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Searchers uncover artifacts possibly linked to the 1813 Battle of Medina

1837 Map showing the approximate location of the Battle of Medina
1837 Map showing the approximate location of the Battle of Medina

The 1813 Battle of Medina was one of the largest and bloodiest battles in Texas history, yet little is known about it — including the actual location of the battle. It posed an army of around 1400 white, Tejano and Native American volunteers against about 1900 Spanish army regulars. Almost all of the Texian soldiers were killed in the battle. A new search for the battle of Medina has revealed a few tantalizing clues.

History podcaster Brandon Seale recently made a presentation in the gym at South Side High School in Southern Bexar County to present findings from the search. Earlier this year, a team of archeologists, anthropologists and veteran volunteers began a search concentrating on four different sites in Southern Bexar County. One of the sites searched was just a few hundred yards behind Losoya Middle School. It was the largest organized effort to find the battle site.

AVAR volunteers search for artifacts near Losoya Middle School
Jerry Clayton
AVAR volunteers search for artifacts near Losoya Middle School

One of the partners in the search is the University of Texas at San Antonio's Center for Archeological Research. Clint Mackenzie, a project archeologist, said the search uncovered a few tantalizing artifacts, possibly from the battle — including one artifact in particular.

"The artifact that was recovered this season that is the most important to us is a piece of iron grape shot. It's a canister shot that is of the size that would be expected from a Spanish, you know, grape shot canister shot of the period," said McKenzie.

Grapeshot found during the search for the Battle of Medina
Courtesy of Brandon Seale
Grapeshot found during the search for the Battle of Medina

Also found within a few hundred yards were several musket balls. Mackenzie said some other artifacts not related to the Battle of Medina were also found.

"This is a metal detecting archeological project," McKenzie said. “One of the items that we found was a large five foot by five foot piece of cast iron. And when we turned it over, it had, you know, cast printing on it that said, you know, William Canady, Baltimore. And what it is, is it's the cast iron frame for a William Kanabe baby grand piano. And why there's a baby grand piano in a field in Southern Bexar County...I really don't know if I can answer that question, but I'm going to do some research and hope to find out.”

The piano was estimated to be from the mid 1850s.

"It was not played at the Battle of Medina,” McKenzie said. “But I've been doing archeology for 40 years and I've never found a piano before. So, you know, it was a new one for me.”

So, what's next for the search? Seale said the efforts will be concentrated in areas where the cannon and musket balls were found near Gallinas Creek, about six miles south of the Medina River.

"Now, we need to intensify. We need to intensify the coverage," said Seale. "We need to extend the grid across the fence line, essentially. We need to expand. The hard part is you've got to start broad and then narrow down. But then once you find something, you've got to drill down deep. You've got to go deep on what you found. But it's also important to us to go and reach out to a couple other sites that are not immediately adjacent to where we found stuff, but other sites that people have claimed based on either small finds or archival research that they've done. Because, again, part of what we're trying to do is, is prove up the work of scholars that have spent a lot of time working on this. We want to get back out there with our air crew and search for more sites in particular, all in that same general area, all near kind of the old Pleasanton Road area to try and continue to refine the location of the battlefield."

The other partner in the search for the battle site is the American Veterans Archeological Recovery Project, AVAR, which has completed several major archeology projects in the United States and Europe. Avar recruits U.S. veterans for much of the work. The volunteers are given specialized training to search for artifacts. Seale said they are looking for more volunteers once the search continues.

"So if you are a veteran, honorably discharged, if you have training in archeology, great. If you have an interest in learning about archeology just great. You can contact us on my website, Brandonseale.com or on the AVAR website. American Veterans Archeological Recovery Project," said Seale.

The next search is expected to begin sometime late this year or early 2023.

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Jerry Clayton can be reached at jerry@tpr.org or on Twitter at @jerryclayton.