Houston: the Legend of Texas (Gone to Texas) (1986) 

 

 

 

Director:     Peter Levin.

Starring:      Sam Elliott (Sam Houston), Claudia Christian (Eliza Allen), Devon Ericson (Tiana Rogers), Michael C. Gwynne (Mosely Baker), Donald Moffat (Col. John Allen), John Quade (Sen. Stansbury), Ned Romero (Chief John Jolley), William Russ (William Travis), John P. Ryan (David Burnett), James Stephens (Stephen Austin), Richard Yniguez (Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna), Michael Beck (Jim Bowie), Bo Hopkins (Col. Sidney Sherman), G.D. Spradlin (President Andrew Jackson), Ritch Brinkley (Sen. Buckley), John de Lancie (John Van Fossen).

Made for TV.

story of Sam Houston (including battle at the Alamo and the battle of San Jacinto)

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

"The story you are about to see is based on documented fact.  But as with most larger than life historical figures, time has blurred fact into folklore and folklore into history. However it is read, Sam Houston came this way and left his mark for all time."

Some of the men fighting with Sam Houston are huddled around a campfire wondering if they will fight tomorrow or not.  One thing fore sure, however, is that they are tired of running around without doing any fighting.  Houston is thinking that tomorrow the Republic of Texas will be born or they will be defeated.  He thinks about the lives lost in the earlier battles of Goliad and the Alamo. He tells a friend that the Mexican General Santa Anna thinks they won't fight because the Texans have been running for 36 days.

Two men capture a courier for Santa Anna and bring him to Houston.  of the various messages the man carries, one is from General Cos:  "Will arrive 531 infantry near Harrisburg, closing in on San Jacinto."  The Mexicans will be arriving tomorrow. 

Gallatin, north central Tennessee. January, 1829.  Thirty-six year old Sam Houston has just married nineteen year old Eliza Allen, daughter of Col. John Allen.  At the time he was Governor of Texas.  A messenger, John Van Fossen, from the recently elected but not yet inaugurated Gen. Andrew Jackson brings a wedding present of four beautiful short glasses for the bride and groom.  Jackson has also sent a whiskey jug to the couple.  And now Sam wants to party.  He opens the whiskey jug and starts pouring drinks.  His bride and his in-laws don't approve of this drinking and dancing ho-down music.  Col. Allen says Houston was a great men, "But to my family and to me, he was, I must say, a lousy bastard and I sincerely wish I'd shot him through the heart the first time he came into my home."

On her wedding night, Eliza goes into the bedroom and cries. Houston lays on a bed in another room.  The next morning they don't speak to each other.  Sam comes to her to talk and to apologize for frightening her on her wedding night.  He figures she was just shy last night as this was her first time.  But Eliza says it wasn't her first and she is still in love with the man.  Houston is stunned.  He asks her:  "Why have you engaged in this mockery?"  She says she is sorry and that her father wanted more power and influence and she couldn't refuse.  Now Sam knows that she never loved him. 

And now Houston gives back Col. Allen's daughter to her father and mother.  Col. Allen is outraged, but the Governor says that the marriage was never consummated and he will avow that it does not exist.  Because of the scandal that followed, Houston tells his staff that he is giving up his office as governor.  Col. Williams tells him he can't resign.  Andrew Jackson is depending on him for political leadership in Tennessee, but Houston says it's decided.  Furthermore, he is leaving Tennessee forever. 

On a river boat, Houston and a buddy of his plays cards with another man.  Houston is depressed and hangs his head low.  He loses the pot and willing gives it over to the winner, but the winner tells him to keep the pot, because he is not going to beat down a man who has already been beaten down.  This makes Houston very angry and he draws his pistol while the other fellow can only draw a very big knife. Houston asks the man's name because history is going to want to know who Sam Houston killed.  Upon hearing the name, the other fellow sheaths his knife and apologizes for his criticisms for he has read about Houston's misfortune.  He says his name is Jim Bowie. 

