Search This Blog

Friday, July 9, 2010

About Those Cannons...

Good morning, class. In honor of the new Deadlands campaign, today's lecture is about guns. Cannons in particular. ONE cannon in particular: the "Come And Take It" cannon in Gonzales, Texas.

The Gonzalans are mighty damn proud of their cannon. They keep it in a special building in one of their city parks, and you can go and see it there. I've seen it; my old man lives in Gonzales, and one year I went to go visit him in early October, which is when they have their COME AND TAKE IT festival, and you see flags and cannons everywhere. They do this to commemorate one of the first battles of the Texas Revolution.

Y'see, back during the Empresario period, when the settlers were moving into Texas with the blessing of the Mexican government, and agreeing to be loyal Mexicans, the ones out Gonzales way had a problem. Namely, the local Indians -- things were a bit frazzled, and the Indians were taking potshots at the settlers, stealing their cattle, and suchlike. So the Mexican government sent them a cannon, so's to defend themselves.

Now, when you see that cannon -- which remains in that special building in Gonzales -- they don't let you touch it. They don't let you NEAR it; they're afraid some yahoo is going to steal the thing or do something stupid like try and load and shoot it, which is very bad for old cannons; they can sometimes burst if improperly fooled with, and since this particular cannon has great significance, they don't let ANYONE near the thing. So when I saw it, I did not see it with anything else near it to give it scale. Not only is this NOT the Gonzales cannon, it's not even a real cannon, in the picture above. It's a replica naval cannon, from elsewhere in the same museum. Still, this is the sort of thing many people imagine when they think "cannon," right?

So we went to the Texas Historical Museum in Austin this morning, and they had a replica of the "Come And Take It" cannon... just like the original one! Y'see, when the Mexican government began to worry about all these settlers getting uppity, they decided that maybe those Gonzales folks shouldn't have a CANNON sitting around. So they sent a detachment of the army to go and fetch it back.

Bad move. These were Southerners, and former Americans, and this move was openly insulting -- it demonstrated a lack of trust, bad manners, and ... well, frankly, made the settlers ponder the idea that perhaps the Mexican government wasn't going to respect their rights as laid out in the Constitution of 1824. (Later on, a guy named Santa Anna would abolish that constitution and try to become Dictator of Mexico, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.)

Anyway, the Gonzalans worked themselves up into a good frenzy, and made themselves a banner inviting the Mexicans to come and take that cannon back... if they thought they were baaaad enough! (That banner is famous throughout Texas. The original is long lost... but I often wonder, if it was intended as a message to the Mexican Army, why wasn't it printed in Spanish? Anyway, a picture of the exhibit in the museum:

Yup, I'm impressed. Come and get it, suckers! I got somethin' fer ya, RIGHT HERE! And they loaded up that cannon (and a great many other shootin' irons) and made things uncomfortable for the Mexican detachment, which retreated after a short battle. The Texas Revolution was underway! Yee-haw! Another view of that exhibit:
..."Um... honey," said my dear wife. "Is that the cannon?"

"It's a replica," I said. "The real one's back in Gonzales."

"Oh, yes," she said, reading the plaque. "An exact copy, made from the original... and it was that big?"

I thought about it. I've seen the original, as I mentioned... but I think I also mentioned that they don't let you NEAR the thing. You have to look at at from a fair distance... and there's nothing near it to let you really get an idea of its SIZE... and at this point, Becca knelt near the replica cannon...
...and I realized the truth. The first battle of the Texas Revolution, a terrible and bloody war in which many, many proud soldiers and innocent bystanders lost their lives...

...was fought over a cannon barely two feet long and too small for a woman to stick her hand in the muzzle.

At this point, it occurred to me that maybe there was another reason they don't want you to get too close to the one in Gonzales... and why they won't let you take pictures...

No comments:

Post a Comment