brigadier general and commander of the army, Huston's honor compelled him to call out the new commander and shoot him through the right hip in a duel on the Lavaca River, on February 7, 1837.

Huston, who believed that Mexico would never recognize the Rio Grande as the southern border of Texas, proposed that he raise, finance, and command a military colony of 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers in South Texas with the intention of capturing Matamoros. Rusk and Gen. Thomas J. Green seem to have favored the scheme, but it was vetoed by President Houston and never carried out.

Huston arrived at Plum Creek on the evening of August 11, 1840, and took command of the gathering troops. The following day he formed his troops for battle, dismounted his men, and began firing at random. As the Comanches fled with their plunder, Huston, at the urging of Benjamin McCulloch and other old Indian fighters, ordered a charge. Huston left Texas in the fall after the battle of Plum Creek and, in partnership with Sergeant S. Prentiss, formed a law firm in New Orleans. In 1844 he campaigned vigorously in favor of the annexation of Texas to the United States, but by the late 1850s he was prominent as a secessionist. He died in Natchez in 1857. Historian Eugene C. Barker characterized Huston as "a typical military adventurer" whose "actual personal service in Texas was more obstreperous than effective; nevertheless," Barker writes, Huston was "a true friend of Texas."

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

John J. Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas (New York: Sadlier, 1883; 2d ed., Austin: Steck, 1935; rpt., Austin: State House, 1986). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

Thomas W. Cutrer

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Thomas W. Cutrer, "HUSTON, FELIX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhu46), accessed August 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.