The next day Bowie asks Houston to come to Texas.  That's where Bowie is going.  Bowie tells him they can make millions in Texas and Houston could become king.  Bowie adds that the Mexicans may have something to say about that, but Bowie assures him that "It's ours if we want it."  If you don't count the Indians, he says, there's only 5,000 people in Texas.  They could revolutionize the place in six months.  Houston replies that he is through with grand schemes, but Bowie keeps on pushing the idea of Texas.  He says there are lots of women in Texas for him.  But again Houston refuses.  He says he's going to live with the Cherokees. 

The Cherokee Nation on the Arkansas River.  (In an earlier part of his life Houston spent a few years with the Cherokee in Tennessee.  In the 1830s part of the Cherokee people known as the Cherokee Nation were settled in today's Tahlequah, Oklahoma.)  The Cherokee Nation chief greets Houston warmly, especially since he believes that Houston was sent to them with divine intent.  He says the tribe is in trouble and they need Houston's advise.  A half-Cherokee woman named Tiana Rogers says she is the cousin of chief John Jolly.  Her own father was white.  And it was Raven (Houston) who told them they should move to the place on the Arkansas River or be devastated by the whites for the gold in their territory. 

Soon Raven becomes one again with the Cherokee.  He grows a long beard.  Tiana says the Cherokee love him and so does she.  They walk with Houston's arm around her shoulder and she snuggled up to his side.  And because of the Raven's "magic" abilities as being a peace maker, there reigns quiet between the Cherokee, Osage and Choctaw.   Raven says he has had a vision of all the tribes uniting and taking Tejas (Spanish for Texas) from the Mexicans.  They can then built a free and independent Indian Nation.

The Chief says that it seems that Raven really wants to be the King of Tejas.  And if he is to be king, he needs a queen and indicates Tiana as the prospective bride.  Raven is a bit drunk.  He standd up and shouts that he swears his plan will work.  The Chief tries to make light of it, so Raven grabs him by the shirt, shakes him and pushes him hard against the wall saying that if they don't do this, the white men will come and take everything from them.  This infuriates the Indians and they give Raven a good beat down.  Then then throw him into his cabin.  Tiana is there to help him over to the bed and to give him a glass of water. 

Later Houston says:  "I feel like such a fool; such a failure. How can you love such a man?"  She tells him:  "You are the eagle, Sam.  Learn to fly and to trust your heart."   Sam kisses Tiana. 

Army representatives are going to pay the Cherokee for half the land of Tennessee not with gold, but with script.  The chief and Raven are furious.  They know the script is worthless.  Houston tells the officer that he ought to have the Indians kill the soldiers.  Because of this incident, Houston suddenly wakes up.  He gets his fire back and is going to Washington City to plead the case of the Cherokee.  He says goodbye to Tiana, who says at that time she didn't know that she would be with him only one more time in her life.

Washington City.  March 1832.  The enemies of the Cherokee and Indians in general, make up all kinds of lies about Sam Houston, saying he is going take the script and cash it in for gold for himself and he wants to be the only chief Indian agent.  And coming down the street in a carriage is the chief enemy of the Cherokee, Rep. Stansbury of Ohio.  When the carriage stops and Stansbury gets out, a furious Sam Houston comes over to him to demand an apology.  The man won't fight a duel, so Sam attacks the man beating him with his cane. 

Sam goes to see President Andrew Jackson and accuses him of deliberately cheating the Cherokee out of their payment for their lands.  Jackson gets really angry and tells him he better show him and the office of the presidency more respect.  Jackson says:  "You damn fool!  You're as crazy as I am."  A messenger comes in to tell Jackson and Houston that Congress has decided that ". . . Mr. Houston shall stand trial for contempt in the beating of Mr. Stansbury.  You, sir, will gobefore the entire House of Representatives."

Instead of being upset, Houston says this is a "fortunate opportunity".  He wanted to speak on behalf of the Cherokee and now he can speak directly to the entire House of Representatives. For this chance, he would gladly risk several years in prison.  Jackson gives him some money to go get a haircut and shave and buy some appropriate clothing.  This Houston does.  And he has taken Francis Scott Key as his attorney. 

Stansbury makes his accusation against Houston for the beating.  Jackson's right hand man tells the President says that sometimes the audience for Houston breaks out in applause and at times it's very silent in the House.  Houston has the audience spellbound.  He's got them thinking that Stansbury deserved the beating.  At the final end of his speech a woman in the gallery sends him a dozen red roses. 

