BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – The bloodiest battle in Texas history was fought just south of San Antonio. Still, except for those who live around the Medina River, many of whom are decedents of Tejanos who fought in the battle, it is largely forgotten.
“It recedes a little bit in the memory of our Texas history books because it gets overshadowed by other events. But it’s never, ever forgotten by the people here in this community,” said Brandon Seale, a podcaster of Texas history and one of the leaders in the quest to find its location.
Historians and archeologists alike have also long studied the pivotal battle. However, there is one big question remaining: Where exactly did the battle take place?
“It’s a needle in a haystack, you know?” said Seale.
On Tuesday, a group of archeologists hoped to find that proverbial needle. On land belonging to Southside ISD, near Losoya Middle School, Seale and the Veterans Archeology Recovery Project used metal detectors and flags to mark potential finds. The hope is to locate weapons, buttons, or any cluster of artifacts that would reveal a potential location.
“The vast majority are old sardine cans or fence nails or pull tabs or whatever,” Seale said.
But it’s all part of data that gets put in maps and brings historians one step closer to finding the answer. The answer to where the battle took place is part of a bigger story, important to Texas history.
“On April 6th, 1813, the first independent state of Texas was declared, and it was declared right in San Antonio. It was declared by a group of Tejano revolutionaries who were fighting as a part of the War of Mexican Independence against Spain,” Seale said.
Fighting alongside Native Americans and Anglos, the Tejanos’ excitement of independence came to a tragic and horrific conclusion just months later.
“Something like a thousand of the insurgents who are part of the Republican Army of the North, [as] they call themselves... a thousand men from that army died on the field of battle that day,” explained Seale.
That day was Aug. 18, 1813. Stories of the battle and the atrocities the Spanish Royal Army committed in the days after have been passed down through the years. It should also be noted that Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, later the President of Mexico, fought in the battle on the side of the royalists. The battle itself would unlock a chain of events that would lead to Texas’ independence many years later.
One of the reasons the site near Losoya Middle School was chosen for the dig is its proximity to the El Carmen Church, a historic location.
“The church has a very well and pretty continuously attested history as the location of the burial of the Spanish dead,” Seale said.
Tuesday’s dig is part of a weeks-long search over four separate locations. Those doing the digging are experts in finding artifacts of military conflict. Seale teamed up with American Veterans Archeology Recovery.
“When it comes to battlefields, in particular, no one understands battlefields better than veterans do, so they bring in a level of appreciation that civilians don’t necessarily have,” said Dr. Stephen Humphrey, who heads up American Veterans Archeology Recovery. “We’ve dug in Israel, Sicily, England, as well as the United States. We have a partnership with the Department of Defense, the Defense P.O.W. Accounting Agency, where we take part in their operations to recover the remains of service members who were killed in wars overseas and bring those back to America to bring closure to those families called Operation Keeping Faith.”
Humphrey said he was honored to take part in this mission. Both Seale and Humphrey hope history is unearthed over the next few days, but regardless, they believe bringing attention to this historic battle can only help.
“I think we drastically increase the chance of finding -- of at least narrowing down, you know, where it occurred and coming up with with a spot where we really can, you know, commemorate this thing,” said Seale.