San Jacinto Battle Bones Found in Pennsylvania

Even though more than 600 Mexicans lost their lives at the Battle of San Jacinto historians have found almost no bones at the battle ground. The Mexican dead were left on the field and decomposed over time and at some point bones were collected and buried in an unmarked location. Rod Rice reports that last year some skulls from the battle were located in Pennsylvania.

Jeff Dunn is a Dallas attorney and a member of the Friends of the San Jacinto Battleground.  He says the internet played a key role in the find.

"I discovered an 1857 catalog of human crania which was published in Philadelphia in 1857 by the Academy of Natural Science."

And listed there were six skulls of Mexicans collected at the site of the San Jacinto battle.  The skulls were part of a huge collection put together in the first half of the 19th century by Philadelphia doctor Samuel Morton and eventually transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. The skulls were collected on the battlefield in 1837 by famed naturalist John James Audubon and sent to Dr. Morton.

Dunn says the discovery will help to uncover more about the Mexican soldiers, their ethnicity, how they died, and what kind of weapons were used in the battle among other things.

"This is biological information that we've never had available for study before."

The study of the skulls was turned over to Dr. Doug Owsley, a physical anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

"Bones tell you about the life of the person and they can also tell you about the death of this individual."

Owsley says the things he's learned so far are only a baseline and that more will be uncovered in the future. But he says so far the team he assembled determined that one skull that the original Morton collection identified as coming from the battle did not. Five skulls were very similar in that they were mixed race individuals, but one was of an unmixed European ancestry. They were also tested for age.

"I was expecting them to be very young men, you know the fellows who are 18-to-22 and they're not that.  There are young men there within the six, but there are older men and they're clearly men that this was not their first time involved in a battle because a number of them had very serious injures that they had recovered from."

Dr Owsley and Jeff Dunn will be talking in detail about this discovery and what's been learned so far,  tomorrow at the 10th Annual San Jacinto Symposium at the University of Houston Hilton Hotel.

For more information about this event, visit the kuhf art's calendar.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...