The Twin Sisters

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  It is the goal of the to make this page the greatest single source of information about the famous "Twin Sisters" on the Internet.  Our goal is to assist those researching the historical significance of the Twin Sisters suring the Texas Revolution.  We also hope this page will serve as a starting place for those seeking to try their hand at locating the elusive Twin Sisters which have been lost for well over 100 years.  The Twin Sisters are without a doubt the "Holy Grail" of Texas archeology.

   We begin our search for the famous and elusive Twin Sisters with an article written by Dr. S. O. Young in his book True Stories of Old Houston and Houstonians, Oscar Springer, Publisher, Galveston, Texas 1913:

The Famous Twin Sisters

   There is an old story about two fond parents who were watching the passing of a military company, in the ranks of which their son was marching.  "Look at that," said the mother, "our boy is the only one in the whole company who is keeping step."

   The story has recurred to me several times lately and I will tell you why.  Two or three years ago there was a great deal of talk about the famous "Twin Sisters," two cannon used with such good results by the Texans at San Jacinto.  One report was that they were buried  somewhere near Harrisburg; another was that they were thrown in Galveston Bay, between the island and Virginia Point, and another story located them in the National Museum at Washington.  All these stories spoke of the "Twin Sisters" as iron pieces.  Some gentlemen made extensive excavations near Harrisburg, where they were said to be buried, but the search was fruitless.  Obviously it was impossible to search Galveston Bay, but the Washington story could be investigated and I did so, with the result that I am informed by those in authority that there were no such cannon either in the museum or anywhere else in Washington.

   Aside from the historical interest in the subject I was attracted to it by the fact that when I was a boy there were two brass six pounders, known as the "Twin Sisters," that stood for many years on the northwest side of market square.  They were beautiful guns and each bore this inscription, engraved just in front of the vent: 

   "Presented to the Republic of Texas by the Ladies of Cincinnati."

   These guns seemed to be under no particular care and the boys pulled them about, sighted them and mowed down whole imaginary armies of Mexicans and Indians and played with them to their hearts' content without let or hindrance.  To the boys of that day the "Twin Sisters" were as familiar objects on market square as are Dick Dowling's monument and the fountain to those of the present day.  These guns were used by a Confederate battery during the war, but in 1871 or 1872 I saw one of them near the land office in Austin and read the inscription on it.  Being so familiar with the subject, I was a bit amazed when I saw the "Twin Sisters" being referred to as iron pieces and as having plates screwed on their sides stating that they were presented to the republic of Texas by General Chambers.  Up to that time I was sure that I was the only man in the company who was keeping step and that all the others were wrong.  Then I read Governor Frank Lubbock's Memoirs and when I found there an account of the iron guns known as the "Twin Sisters" being turned over to Texas by Louisiana during the war, I began to wonder if I had not best catch up with the others.

   That two guns known as the "Twin Sisters" were used by the Texans at San Jacinto is a matter of history, but whether those guns were the iron pieces presented by General Chambers is the question, for now there can be no doubt that there were four guns in existence instead of two.  Thus instead of settling the question it becomes more involved for all four are not only lost, but when, if ever, they may chance be found, it will have to be determined whether they are genuine or not.  That the "Twin Sisters" that were so long in market square were brass pieces I know beyond a doubt, and the fact can be proven by Colonel W. M. Stafford of Galveston, Mr. I. C. Lord, Mr. Owen Cochran and Mr. Henry Thompson of Houston and no doubt by others who were raised in Houston, whose names escape me just now.

   When the war broke out these cannon were turned over to some Confederate company, but I know nothing of their history during the war.  I do remember the last time they, or rather one of them was fired before the war.  It was in 1860, when Sam Houston was elected governor.  Because of his pronounced Union views many of his former friends opposed him and he had a hard fight.  When the news of his election was received, his friends got the "Twin Sisters" with the intention of firing a salute in honor of his victory.  The guns were taken to a grassy hill, corner of Fannin and Commerce Streets.  One gun was fired and a bag of powder was rammed down the other, but when they started to prime the piece they found someone had spiked it.  They rushed to the other gun, but found it spiked also.  That broke up the salute, of course, but it was a fitting thing that the last time one of the "Twin Sisters" spoke in time of peace should have been in honor of the hero of San Jacinto.

