Happy Columbus Day!
What the Hell Happened on Sam Houston’s Wedding Night?
By the age of 36, Sam Houston had lived among the Cherokee Indians, sustained serious injuries from his service in the War of 1812, and had risen to the rank of major general in the Tennessee militia. For an encore, he served two terms in Congress and had won the governorship of Tennessee. Houston’s mentor, Andrew Jackson, strongly urged him to find a bride thinking it would enhance his image.
Houston set his sights on Eliza Allen, a beautiful 20-year-old woman who was the daughter of a Tennessee aristocrat.
They were married at a lovely candlelit ceremony and guests marveled at the beautiful bride who gazed lovingly upon her handsome groom. The newlyweds then spent the night in a specially prepared honeymoon suite.
Something dreadful happened that night which remains a mystery to this day.
Two days later, at the home of Martha Martin, Eliza watched her new husband outside engaging in a snowball fight with the Martin children. Martha joked that perhaps Eliza should go outside and help her husband. She was quite taken aback when Eliza said, “I wish they would kill him. Yes, I wish from the bottom of my heart that they would kill him.”
After only eleven weeks of marriage, Eliza fled.
He faced total ruin. The public saw this breakup as a betrayal. Was their governor some beast whose appetites drove a chaste, young woman from his bed? Was he a debaucher? In several Tennessee towns, he was burned in effigy. The failed marriage forced Houston’s resignation from office, after which he spiraled into an exile of hard drinking and aimless wandering.
Houston ultimately recovered and went on to become the “first President of Texas, a renowned patriot, a military hero, and a defender of the Union.” He remarried twice and fathered eight children.
To this day, however, the story of what happened on Sam Houston’s wedding night remains one of the great enigmas of the nineteenth century!
The Treacherous Robert Lincoln
It was well known that Mary Todd Lincoln was difficult. Author Michael Farquhar wrote that she alienated half the people she encountered. One of Lincoln’s advisors said, “This woman was to me a terror. She was imperious, proud, aristocratic…and bitter.”
She also spent money excessively, which was often a source of disagreement in her marriage. President Lincoln, who had frequently found himself on the receiving end of his wife’s tirades, was well aware of her shortcomings.
Mrs. Lincoln had endured a great deal of heartbreak in her lifetime, including the deaths of three children and the assassination of her husband. She was a difficult woman, but she was not insane.
Concerned about his future inheritance, her only surviving son, Robert, was especially disturbed by his mother’s lavish spending. The author describes Robert as “rigid and uptight, nothing like his more homespun dad.”
In 1875, Mrs. Lincoln was living in a Chicago hotel room when three men arrived unexpectedly.
They told her that she would have to accompany them immediately to the local courthouse, where a jury was waiting to judge her sanity. One of the men was Leonard Swett, a Chicago lawyer who had nominated her husband for president in 1960. He was now representing her son who had charged her with lunacy. “Your friends, with great unanimity, have come to the conclusion that the troubles you have been called to pass through have been too much and have produced mental illness.” he told her.
The other two men were uniformed officers, there to use force if necessary.
She even asked them to contact Robert, not yet knowing that he had initiated this fraud.
Swett then “informed Mrs. Lincoln that six doctors had already diagnosed insanity.”
Robert had paid off these doctors, along with other witnesses, to prove that his mother was insane. Mrs. Lincoln asked for her longtime lawyer who had been a friend of her husband, only to find that he too, had been paid off by her son.
Seventeen witnesses, including the six doctors, testified against her and she was declared insane. The next day, she was taken to a private asylum outside of Chicago.
The former First Lady continued to fight the charge from inside the asylum and ultimately won her freedom.
Needless to say, Mrs. Lincoln never forgave Robert for his betrayal.
And Finally, “A Short, Ugly Story”
In 1875, Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg named his daughter Ima.
As Always, This Is An Open Thread