In the gubernatorial campaign of 1857, Hardin It. Runnels, the nominee of the Democratic Party, was opposed by Sam Houston, who ran as an independent. Williamson S. Oldham, one of the proprietors of the Texas State Gazette, the principal Democratic paper in the State, joined actively in the campaign that resulted in the election of Runnels. On several occasions he met Houston in joint debate; the discussions were not particularly conducive to friendship, however much they increased the respect of the participants for one another's ability. During the early days of the Secession Convention, Houston became reconciled to Oldham,1 and their mutual respect ripened into friendship as is attested by the letters printed below. The originals of these letters are in possession of W. S. Oldham, of Austin, Texas, son of Williamson S. Oldham; they were copied by the undersigned. Excepting one sentence, the letters are in the handwriting of an amanuensis, but are signed by Sam Houston.

            In a volume, entitled Five Years in Texas, by Thomas North, the writer describes a review of Colonel Moore's regiment by General Houston as witnessed by himself.2 This anecdote is repeated by General Houston's latest biographer.3Who originated it is doubtful; it is attributed to Tom Ochiltree. North's claims as an eyewitness appear to be an unwarranted assumption.


            During the first year of the war Colonel Moore had organized a splendid regiment of eleven hundred young men, volunteers mostly from Galveston,4 finely equipped, of which Sam Houston, Jr., was a member. . . . It was as fine a regiment as went to the war from any section of the country. The Colonel was justly proud of them, and fond of exhibiting their superior drill and "dress" to the public, and particularly to old military men. . . . Before leaving the island for the seat of war the Colonel invited General Houston to review his regiment. Now Judge Campbell, of one of the judicial districts of Texas, and Williamson S. Oldham, member of the Confederate Congress, had been the old General's bitter enemies during the canvass on secession. They had followed him night and day through the State. On the day set for him to review and put the regiment through some military evolutions, the General was on hand at the hour and place. This called out a large concourse of people to witness the performance. . . . All eyes were now upon him, some of them dimmed with tears, and many a, throat of soldier and spectator was choking down feeling unutterable—the writer with the rest. Not a word had yet passed the General's lips, but now the Colonel passed him his own sword and told him to proceed. Then came

            "Shoulder arms."

            "Right about face." The regiment now facing the rear, the General cried out in stentorian tones of sarcasm: "Do you see anything of Judge Campbell or Williamson S. Oldham there?" "No," was the emphatic reply. `Well," said the General, "they are not found at the front, nor even at the rear."

            "Right about; front face."

            "Eyes right. Do you see anything of Judge Campbell's son here?" "No, he has gone to Paris to school," responded the regiment.

            "Eyes Left.  Do you see  anything of young Sam Houston here?" "Yes," was the thrilling response.

            “Eyes front. Do you see anything of old Sam Houston here?" By this time the climax of excitement was reached, and regiment and citizens together responded, in thunder tones, "Yes!" and then united in a triple round of three times three and a tiger for the old hero. Thereupon he returned the Colonel his sword, with the remark, "There, Colonel, that will do, I leave you to manage the rest of the maneuvering," and retired from dress parade.


            That the incident set forth above is imaginary appears also from the following brief extract from the history of the Second Texas Infantry:

            During the first four months, the regiment was quartered in cotton compresses and warehouses in the city of Galveston, and six hours every day, except Sunday, were spent in the most arduous drilling. . . .

            In December, 1861, the regiment was moved from Galveston to quarters near Houston. . . While at this place the venerable and majestic form of General Sam Houston was frequently to be seen moving among the men. He had a kind and encouraging word for every one, and claimed to be a private in Company C, commanded by his friend Dr. Ashbel Smith.

            At last orders came for the regiment to report to General Van Dorn in Arkansas. The day before its departure the ladies presented the regiment with a beautiful silk battle-flag, which was received with the usual flow of oratory. At the same time General Houston addressed the regiment in a fatherly talk. . . .

            On March 12, 1862, the regiment went by rail to Beaumont . . ." 

                                                                                                 E. W. Winkler.

Letter One


                                                                                    Independence April 5th 1862.


Hon. Wm. S. Oldham,

            My dear Sir, in hopes that my letter may reach you, before you leave Richmond, I take pleasure in addressing you, as a Senator from Texas. I have not, as yet, written to any other Senator, or Member.

