Twin Sisters

Search for Sam Houston’s TWIN SISTERS, a pair of four-pounder cannon used against Santa Ana in the battle of San Jacinto. April 1987.

T he two, iron 6-pounder cannon, funded and cast in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Texas independence sympathizers and used by Houston’s army with great effect on the field of San Jacinto, have curiously meant far more to most Texans than the exploits of their entire navy.

The story of how they were smuggled down the Mississippi though New Orleans as holloware and watched over by Dr. Rice, accompanied by his twin daughters Elizabeth and Eleanor, and their battlefield description by both sides is well documented.

For events surrounding their later fate and burial I have included two newspaper accounts by Mamie Wynne Cox, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in the early 1920s and a Houston Chronicle Magazine article by Ken Hammond in 1986. These pretty much tell the story of the Twin Sisters and how they were hidden by a group of Confederate war veterans, led by a Dr. Henry Graves, who were returning home after the Civil War.

Wayne Gronquist and I became interested in the missing cannon during our search in Galveston for the Zavala. The research was begun and in April of 1987 we returned to Texas and began looking for the cannon at Harrisburg.

Tony Bell, the Ross family, Gronquist, Bob Esbenson, Dana Larson and several other people gave it their best shot. I am most grateful for their kind help and efforts. We also teamed up with Richard Harper and his group who had been searching for the Twin Sisters for several years.

The big problem is that Dr. Graves did not say what direction he and his buddies took when they stole the cannon and pushed them off into the night.

Most of the many searchers favor the northeast since this approaches the nearest bayou where Graves claims they threw the gun carriages. Harper believes a report from one of the Confederates that stated they buried the cannon a hundred yards north of the Valentine house, which Harper determined once sat on the southwest corner of Elm and Colorado Streets.

This whole northeast section is a disaster. Over the years, Bray’s Bayou had been dredged and the ground a good three blocks inland has been filled in some areas to a depth of ten feet with all sorts of junk and debris, making a solid magnetometer search terribly difficult. So if the cannon lie in this area they are several feet deeper than when Graves buried them.

We took a completely different tack in ’87. One of Cox’s reports stated that a Mr. Milby owned the land where Graves thought the cannon rested. Through the Ross family the grandson of the man who knew Graves was contacted. Interestingly, the Milbys still own the same parcels of land as they did in the 1920s. This acreage was to the southeast. Much of it was still open and was used for horse pastures. But after an extensive search with the Schonstedt gradiometers, we came up dry.

This attempt ended our first expedition to Harrisburg. We intend to return in March of 1988. This time we will be led by Connie Young of Enid, Oklahoma, a psychic who seems to have a pretty good handle on the events. We shall see. Whatever the outcome, I will simply add that expedition’s report to this one.

7 Responses to Twin Sisters

  1. Derek S. Lee says:

    Curiously awaiting the outcome of a future expedition.

  2. Jay Kolenovsky says:

    The “Twin Sisters” were not 4 pounders! They were 6 pounders

  3. Sloan Rodgers says:

    Actually my research has proved that the Twin Sisters were originally small ordinary iron 4 pounders. Here’s blacksmith Frederick Schierman’s description of the cannon.

  4. Waverly Johnson says:

    Mr. Sloan Rodgers is correct. My research also found that the Twin Sisters were 4 pounders as well. The Cincinnati donors refered to them as 4 pounders when they sent them to Texas. One would think those that purchased the cannon would know what they bought. It was Sam Houston who called them “Little 6 pounders”. Houston was not an artilleryman and may have very well mistaken them for 6 pounders. 4 pounders were a more common cannon size produced at that time as well. The difference in shot size between a 4 pounder and 6 pounder is less than 1/2 ” (4 pounder – 3.05″dia. vs. 6 pounder 3.49″ dia.)

  5. Sloan Rogers and Waverly Johnson have not done complete research on the Twin Sisters. Sloan often cites secondary sources in preference to primary sources. Waverly is in error that “Cincinnati donors” refer to them as 4-pounders. Only one from the Texas committee in Cincinnati said they were 4-pounders. Henry Vallette became active in the organization after the Twins were manufactured and shipped out. He was responding to William Bryan’s letter of May 12 where Bryan said they were 4-pounders. Twenty three of the Texas army (primary sources) at San Jacinto identified the caliber, with 16 saying they were 6-pounders and only 7 saying they were 4-pounders.

  6. George says:

    A blacksmith report saying the San Jacinto guns were four pounders sounds pretty complete to me. I’m sure he has more. Everyone from Doc. Hardin, Greg Dimmock, etc. consider Rodgers an authority on the Twin Sisters. Never heard of you other guys.

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