   In early days there were a great many survivors of San Jacinto living in or near Houston and San Jacinto Day, April 21, was always celebrated in great style.  The "Twin Sisters" were taken down to the corner of Commerce Street and a salute was fired, after which the town was literally turned over to the heroes of San Jacinto.  I remember well one of the most conspicuous of them.  He was Tierwester, an old Frenchman.  At the battle of San Jacinto he had a powder horn slung to his neck.  This powder horn was a cow's horn scraped very thin and had a wooden plug at the large end and a small plug at the little end of the horn.  During the battle a Mexican bullet struck this horn and entered through one side, but did not have enough force to go out the other.  Tierwester never removed the ball, but on San Jacinto Day he came to the reunion wearing his horn round his neck and the drunker he got the louder he told the story and rattled the bullet.  He was a great character and lived  and died in what was then known as Frosttown, not far from the Hutchins residence, now the center of Houston almost.

   But these San Jacinto celebrations were not always fun alone.  Tragedy cropped up occasionally.  I remember one which occurred when I was a little boy.  The "Twin Sisters" had been taken out, as usual, for the salute.  A man named Tom Ewing took charge of the big end of the gun and volunteered to hold his thumb on the vent hole, a necessary precaution to keep the gun from exploding after it became heated.  Mr. Warren Stansbury performed the duty of loading the piece.  The salute was about half over and Stansbury was ramming home a charge when the gun became so hot that Ewing, thoughtlessly, took his thumb from the vent.  Instantly the piece discharged and Stansbury's arm was so badly mutilated by the rammer that amputation was necessary.  He recovered and lived several years afterward.

   Of course all has been done that can be done to locate the "Twin Sisters," but there is one question that can be and should be settled:   Which Twin Sisters were used at San Jacinto?  Those presented by the ladies of Cincinnati or those by General Chambers.  As a native Texan, I had the greatest respect and reverence  for the brass pieces of market square and I would like to know if I have been worshipping false gods all these years.  I know nothing of the Chambers iron cannon, but if they should be proven to be the real San Jacinto cannon I am willing to transfer my homage and allegiance to them.


   An 1839 newspaper article supports Dr. S. O. Young's account of the Twin Sisters being located in Houston, Texas and of salutes being fired by the Twin Sisters on special occasions.  In the March 6, 1839 edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper published in Houston, Texas (Volume IV - No. 38 - Whole No. 194) on page 3 we find the following article transcribed here:

   The celebration of the third anniversary of our national independence was conducted in a very interesting and appropriate manner by our citizens.  A procession was formed at the court house at 12 o'clock, which, under the escort of the Milam Guards, proceeded to the capitol, where an oration was delivered by Judge Thompson, before a very large and respectable audience.  Among those present, we noticed the president and vice president, the heads of the several departments, the honorable Alcee LaBranch and several other distinguished foreigners.  At sunset a national salute was sounded by the "Twin Sisters" in front of the capitol, and the proceedings of the day closed without accident or disturbance of any description.


   Former Harris County Clerk, Texas Governor and personal Aide de Camp to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Francis R. Lubbock, provides additional information about the Twin Sisters in his book Six Decades in Texas or Memoirs of Francis Richard Lubbock Governor of Texas in War-Time 1861-1863 published in 1900.  On pages 141 and 142 Lubbock describes the use of one of the Twin Sisters at the second inauguration of Sam Houston in Austin in 1841:

   I was not present at the inauguration of President Houston at Austin, but I gathered this account of it from contemporaneous newspapers and other sources considered reliable:

   After several days of elaborate preparation, the inauguration of General Houston came off at the old wooden capitol, on December 13, 1841. The day was beautiful, and thousands had collected from every part of the Republic to witness the imposing ceremonies. To accommodate the sightseers, who swarmed on the ground at an early hour, a staging had been erected, and seats prepared under a beautiful awning spread in the rear of the capitol. These seats were occupied by both houses of Congress and a brilliant assemblage of ladies and gentlemen. President Lamar and President-elect Houston were escorted in military style by the Travis Guards from the President's house to the capitol. President-elect Houston and Vice-President-elect Burleson, attended by committees, made their appearance at 11 a. m. Prayer was offered by Judge R. E. B. Baylor, and the Speaker of the House administered the oaths. When General Houston kissed the book as a seal to his official oath, one of the "Twin Sisters" belched forth her hoarse approval, and the multitude, taken by surprise, joined in with bursts of applause. On conclusion of the ceremonies, both houses of Congress dined with the President, on his invitation, at the Eberly House. The inevitable inaugural ball followed at night.