Houston is the talk of the town now.  Jackson has a little get together with Houston and some of the congressmen in his office.  He tells Houston to go to Texas because now the province has enough population to provide an army and all they need now is a man to lead them.  Houston likes the idea and everyone in the room toasts to Sam Houston of Texas. 

Jackson tells Vincent, a US Marshall, to stick with Houston at least until he gets to the Red River and don't let him get into any more scrapes.  He wants no more mishaps for Sam Houston. 

So the Marshall rides with Houston and his black slave.  As narrator, he says he liked the man's nerve.  On the way Houston stopped to see Tiana.  The two hugged and kissed.  Vincent says after they left his wife behind, Houston never talked about her again and never looked back.

They reach the Red River and Vincent says goodbye to Houston.  But not before Houston gets Vincent to trade horses with him.  Vincent agrees and Houston crosses the river on a beautiful white horse that used to belong to US Marshall Vincent. 

Houston stays in a room above a tavern.  One night in the tavern he tells the people his name and that he is setting up a law firm here in Nacogdoches, Tejas.  Then he buys everybody a drink. 

Houston tries a case where his client, Thomas Rusk, had his whole savings taken from him by the plaintiffs, who are charging Houston's client with beating them.  Sam says that it is an injustice that his client and not the two thieves are on trial.  In the USA his client would not be charged in his pursuit of getting his money back.  He keeps on with this approach and it infuriates the Mexican judge and the Mexican prosecutor.  He says that Mexico tolerates such thieves in its lands, which the USA would not tolerate.  The defense attorney stands up for Mexico by denouncing his own clients as thieves from the USA.  He is so persuasive about the evil of his clients, that Houston rests his case. 

San Felipe de Austin.  Houston comes to see Stephen Austin.  Sam wants to buy some Tejas land, but Austin is suspicious of his motives.  Austin believes that Andrew Jackson has sent him down to Tejas to take the land from Mexico.  Houston, of course, denies that claim.  He says he is just buying land in Tejas for some American investors and he too would like to buy some land here.  Austin seems very loyal to Mexico and doesn't want to disturb the relationship.  The American-Mexican also tells Houston that if he is going to buy land in Tejas he has to be a Catholic.  Austin adds that he wants Tejas to be a free state in Mexico.  Houston says that's only a half-step.  Texas should be a free and independent republic.   As Houston says goodbye to Austin, he says that he will find someone to instruct him in Catholicism.   

Houston is baptized into the Catholic faith. 

Two years later.  September, 1835.  There is a meeting of Tejas leaders of the colonists.  William Travis says that they are all agreed to prepare for war with Mexico.  Houston says that not all are agreed to this idea.  So Travis takes out a Mexican document saying that Mexico is sending the brother-in-law of the President of Mexico Santa Anna, Gen. Cos, to Tejas and that "These Texans will be ground down".  Houston says they should send a petition to Santa Anna.  David Burnett says that Santa Anna doesn't care one bit for petitions.  A man named Tom Fannin suggests that Houston is a coward.  This makes Houston very angry, but he is held back.  Houston says that the soldiers of Santa Anna are trained killers, whereas all the Texans have are new recruits.  He then asks Burnett how will he coordinate his cavalry with his foot soldiers?  Burnett says that Jim Fannin has had some training at West Point.   

Austin comes over and says that Santa Anna threw him in jail when he asked that Tejas be an independent state within Mexico and now the dictator says that there will be no more immigration to Tejas.  Furthermore, the forces of Santa Anna have subdued Zacatecas, Mexico for wanting to be free and has had executed thousands of his own countrymen.  He says he won't criticize Houston's call for moderation, but the situation is such that they must have war. 

Gonzales, Tejas, October 2, 1835.  The Texans come a running to resist the incoming Mexican troops.  An officer comes up to demand that the Texicans surrender their cannon to him, but instead, the Texicans fire the cannon at the Mexican troops.  The Mexicans now charge the Texicans.  They are met, however, with such a high volley of fire that the Mexicans have to retreat.

