Among several artillery pieces from the iconic site where Texans and volunteers from across the U.S. held their famous last stand in 1836, the two guns were sent last October to the Texas A&M Conservation Research Lab in College Station for extensive work. The task, completed last month, was undergone with reverence.
“Our efforts to preserve and protect the Alamo are first and foremost about the story of the Battle itself. It was the 13 days of battle in 1836 that made this mission sacred,” said Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush. “These cannons … sat on platforms of new wood on the perimeter of this fortress, trained on the enemy. Heroes died manning them. We need these cannons to last so future Texans can see 1836 for themselves.”
The guns included the four-pounder — after the size shot it fired — Spanish cannon that was part of the battle for the Alamo as well as the six-pounder “1842 Rio Grande Cannon” named after where and when it was recovered. While inspecting the Rio Grande gun, researchers were able to trace to late 18th-Century production at the Bersham Foundry in Wrexham, Wales.
The preservation process, which involved soaking in a sodium hydroxide solution, four weeks of electrolysis and boiling rinses, was completed with treatment with tannic acid and industrial-grade black polyurethane paint to protect the guns for future generations. An interesting aspect of the process was that the 4-pounder still had a ball stuffed down its throat.
“The Spanish gun was more than 100-years-old by the time it was used in the battle,” A&M Lab Manager Jim Jobling said. “While we can’t say for sure, it is possible that the cannonball we found in the gun was loaded during the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, but of course, never fired.”
A total of nine cannons from the site, including seven used during the battle for the Alamo, are being conserved by Texas A&M in an ongoing process funded by donations. The organization has raised $20,000 toward a $50,000 goal.
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