Chicago Boyz

What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?

Recommended Photo Store
Buy Through Our Amazon Link or Banner to Support This Blog
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Lex's Tweets
  • Jonathan's Tweets
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • History Friday: Two Brothers and the Twin Sisters

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on May 23rd, 2014 (All posts by )

    The two brothers were the McCulloch brothers, Ben and Henry – and the twin sisters were a pair of six-pound cannon, which were sent by the citizens of Cincinnati to Texas at the start of the Texas War for Independence. The good citizens of Cincinnati were persuaded to support the rebellious Texans, and so raised the funds to have a pair of cannon manufactured at a local foundry and shipped down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and from thence by coastal schooner to Galveston, where they were presented to the representatives of the harried and scattered government of the Republic of Texas sometime around early April, 1836. A resolutely determined settler in Texas, Dr. Charles Rice had arrived on the same schooner, accompanied by his family – including a pair of twin daughters. This was too charming a coincidence to pass unnoticed – that the schooner had arrived with two pairs of twins, and so the pair of Cincinnati-cast and paid-for 6-pounders were christened ‘The Twin Sisters.’ By the time that they caught up to Sam Houston’s expeditiously-retreating army, temporarily camped at Groce’s Landing on the Brazos, they would be the only cannon possessed by said army. (All other artillery pieces had been captured at the Alamo or after the defeat of the Goliad garrison at Coleto creek, or dumped in the Guadalupe at Gonzales to lighten the retreat).

    The McCulloch brothers, Ben and Henry, were the scions of the adventurous frontier McCulloch family – a fearless and much respected one, numbering among their acquaintances a very much younger Sam Houston (when he was a school-teacher in Tennessee for a brief time) and Davy Crockett – a close neighbor, who tutored Ben in hunting and wilderness skills. Restless and tired of eking out a living as a farmer, Ben planned to join Crockett’s party of Tennessee friends on their jaunt to Texas on Christmas day of 1835. His brother Henry planned to tag along – but one thing and another – mostly the temptations of rich hunting grounds along the way delayed the McCulloch brothers. Ben convinced his brother to return to Tennessee, while he hurried to catch up to his friend Crockett. Which he did, at Nacogdoches early in January, but was immediately sidelined with a case of the measles which kept him bed-ridden for weeks. By the time he recovered, it was too late; Davy Crockett and his Tennessee friends had made it as far as the Alamo. Somewhere along the line of Sam Houston’s cat-and-mouse retreat into East Texas, Ben McCulloch joined an army … for the first but assuredly not for the last time.

    In the fullness of time, the pair of six-pound cannon trundled along with Sam Houston’s strategically retreating army. At San Jacinto, they anchored the center of Houston’s center – two ranks of hastily-drilled and raggedly-clad soldiers methodically advancing on General Lopez de Santa Anna’s somnolent camp in the thin heat of an April afternoon. A scratch crew of volunteer cannoneers attended the Twin Sisters – including Ben McCulloch. They kept up a furious rate of fire, so much so that they ran out of cannon-balls. Not very much deterred, the two crews loaded the Sisters with whatever they could reach – scrap iron, broken glass and handfuls of musket balls.

    After the San Jacinto victory, the treasured pair were eventually shipped to the various new capital cities of Texas and used now and again to fire at celebrations and observances. Henry McCulloch joined his brother in Texas, alternating bouts of professional surveying with fighting Indians, exploring, terms of elected office, and terms as US marshals. Ben McCulloch never married, but Henry McCulloch did, siring a dozen children with his wife, and one wonders how he ever found the time or the energy.

    Eventually, following upon Annexation to the United States, the Twin Sisters were incorporated into the Federal arsenal and for reasons unknown, removed to New Orleans. In 1860, anticipating that Texas would secede, Ben McCulloch (whom one would never have expected to be that sentimental) asked Sam Houston, then governor of Texas – to get them back. Sam Houston, undeniably sentimental – asked for their return from New Orleans. And so the Twin Sisters returned – just as the Civil War began in earnest. One had been sold for scrap, the other to a private citizen but they were retrieved from the foundry and the owner, and adorned with memorial plaques, courtesy of the state legislature of Louisiana.

