Washington, Alexander Hamilton (1805–1868)

By: Howard N. Martin

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: October 1, 1995

Alexander Hamilton Washington, planter, lawyer, Indian agent, and Confederate Army officer, was born on March 5, 1805, the son of Warner and Sarah (Rootes) Washington, Jr., at Audley, a farm near Berryville, Clarke County, Virginia. His great-grandfather was Col. John Washington, an uncle of George Washington. Washington grew up in Clarke County, worked on his father's farms, and later helped to manage the plantation, Llewellyn, which his father purchased in October 1818. About 1838 he moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, to practice law. There he lived with his sister, Mary Herbert Beazley, and her family. In 1840 A. G. A. Beazley, Mary's husband, gave Washington money and land to invest for the family in Texas. When Washington exchanged this property for the William G. Logan league, now in San Jacinto County, he took the title in his own name with the intention of giving the property to his sister at his death. He made a will to that effect on May 19, 1860.

He developed one of the area's largest plantations on the Logan league, which lies in a great horseshoe bend of the Trinity River about forty miles north of Liberty. He permitted the village of Coushatta chief Colita to occupy part of his plantation near the river. The Coushattas' customary dress of long deerskin blouses prompted river travelers to call this place Shirt-tail Bend. Washington's neighbors considered him eccentric, and by the eve of the Civil War, although the census shows his worth at almost $74,000 in real and personal property, he was several years behind in paying his taxes. He built a road from Drew's Landing, three miles above his house on the Trinity River, to Lynchburg, a port on Galveston Bay, opening the region around him for settlement and stimulating the export of cotton and other commerce.

Washington volunteered for the Confederate Army in December 1862 and was commissioned an aide with the rank of major on the staff of Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder, commander of the military district of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Washington was assigned to supervise government works from Polk County northward to Houston and Anderson counties; his principal duties were to defend the lower valley of the Trinity River, to construct flatboats and move supplies down the Trinity to Confederate forces along the Texas coast, and to use the Alabama and Coushatta Indian tribes in his activities. After the capture of Galveston by Union forces in October 1862, Washington's plantation became an inland Confederate naval station. Magruder recaptured Galveston on New Year's Day 1863, and the naval station on the Logan league was abandoned in April 1863. Major Washington continued to serve as an advisor to Magruder until his resignation on August 28, 1864.

At the end of the war he was nearly bankrupt and in declining health. Though he had held fifty-one slaves in 1864, he had to take large loans after the war to keep his farm in operation. His final public service was a tour of duty as agent for the Coushatta Indians in 1866–67. In 1868 Washington sold his plantation to William B. Denson, who with his family moved into the house with Washington. Washington, who never married, wrote a second will on June 6, 1868, bequeathing the bulk of his property to Denson in return for settlement of his debts. Washington died on June 30, 1868, and was buried in an unmarked grave on the Logan league. His estate remained in probate for two years and became the focus of a series of trials. Denson disputed the first will, but in 1873 Mary Beazley finally established the 1860 will as valid. Washington wrote several patriotic Southern poems that were published in 1874.

Francis D. Allan, comp., Allan's Lone Star Ballads: A Collection of Southern Patriotic Songs, Made during Confederate Times (Galveston: J. D. Sawyer, 1874). Curtis Chappelear, "Early Landowners in the Benjamin Harrison and Robert Carter Nicholas Tracts," Proceedings of the Clarke County Historical Association 7 (1947). Emma Haynes, The History of Polk County (MS, Sam Houston Regional Library, Liberty, Texas, 1937; rev. ed. 1968). Howard N. Martin, "Coushatta Pawns of the Texas Colonists," in Pictorial History of Polk County, Texas, 1846–1960 (Livingston, Texas: Heritage Committee of the Polk County Bicentennial Commission and the Polk County Historical Committee, 1976). Howard N. Martin, "Texas Redskins in Confederate Gray," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 70 (April 1967). Harriet Smither, "The Alabama Indians of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 36 (October 1932). The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. A. H. Washington, "The Friendly Indians of Trinity River, Texas," Texas Almanac, 1861. Gifford E. White, 1840 Citizens of Texas (2 vols., Austin, 1983–84). Alice Mitchell Wright, An Abstract of Biographical Data in the Texas Supreme Court Reports, 1857–1874 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1937).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Indian Agents
  • Politics and Government
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War

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

Howard N. Martin, “Washington, Alexander Hamilton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/washington-alexander-hamilton.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: