ARTIFACT DESCRIPTIONS AND ANALYSES
The 1992 and 1993 archeological investigations of Palo Alto Battlefield NHS resulted in the recording of hundreds of artifacts. Most of the artifacts are attributable to the battle, the remainder are largely the result of post-battle discard. Aboriginal use of this area also took place as reflected by the recovery of a stone projectile point. Battle-related artifacts are grouped and described under the following categories: Artillery and Firearm Ammunition (includes the subcategories Lead Balls, Spherical Case and Shell, Shot, and Cannonball); Firearms; Edged Weapons; Accouterments; Personal Possessions; Farriery and Hardware; Miscellaneous Artifacts; and Human Bone. Artillery and Firearm Ammunition receives special emphasis, due to the critical role artillery played during the battle as well as being a reflection of the great abundance of artillery-related ammunition recovered from the battlefield. English measurements of caliber, inch and pound are used to describe all U.S. ammunition since this is the measurement applied by English-speaking ordnance manufacturers of the period, and, for the sake of comparison, English measurements are used for Mexican ordnance as well.
Artillery and Firearm Ammunition
Lead Balls, General
Relatively few examples of the millions of lead balls manufactured for U.S. regulation muzzle loaders exist today. Here and there specimens can be seen in museums, in collections, and even still in storage in Government arsenals. Very little work has been done towards compiling information on these once-important objects. Fortunately, most of the major varieties of lead balls have quite distinctive physical characteristics that can provide some useful information on manufacture and use on the battlefield.
During the American Revolution, the only small arms that approached standardization were those of the French and British Armies. These were various models, dating back, in many cases, to the French and Indian Wars. Specifically, the .75 caliber British "Brown Bess" used a ball supposedly standardized at caliber 0.688, weighing 1.14 oz. From examination of 70 musket balls found on British campsites (Calver 1928:120), it appears Revolutionary War-vintage Brown Bess musket balls varied from 0.687 to 0.700 caliber, with an average caliber of 0.694, and a weight of 1.14 oz.
The difference between musket ball and barrel diameters was called "windage". It was standard practice to make the ball caliber .050 smaller than the caliber of the musket barrel for which it was intended. This clearance was needed to take care of three inaccuracies (Butler 1971:18):
1) molded musket balls were not perfectly round and varied in diameter from mold to mold;
2) the barrels were not uniform in inside diameter or "bore", neither from one end to the other in a single musket, nor from musket to musket; and
3) the inside of the barrel accumulated fouling from firing with greatest buildup just forward of the chamber.
Beginning with the Model 1795 musket, its design based on the French Model 1763 musket, regulation U.S. muskets had barrel bores of .69 caliber. Due to crude manufacturing techniques of the period, the dimension was not precise, but good barrels generally ranged from .690 to .705 caliber, or a spread of .015. Up through the Mexican-American War, the standard U.S. musket ball was .640 caliber, with an approximate weight of .9 oz (Lewis 1960:108, 111).
An 1840 U.S. tactics manual (Scott 1840) states buck-and-ball cartridges were standard by this time, and apparently continued in use for at least another 35 years. Such a load was considered of great value for guard duty, Indian fighting and operations in brushy country (Lewis 1960:108). Buckshot was .310 caliber and weighed 0.09 oz. The ball for Hall rifle models, first introduced in 1819, was .525 caliber and weighed .5 oz (U.S. Ordnance Dept. 1841). These were the regulation calibers and weights used by the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War. However, shortly after the war, a slightly larger, 0.65 caliber ball weighing .94 oz was adopted (Lewis 1960:115). The improved "swage" process of manufacturing musket balls by compression instead of by casting allowed for the decrease in windage (Butler 1971:18).
U.S. arsenals and armories traditionally have been ammunition procurement centers. In 1812, the Commissary-General of Ordnance wrote the Secretary of War that "...in the making of musket cartridges, children of 12 or 14 years of age can be employed as usefully or even more so than men...". Army regulations published in 1814 provided for three laboratories or arsenals. "At these workshops shall be...prepared all kinds of ammunition for garrison and field service". In 1825, the St. Louis Arsenal was authorized to supply troops on the western frontier; and by 1841, the Frankford Arsenal in Pennsylvania was the principal manufacturer of military gunpowder. The Frankford Arsenal eventually became the center of Government ammunition development and manufacture (Lewis 1960:167-168). According to Steven Allie (personal communication 1993), the U.S. soldier did not manufacture his own musket balls at the time of the Mexican-American War; these were provided to him ready-made and in cartridge form.
In 1846, presumably due to the Mexican-American War, lead ball compression or "swage" machines were set up at Frankford Arsenal. Such machines could manufacture balls at the rate of 40,000 per worker/per day. Similar machines eventually were installed for the Saint Louis and Watervliet Arsenals. Balls made by this method were "...more uniform in size and weight, they were smoother, more solid, and give more accurate results, than cast balls" (Ordnance Board 1846). In this method of manufacture, lead bars were fed into a machine that cut off a part sufficient for one ball; this portion was then transferred into a die that formed the ball. The balls were trimmed by hand with a knife, then passed through a cylinder-gauge for proper sizing. Buckshot were either manufactured in a similar manner to the balls, or else purchased from private shot works (Lewis 1960:185).
In lieu of the compression method, the arsenal manufacture of musket balls involved: melting lead in kettles; the molten lead then poured into gang molds; and the cooled lead balls removed from the molds and trimmed of its "sprue", the knob of waste metal formed in the mold hole. Regulations required first castings to be thrown back into the kettle since they were imperfectly round due to the cold mold. Periodic measurements of ball samples and a thorough cleaning of lead build-up in the molds were necessary. Molds that gave imperfect balls were either repaired or destroyed. Balls were smoothed by rolling in a barrel for several minutes, then run through a gauge-screen; balls not falling through the screen were recast (Lewis 1960:175-176).
As noted in Chapter Four of this report, musket balls used as shrapnel filling for spherical case rounds also were manufactured at the arsenals. The 1849 Ordnance Manual specified 38 lead balls in a 6-pounder case shot; an 18-pounder spherical case rounds contained 120 (Gibbon 1860: Appendix p. 35). Other than having a different delivery system, lead ball shrapnel should have had the same caliber and weight, as well as passed the same quality controls, as those shot from a musket.
At present, very little is known or documented about the Mexican method of supplying troops with ordnance including musket balls. Yet it is known Mexico did not maintain as efficient an arsenal system as the U.S. in 1846. Machinery in Mexico's only quality small arms arsenal had been in disrepair since at least 1834 (Hefter et al. 1958:53). Thus, Mexican lead balls conceivably were made using molds by ad hoc details of soldiers and by relatively small, civilian-operated "cottage industries". Under such a system of dispersed manufacture, quality control may have been difficult to maintain: significant numbers of delivered musket balls would be misshapened due to cold, misaligned or poorly maintained molds; others would have only partially removed sprues; and there would be a lack of overall smoothness because of dispensing of the final ball manufacture stages of barrel-rolling and gauge-screening.
One thing to consider regarding Mexican musket ball manufacture is the relatively crudely made metal parts and correspondingly low tolerances characteristic of muskets used by many of their soldiers. Most Mexican soldiers were armed with the British India Pattern "Brown Bess" musket, manufactured in vast quantities during the Napoleonic Wars. To increase its production during that war, even less exacting tolerances for viewing and proof, that is, bore caliber and chamber pressure, respectively, were allowed for this stop-gap musket model (Darling 1981:50). In 1833, the British had 440,000 of these then-obsolete weapons, of which 264,000 were condemned as unserviceable. Hefter et al. (1958:53) states Britain sold muskets to Mexico primarily, if not exclusively, from the condemned group during the 1830s. If true, then many of the Mexican soldiers at Palo Alto may have been armed with muskets having barrel bores of substandard calibers. Therefore, a soldier using a musket with a bore that was too small (for example, .71 caliber instead of the standard .75 caliber) would mean that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to ram a standard issue musket ball down a "tight" barrel. In fact, on several investigated Civil War battlefield sites, there is archeological evidence that indicates soldiers on the battle line discarded approximately 5 percent of their Minie balls because the were incorrectly manufactured, that is, misshapened or having calibers greater than what was required for their firearm (Babits and Manesto 1994).
The Mexican armed forces used a poor quality gunpowder (Thompson 1846:173), which meant they needed unusually large powder charges for their muskets to obtain sufficient ball velocity. Such charges would have quickly resulted in especially thick residue buildup in the barrel. Barrel bores may have become so fouled after several firings that it became difficult, if not impossible, to ram down the musket ball, necessitating a thorough cleaning of the barrel to make it serviceable again. In contrast, American gunpowder was of superior quality. Actual tests of American gunpowder used during this war demonstrated it was considerably better than specifications required (Lewis 1960:32).
Lead Balls From Palo Alto Battlefield
For the purpose of this report, the generic term "lead ball" is adopted instead of "musket ball" since items in this category were used as ball shrapnel for U.S. spherical case shot, Mexican canister or bag shot (rarely), and projectiles for rifles, pistols and muskets.
A total of 359 lead balls were recovered. Of all artifact categories this is numerically the largest, representing approximately 40 percent of the total collected artifacts. Lead ball analyses involved monitoring calibers and weights as well as the presence or absence of sprues, mold seams, gouges, cuts, and out-of-round characteristics due to impact, that is, faceting and flattening. Lead balls also were checked for powder flash, an attribute occasionally present if the object was used as a firearm projectile. Monitoring these attributes was expected to identify nationality of origin, method of manufacture and manner of use on the battlefield. Together with its exact provenience data, the resulting information could identify and delineate specific events both within battle lines and in areas of intense battlefield activity between battle lines.
Caliber measurement provided identification of the national origin of a lead ball: if it measured between .630-.670 calibers inclusive, it was identified as U.S. (g, Figure 42); if between .671-.750+ calibers, it was Mexican (e, f, Figure 42). Lead balls of around .620 caliber are ammunition for a British-made Baker rifle used by the Mexican army (c, Figure 42). One lead ball of .520 caliber is identified as ammunition for the U.S. Hall rifle (h, Figure 42). Many lead balls were out-of-round, therefore, caliber could not be monitored. In such instances, weight was used to assign national origin. Median weight for caliber-measured U.S. lead balls was .86 oz, and for Mexican lead balls, 1.16 oz.
Some error in assigning national origin may have occurred since muskets of both armies conceivably could use lead balls ranging between .67-.68 calibers, or between .88-.95 ounces. Fortunately, only 8 of the total 359 lead balls fall within these caliber and weight ranges. Thus, most of the lead balls presumably are correctly assigned, supported by lead ball patterned groupings based on these assignments.
Figure 41 (pocket insert) shows the distribution of all lead balls within the sampled areas of the battlefield. Readily apparent is that the greatest concentrations of lead balls are on the Mexican battle line as identified by SAs 200-212. Attribute analyses indicate these balls are both Mexican and U.S. in origin. Further, Figure 41 denotes occurrences of lead balls both as relatively dense clusterings and as more or less isolated occurrences.
Patterning within SA 209 was especially informative. Virtually all of the artifacts found within this search area fall within two major clusters, designated clusters A and B (Figure 43). These clusters are approximately 100 ft apart, and no artifacts occurred between them. Possibly these clusters reflect General Arista's order towards the end of the battle that his soldiers advance "twenty varas", about 60 ft. so they should not be near "the first to fall, hearing their moans" (Ampudia 1846:17).
Cluster A had a pronounced linear distribution about 400 ft long on an almost north-south axis. The cluster consisted primarily of U.S. lead balls as well as a few U.S. spherical case shot fragments and iron balls from 6-pounder canister rounds. Several Mexican-related items, that is, a sword hilt, belt stud, brass cap, gun part and button, also were present within this cluster. An explanation for this striking linearity is that it reflects the final Mexican battle line position. The ground explosion of a U.S. spherical case round may have propelled a cone or fan of shrapnel an indeterminate distance, with a linear formation of human targets acting as a break to the forward motion of the shrapnel. Some shrapnel would fly harmlessly over the heads of the intended victims, landing hundreds of feet away, some shrapnel would be carried off the battle line inside the wounded and killed, and some would hit the targets but not penetrate. Presumably the latter then fell to the ground, creating a linear pattern. The presence of a widespread scatter of Mexican lead balls within the cluster could have been the result of scattering unused lead balls (either in cartridge or in loose form), part of the general deposition of Mexican equipment resulting from such an ordnance explosion.
Three, relatively compact concentrations of lead balls composed Cluster B. Two concentrations consisted entirely of Mexican lead balls, the other mostly U.S. lead balls. The latter cluster probably resulted from an 18-pounder spherical case round. A fragment of such ordnance was within the U.S. lead ball concentration, along with some Mexican accouterments, such as buttons, a buckle and a gun part. Thirty-two of the Mexican lead balls that made up the other two concentrations are round, that is, they do not exhibit flattened surfaces. Such nondeformed lead balls likely represent unfired and lost paper cartridges.
Thirteen of the total 47 Mexican lead balls from SA 209 are faceted, perhaps a result of hitting against other lead balls inside a soldier's ammunition pouch (Larry Babits, personal communication 1994). If such is the case, then at least some Mexican soldiers were not issued paper cartridges that protect the lead balls from battering but, instead, lead balls in loose form. (This would also mean the gunpowder was issued in loose form as well and stored in a powder horn or flask). It is less likely the faceting of Mexican lead balls is the result of their battering against each other upon explosion of a spherical case round since, at Palo Alto, the Mexican army did not use this type of explosive ordnance. Two Mexican musket balls are flattened due to their having been fired. This raises a question: from where were they fired? If Mexican soldiers fired toward the Americans, one would expect their musket balls to have landed somewhere away from their own line, not where they stood. One possible explanation is the unintentional firing of muskets when muskets and men were hit by U.S. shrapnel, resulting in some balls being deposited nearby. Possibly these lead balls were fired from an earlier Mexican battle line position. In effect, SA 209 may have exhibited a palimpsest of two artifact depositions resulting from battle events widely separated in time.
Other search areas within this portion of the battlefield (SAs 200-208 and 211) yielded 173 Mexican and 29 U.S. lead balls; most of the latter are faceted as expected for lead shrapnel. Yet, unlike Area A within SA 209, the U.S. lead balls occurred more or less in a widespread pattern. In fact, a spherical case round exploding in mid-air, and preferably just overhead and in front of the target, results in a 250 yd diameter spread of shrapnel when the round is fired at point-blank range (Haythornthwaite 1979:60). Therefore, the widespread patternings of lead balls that occurred within SAs 200-208 were the result of overhead ordnance explosions.
Several Mexican lead balls from the above SAs also are faceted or flattened. However, most of Mexican lead balls are round and occurred primarily within three, relatively dense concentrations (Figure 41, pocket insert, SAs 201, 203 and 211). Once again, these concentrations probably were the result of dropping cartridges and/or loose lead balls.
Finally, the following lead balls found within this area of the Mexican battle line are worthy of special note: a .30 caliber ball (i, Figure 42); a .52 caliber ball (h, Figure 42); and a .68 caliber ball with teeth marks (f, Figure 42). The .30 caliber ball is appropriate for U.S. buckshot use in buck-and-ball rounds. However, U.S. infantrymen presumably never came within effective musket range, that is, 100 yd of the Mexican center. It is possible this projectile came from a small caliber, nonregulation pocket pistol.
The .52 caliber ball is appropriate for Hall rifles and carbines used by U.S. skirmishers and dragoons, respectively.
Unlike all the other lead balls, the one with teeth marks possesses a certain poignancy. Bitten and chewed musket balls are occasionally found in period military encampments. Several such bullets were found on a Revolutionary War site, its discoverer theorizing they "were given to culprits in the army that they might chew them to ease their agony while being flogged" (Calver 1950:76). This particular lead ball, of Mexican caliber and found on the Mexican battle line, may well have been bitten by a wounded Mexican soldier while he received some medical attention, or chewed on it to relieve tension.
Lead balls also were found in the following battlefield areas (Figure 3, pocket insert): the area bisected by the Matamoros/Point Isabel Road (Area B); near the western edge of the resaca (Area C); alongside the marshy area that existed between the two battle lines (Area F); and the eastern half of the battlefield, bounded to the south and east by chaparral-covered low rises and dunal ridges (Areas E and G, respectively).
Only 5 U.S. and 4 Mexican lead balls were recovered from Area A, the portion of the battlefield largely, if not exclusively, occupied by U.S. troops. The paucity of lead balls from this area was appropriate since the U.S. army incurred only a few casualties from Mexican firearms; and, since the Americans occupied this area, evidence of spherical case rounds should be minimal here. Some or all of the U.S. lead balls may have been the result of a prematurely exploded spherical case round(s). In fact, several spherical case fragments were recovered from this area. In addition, U.S. troops may have lost some cartridges here during the battle. The presence of Mexican lead balls in Area A may have been the result of their failed attacks on the U.S. right flank. One of the Mexican lead balls recovered from Area A is a .62 caliber, indicating it was fired or dropped by a Mexican rifleman.
One .70 caliber Mexican lead ball was found on the west side of the resaca, within SA 100. Its caliber and location is suggestive of deposition resulting from General Torrejón's initial flanking attacks that occurred in this vicinity of the battlefield.
Nineteen lead balls, 12 U.S. and 7 Mexican, were found along the southeastern perimeter of Area F. Their deposition shows the possible presence of Mexican soldiers here. U.S. lead balls from this area are all flattened or faceted, the result of musket fire or spherical case rounds directed at the Mexicans. All but one of the Mexican lead balls are round, suggestive of cartridge loss.
The 1992 and 1993 surveys recovered 23 lead balls from SAs 300-315, in the eastern half of the battlefield. Of these lead balls, 20 are calibers identified as Mexican, the remaining three are U.S. Also, in 1990, relic hunters collected at least another 65 lead balls from this area (Plitt 1992). The exact proveniences, calibers and other physical attributes were not monitored by those conducting this survey. Therefore, this body of data cannot be incorporated exactly with the 1992-1993 lead ball data.
Other lead balls recovered from this portion of the battlefield include: 1) a .54 caliber conoidal, flat-based bullet (b, Figure 42); 2) a .58 caliber Minie-type bullet (a, Figure 42); and 3) two, .62 caliber balls (c, Figure 42). Conceivably, the .54 caliber bullet was deposited at the time of battle since in 1842 the U.S. Army began experimenting with variously shaped firearm projectiles. Conoidal bullets were specifically tested with the Model 1841 percussion rifle that used a .54 caliber projectile (Lewis 1960:115-116). Although U.S. regulars were not armed with this rifle, some of the Texas volunteers present at Palo Alto may have owned them and consequently fired conoidal bullets.
The .58 caliber Minie-type bullet was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1855 (Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance 1855); therefore, this type of bullet definitely post-dates Palo Alto. Mexican sharpshooters would have been armed with the British Baker rifle, which used a .62 caliber ball.
Finally, comparative analyses of lead ball attributes shows general trends concerning the variable methods and standards for the manufacture of lead balls. The following data is pertinent to lead balls intended for standard musket types used by the Mexican and U.S. armies; it does not include data from the six lead balls with .30, .52, .54 and .62 calibers.
Of the total 70 U.S. lead balls, two have both sprue and mold seams and three have mold seams only; therefore, seven percent of U.S. lead balls are out-of-round. Of the 289 Mexican lead balls, 70 are out-of-round due to sprues and mold seams. Two additional lead balls are inadequately cast, possibly due to a cold mold. Thus, 40 percent of all Mexican lead balls are out-of-round.
Sixty-three American lead balls are flattened or faceted. Therefore, caliber ranges could only be determined from the remaining seven, undamaged balls. Of these, six are .65 caliber, one is .64 caliber. Weight ranges for 93 percent of U.S. lead balls are between .82-.87 oz, or a variance of .05 oz. If one includes all U.S. lead balls, weight variance becomes .13 oz. In contrast, Mexican lead balls are within ranges of .680-.770 calibers, .9 calibers in variance, with corresponding weight ranges between .94-1.31 oz, a variance of .36 oz. These ranges are far greater than what was noted for British-made, Revolutionary War-era lead balls that ranged between .687-.700 calibers (Calver 1928:120).
Of the total 289 Mexican lead balls, 23 (8 percent) have calibers greater than .730; these lead balls would have been difficult to ram down the barrel of a correctly bored, .75 caliber India Pattern musket, and they could not be used at all if the musket barrel itself had an incorrect bore of less than .750 caliber. As previously noted, Babits and Manesto (1994) found that approximately 5 percent of the Minie balls recorded from several Civil War battlefields were discarded on the battle line because they were misshapened or too large for the barrel. It would appear that, at least at Palo Alto, the potential Mexican musket ball discard rate is significantly greater than the U.S. Civil War discard rate. Finally, significant numbers of out-of-round lead balls also support stated hypotheses regarding Mexican methods of lead ball manufacture, including their corresponding lack of quality control.
The above data indicates most U.S. musket balls varied little in caliber and weight. Surprisingly, a few measurable lead balls are .65 caliber; this caliber supposedly was not adopted until after the Mexican-American War. The presence of U.S. molded lead balls reflects the use of ordnance manufactured before arsenals changed over to the swage method. Since Palo Alto was the first battle of the Mexican-American War, very likely ordnance manufactured before the 1846 changeover would have been present, to some extent, in Taylor's command. Yet, at least one spherical case round contained swage-manufactured lead ballsthose that had been in linear distribution within SA 209 all lack mold seams and sprues, as well as all falling within a tight weight range of 23.4-24.1 grams.
Spherical Case and Shell
A total of 43 iron fragments of shell and spherical case were recovered (j, k, Figure 44). Analyses of this artifact type included a thickness measurement since thickness primarily determines explosive round type and, secondarily, its poundage. The following information is from Gibbon (1860:Appendix, p. 27):
The arc of an explosive ordnance fragment was monitored to best determine poundage. This was needed since there is some thickness overlap for 12- and 18-pounder spherical case rounds, .47 in, as well as some post-explosion expansion of the fragment due to salt absorption. Arc of a fragment was compared with arcs of three circles having diameters of 5.17, 4.52 and 3.58 in; these are the diameters of 18-, 12- and 6-pounders, respectively (Gibbon 1860:Appendix, p.27).
Using the above parameters, ordnance fragments were identified as follows:
The presence of 12-pounder ordnance is especially significant since some sources (Meade 1913:79; Dillon 1975:23) state Duncan's and Ringgold's batteries consisted exclusively of 6-pounders, a conclusion presumably based on reliable documents. One such document may have been Lieutenant Scarritt's letter dated May 12, 1846. In this letter he states that, for defense of the wagon train the day after battle, "...the 12-pdrs. on truck carriages were got out of the waggons [sic] and placed at my disposal" (Scarritt 1846). Also, in his history of the battle, Wilcox (1892:60) noted "The trains of Taylor remained during the 9th parked as on the 8th; with them were four guns, the two 18-pounders that had rendered such good service the previous day, and the two 12-pounders that had not been used" [emphasis added].
The above information seems to indicate 12-pounders played no active role during the battle. However, in a letter he wrote shortly after the battle, Ulysses S. Grant said the Americans, in addition to the 18-pounders, had "three or four 12-pounder howitzers and four or five 6-pounder howitzers" (Grant 1885:94) (Grant was mistaken in calling the 6-pounder "howitzers"; they were guns).
Assuming Grant's memory was correct, his statement indicates one or two others existed besides the two 12-pounders Scarritt used the day after the battle. Possibly Scarritt was referring to 12-pounder siege guns, a much heavier class of cannon than the lighter, mobile 12-pounder field howitzers. Siege guns normally travelled with an army's supply train and required draft oxen or mules with civilian drivers (Dillon 1975:12). Since presumably the two 12-pounder siege guns were already with the train, they logically would have been incorporated into its defense along with the two 18-pounders used the previous day.
Inside Cullum Hall at West Point are 15 cannon barrels used in the Mexican-American War. On the first floor and mounted onto the wall are seven barrels from Mexican artillery pieces captured at Resaca de la Palma. On the stairway wall leading to the second floor are cannon barrels belonging to the batteries of Captain James Duncan and Major Samuel Ringgold. All four of Ringgold's cannon barrels are 6-pounder guns; Duncan's barrels consist of three 6-pounder guns and one 12-pounder howitzer (Neil Mangum, personal communication 1992). Conceivably this latter fieldpiece was added to Duncan's battery later in the war; however, archeological evidence indicates a 12-pounder was used at Palo Alto.
Ordnance fragments were found within the following areas of the battlefield: Area B, the Matamoros-Point Isabel Road Segment; west of Area C, the resaca; the major portion of the Mexican battle line, situated east of Area A up to the low rises or motitas of Area E; and the eastern portion of the battlefield, north of Area F (Figure 3).
Four fragments were found in Area B: one 12-pounder spherical case; two 18-pounder spherical case; and one unidentified fragment. Since this area of the battlefield was largely occupied by U.S. forces, appropriately relatively few U.S. ordnance fragments were found here. A possible explanation for their presence is premature midair detonation, an event that frequently occurred with nineteenth century explosive ordnance (Haythornthwaite 1979:60).
Three fragments were found west of Area C: two identified as 18-pounder spherical case; and one from a 6-pounder spherical case. These fragments may reflect U.S. defensive use of cannon to turn back Mexican flanking attempts in this area of the battlefield. During this action, the left flank of the U.S. Fifth Infantry was protected by two 6-pounders that fired antipersonnel rounds (McIntosh 1846:2). The presence of 18-pounder spherical case fragments is suggestive these heavier cannon contributed to flank defense as well.
Sampling of the Mexican battle line produced 22 18-pounder spherical case and shell fragments as well as 12-pounder shell fragments (j,k, Figure 44). These ordnance fragments were found both widely scattered and in relative concentrations. A wide scattering of ordnance fragments is the probable result of midair ordnance detonation, with concentrations occurring as the result of ground detonation. Not surprisingly, spherical case fragments were found intermixed with concentrations of U.S. lead ball shrapnel.
All four ordnance fragments found in the eastern portion of the battlefield are of widely scattered 12-pounder shell. These remnants probably reflect Duncan's successful defense of the U.S. left flank toward the end of the battle.
U.S. Iron Shot
Following terminology of nineteenth century ordnance manuals, "shot" refers to the metal ball shrapnel that filled canister. Shot should not be confused with "grapeshot", the latter term reserved by artillerymen of the period to describe larger diameter iron balls fired in clusters of nine.
The following canister shot dimensions from Gibbon (1860:Appendix, p. 29) provided the basis for identifying U.S. shot:
A total of 167 iron shot and 3 grapeshot were recovered. Of these, 86 (51 percent) either have all or a sufficient amount of their original surface to allow for accurate gauging. The remaining 84 (49 percent) are now missing their entire original surfaces due to exfoliation. An exfoliated artifact, therefore, was assigned to its proximate, larger-sized gauge category. For example, an exfoliated shot with a diameter of 1.37 inches after conservation would be identified as an 18-pounder shot, that is, within the range of 1.67-1.70 in. Of course, since actual amounts of exfoliation cannot be quantified, error in gauge determinations may have occurred. Fortunately, when exfoliated shot are factored out, a significant shift in percentages distribution of shot gauges does not occur.
By far, the greatest concentration of iron shot occurred within the eastern side of Area F, the marshy area between the battle lines (Figures 3 and 41). A metal detector sweep of this area resulted in a noncollection recording of 110 shot. This represents 65 percent of all iron shot recorded. Presumably due to relatively moist conditions within Area F, over 70 percent of these shot are moderately to severely exfoliated; in fact, several are little more than iron crumbs that could not be measured, only provenienced. Diameters of the measurable shot indicate these all came from canister fired from 6-pounder cannon. The overall shot patterning suggests Mexican troops massed to the south and east of the marsh barrier, providing a tempting target for U.S. light batteries.
