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Cannon Thought Fired At Alamo During Siege Returns To Shrine

SAN ANTONIO  — Ten years have passed since Rick Range found a small, bronze Spanish cannon that may have been fired at the Alamo, tucked away in a building in rural North Texas.

“And I was amazed. It was in a dark storage-type workroom, way out in the country,” said Range, a Dallas-area Alamo researcher.

That well-traveled cannon, now on display at the Alamo, will be dedicated at a ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Saturday to acknowledge those who helped get it there in late 2010. While it has not been linked conclusively to the 1836 siege and battle, there were enough clues to convince the San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy to restore it and put it on permanent loan at the state shrine. Alamo Historian Bruce Winders said the cannon is one of six on the grounds of the shrine, and the only one made of bronze, that were there in 1836.

The cannon is thought to be one of 13 dug up in 1852, near Houston and Alamo streets, for a fence built for local pioneer Samuel Maverick. Historians theorize it might have been fired from wooden palisades by the Alamo church, from a platform in the church or near the Alamo's south main gate.

The conservancy found correspondence indicating the cannon was sent as payment for a debt in the 1880s from San Antonio to the country estate of the Howard B. French family of Philadelphia, and displayed on their lawn as "the Alamo cannon." In 1986, collector J.P. Bryan of Houston bought the nearly 400-pound gun and shipped it back to Texas.

Bryan sold it in an auction to John McRae, who kept it on his family farm north of Dallas. Range learned about the purchase in 2005 and began looking for the cannon. Although McRae had died in 2000, his daughter showed Range the cannon and agreed in 2008 to donate it for display at the Alamo, as her father had wished.

The daughter, Sue McRae Stover, and descendants of Maverick will be acknowledged Saturday, along with family members of Gregorio Esparza, an Alamo defender who may have fired the cannon in the predawn battle, Range said. Author-historian Gregg Dimmick of Wharton will discuss the cannon's history.

Of the 21 cannons used to defend the Alamo, the bronze gun, known as a 4-pounder to reflect the weight of ordnance it fired, appears to be the ninth one recovered.

Based on old photos and other research, Range believes the most famous Alamo cannon, the 18-pounder fired defiantly in response to Santa Anna's call for surrender, was on outdoor display in San Pedro Springs Park from about 1870 to 1917.

"What happened to it is a total mystery," Range told the San Antonio Express-News, adding that the iron gun might have been melted down for a scrap metal drive during World War I.

Jan DeVault, president of the conservancy, said the group raised $5,000 to restore the cannon, which was found badly weathered and oxidized. Donated services by Texas A&M University's Conservation Research Laboratory, which treated it for two years in a vat of base solution, and the labor and personal expense of many volunteers helped return the mid-1700s gun to the Alamo, she said.

The conservancy has raised a total of about $2 million to preserve, promote and research the San Jacinto site east of Houston, where Texan forces won independence from Mexico about six weeks after the fall of the Alamo. But DeVault said the cannon needed to be in San Antonio for "proper historical context."

"It was right to return the cannon to the Alamo," she added.

(AP in arrangement with the San Antonio Express-News