San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy Loans Cannon to Alamo
San Antonio Express News, September 23, 2010
In 2010, the San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy loaned a cannon to the Alamo thought to be the only known bronze Spanish cannon used by the Alamo defenders and recovered from the 1836 battle.
The impressive piece was donated to the San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy through a unique set of circumstances. To stabilize the bronze and make it suitable for public display, the cannon spent long months in the conservation laboratory of Texas A&M Conservation Research Lab before being permanently installed at the Alamo. A plaque was placed beside the cannon that explained a portion of its history.
The San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy (SJBC) is a 501©3 organization and your contributions are tax-deductible in accordance with law.
Founded in 2002, the mission of the SJBC is to protect, preserved, and secure the San Jacinto Battleground for future generations by facilitating conservation of land, artifacts, and native habitat original to the 1836 battlefield and educating the public about the history and far-reaching significance of the battle for Texas independence.
San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy
P.O. Box 940536, Houston, TX 77094-7536
Cannon is latest Alamo treasure
By Scott Huddleston – Express News, September 23, 2010
Caption: Betty and Boyd Grier of High Point, N.C., check out a cannon on display at the Alamo, where some believe it was used by the shrine’s defenders. If true, it would be the only known bronze Spanish cannon recovered from the battle. Photo: Mayra Beltran, Houston Chronicle
Just in time for the Texas Revolution’s 175th anniversary, a cannon that may have been used in the war for independence is on display at the Alamo.
The cannon, thought to have been cast in Mexico in the mid-1700s, arrived last week. If its presumed link to the Alamo is proven, it would be the only known bronze Spanish cannon used by defenders that has been recovered.
Like other cannons seized and disabled by Mexican troops after the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, its cascabel and trunnions — parts used to pivot and aim the cannon — are broken off.
“It’s got the exact same damage as the other guns,” Alamo historian Bruce Winders said.
Researchers believe the cannon may have been given by the Samuel Maverick family to a Philadelphia family named French after the Civil War. The Mavericks had reported finding 13 cannons near the Alamo site in 1852.
“We know the cannon was sent to Philadelphia as payment for a debt,” said Jan DeVault, president of the Friends of the San Jacinto Battleground, which owns the cannon.
For many years, it was displayed on the lawn of Howard B. French’s country estate in Pennsylvania. Houston businessman and history advocate J.P. Bryan bought it from a collector in 1986. It was resold to John McRae of Dallas, who had a wooden carriage built for it.
McRae’s daughter donated it in 2008 to Devault’s group, which had it restored at Texas A&M University’s Conservation Research Laboratory. For more than two years, under an electrolysis process, it soaked in a large vat of base solution, to repair and protect its weathered, oxidized exterior.
More research is needed to tie the cannon to stories that it was at the Alamo. The 21 cannons there in 1836 are said to have included several four-pound cannons like this one and variety of iron guns, from two-pounders to the compound’s storied 18-pounder.
Historians believe the four-pounder might have been used at the wooden palisades by the chapel, on a platform in the chapel, or near the main gate on the compound’s south end.
Today, there are five known Alamo cannons at the Alamo and two in La Villita, Winders said. Another owned by businessman B.J. “Red” McCombs is at Southwestern University in Georgetown.
Gregg Dimmick, archaeology chairman of the Friends group, said the defenders likely used four-pounders to fire canisters filled with balls or scrap iron or lead.
The cannon has been appraised for insurance coverage at $10,000. It may be priceless if its link to the Alamo is proven through family papers, railroad records or newspaper clips, Dimmick said.
“We have those two dots firmly established, but we don’t yet have a line connecting them,” he said.
A Confederate general, Samuel French, a relative of the Philadelphia Frenches, lived in San Antonio and might have been interested in cannons, Dimmick said. The French family also dealt in home repairs and might have accepted it as a partial payment by the Mavericks or someone else in San Antonio, he said.
The San Jacinto group plans to keep the cannon “on permanent loan” at the Alamo, as long as it’s kept indoors and safe from visitors, DeVault said.
“It definitely should belong to the people of Texas,” she said.