In contrast, 10 of the 13 shot found on the Mexican battle line south of Area F came from 18-pounder canister. This pattern possibly reflects a U.S. artillery tactic practiced during the battle, that is, using the greater range of the 18-pounders to destroy Mexican troop concentrations beyond normal reach of U.S. light batteries, freeing the latter to concentrate on frontline troops such as those adjacent to the marshy area located between the opposing battle lines.
A total of 30 U.S. shot and two grapeshot were found in Area B. This shot represents all three sizes of U.S. cannon used at Palo Alto. Figure 41 shows the overall patterning of this ordnance, which appears to increase in number as one approaches the southern and western limits of Area F. Given its location on the battlefield, it is possible deposition occurred largely as a result of an attempted Mexican cavalry attack towards the end of the battle to destroy the 18-pounders. If this is correct, the cavalry units probably originated from an area of the battlefield to the south and west of Area F. To repel this attack, the 18-pounder battery had to reposition itself, the maneuver accomplished just in time to discharge antipersonnel rounds into the oncoming cavalry. In his account of the battle, Taylor (1846:3) mentioned only the Artillery Battalion in support of the 18-pounder battery during this attack; the archeological evidence is suggestive that U.S. light artillery fieldpieces provided some additional support.
Nine shot and one grapeshot were recovered from the eastern portion of the battlefield. All but 2 of the 10 ball shrapnel are the 18-pounder size, and most were north of "Arista Hill" (Figure 41). The presence of U.S. ordnance here, in association with Mexican-related accouterments, such as uniform brass and gun parts, provides additional data for the hypothesis that 18-pounders concentrated on Mexican troops beyond the reach of U.S. light artillery. Negative information supporting this hypothesis is the comparative scarcity of U.S. ordnance from light artillery within this area of the battlefield.
The 1841 Ordnance Manual required grapeshot be used only by naval, seacoast and siege guns (Peterson 1969:107). Thus, one should not expect to find U.S. grapeshot on post-1841 battlefields. Yet three iron balls of 2.10, 2.15 and 2.20 in diameters were recovered. One each of these iron balls was found in SA 6, Area B; SA 200, on the Mexican battle line; and SA 308, on the eastern portion of the battlefield (g, Figure 44). Using the above-described method of assigning ordnance, these are small gauge 18-pounder grapeshot. An explanation for their presence is that 18-pounders, in their dual capacity as seacoast artillery, may have had stands of grapeshot in their munition chests. Conceivably grapeshot was used on occasion during the battle due to supply exhaustion and conservation of spherical case, shell and canister.
Mexican Cupreous and Lead Shot
A total of 59 cupreous and four lead shot were recovered (examples: a-f, Figure 44). Cupreous shot is Mexican in origin since several accounts (e.g., Furber 1848: 199) note the predominant use of copper or copper alloyed metal by Mexican manufacturers of cannon ammunition. Lead shot found on the battlefield also presumably is Mexican since: only iron is mentioned for the manufacture of U.S. shot; the diameters of the lead shot correspond with diameters of the copper shot; and the lead shot display other distinguishing characteristics similar to some of the recovered copper shot.
Mexican shot served the same function as its U.S. counterpart; its container, however, could differ. In addition to the cylindrical tin canisters used by the U.S., Mexican shot also could be packaged in cloth bags or rawhide, the latter dried to shrink tightly around its contents.
Based on their diameters, there are 10 groupings of Mexican shot. Their diameters, in inches, are as follows: .85, .90, .95, 1.0, 1.05, 1.12, 1.25, 1.30, 1.35 and 1.45. The greatest concentration of copper shot occurred primarily to the east and northeast of Area F, and all but the 1.45 in diameter-size shot are represented in this area. The presence of Mexican shot here may reflect the Mexican response to Captain May's dragoon attack on the Mexican left flank. May described this action as follows:
Colonel McIntosh, commander of the Fifth Infantry, describes May's attack toward the end of the battle as follows:
Toward the end of the battle the U.S. Fifth Infantry was facing an easterly direction roughly parallel with the wagon road. Taking this new position into account, the above-mentioned marshy area probably was Area F. Movement of May's squadron through Area F implies the Mexican left flank, by this time, was anchored on the southwestern side of this natural feature (Figures 3 and 41). It is, therefore, plausible Mexican copper shot found west and north of Area F is the above "cannon shot" described by Colonel McIntosh.
The physical characteristics of Mexican shot are suggestive of at least four different manufacturing sources for this type of ordnance: some of the balls are almost egg-shaped and pitted, with the sprues partially intact; some are faceted due to filing off of the sprue and other out-of-round imperfections; mold seams are strongly evident on others; and a few are almost perfectly spherical with a relatively smooth surface. One of the shot indicates the method of manufacture (f, Figure 44). It consists of two shot joined by their shared channel sprue, a result of nonseparation of the shot from a gang mold.
Four lead shot, all with diameters between 1.0-1.03 in, were found on the Mexican battle line. Lead shot presumably are Mexican in origin due to physical characteristics shared with some of the cupreous balls, such as slight nonalignment of ball hemispheres due to a shot mold in need of repair (c, Figure 44).
Solid Shot/Cannon Balls
Although "solid shot" is the correct nineteenth century technical term for this ordnance (Mordecai 1849; Gibbon 1860), the more popular term "cannon ball" will be used in the following discussion. Hopefully this will avoid its confusion with the much smaller ball shrapnel "shot" ordnance.
A total of 11 iron and 4 cupreous cannon balls were recovered (Figure 45). One iron cannon ball was located on the surface. Its diameter of 3.50 in was measured in the field but not collected or weighed at the request of the landowner. The following cannon ball measurements are stated in English inches and pounds, as was the common practice for muzzle-loading artillery:
Iron Cannon Balls
Cupreous Cannon Balls
Notably, exfoliation and swelling occurred on most of the iron cannon balls in varying degrees. Therefore, these measurements do not correspond closely with their original diameters and weights as do the cupreous cannon balls. Unlike iron cannon balls, measurements of cupreous cannon balls presumably are closely approximate to the original diameters and weights since they exhibit virtually no deterioration due to oxidation.
According to Gibbon (1860:Appendix, p.27), cannon balls for U.S. 6-pounders were 3.58 in diameter and weighed 6.16 lbs; 12-pounder field howitzer cannon balls were 4.52 in diameter and weighed 12.30 lbs. None of the recovered cannon balls apparently were fired by a 12-pounder howitzer. However, measurements of a few of the iron cannon balls, for example, FS 422 and 385, come relatively close to what is appropriate for U.S. 6-pounders.
As previously noted, seven Mexican cannon tubes captured at Resaca de la Palma are on display at West Point Military Academy. Five of the seven tubes have a bore of 3.50 in and one has a bore of 4.25 in. The bore of the seventh tube cannot be measured since it is imbedded in the wall. Two of these tubes are inscribed with the date of 1767 and one with 1774; the other four appear to be of the same pre-Gribeauval pattern, and thus, they, too, date to the eighteenth century (Neil Mangum, personal communication 1992).
Brass cannon tubes made during the latter half of the eighteenth century have a windage difference averaging around .20 in (Peterson 1969:41). Therefore, the above-described cupreous cannon balls were likely fired from those tubes with a bore diameter of 3.50 in. In light of this, the iron cannon ball FS 853 was conceivably fired from the same Mexican cannon tube at West Point that has a bore of 4.25 in.
Unfortunately, identification of the national origin of most of the iron cannon balls is not possible with absolute assurance because of exfoliation and swelling. Yet, there was a general clustering of cannon balls, both cupreous and iron, toward the northern ends of SAs 303, 306-309 (Figure 41). This pattern, combined with the nearby presence of a few U.S.-related accouterments such as a cartridge belt plate, canteen spout and a spur buckle, is suggestive that these cannon balls were largely fired from Mexican cannon in their attempt to destroy Duncan's battery.
All of the recovered firearm parts came from the Mexican battle line and primarily represent the India Pattern musket (Figure 46; see also Figure 16, India Pattern Musket). Also present is a part from a British Paget carbine.
1) Pistol Butt Cap(?) (a, Figure 46) One example: FS 577 SA 209 1.0 x .91 in .06 oz
Description: Concave disc; whole; hammered copper; ovoid; has a center hole that was crudely cut/punched outif for a pistol, this allowed for attachment of object by a screw to the butt of a pistol; found on the Mexican battle line. The artifact was made by cutting out an ovoid piece from copper sheet, then formed into its concave shape by hammering; unskilled, homemade manufacture.
2) Trigger Guard Upper Finial (b, Figure 46; d, Figure 47) One example: FS 766 SA 212 1.2 in long .30 oz
Description: Cast and filed brass; fragment; from Mexican battle line; finial has the simplified design indicative of the Indian Pattern musket (Darling 1981:49, Figure 40).
3) Trigger Guard (fragment) (c, Figure 46; c, Figure 47) One example: FS 289 SA 202 .98 in long .32 oz
Description: Cast and filed brass; fragment; from Mexican battle line (SA 202). The artifact has a portion of a countersunk screw hole adjacent to the trigger guard bow, which is typical of an India Pattern musket (Darling 1981:49, Figure 40).
