History buffs seek evidence of ‘forgotten battle’ before Alamo

By Hernan Rozemerg
San Antonio, Texas (AP) 2-08

Remember The Alamo!” goes the popular battle cry. But for a small cadre of dogged history buffs, truth seekers still have a thing or two to learn about a lesser-known military clash that took place two decades earlier and marked the first Texas revolution.

Led by a couple of proud Tejanos – the original term for Texans of Mexican descent – and with the full blessing of the property owner, a group of about 50 metal detector-toting volunteers set off on 600 acres of pasture in far Southeast Bexar County on Saturday in search of any remaining evidence of the Battle of Medina.

Dubbed the “forgotten battle,” the bloody confrontation took place Aug. 18, 1813, just 20 miles south of and 23 years before the struggle at the Alamo, pitting Anglo settlers, American Indians and Tejanos against the defending forces of the Spanish crown.

The rebels were brutally crushed in the four-hour standoff. More than 1,000 were killed – their bodies left to rot for nearly a decade – while fewer than 100 escaped. The victorious royalist camp suffered only 55 losses, all receiving a proper burial next to a nearby church.

To this day, the precise location of the battleground remains unknown, though Dan Arellano and Rick Reyes, along with other amateur historians including Chuck Toudouze, the ranch owner who hosted the group, bet that it happened on Toudouze’s land.

While Arellano and Reyes led Saturday’s expedition with a mission to give due credit to their Tejano ancestors, other volunteers showed up early on a chilly morning from near and far with hope of literally making history by digging up remains.

“I’ve been looking for this battle site for eight years,” said Arellano, a real estate broker in Austin and author of “Tejano Roots: A Family Legend.”

“There’s a plaque on another ranch three miles down the road, but that’s not where it happened. It happened right here, I know it,” said Arellano, surveying a vast, empty pasture.

And so the giddy bunch set off, armed with metal detectors in one hand and shovels in the other, spreading out in groups in search of history.

By midday, after some false alarms rendering mostly contemporary materials such as tin pieces, some promising results: Diggers found three marble-sized musket bullets.

Albert Patty and daughter Julie trekked 200 miles from Cameron. They and most others found out about the event through a popular diggers’ Internet site.

Used to having to sneak around construction sites, they didn’t want to pass up the chance of roaming free on hundreds of acres that might hold a treasure trove.

“I was hoping to break the 1800s,” said Patty, noting he had dug up a coin from 1835 near his home.

Larry Dickman of Windcrest has been “hunting” on and off for 20 years. He said he can only hope one day to shed the bad public image that amateur archaeologists have been given.

Not all diggers are money-grubbing thieves oblivious to historical preservation, he said, turning over to Arellano a dirt-covered musket bullet he had found.

“There’s just nothing like being able to touch a piece of the past,” sighed Dickman, as he put on large earphones, his metal detector beep-beeping for what he hoped would be a bigger discovery.