On August 18, 1813 – 206 years ago today – the biggest, bloodiest battle in Texas history occurred near the Bexar-Atascosa County line.
The Battle of Medina pitted 1,830 Spanish Royalists under the command of a brutal but highly effective general named Joaquín de Arredondo against 1,400 Tejanos, Native Americans, and Anglo Americans, who called themselves the Republican Army of the North.
Broadly speaking, the Republican Army of the North was fighting for Mexican independence. Some of its members were veterans of Father Miguel Hidalgo’s army of insurgents who had first fought against Spanish rule. Indeed it was to San Antonio that Father Hidalgo had been fleeing in 1811 when he was captured. Yet, by 1813 the Republican Army of the North was almost all that remained of Father Hidalgo’s revolt.
More specifically, however, it seems that most of the men in the Republican Army of the North were fighting for self-government. That ideal appealed not just to Tejanos who had long suffered from royal neglect, but also to Native Americans accustomed to living free, and to Anglo Americans, many of whom joined the fight after leaving the United States in 1812 just as it was under attack from its old imperial master.
Despite the Republican Army of the North’s numerical disadvantage, it was probably the favorite going into the Battle of Medina. Over the previous year and over the course of a half-dozen encounters with the better-trained and better-equipped Royalist forces, the Republicans had not yet lost a fight. In April 1813, Texas had become the first of Spain’s New World colonies to both declare independence and clear its territory entirely of Spanish authorities. It is for this and other reasons that I call San Antonio the cradle of Mexican liberty, just as it is the cradle of Texas liberty.
If you’ve followed our series “Finding Medina” over the last six months, however, you already know that things didn’t end well for the Republican Army of the North. Though fiercely contested, the Battle of Medina turned into a rout and left as many as 1,000 Republicans dead on the field, where their bodies would remain unburied for nine years by the order of the victorious General Arredondo. And, yet, the soldiers in the Republican Army of the North got off easy.
Brandon Seale is the president of Howard Energy Ventures. With degrees in philosophy, law, and business, he writes and records stories about the residents of the borderland and about the intersection of...
More by Brandon Seale