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Howard, George Thomas (1814–1866)

Howard Lackman Biography Entry

George Thomas Howard, soldier, explorer, and businessman, was born in Washington, D.C., on September 2, 1814, the son of Thomas William Howard and Ann (Bean) Howard. He immigrated to Texas in 1836. After landing at Galveston, he joined the Texas army and advanced to a captaincy by June 4, 1837, when he became commanding officer at the Galveston post. Indian depredations at San Antonio led to his assignment in the spring of 1839 with Company C in the outskirts of that town. Near Opossum Creek he planned an ambuscade for prowling Indians and singly decoyed a marauding band of Comanche into a trap. Captain Howard distinguished himself in the Council House Fight in March 1840. At the battle of Plum Creek in August 1840 he was cited for "essential service" by Gen. Felix Huston. Howard procured provisions for the Texan Santa Fe expedition and, with the rank of major, accompanied the expedition as both merchant and aide-de-camp to Gen. Hugh McLeod. Howard was captured, marched to Mexico, and confined in prison at Puebla. He soon escaped, however, and returned to Texas in time to join the Somervell expedition. In this campaign he became lieutenant colonel by popular election among the troops. For two years, 1843–45, he served Bexar County as sheriff. His interest in the growth of the republic was reflected in his assistance to Henri Castro in colonizing Castroville.

In 1846 Howard joined the Texas Volunteer Cavalry in the Mexican War. Again his bravery in battle and exemplary leadership distinguished him even among non-Texan companies. He married Mary Frances McCormick on October 7, 1847, in Washington, D.C. Back in San Antonio in 1848, with other leading merchants, he helped finance and joined the Chihuahua-El Paso Pioneer expedition to explore the possibilities for a road and mail stations to El Paso through the unmapped southwestern part of the state. In succeeding years he devoted a good portion of his time to a widespread freight business in partnership with Duncan C. Ogden. In 1850 public alarm over Indian raids led to his appointment by the Department of the Interior as Indian agent, and within two months Howard was promoted to superintendency of the Texas agents. He engaged in a rancorous controversy with Robert S. Neighbors and resigned in 1855 to retire to private contracting for the government. Although ill during the later stages of his life, Howard accepted a commission in the Confederate Army and was instrumental in supplying cattle for the Southern forces and negotiating cotton-exchange contracts with Mexican suppliers. He died in Washington, D.C. on August 6, 1866. Howard and his wife had had one son and seven daughters by 1863.

George Thomas Howard Family Papers, 1822–1909, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Howard Lackman, The Early Years in Texas of George Thomas Howard (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1952). Howard Lackman, "The Howard-Neighbors Controversy: A Cross Section of West Texas Indian Affairs," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 25 (1952).


  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Indian Agents
  • Politics and Government

Time Periods:

  • Republic of Texas

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

Howard Lackman, “Howard, George Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 31, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.