Archive War (1842)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Government of the Texas
Republic vs. the citizens of Austin, Texas
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Austin, Texas
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: To prevent the transference
of the capital from Austin to Houston, the citizens of Austin
resisted the removal of official records to Houston.
OUTCOME: The archives remained in Austin, and Austin
remained the capital of the Texas Republic.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Texas declared itself a republic in 1836 and secured its independence
from Mexico through victory in the TEXAN WAR
OF INDEPENDENCE. The capital of the new republic was
established in Houston, founded in 1836 and named in
honor of the leader of the independence struggle, Samuel
Houston (1793–1863). In 1839 the capital was moved to
Austin. However, in 1845, the still-fledgling republic was
threatened with an invasion by Mexicans and Indians. President
Houston thought it prudent to move the capital back
to Houston temporarily. Accordingly, he directed that the
government archives be transferred there from Austin. This
incited the citizens of Austin to resist. Fearful that moving
the archives would ultimately result in the permanent relocation
of the capital to Houston, they absconded with and
hid all official records. President Houston responded by
sending troops to recover the records. The result was not
armed conflict, but a bewildering series of deals and secret
agreements. Finally, at the end of the year, Houston’s soldiers
located the archives, exhumed them, and loaded them
on wagons for the trip to Houston. This action prompted an
enraged mob to pursue the wagons. They forced the soldiers
to turn around and to return the records to Austin.
Fearing that the real casualty of the “war” would be the
archives he was attempting to protect, Houston agreed not
to remove the records and to maintain the capital in Austin.
That city remains the Texas state capital today.
Further reading: William Ransom Hogan, The Texas
Republic: A Social and Economic History (Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1969).