Governor Sam Houston On the Power of Texas Pride: He Powerfully Links That Pride to Victories in the Revolution, Specifically San Jacinto

”I have been advised by Major Ben McCullogh that the two six pounder cannon used at San Jacinto against Santa Anna in 1836 called by us the 'twin sisters' can be obtained from the War Department…It is a matter of pride with the State, and particularly with those who participated in the battle of San Jacinto, to procure these arms for the State…[They] would be highly prized by the State as a relic of her revolution.”

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The only letter of Houston we have ever seen relating to pride of the State of Texas or the Battle of San Jacinto

Benjamin McCulloch moved to Texas in 1835 along with Davy Crockett. Joining Sam Houston’s Texan army in early April 1836, McCulloch commanded one of the “Twin Sisters,” two cannons...

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Governor Sam Houston On the Power of Texas Pride: He Powerfully Links That Pride to Victories in the Revolution, Specifically San Jacinto

”I have been advised by Major Ben McCullogh that the two six pounder cannon used at San Jacinto against Santa Anna in 1836 called by us the 'twin sisters' can be obtained from the War Department…It is a matter of pride with the State, and particularly with those who participated in the battle of San Jacinto, to procure these arms for the State…[They] would be highly prized by the State as a relic of her revolution.”

The only letter of Houston we have ever seen relating to pride of the State of Texas or the Battle of San Jacinto

Benjamin McCulloch moved to Texas in 1835 along with Davy Crockett. Joining Sam Houston’s Texan army in early April 1836, McCulloch commanded one of the “Twin Sisters,” two cannons that had been donated by the citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio for the Texas cause. Weeks later, on April 21, he fought with Sam Houston and the Texas army in the Battle of San Jacinto where they beat Mexican forces and secured Texan independence. McCulloch went on to serve during the Mexican War under Zachary Taylor. As for the “Twin Sisters”, at San Jacinto they were manned by 30 men, and during the battle, they admirably secured the front lines with blow after blow. When the cannon ran out of ammo they were loaded with whatever the Texans could get their hands on, from musket balls to broken glass. When the dust settled after San Jacinto, the cannons were shipped to Austin and subsequently used in inaugurations and other celebratory ceremonies.

In late 1859, many in the South saw conflict coming with the North. One of these men was McCullough. He was convinced that the South would not abide the election of a Republican president, which he saw as a distinct possibility in 1860. He thought the Republicans would start with repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act and abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and on all military installations in the South. Other measures would follow, and the institution of slavery, which he favored, would be so thoroughly sapped as to fall almost of its own weight. “It will be folly, it will be suicidal, for the South to await an overt act,” McCullough concluded. Rather, he urged, “let the South meet her danger. Let Southern men look it in the face and take prompt action to meet it, and this great and glorious union can be saved.” The southern members of Congress, he advised, should immediately draft an article calling on the people of the North “not to inflict this great wrong upon them.” Should the northern states continue to circumscribe southern institutions and values, however, by electing “Mr. Seward or one of like politics,” the southern representatives should call “a Convention of the Southern States for the purpose of forming a Southern Confederacy” and at the same time urge the southern states to organize and arm their militias for the coming crisis. “This,” he admonished the people of Texas, “will do more to prevent the election of a Black Republican president than all the Union meetings that ever have or ever will be held, either North or South.” This was radical talk, and Governor Houston, a Unionist, was doubtless concerned about it.

McCulloch also urged the legislature and his old comrade, Sam Houston, who had been reelected Texas governor in 1859, to purchase arms for the state. “The South is in a manner defenseless, for the want of arms,” he observed, and as the other cotton states were beginning to arm themselves, so should Texas. Perhaps not coincidentally, on New Year’s Day 1860, McCulloch wrote to his mother from Washington of “a little better prospect of my doing something with the gun now than of late.”

While the thought of arming Texas cavalrymen with the finest of modern breech-loading, metallic cartridge carbines was much on his mind, so were two guns from the state’s heroic past whose value to the morale of the Texas soldier might have been as great as that of the modern rifle. Near the end of 1859 McCulloch informed Sam Houston that he had just learned that the famous Twin Sisters of San Jacinto were in the Federal arsenal at Baton Rouge and could be had from the United States government “in lieu of other arms due the State of Texas, at their appraised value.” Houston quickly applied to Secretary of War John B. Floyd for possession of the guns.

This is that very letter. Autograph letter signed, Austin, January 3, 1860, to Secretary of War John B. Floyd. ”I have been advised by Major Ben McCullough that the two six pounder cannon used at San Jacinto against Santa Anna in 1836 called by us the ‘twin sisters’ can be obtained from the War Department in lieu of other arms due the State of Texas at their appraised value. It is a matter of pride with the State, and particularly with those who participated in the battle of San Jacinto to procure these arms for the State. They should never have been given up by the State in the Treaty of Annexation – they are worthless to the General Government, but would be highly prized by the State as a relic of her revolution. I request the Government through you to make for the State of Texas a donation of these guns – should this request be incompatible with the usage of the Government, please turn the guns over to the state at their appraised value as above suggested and I will feel grateful.”

This is the only letter of Houston we have seen relating to the Battle of San Jacinto, that secured Texan independence. Moreover, a search of public sale records over the past forty years shows that not even one reached that marketplace.

The cannons returned to Texas in April 1861. The Civil War had just begun. As McCulloch and Houston had envisioned, the Twin Sisters were to prove a potent rallying point for Texans. For Houston, a devoted Unionist, however, the great psychological value of the guns in recruiting Texas soldiers into the Confederate service must have been a matter of bitter irony as he saw them help to destroy the dream of Union that they had helped him to create.

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