University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the Thomas Jefferson Rusk Papers, 1824-1859

Descriptive Summary

Creators Rusk, Thomas J. (Thomas Jefferson), 1803-1857
Title: Thomas Jefferson Rusk Papers
Dates: 1824-1859
Abstract 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.
Extent 5 ft., 6 in.
Laguage Materials are written in English.
Repository Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

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.

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).



Arranged chronologically.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Austin, Stephen F. (Stephen Fuller), 1793-1836
Bowles, John, ca. 1756-1839
Burleson, Edward, 1793-1851
Burnet, David Governeur, 1789-1870
Cleveland, Benjamin
Henderson, James Pinckney, 1808-1858
Houston, Samuel, 1793-1863
Kaufman, David Spangler, 1813-1851
Lamar, Mirabeau Buonaparte, 1798-1859
Neighbors, Robert Simpson, 1815-1859
Rusk, David, d. 1877
Rusk, Mary Cleveland, d. 1856
Rusk, Thomas Jefferson, 1803-1857
Santa Anna, Antonio Lopez de, 1794?-1876
Starr, James Harper, 1809-1890
Gadsen Treaty, 1853
Wilmot Proviso, 1846
Compromise of 1850
Indians of North America--Texas--Wars
Kansas-Nebraska bill
Pacific railroads--Exploration and surveys
San Jacinto, Battle of, 1836
Postal service--Texas
Austin (Tex.)
Nacogdoches (Tex.)
Washington (D.C.)
Texas--Annexation to the United States
Texas--History--Republic, 1836-1846
Texas--History--Revolution, 1835-1836
United States--History--War with Mexcio, 1845-1848

Related Material

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

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Thomas Jefferson Rusk Papers, 1824-1859, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin


Many of the Sam Houston letters can be found in The Writings of Sam Houston, 8 volumes, ed. by Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, Pemberton Press, 1970.

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.

Detailed Description of the Papers



Personal correspondence:
2G31 1832-1837
1853-1857 and undated
Letters to David Rusk (transcripts), 1835-1856
General correspondence:
2G31 1824-1834
January-April 1836
May1-13, 1836
2G32 May 14-20, 1836
May 22-31, 1836
June 1-7, 1836
June 8-14, 1836
June 15-18, 1836
June 19-29, 1836 and undated
July 1-16, 1836
July 17-31, 1836, and undated
2G33 August 1-8, 1836
August 9-31, 1836
September 1836
October-December 1836, and undated
January-August 1837
September-December 1837
January-June 1838
July-November 1838
2G34 January-July 1839
August-November 1839, and undated
January-June 1845
July-December 1845, and undated
2G35 1846
January-August 1847
September-November 1847
December 1847 and undated
January 1848
February 1848
March 1848
2G36 April-May, 1848
June-December 1848
January-May 1849
June-December 1849
January-February 1850
March 1850
April-May 1850
June-July 1850
2G37 August 1850
September 1850
October-December 1850, and undated
January-February 1851
March-April 1851
May-August 1851
September-October 1851
November-December 1851, and undated
2K148 January-March 1852
April-June 1852
July-September 1852
October-December 1852
January 1853
February 1853
March-July 1853
August-December 1853, and undated
2K149 January-April 1854
May-September 1854
October-December 1854
January-February 1855
March-April 1855
May-June 1855
July-December 1855
March-September 1856
2K150 October-December 1856
January 1857
February 1857
March-April 1857
May 1857
June 1857
July-December 1857, and undated
Undated correspondence:
2K150 Political and governmental
2K151 Military
Printed material:
2K151 1848-1850
Newspaper clippings, 1843-1857
Miscellaneous photostats, 1836-1856
2R175 Calendar of papers
Selected trancripts of papers at the Center for American History:
Part I (copies 2 and 3) October 14, 1834-May 13, 1844
Part II (copies 2 and 3) August 14, 1844-July 9, 1857
2R176 Part I (copy 4) October 14, 1834-May 13, 1844
Part II (copy 4) August 14, 1844-July 9, 1857
Selected transcripts of papers secured through Dr. W.C. Binkley and Mrs. Guy Blount, 1835-1857
4K427 Photostats of letters from Rusk to David Rusk and other correspondence, 1835-1859
2.116/OD1223A Oversize documents: Correspondence, court order, valuation of Indian property, commission, phrenological chart, affidavit, obituary, bid on postal routes, 1834-1857
BC Rusk broadsides in Broadsides Collection (see inventory at repository)