4) Spring Attachment(?) (d, Figure 46) One example: FS 595 SA 211 1.4 x .08 in .17 oz
Description: Cast brass; whole. This object, found on the Mexican battle line, may be a spring attachment for a firearm. However, Bill Brown of the National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Design Center, could not identify this artifact on any of the park's collection of period British or American muskets or rifles (personal communication 1993).
FS 345 SA 201 1.3 x 1.1 x 0.4 in .40 oz (e, Figure 46)
FS 702 SA 211 1.3 x 1.1 x 0.4 in .40 oz (f, Figure 46)
Description: Musket gunflints; whole; from the Mexican battle line. Their measurements meet traditional specifications for the British carbine (Peterson 1956:228); however, this size also can be used on a musket (James Moore, personal communication 1993).
FS 345 is gray and opaque with inclusions; FS 702, nearly translucent black. Both variants are present within the flint beds around Brandon, England an area extensively developed for gunflints since around 1790 (Lotbiniere 1980:vii-viii). Physical characteristics of the two artifacts are typical of blade technology gunflints made in England since around 1775, that is, possessing two transverse flake scars, beveled edge, heel trimmed off, cleanly broken sides, and characteristic demi-cones of percussion (Kenmotsu 1990:100). The working edges of both gunflints do not exhibit use wear scars due to firing; however, FS 345 possesses a series of flake scars along its other two sides, suggesting its use as a strike-a-light (James Moore, personal communication 1993).
6) Musket Nose Cap
FS 558 SA 209 .98 x .98 in .63 oz (g, Figure 46)
FS 773 SA 209 .87 in long (width not measurable) .58 oz
Description: Cast and filed brass; virtually whole; forward end of cap terminates with a flat flange perpendicular to cap length, flange concave to support the barrel; attachment pin hole is off-center; one corner of rear end is broken off; length is slightly tapered with rear end .08 in wider than forward end; from Mexican battle line. Nesmith (personal communication 1993) identifies these as nose caps for the India Pattern musket.
7) Carbine Nose Cap
One example: FS 264 SA 203 2.4 in long .97 oz (h, Figure 46; Figure 48)
Description: Cast and filed brass; whole; bevelled and rounded forward end, brass pin present for attachment to stock, initials on reverse, initials (RH or BH) partially obscured by attachment pin; from Mexican battle line. Nesmith (personal communication 1993) identifies this as part of a Paget carbine, a British firearm normally used by Mexican mounted troops.
8) Second Ramrod Pipes
FS 227 SA 202 1.8 x .47 in 1.1 oz (i, Figure 46; Figure 49)
FS 670 SA 211 1.8 x .47 x .35 in 1.3 oz (k, Figure 46)
Description (FS 227): Cast brass, with bell mouth, ridge, collar and one-piece lug for a barrel pin; whole. The bell mouth has a .47 in diameter, the other end is misshapened due to damage; one side of the pipe is almost entirely missing. This is the second ramrod pipe for an India Pattern musket, as indicated by its in situ placement 7 in from and aligned with a terminal ramrod guide (FS 226), the latter having similar damage.
Description (FS 670): Cast brass, with bell mouth, ridge, collar and one-piece lug for a barrel pin; whole. The bell mouth is .47 in in diameter, the other end .35 in, with an overall length of 1.8 in; found on the Mexican battle line. FS 670 is the second ramrod pipe on an India Pattern British musket. This variety of ramrod pipe was introduced in 1777 by London gunmaker John Pratt and gradually replaced the older type "thimble" pipe. The Pratt ramrod pipe was used in the later Short Land, New Pattern muskets, and all India Pattern muskets (Darling 1981:39). The India Pattern has three pipes; the earlier British muskets, four pipes.
9) Terminal Ramrod Guide Pipe
One example: FS 226 SA 209 4.5 x .47 in 2.1 oz (j, Figure 46; Figure 50)
Description: Cast and filed brass; tapered end; one-piece lug for a barrel pin; one side of the pipe is split; found on the Mexican battle line. This object is the terminal guide for an India Pattern musket, in association with FS 227, second ramrod pipe, same musket.
10) Trigger Guard Tail (fragment) (l, Figure 46; a, Figure 47) One example: FS 778 SA 212 3.2 in long .53 oz
Description: Cast and filed brass; fragment; from the Mexican battle line; has two countersunk screw holes, one at either end, which is typical for the India Pattern musket (Darling 1981:49, Figure 40).
11) Trigger Plate (m, Figure 46; c, Figure 47)
One example: FS 710 SA 209 2.2 x .59 in .45 oz
Description: Cast and filed brass; whole, bent; has a single internal collar for the barrel screw on the forward part, .25 in high; and a rectangular opening for the trigger; found on the Mexican battle line. A trigger plate of almost identical weight and dimensions was found in the Mexican siege trenches at the Alamo, and identified as part of a pistol or small rifle (Nesmith 1986:83, artifact U-12).
12) Butt Plate (n, Figure 46; Figure 51)
One example: FS 859 SA 499 1.8 in long (fragment) 1.3 oz
Description: Cast, hammered and filed brass; fragment; countersunk screw hole present; found between battle lines. This artifact, from an India Pattern musket, is the concave portion of a butt plate that fits over the toe of the musket stock (Darling 1981:51, fig. 42).
13) Side Plate (o, Figure 46; Figure 52)
One example: FS 264 SA 203 2.4 in long (fragment) .97 oz
Description: Cast and filed brass, largely intact, minus the forward screw hole; found on the Mexican battle line. This is the convex plate design used on the India Pattern musket (Darling 1981: 48, Fig. 39).
14) Side Plate Terminus
Two examples (not shown):
FS 696 SA 212 1.26 in long (fragment) .25 oz
FS 697 SA 212 1.06 in long (fragment) .22 oz
Description (FS 696): Cast and filed brass; screw hole terminus fragment, with portion of neck; part of an India Pattern musket; from Mexican battle line.
Description (FS 697): Cast and filed brass; partial; screw hole terminus fragment; part of an India Pattern musket; from Mexican battle line.
1) Bayonet Blade (fragment) (p, Figure 46)
One example: FS 56 SA 49 2.2 x .50 x .39 in .25 oz
Description: Wrought iron; fragment; slightly tapered with a rounded median ridge, median ridge slightly grooved on two sides, with flat lower face; from U.S. battle line. The artifact bears some resemblance to the upper blade portion for U.S. bayonet models 1808 and 1816 (McNulty 1973:66, Figure 6, No. 12).
2) Sword Hilt (fragment) (Figures 53, 54)
One example: FS 511 SA 209 5.9 x 1.97 x 1.20 in 7.7 oz
Description: Cast and filed; almost whole; cupreous; hollow; knuckle guard broken off, with graze indentation along one side of handle; from Mexican battle line (SA 209). Nesmith (personal communication 1993) identifies this as a hilt to a short, curved infantry sword called a briquet, typically carried by infantrymen in the Mexican Army. The Mexican briquet was made in Mexico, its design based on those used by the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars.
Eighteen buckles were recovered and grouped into 12 types (Figure 55). Type designation was based on buckle form and, where positive identification was possible, by function. There is a close relationship between form and function for the large U.S. harness buckles (m, Type 10); however, some of the smaller specimen types probably were used on haversacks, belts or small harnesses (a-c, Type 1). All of the Mexican buckles are cupreous; of the four U.S. buckles, two are ferrous (m, Type 10) and two are cupreous (n, Type 11; o, Type 12).
Description: Single frame buckle; cast and filed brass; whole; plain rectangular, with angular corners; none have tongues or wear on the frames indicative that tongues were ever present; all are from the Mexican battle line. The relatively small dimensions of Type 1 are comparable to the clothing-related buckles found at the Spanish Colonial site of Quiburi in Arizona (Woodward 1953:203). Nesmith (personal communication 1993) suggests the Type 1 buckle was used on the Mexican uniform. In fact, such buckles were found in the excavated Mexican mass burial at Resaca de la Palma; within this mass burial, Type 1 buckles were found on the pelvic region of the skeletal remains (Eric Ratliff, personal communication 1993; also see Appendix B, this report). This position on the pelvis is suggestive that Type 1 buckles were used on Mexican cartridge boxes. Buckles of the same size and dimension as Type 1 were used on late eighteenth-early nineteenth century British cartridge boxes (Neumann and Kravic 1975:79, Figure 48).
Type 2 (d, Figure 55)
Description: Single frame buckle; cast and filed brass; whole; plain rectangular, with cut-off corners; tongue is present; from the Mexican battle line. Nesmith (personal communication, 1993) suggests the Type 2 buckle is from a stirrup; a late eighteenth-early nineteenth century iron buckle of similar size and design, but decorated, came from a Spanish Colonial and Mexican period site in New Mexico, and is identified as a stirrup buckle (Simmons and Turley 1980:114, Figure 4).
Description: Double frame buckles; cast and filed brass; fragments; plain rectangular; rounded corners; tongue absent and no wear on frames indicative of tongues; FS 146 was found more or less between the two battle lines; FS 372 was from the Mexican battle line. If whole, the Type 3 buckles would have been approximately 1.5-2.0 in long; this would be comparable in size and design to a harness buckle found at Fort Stanwix, a mid-eighteenth century British fort near Rome, New York (Hanson and Hsu 1975:93, Figure 51r). Woodward (1953:194) illustrates the use of a tongueless double frame buckle (no scale) on a Spanish Colonial bridle.
