Thomas J. Rusk Transcriptions
Manuscript Collection: MC180
Thomas Jefferson Rusk was born in 1803 in Pendleton District, South Carolina, the son of John Rusk and Mary Sterritt Rusk. Rusk studied law and practiced in Georgia. In 1827 he married Mary F. Cleveland, daughter of Gen. John Cleveland. While trying to recover embezzled funds from an investment company, he traveled to Texas, and although he was unsuccessful, he decided to relocate permanently to Texas. He became a citizen of Mexico in 1835; however, after hearing news of unrest amongst his neighbors, Rusk became involved in the independence movement where he organized volunteers of soldiers from his home at Nacogdoches. His men joined Stephen F. Austin's army at Gonzales to prevent the Mexicans from seizing their cannon. He was named inspector general of the army in the Nacogdoches District, by the provisional government of Texas, a position he held until February of 1836.
As a delegate from Nacogdoches, Rusk signed the Texas Declaration of Independence when he chaired the committee to revise the constitution. On March 17, 1836, he was appointed secretary of war by the ad interim government. After learning of the fall of the Alamo, Rusk helped move the government to Harrisburg where he delivered orders from President Burnet to Gen. Houston to make a stand against the enemy. Rusk participated in the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. He was made Brigadier General from May to October 1836 where he followed the Mexican troops westward from San Jacinto to ensure they retreated from Texas.
Rusk represented Nacogdoches in the Second Congress of the Republic from 1837 to 1838. Rusk later became a Mason and was a founding member of the Grand Lodge of Texas, in 1837. Rusk was chairman of the House Military Committee and oversaw several militia bills. In December of 1838, Rusk was elected chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic; after resigning this post in 1840, he established his own law firm. He was elected U.S. Senator of Texas in 1846 and served until 1857. Rusk was also instrumental in the annexation of Texas by the United States.
After the death of his wife, Rusk committed suicide on July 29, 1857; they were survived by five children. A monument was placed in 1936 by the State of Texas at their graves in Oak Grove Cemetery, Nacogdoches, Texas.
The Thomas J. Rusk Transcriptions are made from original correspondence and creative works dated from 1836 to 1837 concerning the early Republic of Texas; documents were transcribed circa 1945. Correspondence received is comprised of five transcripts from originals dating from March 1836 to April 1836 to Thomas J. Rusk, Secretary of War. There are three letters from Sam Houston regarding the army's position, need for supplies, help in combating deserters, and the overall fear of the people of Texas. Two other correspondences are from G. W. Hockley, Inspector-General, regarding movement of the army and the latest whereabouts of the enemy.
Correspondence from Thomas J. Rusk is dated from 1836 to 1837. An April 19, 1836, letter is addressed "To the People of Texas," and encourages more men to enlist and fight for their freedom. An April 22, 1836, correspondence to President David G. Burnet recalls the cavalry charge by Sherman on the 20th and the Battle of San Jacinto on the 21st. Rusk praises the officers' and soldiers' valor. Also included is an 1837 correspondence to Henry Smith, regarding vouchers from expenditures relating to enlisting volunteers. There is an envelope which held the transcribed documents and declared them the property of Norton A. Keahey, great-grandson of General Rusk.
The creative work is an undated address of Thomas J. Rusk, President of the Annexation Convention, regarding the need to come together to form a constitution with the goal of joining the American confederacy.
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[Identification of Item], Thomas J. Rusk Transcriptions, MC180, San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas.
Juanice Keahey and Philip B. Petty, September 2011.
Processed by Lisa M. Lomas, 2012.