The last of the seven cannons that were used at the Battle of the Alamo is displayed in front of the long barrack in Alamo Plaza.
The last and largest of the cannons used at the Battle of the Alamo is displayed in Alamo Plaza. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The last and largest of the cannons remaining from the Battle of the Alamo returned to the historic site Wednesday.

Following a ceremonial transition performed by the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets at the university’s campus in Bryan on Wednesday morning, the 2,240-pound cannon left for San Antonio and arrived at the Alamo in the afternoon.

The cannon conservation project started last September when the Texas A&M’s Conservation Research Lab began work to conserve eight cannons used in the 1836 siege and battle. The team will also conserve a ninth, on loan from the San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy. Six of the cannons have already been on display at the Alamo.

Alamo curator Bruce Winders said the cannon that returned to the Alamo Wednesday will not be joining its brethren on the side of the Alamo.

“It was [going to be in the walkway with the rest of the cannons], but then the thing was too big,” he said. “That’s why we’re putting it outside on the north side of the church.”

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At Wednesday morning’s ceremony in Bryan, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush thanked the private donors who funded the conservation project, adding that the ceremony kicks off a larger restoration project at the Alamo.

The Texas Legislature in 2017 allocated $75 million to contribute to the $450 million public-private effort to reimagine Alamo Plaza. The proposed master plan envisions a world-class museum and visitor center, interactive exhibits, and more. The church, Long Barracks, and a portion of the plaza would become a pedestrian-friendly green space, and an outdoor extension of the museum with continued public access to the square.

“While the cannon restoration project was not part of that [$75 million] funding, today’s unveiling is an important and key component to this mission,” Bush said. “What Texas A&M returns today to the people of Texas is a gift that truly will last for generations.”

According to Alamo conservator Pam Rosser, more than $60,000 was raised for the project.

As head of the General Land Office, Bush is responsible for maintaining the Alamo and Long Barracks. He recently came under fire for the land office’s financial mismanagement of the historic site, discovered by an internal audit. The Alamo had become a focal point in the Republican primary for land commissioner, which Bush won easily.

According to the Alamo’s website, the cannons had not been conserved in more than 50 years. The research and conservation team removed layers of paint and corrosion, uncovering details of wear on the cannons.

Winders said conserving cannons is a fairly simple process. Conservators first removed corrosion by bathing the cannon in a chemical solution and running electricity through it. The team then applied fresh coats of industrial paint to protect the iron, which should be repainted every five to 10 years.

The cannons are prepared for transport.
The cannons are prepared for transport. Credit: Courtesy / Tamu Photo

As conservator, Rosser will be taking over maintenance duties. She said her team will check the cannons once a quarter and apply a matte polyurethane coating once a year. Most cannons are displayed vertically to prevent debris and moisture from gathering in the barrel, but the largest cannon will be displayed horizontally, tipped downward at a five-degree angle to allow any water to drip out.

During its research, the conservation team found that some of the cannons had been made in Great Britain and northern Wales. The majority of the cannons came from Europe, Winders said.

“We’ve been able to learn their history before the Alamo,” Winders said. “This gun we’re looking at today came to Texas in 1817.

“They’re the history of Texas,” Winders added. “They’re the history of the plaza, the history of the Alamo.”

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.