    Ben McCulloch, having fought in four different wars with three different armies (five if one counts various campaigns against the Comanche) – fell in the battle at Pea Ridge the next year. His brother served loyally as the commander of frontier defenses in Texas throughout the war – alternatingly defending against Indian raids, and chasing after deserters and bushwhackers all along the frontier. In spite of his strenuous life he lived to a respected old age and died of more or less natural causes.

    But what happened to the Twin Sisters? No one really knows for certain. They were used to defend Galveston in 1863. Rip Ford, as commander of the Cavalry of the West sent for them before his last-gasp campaign against the Union forces in the Rio Grande Valley. They were supposedly being stored in Austin late in the war, but no one can say if they ever arrived. Some accounts have them as being in a decayed and dangerous condition – more a hazard to their crews than to the enemy. Some say that they were buried secretly after the Confederate surrender – hidden away somewhere in the cities of Houston or Harrisburg, or perhaps dumped into deep water. It’s an enduring mystery – and some historians even wonder if the pair returned from Louisiana with all due ceremony in 1861 were the original Twin Sisters anyway.

    (Cross-posted at my book-blog,


    2 Responses to “History Friday: Two Brothers and the Twin Sisters”

    1. Roy Says:

      Artillery, King of Battle, and cause of more enemy casualties than Infantry, Queen of Battle! Interesting story, S Mom.

      During a break from business travel a couple years ago, I toured the grounds of the Texas capitol. Wondered about the stories surrounding some of the cannon I saw. That, plus puzzling at the statues of Mexican leaders who harassed the early Texans, said statues gracing many parks near the capitol building.

    2. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Roy! Yes, there are all sorts of interesting elements to the capitol building.
      Alas, in the early days, Artillery, the King of Battle (unless carefully handled) might have been at least as productive of casualties to their own side, as it was to the enemy. Witness – Mr. Cannonball Was Not His Friend…

    Leave a Reply

    Comments Policy:  By commenting here you acknowledge that you have read the Chicago Boyz blog Comments Policy, which is posted under the comment entry box below, and agree to its terms.

    A real-time preview of your comment will appear under the comment entry box below.

    Comments Policy

    Chicago Boyz values reader contributions and invites you to comment as long as you accept a few stipulations:

    1) Chicago Boyz authors tend to share a broad outlook on issues but there is no party or company line. Each of us decides what to write and how to respond to comments on his own posts. Occasionally one or another of us will delete a comment as off-topic, excessively rude or otherwise unproductive. You may think that we deleted your comment unjustly, and you may be right, but it is usually best if you can accept it and move on.

    2) If you post a comment and it doesn't show up it was probably blocked by our spam filter. We batch-delete spam comments, typically in the morning. If you email us promptly at we may be able to retrieve and publish your comment.

    3) You may use common HTML tags (italic, bold, etc.). Please use the "href" tag to post long URLs. The spam filter tends to block comments that contain multiple URLs. If you want to post multiple URLs you should either spread them across multiple comments or email us so that we can make sure that your comment gets posted.

    4) This blog is private property. The First Amendment does not apply. We have no obligation to publish your comments, follow your instructions or indulge your arguments. If you are unwilling to operate within these loose constraints you should probably start your own blog and leave us alone.

    5) Comments made on the Chicago Boyz blog are solely the responsibility of the commenter. No comment on any post on Chicago Boyz is to be taken as a statement from or by any contributor to Chicago Boyz, the Chicago Boyz blog, its administrators or owners. Chicago Boyz and its contributors, administrators and owners, by permitting comments, do not thereby endorse any claim or opinion or statement made by any commenter, nor do they represent that any claim or statement made in any comment is true. Further, Chicago Boyz and its contributors, administrators and owners expressly reject and disclaim any association with any comment which suggests any threat of bodily harm to any person, including without limitation any elected official.

    6) Commenters may not post content that infringes intellectual property rights. Comments that violate this rule are subject to deletion or editing to remove the infringing content. Commenters who repeatedly violate this rule may be banned from further commenting on Chicago Boyz. See our DMCA policy for more information.