From Texas Public Radio:
Next month will mark the 208th anniversary of the Battle of Medina. The 1813 battle was one of the largest and bloodiest battles in Texas, yet little is known about it, including the actual location. TPR reported earlier this year that History podcaster Brandon Seale spearheaded an effort to pinpoint the location, which is now believed to be in northern Atascosa County, near the Bexar county line. Seale’s efforts were noticed by a group called the American Veterans Archeological Recovery Project, or AVAR. Dr. Stephen Humphreys is CEO of Avar. Humphreys coined the term “rehabilitation archeology”. His group uses military veterans working alongside professional archeologists
“Rehabilitation archeology is archeology that’s aimed at benefiting the participants,” said Humprheys.
Many of the AVAR volunteers are disabled veterans, but Humphreys’ program uses their unique abilities to assist in the archeological digs.
“A lot of veterans have disability ratings”, he continues, “but what we want to do is not define them by that disability. So one of the incredible things about archeology is we’re allowing them and training them to operate to their full potential again, regardless of what whatever rating they might have from the VA. And yeah, a lot of them have that. We’re going to let them go out there and be the best they can be again, in doing something that’s really amazing and really unique.”
AVAR has completed several major projects, including recovery of World War II aircraft in Europe, and stateside, has worked on several battlefield and historical digs, including the 1777 Battle of Saratoga, an American victory that was a turning point in the Revolutionary War.
“We were the first project, along with, of course, the National Park Service and the American Battlefield Trust to go and look at that site and the resolution of the data that we’ve been able to get off. That has just been amazing in terms of being able to show really where the battle lines were, what the tactics that were used in that battle were. That’s been pretty mind blowing,” said Humphreys.
Humphreys heard about Brandon Seale’s quest to find the Battle of Medina site while doing some Internet research.
Seale describes the history surrounding the battle:
“It posed an army of Tejanos Anglo American volunteers and of Native Americans against the might of the Spanish Empire. So in 1813, Mexico was going through its war of independence. But it was really kind of a nadir, a low moment in that fight. And for the most part, the only place where the fight was really continuing at that point was in Texas. And so San Antonio in particular, and this part of Texas is where the flames of independence and the flames of revolution were still burning bright. But it sets up and it ends rather tragically. On August 8th,1813, about nineteen hundred Spanish regulars face off with somewhere between twelve hundred and fourteen hundred of these volunteers. And it ends disastrously for the proponents of Mexican independence. For the Texans in this battle, almost all of them are killed. So it becomes a really formative event, too, in terms of how Tejanos think about their place within the larger Mexican nation project. And it’s a really formative event in defining their participation in the events of the Texas revolution of 1835-36”.
Humphreys felt that the site would be a good fit for AVAR’s mission.
“This is a compelling story,” he said. “It’s not been found. It’s an area that I want to work both because I’m a Texan as well, and because it’s an area where I think there are there are a lot of veterans who would be interested in this type of work.”
And what if they can’t find the actual battle site?
“So I think this has maybe a little more risk than some of our other projects,” said Humphreys. “Because you never want to put a project team out in the field and have them not find anything. But I think this is what archeology is meant to do. We’re supposed to be answering questions that people actually care about and people care about where the Battle of Medina was. So even if it takes us a couple of seasons to find this thing, we’re going to keep coming back season after season until we do”
AVAR’s archeological dig searching for the site of the Battle of Medina is set to begin in February of 2022. On Friday, August 13th, the Atascosa Historical Commission is hosting a symposium and discussion on the Battle of Medina. The public is invited. You can find out more about AVAR, Brandon Seale and the Battle of Medina at TPR.org.