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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

The Endless Search for
Texas Cannon

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery

Over the years, students of Texas history have found numerous stories relating to cannons that were used in battle by both sides during the Texas Revolution.

It is safe to say that the majority of that military hardware was in the hands of the Mexican army at one time or another. Some were lost to Texas settlers in battle and probably the most famous one was actually loaned to the citizens of Gonzales, by the Mexican army garrison in San Antonio, to protect them from Indian attacks. The Gonzales cannon is said to have been the first one fired in anger against elements of the Mexican army - known as the "Come and Take It Cannon," this one gets the majority of attention.

However, cannons were located at most installations that were in the hands of the Texas army, including Fort Defiance at Goliad. In 1836 the majority of Texas defenders were at the Alamo and Fort Defiance. When the Alamo came under attack, Gen. Sam Houston ordered the commander at Goliad, Col. James Fannin, to proceed to the Alamo and reinforce the garrison.

Although Fannin started out to rescue the Alamo defenders several of his wagons broke down and he lost many supplies less than two miles from Goliad. After a council of war with his officers Fannin returned to Fort Defiance. And sadly, when he finally decided to retreat from the fort, his army was overtaken and surrounded by Mexican cavalry. Fannin surrendered his troops with the belief that the men would eventually be freed - but an order from Mexican Gen. Santa Anna demanded that all the Texans be executed and indeed, most of them were.

It's been 180 years since the Alamo and Goliad battles, but down through the years people have continued to look for historic relics, with cannons probably being the most sought after. According to the Handbook of Texas, Col. Fannin retreated from Goliad with no less than nine cannon - where they are today is anybody's guess. No doubt they were captured by the Mexican army, however, that army was ordered to leave Texas after the Battle of San Jacinto - were the cannons simply discarded or taken back to Mexico? That remains a mystery.

On Sept. 14, 1937, an article appeared in the Hallettsville Tribune stating that a cannon had been found by A.V. Shaw of Beeville in the courtyard at what was once Fort Defiance at Goliad. The report also indicated that this was the third cannon found out of 16 that Col. Fannin was said to have buried. According to the article, Shaw had previously excavated two other cannon that were claimed by the state.

Shaw found the third cannon while working under a special permit issued by the Catholic Church. Evidently the church kept the relics he found and gave him a percentage. The article states, "The third cannon, found this week, will become the property of the church." It seems Shaw used a divining rod and a new invention, by Charles Meyer of San Antonio, called a "radio metal detector" to find the relics.

According to information found on the Internet, there is a brass cannon on display at Goliad State Park; perhaps this is the one found by A.V. Shaw.

Gonzales Come and Take It Cannon & Dr. Wagner
Dr. Wagner and "Come & Take It" Cannon
Courtesy of Gonzales County Archives
Those that research the history of Texas will no doubt come across many articles about cannons. In Gonzales, there is the famous "Come and Take It" cannon; again in Gonzales, Gen. Sam Houston is said to have thrown two cannon in the Guadalupe River prior to his retreat from that place; and in Hallettsville a story has been passed down through the years of a cannon being seen in the Lavaca River - and the list goes on.

Using today's technology, perhaps there will be other adventurous folks that will search and find more lost cannons of Texas - they are certainly out there to be found.


Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary April 6, 2016 column

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