            The subject on which I address you, I doubt not you will properly appreciate. My son Sam Houston volunteered for during the war, in Capt. Ashbel Smith's Company, in the regiment commanded by Col. Moore. He was absent at the time from home on business, when the company was partly raised, and organized. The offices were all filled, and no reorganization took place after the company was completed. Sam is 18 years of age, 6 feet high, and rather a well-made and good looking boy.

            He was two sessions at Col. Allen's Military school at Bastrop, and previous to that, he had been at Baylor University. He is a very good scholar, his habits are good, and he is ardently devoted, to the cause in which he is engaged, as well as to the life of a soldier.

            He was offered a situation of Brevet Lieut., if he would consent to be transferred, and be stationed in Galveston, but he preferred the glory of an active, and immediate campaign. If you can procure him a Lieutenantcy, or any promotion that you may think proper, you will confer upon me an enduring obligation, and I trust, and believe, he will never disgrace his patron. I will be happy to hear from you in reply to this. I doubt not, but that all the Representatives from this State, will cheerfully cooperate with you, in obtaining the situation desired for my son.

            I will not close this communication, without assuring you, that I was gratified at your election to the senate, and at far as I understand, your senatorial action, I entirely approve it. Your advocacy of free trade, I regard not only as a statesman like measure, but indispensable to the wants, and condition of the Country, and I most heartily wish you success. It has been a subject of wonderment to me that it was not proclaimed, at the inauguration, of the Provisional Government of the Confederacy.

            I am at this place on business, having recovered from my long indisposition. So far as I can hear amongst the people, you will be sustained in the course which you have taken. You have my sincere wishes, for your success, and happiness.

                                                            Very truly your friend

                                                                                                Sam Houston

                        My amanuensis made a mistake and signed my name.


                                                                                                Sam Houston


I could have procured any number of recommendations in favor of my son, had I thought it would be deemed necessary. But Col Wm. P. Rogers assured me it was only necessary to address you myself.

Letter Two


                                                                                                Huntsville, Feb. 24th 1863.

Hon. William S. Oldham.


Dear Sir,

            During the recess in the last session of congress, I wrote you a letter, but presume it never reached you. My object in writing to you was to congratulate you upon your course in the senate. Your advocacy of the measure of receiving foreign goods duty free, I regard as a piece of pure statesmanship; and had that measure been adopted at the commencement of the provisional government our situation would have been infinitely better than it now it. It would have been offering an equivalent to those who might risk running the blockade. It was a wise measure and ought now to be adopted. I can perceive nothing but good resulting from the measure, and certainly no harm.

            In addition to this, your opposition to the conscript Law, on the ground that Congress had not the power to pass it, argued on your part, that stifling honesty of purpose which distinguishes the statesman from the demagogue and time server. I presume your opposition was not very agreeable to the Administration.

            Sincerely do I hope that you may long continue to represent Texas in the Senate.

            There is a young gentleman of this neighborhood, now a nurse in one of the hospitals in Richmond, whose name is James Harrison. He was wounded in his left hand in a night march, when he fell, and endeavoring to recover himself, his hand accidentally was on the muzzle of the gun, when it went off accidentally wounding him. It is the desire of his friends that he should obtain a discharge. It is understood, that he could obtain one if he could hire a substitute. If he is rendered unfit for service, it is but fair that he should receive his discharge. He has a servant there with him. Since he left home one of his negroes has killed another and ran away. His mules on his plantation took a distemper and are nearly all dead. Mr. Harrison is a young gentleman who graduated at Austin College. He is of most respectable connexions. His uncle is a representative from Cherokee county in the Legislature; his brother-in-law Mr. Rhodes, sends him a certificate of deposit with Smith, Walker, & Co, of this place for $1,500. They are perfectly responsible gentlemen, and if needful may I ask you to have the kindness to aid him in negotiating the certificate. I will also write to Hon. P. W. Grey in relation to Mr. Harrison.

            If it is convenient for you to send me some sketches of the debates in Congress and any other news, I would be much obliged to you.

                                                            I am truly your sincere friend,

                                                                                                Sam Houston



1 “Hon. Williamson S. Oldham," by E. Fontaine, in De Bow's Review, XXXVIII, 876.

2 Five Years in Texas; or What You Did Not Hear During the War,. . . pp. 95-98.

3 Williams, Sam Houston and the War of Independence in Texas, 367-70.

4  Company F only was raised in Galveston County.

 5 Comprehensive History of Texas, II, 577-8.

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