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Thomas Jefferson Rusk papers

Identifier: urn:taro:utexas.cah.00363

Scope and Contents

The Thomas Jefferson Rusk Papers consist of correspondence, broadsides, decrees, proceedings, agreements, military orders, resolutions, speeches, and reports. The papers document the life of Rusk as a participant in the Texas Revolution, Chief Justice of the first Texas Supreme Court, major general in army campaigns against the Native Americans, president of the Convention of 1845, and one of Texas' first two U.S. Senators. Included are many important historical figures and key events from the Texas Revolution and the Republic of Texas, as well as the Mexican War, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the U.S. Postal Service, and the transcontinental railroad. Also included is Rusk's official report from the Battle of San Jacinto (1836).


  • Creation: 1824 - 1859


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no use restrictions on this collection. Publisher is responsible for complying with copyright law.

Biographical Note

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.


5.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Papers document the life of Thomas Jefferson Rusk as a participant in the Texas Revolution, Chief Justice of the first Texas Supreme Court, major general in army campaigns against the Native Americans, president of the Convention of 1845, and one of Texas' first two U.S. Senators.


Arranged chronologically.

Related Materials

Additional Thomas Jefferson Rusk material is available at the El Paso Public Library Border Heritage Center Southwest Collection.

Sam Houston Letters in the Thomas Jefferson Rusk Papers<

  • January 7, 1836; [Washington] To Rusk; Army orders: "You will forthwith report..."
  • May 3, 1836; [Camp San Jacinto] To Rusk; Though in pain and lacking sleep, sets out points to be considered by the Executive Government when making an agreement with Santa Anna. Will write official report on Battle of San Jacinto as soon as possible.
  • July 10, 1836; [near St. Augustine] To Rusk; Dr. A. Ewing, Surgeon General of the Army of Texas, is ordered to headquarters.
  • July 17, 1836; [Subletts] To Rusk; Introducing Major Alexander Leroy de Chaumont from France who wishes to fight for Texas.
  • August 8, 1836; [Nacogdoches] To Rusk; Opposition to any attempt to take Matamoros. Feelings on forming government of Texas. Wishes that he may rejoin army soon.
  • August 25, 1836; [Nacogdoches] To Rusk; Mr. Whitesides tells him army intends to advance on Matamoros and that Mexican troops have been withdrawn. The latter is a trap to bring on the former. U.S. would consider it an act of aggression on the part of Texas. Through defensive action Texas will win independence.
  • August 29 1836; [Nacogdoches] To the Citizens of Texas; Has word that Indians with a force of Mexicans will attack this part of Texas. Counties shall organize troops to protect this place until General Gaines sends reinforcements.
  • January 24, 1837; [Columbia, TX] To Jacob S. Snively; He is to visit Linney, the Shawnee chief, and also the Caddos to promote a treaty to keep them from joining tribes who are raiding along the frontier. Has not heard from the commissioners he appointed.
  • March 25, 1837; [Columbia, TX] To Rusk; Discusses a treaty Rusk is to make with the hostile Indians and sends personal greetings.
  • June 7, 1837; [City of Houston] To Rusk; Indians are to be deployed as soldiers against hostile Indians. They are to wear a white badge on the head and march under a flag with a single star. Frontier must be protected.
  • June 16, 1837; [City of Houston] To Rusk; Wants to inform the Indians that he will meet with their chiefs on June 30th in Nacogdoches. He wishes to secure the frontier with the aid of friendly Indians.
  • August 12, 1838; [Nacogdoches] To Rusk; Be silent in camp, ready for an attack at night, prepared for Indian yell, and if you see a spy, he is trying to lure you into a trap. Mexican spies can't be surprised.
  • August 13, 1838; [place unknown] To Rusk; Has seen the report and it may be true. Can expect no help from Rusk if they attack. If the Bowl is compromising with the enemy, make terms with him.
  • August 14, 1838; (copy)[Nacogdoches] To Col. Bowl; Warns him not to join the enemy, that General Rusk's forces and the U.S. will come against him.
  • August 26, 1838; [place unknown] To Rusk; On back of letter from Charles H. Sims to Houston. Rusk should let the line be run and make alliance with the Shawnees. Mr. Sims should tell the chiefs about the intended presents.
  • September 1, 1838; [place unknown] To Rusk; He is to come see letters that have arrived from the City of Houston.
  • September 28, 1838; [place unknown] To Liney, the Shawnee chief; The letter is carried by Sims, who will read him Houston's "talk." Liney should tell him of any trouble coming.
  • January 14, 1843; (copy) [Washington] To House of Representatives; Houston's veto of the "Bill for the Protection of the Western and Southwestern Frontier, and for other purposes."
  • May 10, 1843; [Washington] To Rusk; A letter supposedly written by Rusk has appeared in the Western Advocate saying that Houston had thrown obstacles into the path of Rusk's discharge of duty and had sheltered himself under the law from crossing the enemy's boundary. Justifies himself and asks Rusk for an explanation if he did write it.
  • May 31, 1843; [Washington] To Rusk; In reply to Rusk's answer to May 10 letter above, expatiating on Rusk's duties as major general and that he did not need to wait for an official paper to take over these duties. He will support Rusk's performance of duty though it does not cover invasion.
  • April 26, 1845; [place unknown] To Rusk; Introduces Mr. Cage of Tennessee.
  • June 22, 1854; (copy) [Washington] To Governor Pease; Denounces R.J. Walker, T. Jefferson Green, and others who are boasting they have the railroad charter in their pockets.
  • November 8, 1856; [Huntsville] To Rusk; Cannot travel with him to Washington. Mrs. Houston is not well and he is suffering from his San Jacinto wound. Suggests schools for Helena. Dreads success of Black Republicans. ("We were once young, but are now old!")
  • April 23, 1857; [Huntsville] To Rusk; Hopes he and Helena are safe at home. Asks Rusk to write in support of Sam Hay, whose letter he forwards.
  • May 12, 1857; [Huntsville] To Rusk; He will run for governor. ("So now the whips crack and the longest pole will bring down the persimmon.")
  • May 28, 1857; [Alto] To Rusk; Before he speaks in Nacogdoches on Saturday, he wants to see Rusk for ten or fifteen minutes.
  • Title
    Thomas Jefferson Rusk Papers, 1824-1859
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    Repository Details

    Part of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History Repository

    2300 Red River Street
    Austin TX 78712