Description: Single frame buckle; cast brass; plain, elongated oval; no tongue; from Mexican battle line. Nesmith (personal communication 1993) identifies Type 6 as a Mexican buckle, its exact use not known.
Type 5 (h, Figure 54)
One example, consisting of two mendable pieces:
Description: Single frame buckle; cast brass; plain rectangular, with rounded corners; tongue absent and no wear on frames indicative of a tongue; from the Mexican battle line. Based on its relatively large size, this buckle probably was used on Mexican horse harness.
Type 6 (i, Figure 55)
Description: Single frame buckle; cast and filed brass; whole; plain rectangular, with angular corners; tongue absent and no wear on frames indicative of a tongue; from the Mexican battle line. Based on its relatively large size, FS 860 probably was used on Mexican horse harness.
Type 7 (fragment) (j, Figure 55)
Description: Double frame buckle; cast and molded decoration; brass; fragment; tongue present; one of the frame bars is missing, one side broken apart and bent; molded half-rosette decoration on belt support flange and stamped line rouletting on the frames; from the Mexican battle line. Nesmith (personal communication 1993) identifies FS 653 as an officer's sword belt buckle that would have been personally purchased, not regulation issue.
Type 8 (k, Figure 55)
Description: Single frame buckle; cast, filed brass; fragment; probably five-sided when whole, with one flat side, opposite side coming to a point; from Mexican battle line.
Type 9 (l, Figure 55)
Description: Waist belt buckle; cast brass; whole; rectangular plate with the number "4" cut out, in the same manufacturing style used on the Mexican Fourth Regiment cartridge box belt plates. Kevin Young (personal communication 1993) suggests this buckle was either was used by an officer since Mexican enlisted men did not wear waist belts, only suspenders, or by a riflemanthe latter needed a belt for their extra equipment; found on the Mexican battle line.
Description: Double frame buckle; cast iron; whole and partial examples; no tongue; one end round in cross section, the other spatulate for accommodating harness belt end; both found on or behind the U.S. battle line, just south of Palo Alto pond. Doug Scott (personal communication 1992) identifies Type 10 as a U.S. harness buckle of early to mid-nineteenth century design.
Type 11 (n, Figure 55)
Description: Double frame buckle; whole: cast brass, brass patination is tan, unlike the distinctive dark green of Mexican brass; no tongue; frames are ovoid, joined by center post; opening of frames is .25 in wide; found west of Palo Alto Pond, just behind U.S. battle line. An object of similar size and design, found at eighteenth century Fort Stanwix near present-day Rome, New York, is described as a buckle for a sword baldrick (Hanson and Hsu 1975:93, Figure 51 L). Allie (personal communication 1993) believes Type 11 is an officer's sword buckle.
Type 12 (o, Figure 55)
Description: Double frame buckle; cast brass; whole; plain rectangular with rounded corners; tongue absent but tongue wear present on center post and one of the frame sides, the latter slightly flattened to accommodate the strap end; found where one of the U.S. 6-pounder batteries probably was located. Allie (personal communication 1993) suggests this buckle was for a U.S. spur strap.
A total of 28 buttons were recovered, all but one from the Mexican battle line. Of the 27 Mexican buttons, 21 are the standard issue button used on the Mexican enlisted mens' uniforms and were found on the Mexican battle line. This button type is identified in this report as Type 1 (Figure 56). Types 2-6 are also found on the Mexican battle line, and probably came from officers' uniforms since they have superior physical characteristics when compared with Type 1, or have backmarks indicating gilding. Type 7 is the only example of a U.S. button, found within the approximate location of the U.S. battle line. None of the recovered buttons supplies information regarding nationality, such as the Mexican eagle-and-serpent or the American eagle, nor do they specify branch of service or regimental numbers.
Type 1 (examples a-c, Figure 56)
21 total recovered
Description: Two-piece button; stamped brass disc .04 inches thick, flat or slightly concave; brass, unfooted wire eye soldered onto the disc back. There are two sizes of this type: a .75-.83 in diameter button (a, Figure 56), used on the uniform coat (16 recovered); and a .59 inch diameter button (b, c, Figure 56), used on the uniform cuffs (five recovered). Both Type 1 sizes have been found in the Mexican siege trenches fronting the Alamo (Nesmith 1986:93) and in the Alamo plaza (Nesmith 1992:61-62). All of the Type 1 buttons were found on the Mexican battle line.
Type 1 attributes somewhat correspond with Olsen's Type G (1963:552) and South's Type 9 (South 1964:116), a metal disc having an unfooted eye, the latter fastened to the disc back with a drop of solder. A characteristic feature of Type 1, also noted for Olsen's and South's Types G and 9, respectively, was the tendency for the eye to separate from the button back since there was an inadequate fastening surface for the bonding metal. Of the 21 Type 1 buttons found at Palo Alto, only 6 still had their eyes attached. However, the above described British-American button types were popular from circa 1725-1812. They have a cast metal, .08 inch-thick disc that is reminiscent of a coin, hence its nickname "coin button", used by collectors. They often have a stamped design or insignia on the disc face, and sometimes backmarks (Olsen 1963:552; South 1964:118). In contrast, the construction method for the Type 1 Mexican button apparently was still practiced in Mexico at least as late as 1846. The relative thinness of the disc portion of the button allowed it to be made only by stamping, not by casting. None of the known examples of Type 1 buttons have stamping designs or military insignias on the front, nor are there backmarks.
Type 2 (d, Figure 56)
One example: FS 553 SA 209 .75 in dia. .14 oz
Description: Two-piece button; cast brass disc with soldered brass eye shank that is relatively thicker than the Type 1 wire eye; shank probably is footed but is hidden by the solder, more solder used than on Type 1; plain face; no backmark; does not appear spun or tooled; disc diameter indicates this is a coat button. Type 2 may be an officer's or noncommissioned officer's button in that it is better made, and presumably more expensive, than Type 1. Type 2 approximately corresponds with Olsen's Type H (1963:552) and South's Type 7 (1964:117).
Type 3 (e, Figure 56)
One example: FS 648 SA 209 .79 in dia. .05 in thick .11 oz
Description: Two-piece button; cast brass disc; eye missing; backmark present, stamped GILT COLOUR in English Gothic letters, and 0660, lettering and numbers separated by two wreath sprigs; gilding is no longer present. Disc diameter indicates this is a coat button. Type 3 probably is an officer's button, presumably imported from England; note "colour" spelling. According to Hefter et al. (1958:51), dismounted Mexican officers wore gold-plated buttons, mounted officers' buttons were silver-plated.
Type 4 (f, Figure 56)
One example: FS 284 SA 203 .83 in dia. .06 in thick .13 oz
Description: Two-piece button; cast brass disc; shank is missing, shank imprint on solder boss is suggestive the shank was not footed; backmark present, stamped STANDARD CO in English Gothic letters; spun back; plain face. Disc diameter indicates this is a coat button. The English backmark indicates Type 4 is an import.
Type 5 (g, Figure 56)
One example: FS 581 SA 209 .79 in dia. .08 in thick .16 oz
Description: Two-piece button; cast brass; domed; shank present and well soldered, probably footed; cast or etched design on the face consisting of two sunflowers with stems and leaves, and rouletting around the face; no backmark; diameter indicates this is a coat button. Olsen (1963), South (1964) and Nöel Hume (1970) do not identify Type 5 as a button type found in eighteenth-nineteenth century contexts along the Eastern Seaboard. Type 5 is a nonmilitary button type popular in Europe from approximately 1830 to the 1860s. Although meant for civilian use, such buttons occasionally have been found in Texas at Mexican and U.S. military sites of the Mexican-American War era, as well as at Civil War sites. Type 5 was a relatively expensive button, and therefore, more likely to have been worn by an officer (Rod Bates, personal communication 1993). Officers in both armies were given some latitude in wearing civilian clothing.
Type 6 (h, Figure 56)
One example: FS 272 SA 203 .71 in dia. .20 in thick .14 oz
Description: Three-piece button; brass front and back are crimped together with a rolled edge on the back; shank missing but an iron stain is evident on the solder point, indicating the shank was made of iron; backmark STANDARD IMPERIAL in Gothic lettering is suggestive that England was the place of manufacture; similar to South's Type 12 (1964:118) and Olsen's Type I (1963:253); probably an officer's coat button.
Type 7 (i, Figure 56)
One example: FS 190 SA 5.79 in dia. .08 in thick .09 oz
Description: One-piece button; cast white metal with cast line bisecting button; four-holed. Campbell (1963:Figure 17) and Johnson (1948:51-52) describe these as "Enlisted Men's White Metal Buttons", usually worn on fatigue clothing, and occasionally by infantrymen as a substitute for the regulation brass jacket buttons. Olsen (1963:252) classifies this button as Type K, further stating U.S. troops used them on trousers from about the War of 1812 to the end of the Civil War. This example was found on the battlefield, in the general area where it is believed the U.S. Fourth Infantry was positioned toward the end of the battle.
