By Myra Lee Adams Goff
It is fitting that the Sophienburg Museum and Archives sponsor the Fourth of July parade and celebration here in downtown New Braunfels.
Prince Carl chose the little hill on which the Sophienburg Museum is located to build a fortress to oversee and defend New Braunfels. When he came to Texas in 1844, he brought two cannons made in Victoria. Those cannons and other guns would protect the immigrants, he said. The guns were kept in a warehouse on the grounds of the Sophienburg to be distributed when needed. The warehouse was called the magazine, hence Magazine Blvd.
The two cannons were to be set up at an appropriate point near the magazine. The Prince felt that in case of an attack the cannons could “sweep the streets with cannon shots and the enemy could be cleaned out.” Can you imagine it? These two cannons were originally set up at the east and west entrances to the Zinkenburg, the site above the Comal Creek where the Sts. Peter and Paul Church is now located.
In the New Braunfelser Jahrbuch, years later, the then mayor, C.A. Jahn, wrote that the two cannons rested for many years on the slope of the Sophienburg Hill. He says that before the Civil War, the cannons were used in Fourth of July celebrations as well as anniversaries. They would shoot one cannon, wait a few minutes, and then shoot the other cannon, giving the two to three-inch cast iron walls time to cool. He remembers seeing one cannon catapult down the hill as a result of firing it too early. Jahn also remembers hearing that one cannon blew to bits as a result of firing it in quick succession, scattering parts everywhere. This was in celebration of the end of the Civil War.
The other cannon was taken to Comaltown to be part of the 25th anniversary in 1870 and was shot many times. It was placed on the banks of the Comal near Clemens Dam. It was shot once in 1876 at sunrise during the Centennial Fourth of July Celebration. That celebration is claimed to be the most elaborate of all Fourth celebrations.
There were many stories as to what happened to the remaining cannon. In a 1980 Reflections Program, Carlo Fischer claimed to have the real story of the missing cannon. He claims that in 1894 his father, Emil Fischer, Harry Galle, Adolph Henne, and Emil Gerlich decided to shoot the cannon to “put a little life in the town”. The cannon was located on the banks of the Comal. These three young men forced too heavy a charge of gun powder into the old cannon and inadvertently blew it up. For more on this story, see my column on Sophienburg.com, July 8, 2008.
In this year’s parade, the Sons of Confederate Veterans will enter a small float decorated with two flags – one, an 1862 Confederate flag, and the other, an 1862 United States flag. They are bringing a cannon, but don’t worry, it’s not a resurrected one, nor are they going to shoot it. This cannon is a replica that was used by NB Confederate leader, Gus Hoffmann. Hoffmann, by the way, was the first elected mayor of New Braunfels. (June, 1847 to March, 1848)
The Civil War’s 150th Anniversary has been commemorated all year and the Sophienburg has just taken down its year-long Civil War exhibit.
The first year that the emigrants were here, only four months had passed before the Fourth of July rolled around and Texas was still a Republic. The first actual celebration was after Texas became a state of the United States in February, 1846.
Dr. Ferdinand Roemer in his book “Texas” says that the 1846 Fourth of July was celebrated in New Braunfels by hoisting a large American flag on the Verein building and a formal banquet was held to which officers of the Verein and a number of dignitaries of the city were invited. The year before, Prince Carl strung up an Austrian flag on the Verein building and downtown at the same time a group of men hoisted a flag of the Republic of Texas. Flags have always sent a very strong message and that was a strong one.
As always, the bigger an event gets, the more rules you have to have. There are some new rules: For this year, you must reserve a spot to enter the parade by submitting an entry at which time you will get a line-up number. Entries must be approved as to the type of vehicle. No trucks bigger than F350 pulling 16’ Trailer. No objects may be thrown by participants, no commercial entries or political entries. Find the application on the Sophienburg.com website or come by the Sophienburg. 830-629-1572.
For those watching the parade, the Community Band begins performing at the Main Plaza bandstand at 8:45. The parade begins at 9:15 from Sts. Peter and Paul Church parking lot, goes down Castell St., turns left on San Antonio St., continues around Main Plaza, turns onto Seguin St. after the Courthouse and disbands at Seguin & Mill Sts. At 10:00 o’clock, the patriotic program on Main Plaza begins and it traditionally lasts about half an hour. There will be special music and remarks by City and County officials. See you downtown!