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Craddock: East Texan succeeded Houston in office

Dec. 2, 2017 at 10:22 p.m.


When Sam Houston was removed as governor of Texas in 1861, he was replaced by an East Texan.

Edward Clark, a colorful Marshall lawyer serving as Houston's lieutenant governor, was born April 1, 1815, in New Orleans. But he was nobody's fool.

In 1840 he married Lucy Long from Alabama, but she died just months after their wedding. Clark relocated to East Texas, opening a law practice at Marshall. In 1849 he married a Marshall woman, Martha Melissa, and the marriage produced four children.

Clark was a delegate to the 1845 Texas Constitutional Convention and served as a state legislator and senator.

When the Mexican War broke out, he joined the U.S. military and marched off to war.

Storm clouds

In October 1846 Clark wrote his mother from Monterrey, Mexico:

"I suppose you are by this time quite anxious to hear from (brother) Elijah and myself again … We engaged the enemy in the lower part of the city and fought them from about 11 o'clock in the morning until nearly sunset. If we had not been taken out of the city that night there would have been an unconditional surrender of the place."

The East Texan was cited for his bravery at Monterrey. At war's end he returned to civilian life in the Piney Woods, then became Texas secretary of state from 1853-1857. In the state's 1859 elections, Sam Houston was elected governor and Clark won the lieutenant governor's post.

As the North and South clashed over such issues as slavery and states' rights, Texans began to talk about secession from the Union. Gov. Houston vehemently opposed secession, saying it would be "suicide for Texas."

However, in February 1861 Texans voted to leave the Union for the new Confederate States of America. The vote was 46,153 to 14,747 to secede.

In March all elected Texas officials were required to take an oath to support the Confederacy. Houston refused, sitting alone in the capitol basement in Austin and lawmakers upstairs called his name to sign the loyalty oath. The governor's post was declared vacated.

On March 18, 1861, Edward Clark was sworn in as governor of Texas. He supported secession and quickly set about arranging the state's defenses, changing postal and tax systems under the Confederacy, and organizing resources to provide needed military supplies and arms.

A Harrison County courthouse marker commemorating Clark's time as governor notes his "hardest job was to convince Texans, the best horsemen in the world, that all could not ride in cavalry but some must be foot soldiers in infantry."

'Perpetual foes'

One of Clark's earliest acts as governor was to raise a cavalry unit, but it wasn't to fight the Union troops.

"Having 1,700 miles of frontier, with the ungoverned Mexicans on the west, who bear no love to us," he wrote Confederate President Jeff Davis, "and the Indians on the north and west, who are our perpetual foes, we were forced to take some steps for immediate protection."

When Clark ran for a full term as governor in late 1861, he lost by 124 votes to Francis Lubbock. Clark accepted the election results, became a Confederate colonel and organized the 14th Texas Infantry Regiment in April 1862.

Clark again showed bravery in battle. Wounded in the battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, in 1864, he was discharged from the military because of his injury.

After the war he resumed his law practice in Marshall, where he died May 4, 1880, at the age of 65.

— Van "Lost Cause" Craddock's latest book is "East Texas Tales, Book 2," available at Barron's, Gregg County Historical Museum and East Texas Oil Museum. His column appears Sunday. Email vancraddock@sbcglobal.net

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