74-year-old Dr. Henry North Graves died that summer morning in Dallas,
the solution to one of Texas’ enduring mysteries
may have died with him.
Though no irrefutable evidence has been found,
some historians believe that Graves had a hand in the burial of the most famous
pieces of artillery in Texas history – the Twin Sisters.
The two guns
had been donated to the Texas cause by the citizens of Cincinnati in 1836. On
April 21 that year, with devastating effectiveness, the six-pounders helped Sam
Houston defeat Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in the rout that
came to be called the Battle
of San Jacinto.
of San Jacinto Painting 1895 by Henry Arthur McArdle|
Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
the near-decade of Texas’ sovereignty as an independent
republic, the Sisters served only occasional ceremonial roles at the capitol.
When Texas joined the Union in 1845, the guns became
the property of the U.S. government, and the Army removed them to a federal arsenal
in Baton Rouge, La.
As Texas and 10 other
Southern states moved toward secession in 1861, the guns barely escaped being
recycled at a Louisiana foundry. At the request of then Texas Gov. Houston, the
Louisiana state legislature voted $700 to restore the guns and return them to
Texas. They arrived on April 20, 1861.
The old guns later sent cannonballs
whizzing toward Yankee gunboats during the Battle of Galveston.
The federals briefly took the island city, but either were not interested in the
vintage field pieces or the guns had been withdrawn to the Houston
area. In February 1864, Lt. Walter W. Blow wrote John S. “Rip” Ford that he was
getting ready to send the guns to San
Antonio. Whether that ever happened is not known.
The Handbook of
Texas says a Union soldier, M.A. Sweetman, wrote in his diary that he had seen
the guns near Houston’s Market Square
on July 30 that year.
This is when Graves finally enters the story. Even
though the war ended in 1865, die-hard Texas rebs did not want the historic guns
again ending up as federal property. Graves later said that he and four other
men buried the guns in a field near Harrisburg. The men made careful mental notes
on where they had hidden the artillery and went on about their lives.
Graves soon married and began studying medicine. He practiced at Gonzales,
Seguin and Georgetown,
an early authority on the therapeutic use of antitoxins. In 1916, he moved from
Georgetown to Dallas
to live with one of his three daughters.
An article in the Dallas
Times-Herald noted that in his old age, Dr. Graves “expressed a desire that
he would live long enough to make a trip to Harrisburg and aid in recovering the
Graves attended a Confederate reunion in Houston
in 1920 and, as the Dallas newspaper reported, “escorted a group of veterans to
the field where the guns are concealed, but made no effort to determine the exact
spot where they were buried.”
The doctor had hoped to return to the
area “if financial aid could be extended him.”
But on June 27, 1921,
Graves died. His obituary noted that the doctor “breathed his last Tuesday morning
at 8:30 o’clock without designating the place where the cannon were buried.” Whether
someone in his family made a last ditch effort to get the information out of him
As the Dallas newspaper reported, “plans were being
made to introduce a resolution in the Texas legislature at the time of his death
asking the necessary appropriation” to recover and restore the cannons. But that
movement seems to have died with Graves.
of the famous cannons.
whereabouts of the real Twin Sisters remain a mystery, but the boom of two cannons
still occasionally is heard at the San
Jacinto battleground. In 1985, two graduates of the University of Houston’s
College of Technology oversaw the making of replicas of the famous cannons.|
Of course, replica is a relative term. No one knows exactly what the Twin
Sisters looked like. In the mid-1980s, the Cinncinnati foundry that manufactured
the guns still existed, but it had no record detailing the specifications of the
“There are several descriptions of the cannon left by people
who actually saw or used them,” Austin
historian and Republic of Texas reenactor Charles Yates said at the rededication
of the Twin Sisters in 2001. “But as is the case with multiple eyewitness accounts
of the same event, they seldom agree on all points.”
Unless the real
Twin Sisters are found, the replicas will have to do.
Mike Cox - April
5, 2005 column
| Texas Towns | Columns
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