Heritage, 2009, Volume 2 Page: 17
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The regular cannons could fire solid shot or canister. The
solid shot was made of iron or bronze and could be fired at
fortifications or at angles through files of troops. In our exca-
vations we have found four solid iron balls that were probably
for a six-pounder and one solid bronze ball that most likely
would have fit a four-pounder.
The canister loads were made of tin cans with wooden tops
called sabots. The can would be filled with brass or lead can-
ister shot and fired from the cannon. The canister shot varied
from 2.1 to 3.6 cm. in diameter. This would make the cannon
perform similarly to a shotgun. In our excavations, we found
dropped cans of canister that appeared to be the appropriate
size for a six-pounder cannon. Small fragments of the tin can
and the wooden sabot were also discovered, along with 40-50
lead canister shot per can. Colonel Enrique de la Pefia, a Mex-
ican officer, wrote in his memoirs that these botes de metralla
(cans of canister) were dropped in the mud during the retreat.
In his recollections of the Battle of San Jacinto, Dr. N. D.
Labadie reported that the Mexican artillery commander told
him that the Mexican cannon fired nothing but brass canister
at San Jacinto.
One of the most exciting finds in the Mexican army retreat
path was several howitzer shells (granados). These hollow shells
were made of bronze and weighed approximately 26 pounds
each. They were packed with gunpowder, and a wooden fuse
was placed into a hole in the shell that led to the gunpowder.
The fuse was hollow and filled with gunpowder. When the
shell was fired from the tube of the howitzer, the fuse would
light and the shell would explode over the target. The howitzer
crew would cut the fuse to the proper length to have it explode
at the moment it arrived at the target. This explosion would
send razor sharp shrapnel fragments in all directions. In the
2004 Alamo movie, the director showed several of the howitzer
shells falling on the mission complex. Using the Hollywood
flare for the dramatic, they even had William Travis pick up
an unexploded shell (he would have burned himself badly)
and remove the fuse.
The four howitzers (obuses) likely had brass tubes and were
a cross between a mortar and cannon. They were shorter than
cannons, but unlike mortars they could change elevation as
to change the trajectory of the shell. Because these tubes were
shorter, they were easier to move and required less powder per
shot. The daily report of the San Luis Battalion notes that when
Travis fired the 18-pounder at the Mexicans from the Alamo, the
Mexican artillery under Colonel Pedro Ampudia, immediately
fired four of the exploding howitzer shells into the Alamo. It is
believed that two of the four howitzers that Santa Anna brought
into Texas are now on display at West Point.
Another distinct advantage the Mexican army had over the
Texans was its cavalry. The Mexicans were excellent horsemen
and ferocious with a lance. Unfortunately for Santa Anna, the
Mexican horses could not handle the forced marches that he
imposed upon his men. Due to lack of grass and rest, the Mex-
ican cavalry was nearly disabled by the time they reached San
Antonio. Other than General Jose Urrea's use of his horsemen
at Coleto Creek against Fannin, the Mexican cavalry saw very
little action in the campaign. In fact, most of them sat out the
action in San Antonio. The only cavalry weapon that has been
excavated was a brass piece that fit on the bottom of a lance.
Pistols were carried by some of the Mexican soldiers, most
likely officers and cavalry. Mexican accounts of the campaign
tell of how the Texans all had several "braces of pistols." The
only pistol artifacts that have been located in our sites are one
pistol lockplate and a brass nosecap that would have fit on the
tip of a pistol holster.
The Mexican officers, cavalry men, and many NCOs (non-
commissioned officers) also carried swords, but no pieces have
been found in our sites. We did find a brass handle for a cane.
Some illustrations of Mexican officers and sergeants show
them with canes. There is one account of the NCOs at Coleto
Creek beating their troops with canes to push them forward
against the Texans defensive formation.
Overall the Mexican army was superior to the Texan army
in number and arms. A large part of their army consisted of
veteran troops with armaments that were at least adequate.
The howitzer, pictured here, was a cross between a mortar and cannon that could
change elevation and alter the trajectory of the shell. This artifact is at the United
States Military Academy at West Point.
HERITAGEN Volume 2 2009
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2009, Volume 2, periodical, 2009; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254213/m1/17/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.