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In December 1832, attorney and former Tennessee governor Sam Houston rides into San Antonio, Texas, and stops at Pepe's hotel saloon. When would-be politician James Bowie, who is holding a meeting with his comrades, hears Sam's name, he entreats Sam to help liberate Texas from Mexico's rule. However, Sam is starting a new life and has no interest in politics. Moments later, Mexican troops led by Col. Cos attempt to arrest Jim and his comrades for treason. Through quick action, Jim holds Cos at bay, which allows some of the men to escape, after which Jim and his friend, Pablo Dominguez, confront Cos. Using his training as a lawyer, Sam intervenes on their behalf and after he receives Cos's assurance that the men will be unharmed, he consents to their arrest and agrees to defend them at their trial. The next day, Sam meets Katherine, daughter of furniture shop owner Henry Delaney, while renting office space for his new law business, and is immediately smitten by Katherine's charms. At Jim's and Pablo's trial, Sam convinces judge Don Carlos that, because San Antonio is not under martial law, Cos had no jurisdiction to arrest the men. When the case is dismissed, Cos warns that the ruling will incite the ire of his brother-in-law, Gen. Santa Ana. Afterward, Jim introduces Sam to his partners in the "Free Texas" movement, which includes William B. Travis, Jim Fannin, Stephen Austin and Jim's father-in-law, Don Juan Veramendi. Sam reminds them that he only wants to practice law, and declines to join their cause. Although Sam falls in love with Katherine, she insists that their relationship remain platonic because she is working as his secretary. Sam realizes that Katherine may be concerned that he is still married, although he has separated from his wife. To allay Katherine's concerns, he dictates a letter to his attorneys stating his intention to remain permanently in San Antonio, and instructing them to move forward with his divorce. Moments later, Pablo is shot in front of the church by Cos's guards. Before he dies, Pablo reveals that he had been arrested but escaped without revealing any of his compatriots' names. Jim wants to launch an armed response, but Sam urges him to build a militia before challenging the general. When Sam later proposes to Katherine, who is a pacifist, she accepts on the condition that he promises to stay out of the impending war. Shortly afterward, Davy Crockett arrives with a secret message from President Andrew Jackson commanding Sam to visit him immediately in Washington, D.C. There, Sam reports on the Free Texas movement, and states that both Mexicans and Americans want an independent republic. Although Jackson wants to incorporate Texas into the union, he is unwilling to commit U.S. troops in a war against Mexico. However, after learning that Santa Ana has overthrown the Mexican government and declared martial law in Texas, Jackson orders Sam to lead a Texas revolution. Upon Sam's return to San Antonio, Jim informs him that Cos and his troops have been run out of town, then urges Sam to attend a political convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos, where delegates will be nominated for the new republic. Sam regretfully breaks his promise to Katherine, who ends their relationship. After becoming the Texas Army's commander-in-chief, Sam learns that the troops posted at the Alamo mission are out-numbered by Santa Ana's forces. At the convention, Sam orders the delegates to draw up a constitution while he organizes an army in Gonzales. After taking command of Col. Hockley's undisciplined soldiers, Sam marches them toward the Alamo. However, he soon receives word from Don Carlos that the Alamo has fallen and all their men there were either killed in battle or executed. Sam then sends scout Deaf Smith with orders for Fannin's troops to destroy the mission and join Sam's company. As Santa Ana and his soldiers draw near, Sam continues to build his army, but leads them away from Santa Ana. One day, Colonel Sam Sherman arrives with Katherine, who bears a petition urging Sam to turn and fight, rather than continue to retreat. When Katherine, who has become an ardent supporter of the revolution, reunites with Sam, he secretly reveals that he intends to fight Santa Ana, but only when the time is right. Santa Ana, meanwhile, tells Cos he plans to destroy Sam's army before they reach the American border. Unknown to Sam, his officer Capt. Martin calls a secret meeting at which he proposes the officers mutiny because Sam is apparently unwilling to confront the enemy. Sam's loyal recruits, lieutenants Baker and Jack LeBlanc intervene, after which Sam reveals his intention to march that night and launch a surprise dawn attack against Santa Ana. Sam explains that his strategy was to convince Santa Ana that they would cross into the U.S., but actually lead the Mexican troops into a trap at San Jacinto Bay. Sam then urges his officers to "remember the Alamo." The Texas Army is quietly positioned outside Santa Ana's camp and launches their attack at first light. Sam is shot by Cos during the battle, who is then attacked by Sam's soldiers. Although Sam is wounded, he urges his officers to capture Santa Ana alive and deliver him to the new government. While Sam recovers from his injury following the battle, the recently promoted Baker and LeBlanc capture Santa Ana, who had been disguised as a peasant. Sam demands the general's unconditional surrender and orders that his armies evacuate Texas. He then advises the general that he will be brought to trial in the new capital of Texas. Katherine meets the returning troops with the news that Texas has been declared an independent republic, with Sam as its first president.