San Antonio and the Mission Fortress, the Alamo. December 1835.  Jim Bowie quietly goes over the walls of the Alamo.  He is followed by a group of Texicans.  Other Texicans come right through a big opening in the wall.  Jim Fannin leads another group.  They are spotted and a battle breaks out.  Following a cannon burst, the men charge the defensive barrier set up on one of the streets.  There are just too many Texicans in the fortress and the Mexicans have to retreat.  The Texicans capture the cannon once belonging to the Mexicans. 

The Mexicans surrender and the Mexican flag is brought down to be replaced by a flag of the Republic of Texas.  Later Houston comes for a visit.  He is not pleased with what he hears.  The Mexican army prisoners taken were released after signing a pledge to never again fight in Texas.  Houston says these same men will come back, probably with Santa Anna leading them.  Houston recommends that they burn down the mission because they can't possibly defend the place.  The other Texans, however, disagree with Houston and say they will keep the Alamo mission.   Houston says if General Cos couldn't hold the Alamo against the small group of Texaicns, what can the Texicans do to hold back an army of thousands of Mexican soldiers?  

March 6, 1836.  At the Alamo, the Republic of Texas flag is brought down and replaced with the Mexican Flag. 

Washington on the Brazos.  The group of Texas leaders hears the letter of appeal for help from William Travis at the Alamo.  In his letter he says he is surrounded by a thousand or more Mexican soldiers and can't hold out too much longer.  Burnett and others jump up and say let's go.  Houston stands up and tells the men that the Alamo is three days of hard riding from here.  And Santa Anna has the place surrounded.  They cannot possibly rescue Travis.  Houston says they have to declare a Texas government and then raise an army that can stand up to from 6 to 7 thousand Mexican soldiers.  Burnett calls Houston a coward and leaves the building.  Houston comes after him.  He asks Burnett not to do this. 

Houston says he and some of his men will ride over to Gonzales and get as many men as they can.  Then they can combine these men with the 400 men under Fannin.  Then they can ride to the relief of the Alamo. 

The Mexicans start burning the bodies of the "rebels".  The Mexicans use a black man to identify the fallen rebels.  The fellow identifies Col. Travis, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.  A firing squad executes a line of five men who surrendered. 

While Houston oversee the signing up of more Texicans into the army, a man comes to get Houston.  He takes Houston over to the surviving woman and a child plus the black slave from the Alamo.  The woman tells Houston that:  "The Alamo, sir.  They're all dead, everyman.  They let us go so we would come here and tell you.  Santa Anna has 6,000 men.  He'll raise this town and every other in Texas that won't surrender to him." 

Houston says they have 374 soldiers and Fanning has another 400 at Goliad.  He plans to pull back to the Brazos and keep themselves between Santa Anna and the convention.  They have to have time to recruit more men.  He gives instructions to a Mr. Smith to burn down Gonzales after they leave. 

The men, women and children leave Gonzales.  The buildings are set on fire. 

Houston captures some renegades looting and raping.  He hangs the four of them. 

Col. Sherman and some other men tell Houston that they have to fight here and now.  They are tired of running.  Too many of their men are deserting.  A messenger brings news that all the 400 Texicans at Goliad have been captured.  And Fannin is badly wounded.  Col. Sherman reiterates that they have to fight now.  Houston says they will draw the Mexican supply lines ought so much that they will snap at will. 

Goliad.  Palm Sunday 1836.  In the hospital Fannin is shot to death.  Then the guns of other Mexican soldiers are fired to kill the rest of the Texicans in the hospital.  The healthy soldiers are marched out into an wide open area.  Then they are shot down by the Mexican soldiers.  Some men flee, but are shot while running away. 

Houston threatens the men causing dissension in the ranks that they will be executed and buried in the graves he has just had dug for the occasion. 

Thomas Rusk brings Houston a letter from the President of Texas Burnett.  Houston is furious that his nemesis was chosen as the president.  Burnett is ordering Houston immediately to stand and fight.  If he refuses, Rusk is to relief Houston of his command.  Houston says he won't permit that.  Santa Anna now is in San Felipe and has burned the town.  They are not three days away from the Texicans.  He goes on to say:  "This army has only one fight in them and I'm going to pick the time and the place for that one battle." 