Uniform Brass and Accouterments
1) Canteen Spout
Description: Cast white metal; large fragments; rounded lip with slightly flared neck; FS 204 came from the Mexican battle line and FS 855 from a presumed U.S. battle position, possibly one of the positions held by Duncan's battery. This type of spout was used on a tin or wooden flat barrel-type canteen. Both spouts are similar in metal alloy, dimension and shape; this is suggestive they ultimately came from the same manufacturer. The disparity in provenience of the two spouts is notable in that it indicates both U.S. and Mexican armies used this type of canteen. Mexican soldiers also used bottle gourds, a container preferred by many U.S. soldiers since it kept water cooler than the U.S. issue canteens (Elting 1977:122).
2) Regimental Emblem (c, Figure 57)
One example: FS 295 SA 204 .87 x .79 x .12 in .18 oz
Description: Cast and filed brass zero; whole; ovoid; obverse side slightly domed; reverse face is flat with two projecting prongs, each prong has a small hole to support a pin for attaching the zero to cloth or leather; found on the Mexican battle line. This artifact probably was paired with a "1 " to form a "10", signifying the Mexican Tenth Line Regiment. Regimental numbers sometimes were embroidered onto the high-neck collars of Mexican uniforms; therefore, this artifact probably was attached to a Mexican leather shako or cloth forage cap (Hefter et al 1958: Plates 1, 4, 5, 9, 12, 13).
3) Belt Stud (d, Figure 57)
One example: FS 512 SA 209 .48 in long .60 and .50 in (disc ends dia)
Description: Cast and filed; cupreous; whole; used to secure and hold in place two leather belts that overlap (larger sizes used on harnesses); found on Mexican battle line.
Four examples: all are .57 in diameter, .40 in long
Description: Cast copper; whole; plain, no makers' mark; all are from the U.S. battle line. This type of rivet-and-burr commonly is found at U.S. nineteenth century military sites, for example, Fort Bowie (Herskovitz 1978:64), Fort Craig (Haecker 1992:53) and Civil War battlefields (Dean and Dean 1990:74). They were used to reinforce objects such as knapsacks and cartridge boxes. Rivets for leather harness are larger than these artifacts.
5) Regimental Emblem (g, Figure 57)
Description: Cast brass; whole; number "1", presumably the regimental insignia for the Mexican First Line Regiment; two fastening prongs on reverse, one prong slightly longer and bent. Samuel Nesmith (personal communication 1993) suggests this item went on a horseman's shabrak (alternate spelling shabraque), a saddle cloth of French influence. The asymmetrical lengths of the fastening prongs, Nesmith believes, allowed for attachment of decorative cords through the underside of the emblem.
6) Cartridge Box Belt Plate, U.S. (h, Figure 57)
Description: Stamped brass disc; lead-filled back with embedded iron attachment wire; stamped design of U.S. eagle holding three arrows and an olive branch; found in vicinity where Duncan's battery probably was located toward the end of the battle. The leather shoulder belt that held the foot soldier's cartridge box from about 1845 to 1872 was decorated with this type of brass plate. The plate was thin-stamped brass with a lead-filled back, and a fastening device was embedded in the lead. As used nonfunctionally on the cartridge box belt, the plate had fasteners of iron wire. However, when used on sergeants' shoulder sword belts consisting of two branches, the plate was used to join the branches. For this purpose, it was fitted with three "arrowhead" or "puppy paw" hooks, or hooks of bent wire. The presence of a linear streak of rust on the back of FS 856 is suggestive this was used on a cartridge box belt. Since artillerymen would not have been wearing cartridge boxes, this object probably was lost by an infantryman, perhaps one from the Eighth Infantry that supported Duncan's battery toward the end of the battle.
7) Belt Suspension Loop (i, Figure 57)
Description: Cupreous; whole; ovoid; one side broken; made of drawn wire; square in cross-section; approximate dimensions of the Type 6 buckle, except the latter is round in cross-section. Samuel Nesmith (personal communication 1993) suggests FS 340 was used to hold objects suspended from a crossbelt.
8) Regimental Emblem (j, Figure 57)
Description: Cast brass: whole; infantry horn emblem, with the number "6" inside the horn loop; two fastening prongs on reverse; emblem identifying the Mexican Sixth Line Regiment. Hefter et al. (1958:Plate VIII, e) illustrates such an emblem, but without a regiment number, pinned onto a Mexican cloth barracks cap. A similar emblem, but with a different regimental number, was found in the Mexican mass grave at Resaca de la Palma (Eric Ratliff, personal communication 1993).
9) Cartridge Box Belt Plate
Description: Cast and filed brass; whole; an elongated, flat sided octagonal; one pair of prongs on reverse side and one prong on obverse, the latter at right angles with prongs on the reverse, all three prongs have a hole; an open-cut, European-style "4" on the face of the plate, with a small hole to the right, the latter the European circular symbol that represents the number suffix "th"; the objects identifying the Fourth Line Regiment; found on the Mexican battle line.
Steven Allie (personal communication 1993) believes this artifact type had the same function as FS 381, in that they secured a chain from which a musket vent pricker and muzzle brush was suspended; if this function is correct, the Fourth Line Regiment infantrymen sported customized beltplates, unlike the regiment(s) that wore the more generic beltplate represented by FSs 381, 659 and 808. Although similar in overall design, the two Fourth Regiment items differ somewhat in overall dimension, weight, prong shape and design of the number "4"; this indicates each object either was made from a unique casting or came from different suppliers.
10) Cartridge Box Belt Plate
Description: Cast and filed brass; elongated octagonal with convex/concave profile; one pair of prongs on reverse/concave side and one prong centered on obverse/convex side; all three prongs have a hole through them; found on the Mexican battle line. Steven Allie (personal communication 1993) suggests this artifact was positioned on the cartridge box belt worn by the Mexican infantryman. The two prongs on the reverse/concave side would have aided in the fastening of the object to the shoulder belt; the prong on the obverse/convex side would have secured the chain that held the infantryman's musket vent pricker and muzzle cleaner brush. These latter two items had to be readily accessible for in-field maintenance of a fouled musket, an all too frequent occurrence for black powder firearms.
1) Lead Ball Portions
Description (FS 403): One-quarter of a cut lead ball; two flat sides, one rounded side; length is suggestive this was from a ball intended for a .62 caliber (Mexican) Baker rifle; found on the southern end of SA 306, Mexican battle line.
Description (FS 772): One-eighth of a cut lead ball; three flat sides, one curved side; original caliber not identifiable; from Mexican battle line.
Due to their modified nature, this artifact type has been identified as a personal possession instead of "Ordnance, Lead Ball". Soldiers of the American Revolution (Calver 1928:120-127) and Civil War (McKee and Mason 1980:69) fabricated a wide variety of non-military objects such as chess pieces, whistles and toy cups from lead projectiles, as well as partially halved and quartered projectiles in order to inflict more dangerous wounds. Civil War encampments in the Brownsville area also have yielded numbers of halved and quartered lead balls (Cecil Allison and Rod Bates, personal communications 1992). These objects may have been used as gaming counters and gambling chips.
2) 1/4 Real Coin
Description: Silver coin; obverse shows head of Liberty facing left, to right of head are letters LR, the initials of Luciano Rovira, engraver of the Mexico mint; No mint mark, indicating it was minted at San Luis Potosi since initials of this mint were not placed on denominations of this size. The reverse bears the fraction 1/4 surrounded by REPUBLICA DE MEXICO and the date 1843. Coins of this denomination were minted beginning in 1842 in response to a lack of small change and as a replacement for the virtually worthless copper 1/16 and 1/8 reales issued by the Federal and State governments. The minting of 1/4 real coins was suspended after 1863 following the changeover to the decimal system (Buttrey and Hubbard 1992:54-55). By 1839, the Mexican private's pay for a month amounted to 15 pesos, a sergeant received 26 pesos, a General 500 pesos. From this wage were deducted his monthly costs for laundry, barber, shoes, cigars, etc. A real was 1/8 of a peso, and a peso was one ounce of silver approximating one U.S. dollar of the period. A 1/4 real coin in 1846 was worth around 1/32 of a peso, or 3 cents U.S. (Hefter et al. 1958:53, 62).
3) Religious Medallion (d, Figure 58)
Description: Ovoid silver medal, minus suspension loop; found within SA 99, an area presumably between battle lines. Obverse inscription, aligned around the border of the medal: CONCALUIT COR MEUNM INTRA ME ("Aflame my heart within me"), with central iconography of the Sacred Heart with a crown of thorns, three nails and JHS; date of 1819 at distal end. Reverse inscription: APPRENDED DE MI QUE SOY MANSO Y HUMILDE DE CORAZON ("Learn from me that I am gentle and humble of heart"). Given its inscription in Spanish and battlefield provenience, this artifact conceivably was lost by a Mexican cavalryman engaged in the failed attack on the U.S. 18-pounders.
4) Metal Pot Fragment (e, Figure 58)
Description: Cupreous pot; cast; fragment; portion of a flat rim, slightly flared outward; mold seam on pot body; found more or less between battle lines. FS 842 may be battle related, perhaps part of a mess kit. The use of heavy gauge brass and method of manufacture suggests to Nesmith (personal communication, 1993) this artifact is of Mexican origin.
5) Pendant(?) (f, Figure 58)
Description: Cupreous; flat; fragment; punched hole on the end having a curved edge, presumably to allow for passage of a string or chain; appears to have been halved by cutting; both sides are plain-faced; from Mexican battle line.
