Of all the mysteries that pervade the history of Texas none holds as many facts and contradictions as that of the famed “Twin Sisters” of the Battle of San Jacinto. What is known to be factual is that they were two identical cannons made at the Greenwood foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio and that they were gifts to Texas even before it became a Republic by the good people of Ohio. It is also a fact that the Twins filled a niche in the ragtag army led by General Sam Houston that was glaringly obvious, the lack of any heavy artillery. Fortunately, the Twins arrived in Houston’s possession on April 11th, nine days before the deciding battle of the 21st. They were the first shots fired early that morning from 200 yards away directly into the center of Santa Anna’s encampment. It was their sound and destruction that Santa Anna’s army was awakened by, sending them into a confused panic. Their presence allowed the Texians to kill 600 of the enemy and capture the rest in only 18 minutes of fighting. In less time than it took to drink a cup of hot coffee, it was all over and much of the credit goes to the Twins who along with the brave rebel forces shouted out, ”Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad”. These facts are known and self evident.
In late 1835, under the urging of Francis Smith, a fellow Cincinnati resident and possibly an agent from Texas, a group of Cincinnati businessmen called the “Friends of Texas” raised funds to aid the Texas army through the acquisition of two cannons. There is some dispute over whether these cannons were 6 pounders or 4 pounders, so designated because each respectively had gun bores to accommodate either a 6 pound or 4 pound cannon ball. No four pounders were ever made in the U.S. and historically all were shipped from Europe. Much of the evidence supports they were 6 pounders although it has never been absolutely determined. At the time the nearest foundry was actually in Pittsburgh at Fort Pitt but Miles Greenwood had apprenticed at this foundry and recently organized Eagle Iron Works (AKA Greenwood Foundry) along with his experienced foundryman partner, Joseph Webb. It is believed to be from here that the Twins were made following a resolution calling for “Hollow Ware and other provisions” passed by the “Friends of Texas”. Since the United States government had taken a position of neutrality in order to not offend Mexico, the terminology of “Hollow ware” was required in order to not break the law forbidding the shipment of arms to Texas.
The identical cannons were made and shipped to Galveston by way of New Orleans on board the ship, Pennsylvania. The family of Dr. Charles Rice, who were moving to Texas were aboard the same ship. When the guns were presented to the representatives of Texas, they were done so under the sponsorship of Dr. Rice’s twin daughters, Elizabeth and Eleanor. Someone on board remarked that there were two sets of twins on the ship that day, the Rice twins and the cannons. After that the two cannons were always referred to as “the Twins”.
Following the decisive battle at San Jacinto and the defeat of the Mexican army, Texas won its independence. The Twins were used to celebrate the inauguration of Sam Houston, being fired as he ceremoniously kissed the Bible and at the 5th anniversary of Texas Independence held in Austin. Some say the cannons were sent to Louisiana after that and others say cannon technology had made them obsolete and they only served ceremonial function. However, a set of cannons was returned to Texas from Louisiana at the request of the state of Texas before the Civil War. Whether they were the real Twins is not known for sure. It is also believed that the Twins were used during the Battle of Galveston in 1863 and that they also accompanied Col. John S. (Rip) Ford on his expedition to recapture the Rio Grande from invading federal troops. Other stories have them a part of the La Bahia expedition, the Santa Fe expedition, reclaimed from the Colorado River and from a Louisiana bayou. There are even reports of them being petrified on the New Mexico plains, being thrown into Galveston Bay and even ending up in Washington D.C. at the National Museum. All unconfirmed.
It is most widely believed that in August of 1865 a group of Confederate soldiers led by Henry North Graves buried the guns to keep them out of the hands of Union forces somewhere in either Houston or Harrisburg. However, they were also reported to have been seen in Houston’s Market Square on July 30, 1865. To this day no one knows for sure the real truth about the fate of the Twins but any Texan who knows their story can only hope that they lay buried somewhere in the great State they had a hand in making.
What do you know about Texas?