   Lubbock explains how the Twin Sisters came into the possession of the United States Government on page 184:

   By the terms of annexation Texas ceded to the United States her public edifices, navy, ports, arms, and armaments. In this delicate matter I understand Lieut. W. A. Tennison, of our navy, was agent for Texas, and that Hiram G. Runnels represented the United States. Among other arms transferred were the "Twin Sisters," the two cannon used at San Jacinto.

   During the Civil War, the State of Louisiana returned the Twin Sisters to Texas.  Recently, David P. Salyer of Galveston, Texas, located a couple of articles in The Galveston Weekly News concerning this event in the April 16, 1861 edition.  The TexasHistoryPage.Com would like to thank David P. Salyer for bringing this primary source regarding the Twin Sisters to our attention.

The Galveston Weekly News - Twin Sisters

1861 The Twin Sister Arrive in Galveston Back From Louisiana

Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Austin, Texas

   The Twin Sisters.-The steamship Rusk brought over to-day the two pieces of field artillery, six pounders, known as the "Twin Sisters," which were used at the battle of San Jacinto, and did such good service there.  They some how or other found their way back to Louisiana, where they have been considered as old iron.

   The State of Louisiana, through its Legislature's action, has presented the guns again to the State of Texas, remounted there anew throughout.  Gov. Moore had them forwarded to the care of Messrs. Sorley, Smith & Co., of this city, who have informed Gov. Clark of the fact, and asked of him what is to be their destination.

   They are to be escorted this afternoon at 5 o'clock, from the warf, by the Artillery Company, to their Armory.

   See The Galveston Weekly News, Galveston, Texas, Vol. 18, No. 2, Page 1, Column 1.  Note: Some additional details concerning the history of the Twin Sisters during the Texas Revolution can also be found on page 2 of the same edition of The Galveston Weekly News.

   Lubbock provides the following information about the return of the Twin Sisters to Texas on pages 372-373 in his book Six Decades in Texas or Memoirs of Francis Richard Lubbock Governor of Texas in War-Time 1861-1863 :

   Another joint resolution was the following, relative to the "Twin Sisters" cannon, which, after they had been given to the United States government, had been at Baton Rouge:

   'Whereas, the State of Louisiana having caused to be placed in order and delivered to the State of Texas the two guns known in the history of Texas as the 'Twin Sisters,' as a token of friendship towards this State, and desiring to return our acknowledgment of such a gift and to express our friendship and kind feelings towards our sister State:

   "Section 1. Be it resolved by the Legislature of the State of Texas, that we receive the valuable and useful gift to Texas, and acknowledge our obligations to our sister State for the friendship and generosity so manifested by the donation of the guns that are so famous in the history of Texas.

   "Sec. 2. Be it further resolved, that we assure our sister State that it is our desire to cultivate and perpetuate the friendly relations that now exist between this State and the State of Louisiana, and, should an occasion occur in which it will become necessary for Texas to use the 'Twin Sisters' in defense of the rights of Louisiana, Texas, or any other State in the Confederacy, and to repel the invasion of a despot, the sons of Texas will be found ready to man them and to remain by them until the invaders of our common country shall be driven from our soil.

   "Sec. 3. Be it further resolved, that the Governor of the State of Texas be, and he is hereby, requested to cause a copy of these resolutions to be transmitted to the Governor of the State of Louisiana." (Approved January 13, 1862.)

   The guns came in due time and were deposited at Austin. Maj. A. G. Dickinson, commanding the post at San Antonio, on November 30, 1863, wrote Maj. S. T. Fontaine, chief of artillery and ordnance for Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas : "The 'Twin Sisters,' I am informed are at or in a camp in the vicinity of Austin. They are in a deplorable condition, and I am fearful could not be used," and, continuing, referred him to Col. John S. Ford for further information. This is the last official mention of these guns, says the compiler of "Records of the Rebellion," published by the United States government since the war. The subsequent fate and present whereabouts of these guns (if they are still in existence) is unknown.


   The Texas History Page will begin to use this page as a source for all information about the history of the Twin Sisters with the hope that the information will someday help locate both of these historically significant artillery pieces that helped change the history of Texas, the United States and the World.