6) Bottle Base Fragments
Descriptions: Dark green glass; fragments; both bottle bases have high basal kick-ups, a characteristic of both wine and champagne bottles; neither kick-ups have pontil marks, which is suggestive of a post-1840 manufacture date (Kendrick 1967:20). Bottle base diameter of FS 360 corresponds with French wine bottles found on the paddlewheel Bertrand, sunk in 1865; these wine bottles held 25.5 oz. Base diameter of FS 274 approximately corresponds to mid-nineteenth century champagne bottles that held 29 oz (Switzer 1974:27-29, 91, 92).
7) Wine Bottle Seal (c, Figure 59)
Description: Dark green wine bottle glass consisting of a portion of bottle shoulder with a glass seal gather impressed onto it; impressed with ST. SEURIN MEDOC and a cluster of grapes at its center; found in Mexican battle line. Medoc is a famous red wine producing region in the Bordeaux district of France. Saint Seurin, its full name Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne, is the appellation of one of the smaller wine-producing communes (a parish or township) within the Haut Médoc, a subdistrict noted for its finer wines.
In the Classification of 1855, the year of introduction of a wine grading system, wines produced from Saint Seurin were graded Crus Bourgeois and Crus Artisans, indicating wines of third and fourth levels of excellence, respectively, that command correspondingly less premium prices, compared to other wines from its subdistrict (Simon 1957:15-27). At Palo Alto battlefield, a bottle of imported wine would have been a personal purchase by someone who could best afford such a high-status luxury, an officer. Presumably this individual was in the Mexican Army, as is suggestive by the location of the artifact on the Mexican battle line.
Farriery and Horse Tack
Description (FS 389): Ferrous horseshoe; branch fragment; artifact is deteriorated but has general characteristics of U.S. mass-produced horseshoes in terms of width, thickness, shape and spacing of nail holes (three holes are visible); found more or less between battle lines, eastern end of battlefield.
Description (FS 367): Ferrous horseshoe: branch fragment; artifact is too deteriorated to identify distinguishing characteristics, although its general dimensions are more typical of a machine-made, nineteenth century U.S. horseshoe (Nöel Hume 1970:238; Association for Preservation Technology 1980 :250) than those made in Mexico; the latter were wider and reminiscent of horseshoe styles of the late eighteenth century (Woodward 1953:194; Nöel Hume 1970:238; Chappell 1973:107); found within area of the Mexican battle line, although the horseshoe may not be battle-related.
Description (FS 390): Ferrous horseshoe; heel fragment; width (3/8 in) and thickness (5/8 in) typical of U.S. military and civilian horsehoes of the period (Association for Preservation Technology 1980 :250), thus possibly battle related; found more or less between battle lines, eastern end of battlefield.
2) Oxshoe (c, Figure 60)
Description: Ferrous; whole; three nail holes in the branch are barely discernable. An ox shoe is split, therefore two asymmetrical shoes for each hoof are needed; FS 61 is a left side shoe. Found near the U.S. battle line in the general vicinity of the wagon road. The artifact may be battle related since oxen were used to pull the 18-pounder battery as well as U.S. supply wagons.
3) Stirrup(?) (d, Figure 60)
Description: Cupreous; cast, filed and hammered; fragments; concave side has a series of triangular depressions, possibly made by a punch; possibly a fragment of a Mexican stirrup, as suggested by its overall shape and size; from the Mexican battle line.
4) Spur Sideplate (e, Figure 60)
Description: Wrought iron strap; fragment; two iron round-head rivets projecting out from one side, .60 in apart; narrow end of strap is rounded, the other side ends along a break line; found on the U.S. battle line, where Duncan's battery probably was stationed. Samuel Nesmith (personal communication, 1993) identifies this as part of a sideplate for a spur. The forward stud is for the upper strap, the end stud for the heel strap.
5) Coscojo (Jingle) (f, Figure 60; Figures 61, 62)
Description: Cupreous; filed and hammered; whole; flat strip with loop at one end, two filed notches at opposite end to represent a stylized fist; from Mexican battle line. Coscojos were arranged in series on Mexican bridles and bits; they were both decorative and pleasant to hear when traveling. Coscojos came in a variety of forms. One of the more common types is represented by FS 366, that is, the fica, a clasped hand with the thumb projecting between the fist and second fingers. This was a common Old World symbol forwarding off the Evil Eye (Simmons and Turley 1980:101, 103, 115), and is commonly found on Mexican horse hardware.
1) Machine Harvester Tooth (a, Figure 63)
Description: Cast iron or steel; whole; beveled and ground edge; hole for mounting onto harvester gang rod; post-battle related.
2) Machinery Fragment (b, Figure 63)
Description: Cast iron; fragment; .25 in dia. bolt hole present; from U.S. battle line but is probably post-battle related.
Description (FS 88): Cast or wrought iron ring; whole; from area of the U.S. battle line but may not be battle related.
Description (FS 438): Cast or wrought iron ring; fragment; ovoid; found within area of the U.S. battle line but may not have been deposited at time of battle. Samuel Nesmith (personal communication, 1993) states this could have been an attachment ring for a gun carriage chain.
4) Support Bracket (e, Figure 63)
Description: Cast or wrought iron; whole; wagon box or wagon seat support bracket; two bolt holes on bracket flanges; from U.S. battle line. This artifact may not have been deposited at the time of battle.
5) Cold Shut (f, Figure 63)
Description: Ferrous cold shut; whole; cast steel or iron rod; bent or cast into asymmetrical shape; one end widens to accommodate a hole for attachment; identified by James Ayres (personal communication 1993) as a "cold shut", a piece of iron round stock used to repair a broken chain; found on U.S. battle line but may not be battle-related.
6) Hinge (g, Figure 63)
Description: Brass hinge; cast; fragment; box or chest hinge with hasp end broken off; two pairs of countersunk screw holes; from U.S. battle line. This artifact may not be battle related, since its design was in use throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
7) Linch or Drift Pin (h, Figure 63)
Description: Wrought iron linch- or drift pin; whole; unthreaded cylindrical shaft with hexagonal head; tip blunted or broken off; found within area of U.S. battle line but may not have been deposited at time of battle. A drift pin is a tool used for ramming or driving down a heavy object, or for enlarging or shaping holes; a linchpin is used at the end of an axletree to prevent the wheel of a vehicle from sliding off. Linchpins would have been used on wagons, caissons and gun carriages, with spares stored in the limber chest of an artillery battery's wagon forge (Gibbon 1860:Appendix, p. 17); a drift pin would have been a useful tool for an army smithy, although such a tool is not specifically listed in inventory stores for an army blacksmith's limber chest (Gibbon 1860:Appendix, p. 21).
Description (FS 450): Ferrous bolt; two fragments; steel or iron; one fragment is a threaded cylindrical shaft with a partially crushed distal end; the other fragment partly encloses the proximal end; from the eastern edge of the battlefield, possibly between the battle lines; may not be battle related.
Description (FS 47): Ferrous bolt; whole; cast steel or iron; cylindrical shaft, unthreaded; domed head, 1.25 in dia; distal end is flat; specific function unknown; from the vicinity of the U.S. battle line; may not be battle-related.
Description (FS 361): Cupreous bolt; cast and filed; unthreaded with 1.2 in dia. head; base is sheared off; specific function unknown; from Mexican battle line.
9) Washer (l, Figure 63)
Description: Cast iron; whole; interior hole is .5 in dia; from the vicinity of the U.S. battle line but may not be battle related.
1) Cosmetics Compact Cover(?)
Description: Brass cover; largely intact; cast and lathed metal with etched concentric circle/floral design on obverse; stamped RICHARD HUDNUT NEW YORK.PARIS in gothic lettering near the hinge joint. Richard Hudnut was a cosmetic company founded during the 1880s. The business was sold to Pfeiffer Brothers Pharmaceuticals in 1916, and, after a series of mergers, the Richard Hudnut Cosmetic Division became part of Warner Lambert Pharmaceutical Co.; however, the name "Richard Hudnut" continued in use on its cosmetic products (Warner Lambert Pharmaceutical Co., letter dated March 9, 1993). FS 49 has an overall appearance of a watch cover but it is doubtful such an item would have been manufactured by a cosmetics company, unless pocket watches were used as promotional items.
2) Cannon Round Fragment
Description: Steel base cover to a Model 1897, 75 mm cannon round.
3) 75 mm Cannon Round Nose Fuse
Description: Aluminum alloy nose fuse to a Model 1897, 75 mm cannon high explosive round.
Three human bone fragments were found on the surface. These remains were collected for positive identification. Dr. David Flory, MD, of Baptist Hospital in Harlingen, Texas, examined the remains. After identification, the bones were returned to their previous surface locations. Specimens 1 and 2 were found in SAs 5 and 6, between the battle lines; and Specimen 3 was found in SA 309, possibly associated with the Mexican right flank attack that occurred toward the end of battle. Dr. Flory describes the three bone fragments as follows:
Specimen 1: Distal end of a right human tibia, soil stained and weathered; fractured and splintered from unknown causes, possibly at time of deposition; overall diminutive dimensions are suggestive of an adolescent or young adult of small stature.
Specimen 2: Proximal one-third of a left human femur, soil stained and weathered; sharp break in shaft, possibly at time of deposition; overall diminutive dimensions are suggestive of an adolescent or young adult of small stature.
Specimen 3: Right human talus (heel); whole; soil stained and weathered; adult.
Last Updated: 25-Feb-2009