Alamo Cannon Conservation Yields Exciting Discoveries

On Jan. 23, the Alamo welcomed back two historic cannons that were used during the Siege and Battle of the Alamo. Last October, the Alamo sent these cannons to the Texas A&M Conservation Research Lab in College Station, where they underwent extensive conservation work to preserve them for future generations.

“The Alamo cannons have been exposed to the elements for many years, and were in need of a good cleaning and stabilization,” A&M Lab Manager Jim Jobling said. The cannons, known as the Rio Grande Cannon and the Spanish Cannon, went through a process using electrolytic reduction to remove layers of paint and corrosion products. This was followed by a series of boiling reverse-osmosis water baths to remove residual chemicals. Finally, a tannic acid and polyurethane sealant were applied to give the cannons a barrier that is resistant to iron corrosion, water and oxygen.

A member of Texas A&M’s conservation team removing a cannon ball from the Rio Grande Cannon.

“The 1836 Battle Cannons are among Texas’ most treasured artifacts, and we are ensuring they receive the care and honor they deserve,” said Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush. “Fortunately, in doing this preservation work, we were able to discover more about the cannon’s history than we knew before,” Bush added. What the Commissioner is referring to is the unfired, four-pound cannonball loaded inside the Spanish cannon, surprising the conservation team at Texas A&M.

“The Spanish gun was more than 100-years-old by the time it was used in the battle,” 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.” In addition to this explosive revelation, Jobling’s team discovered that the Rio Grande cannon originated from the Bersham Foundry in Wrexham, Wales.

With the Rio Grande and Spanish cannons back home, two more of the Alamo’s seven battle cannons have been sent to Texas A&M for preservation.

“It’s amazing that after 300 years, we’re still learning new things about the Alamo’s history and the 1836 siege and battle,” Alamo CEO Doug McDonald said. “Deepening our understanding of the Alamo’s history and sharing those discoveries with visitors is part of what makes working at the Alamo so rewarding. We can’t wait to see what we learn about the rest of our battle cannons.”

The two cannon balls found in the Rio Grande Cannon.

Both cannons will be mounted permanently on the Alamo grounds, with a special unveiling of their new location to be held on March 2, Texas Independence Day. All visitors and Texans are welcomed and encouraged to attend this event.

You can help preserve the Alamo’s cannons by donating to the Remember the Alamo Battle Cannons campaign. We have received over $20,000 in donations toward our $50,000 goal. All donations will be used for conservation efforts for the battle cannons, and any funds received in addition to our goal will be placed in a restricted fund for the preservation of more Alamo artifacts.

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