A group of Louisiana volunteers arrives at the camp and Houston is very happy to see them.  He has them march straight down among his troops to show them what real fighting men look like. 

Santa Anna is moving across the Brazos to Harrisburg.  They are after the President of Texas and other political leaders.  So Houston decides to march to the rescue.  The men will march through the night.  The men are happy to find that they are moving south to Harrisburg because they figure now they are going to fight. 

The Plain of San Jacinto.  April 20, 1836.  On their own Sherman and Lamar and some of their men are fighting with the Mexican cavalry.  Houston chews Col Sherman out for this, but congratulates Lamar for being a courageous fighter.

The next morning Mr.. Smith comes to tell Houston that Gen. Cos has reinforced Santa Anna's army withy 500 men.  Houston takes a look at the situation with his telescope.  It looks like Houston is going to decide to fight.  He says to his scout:  "Mr. Smith.  It's going to be a good day to fight a battle." 

The Texicans start moving forward , some on horseback, and some walking.  Houston tells his men to remember the Alamo and Goliad.  The Mexicans discover the presence of the Texicans and start firing at them.  Houston has his cannon fire a few shots and then gives his cavalry permission to move in on the Mexicans. The Mexican soldiers start panicking and running away.  Houston is knocked off his horse during the battle. He gets on another man's horse.  He tells his men to stop and fire.  Houston and his horse go down and Houston is wounded, but he gets back on still another horse.  Gen. Santa Anna rides away from his camp. 

Now it's a full panic and retreat by the Mexicans.  A Texican kills the Mexican drummer boy.  Houston finds out that Santa Anna is gone, so he sends some men out to find him.  Houston lays down under a large tree while his wounds are tended to.  Sam screams out for Santa Anna.  The men say they count 630 Mexicans dead with 600 plus prisoners..  The Texicans only have 6 dead and 24 wounded. 

Three men find Santa Anna but they don't know it's him.  But when they put the prisoner with the other prisoners, the men all stand up in his honor.  The Texicans realize it's Santa Anna.  The Mexican general is taken to talk with Houston, who calls him a butcher and the son of Satan because of what happened at the Alamo and Goliad.  The men urge Houston to kill the general, but Houston is more interested in getting Santa Anna to sign a statement to his generals to move south below the Rio Grande.  President Burnett comes to congratulate Houston on his brilliant victory. 

Burnett asks where is Santa Anna's body?  Houston says it's over in the tent, but he'll have him walk over here to meet Burnett.  Burnett can't believe Houston didn't kill him.  Houston says he needs the president of Mexico because there are still three more Mexican armies in Texas.  "We are in grave danger."  Burnett says that Houston is relieved of his command.  The men say no, no. Burnett now turns the job over to Rusk. 

The men try to put Houston on the steam boat on the river, but Burnett refuses to take the general aboard.  The captain wants Houston to come aboard and speaks with Burnett. The men start yelling for Houston to be brought aboard and Burnett just walks away from everyone.  Houston says:  "Texas.  She's yours now boys.  Keep her free." 

Houston survived his wounds and became President of Texas and he succeeded in getting Texas into the United States.  And then it all seemed to be undone by the civil war.  He was elected twice to the presidency of Texas and served 13 years as a US Senator from Texas.  He was the Governor of Texas twice, but when he refused to take an oath to the Confederacy he was dismissed from office.  He died in Huntsville, Texas in 1863. 

 

Good movie.  There's enough information provided to make the story really interesting to watch.  I had not heard before of Houston's connection to the Cherokee and the annulment of his first marriage after he learns that his wife only married him because her father pushed her to.  She is in love with another man and never loved Sam.  It was also interesting that like George Washington in the American Revolution he kept losing a lot of men by desertion and kept having to work hard to get new recruits.  Sam Elliott (as Sam Houston) did a great job of acting the part.  He looked mean enough and crazy enough to be the man that Sam Houston was.  I also liked the character of Andrew Jackson, another man with a bad temper, who says to Houston.  "You damn fool!  You're as crazy as I am." 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

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