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When Sam Houston Broke His Own Rules

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This quote is SO good, but I need to give y'all some historical context. Although Sam Houston stressed the need for discipline among his soldiers during the Texas revolution, Sam sometimes joined with them in bending the rules. He and his troops commandeered cattle from farms as they moved through Texas but he gave strict orders for the men not to touch pigs and chickens which, unlike the wild bovines, were the cherished personal property of families. Soldier Frank Sparks wanted a break from beef and, discovering an abandoned barnyard full of chickens and hogs and a smokehouse packed with bacon, told several friends that he was going to cook a regular dinner. They warned him that Houston would punish them but he told them that he didn't care and said that he'd take the blame. And now the quote:


"I told them that I would take all the blame, and clear them. They soon agreed to this, for none of us had tasted any bread for some time. We had nothing but beef, and that cooked only one way--roasted by the fire.(we had no vessels to cook in)--and without any salt, too.

I went to work and killed twelve grown chickens, dressed them, and put them in a large wash pot; I also put in some sliced bacon. I then made an oven and a large skillet of cornbread. I took six of the chickens, and put them in a dinner pot, with at least half a gallon of rich gravy, and set it away, together with the oven of bread. By this time the beeves had been butchered and hung up, and I called the men to come to dinner. The yard was covered with feathers, and the men said to me, 'Ain't you afraid Houston will punish you if you don't take those feathers away?' I said, 'No.' Well, we all did justice to that dinner.

It was getting late in the evening. I got up on the rail fence, and pretty soon I saw the army coming. Houston, Rusk, Burleson, Sherman and some of the other officers came up and dismounted. I opened the gate, and said, 'Gentlemen officers, I wish to see you in the house.' I led the way, and they all followed me in. I saw Houston knit his brows when he saw the feathers in the yard. When they were all in, I closed the door, and addressed General Houston in the following way, 'General, I have disobeyed orders; when we arrived here, I found everything deserted and we were hungry, for we have had nothing to eat, except beef; so I killed some chickens and baked some bread, and we had a good dinner.' He looked at me as if he were looking through me, and said, 'Sparks, I will have to punish you. You knew it was against orders; I will have to punish you.' I said, 'General, I saved you some,' and I took the lids off the vessels that contained the chicken and the bread, and told them to help themselves. Rusk drew his knife first, and all the others followed suit, except Houston, who had not taken his eyes off me all this time. Finally he said, 'Sparks, I hate to punish you.' I said, 'General, I will submit to whatever you put upon me.' Rusk said, 'General, if you don't come on we'll eat all the dinner. We have not had such a dinner since we left home. Sparks is a good cook.'

Then the General drew his knife, and attacked the dinner. After he had eaten a short time, General Rusk said, 'General Houston, it is a maxim in law that 'he who partakes of stolen property, knowing it to be such, is guilty with the thief.'' General Houston replied, 'No one wants any of your law phrases.' After the meal General Houston said, 'Sparks, I'll not punish you for this offense, but if you are guilty of it the second time I will double the punishment.'"


----- Recollections of S. F. Sparks, extracted from the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, 1909

Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.

Posted : 11th February 2020 4:36 pm