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Rusk, Thomas J. (Thomas Jefferson), 1803-1857



Born on December 5, 1803, in South Carolina, Thomas Jefferson Rusk was trained as a lawyer and practiced in Georgia before losing a considerable fortune in a speculative mining venture. In hopes of tracking down the men who swindled him, Rusk followed them to Texas. Despite failing to recover his money, he decided to stay in Texas and settle in David Burnet's colony. He became increasingly involved in the movement to resist Mexican rule and thus joined the efforts in Gonzalez and San Antonio de Bexar.

Rusk relinquished his army post prior to the siege of the Alamo and became a key player in both the Texas Declaration of Independence and the revised Texas Constitution. The interim government chose Rusk as the new Secretary of War in 1836, and he fought with Sam Houston to defeat Santa Anna's Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. Subsequently he commanded Texas forces as Santa Anna's men were pushed back across the Rio Grande. In the late 1830s Rusk commanded the Texas militia as it fought to suppress the tribes of the Cherokee, Kickapoo, and Caddo, including the climactic Battle of Neches when most of the Texas Cherokees were pushed into Oklahoma

Returning to law, Rusk was elected Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 1838 and subsequently he headed the bar of the Republic of Texas and formed a renowned law firm with partner J. Pinckney Henderson.

A strong proponent of Texas annexation by the United States, Rusk served as President of the Convention of 1845. He was reunited with his old revolutionary cohort Sam Houston when the two men were elected to serve as the first U.S. Senators from the new state of Texas in 1846. His senate career included support of the Mexican War, Texas' territorial rights, new services and rates for the U.S. Postal Service, and efforts to extend a transcontinental rail line through Texas. In 1856 Rusk lost his beloved wife Mary and began to suffer from a tumor; he committed suicide on July 29, 1857.

Found in 25 Collections and/or Records:

W. G. Sharp collection

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.01831

Miscellaneous documents collected by W. G. Sharp relating to the history of Texas and San Augustine city and county. The materials concern slave and cotton trading, legal affairs, and the Civil War, and also include mentions of many famous Texans and Texas families.

Dates: 1817 - 1923

James Harper Starr papers

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.01469

James Harper Starr was a banker, physician, land agent, public official, and railroad official (1809-1890). Letters, letterpresses, diaries, memoranda books, legal and business papers, land books, financial papers, expense account books, military papers, commissions and appointments, and autobiographical sketches comprise the James Harper Starr Papers, which concern the career and family of James Harper Starr during the period 1796-1905.

Dates: 1796 - 1905

John Grant Tod papers

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.01855

John Grant Tod (1808–1877) was a naval officer and one of the founders of the first railroad in Texas. The papers include letters, a diary, legal documents, and a broadside concerning Tod’s career as an officer in the Texas Navy and the U.S. Navy, as a land buyer, and as a founder of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railroad.

Dates: 1833 - 1872

United States Office of Indian Affairs letters

Identifier: camh-arc-004925

The United States Office of Indian Affairs letters are comprised of letters sent and received by government officials relating to their administrative activities regarding requests for supplies; conditions; and treaties related to indigenous tribes located in present-day Texas.

Dates: 1838 - 1862

Thomas William Ward papers

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.01316

Thomas William Peg Leg Ward (1807-1872), architect, veteran of the Texas Revolution and government official, was born in Ireland in 1807. His papers contain originals and photocopies of correspondence with family members, friends, and business associates; bills of lading and receipts; legal documents; certificates and a proclamation; broadsides; and newspaper clippings.

Dates: 1825 - 1885

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