“Battle of Medina, 1813”
Date: 20th Century
Materials: paper, watercolor
This painting is an original watercolor entitled “Battle of Medina, 1813” by Texan artist Bruce Marshall. The painting shows Miguel Menchaca leading a Mexican division of Mexican and American soldiers in the Battle of Medina on August 18, 1813 against the Spanish. The painting depicts some of the many groups who fought for Texas. Illustrated in the foreground of the painting is Miguel Menchaca, a former Spanish deserter standing with his saber, a light sword for fencing worn by military soldiers, and wearing his Spanish military uniform. In the background, behind Menchaca stand men in an uneven line representing the different groups fighting at the battle. These people included American frontiersmen, Tejanos, French, Native Americans and former Spanish Royalists. The painting also depicts the battle setting with the men fighting on sandy soil and the line of oak trees surrounding them in the background.
In December 1813 Jose Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara, a Mexican revolutionary and diplomat, with an envoy of rebels visited Washington, D.C. with the hopes of gaining American support for their revolution. A revolution Gutierrez de Lara hoped would free Texas from the Mexican government and create a new Texas Nation. Although, Gutierrez de Lara was not given support from the United States he did receive introductory letters to the Governor of Louisiana, William C. C. Claiborne. Before heading to New Orleans, Gutierrez de Lara discussed his plans with Jose Alvarez de Toledo y Dubois, who would become the military commander of the expedition.
In New Orleans Governor Claiborne introduced Gutierrez de Lara to William Shaler, an official agent of the United States, assigned to observe and report to President James Monroe. Shaler became a chief adviser and recruited Lt. Augustus W. Magee to the cause. Soon, Gutierrez was gaining the support of American adventurers, the French and even some Native Americans, all eager to see Texas free. The group became known as the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition and on August 8, 1812 under the “Green Flag” they crossed the Sabine River with 130 men and in four days, the expedition took Nacogdoches. After the victory, more men joined the expedition and Magee as he marched against Santisima Trinidad de Salcedo, a Spanish villa near present-day Madisonville, Texas. The Governor of Texas, Manuel María de Salcedo moved his forces to protect San Antonio but, Magee changed his attack and entered La Bahia, now present-day Goliad. On November 13, the Governor of Texas laid siege to La Bahia with only 200 men and reinforcements on the way, Magee asked for terms for surrendering. Unfortunately, before decisions of surrender were decided Magee died on February 6, 1813, leaving Samuel Kemper in command. Kemper quickly defeated the Governor in two attacks in February of 1813 and the Governor retreated. On March 29, 1813 Kemper defeated a royalist army of 1,200 with about 800 men at the Battle of Rosillo. On April 1 the Governor Salcedo surrendered San Antonio and on April 3, now commander-in-chief, Gutierrez de Lara ordered his execution along with fourteen royalist officers. The act outraged many American fighters who decided to abandon the revolution along with Samuel Kemper.
In efforts to reclaim Texas from the revolutionaries, the Spanish sent General Joaquín de Arredondo to organize troops and recruit loyalists. Marching from Laredo General Arredondo and the revolutionaries, also known as the republican forces met twenty miles south of San Antonio at the Medina River. At el encinal de Medina– meaning “the oak grove in Medina,” the two forces met in one of the bloodiest battles in Texas. General Jose Alvarez de Toledo y Dubois led the Gutierrez-Magee expedition and made camp six miles from Arredondo’s forces, a bad decision. The next morning loyalist scouts separated the army and acting against Toledo’s orders, Menchaca leading his division decided to follow a cavalry unit believing it to be the army. Following the group for hours through deep sand surrounding the rivers Menchaca’s men grew tired, thirsty and hot while Arredondo’s cavalry were leading the republicans into a trap. Arredondo’s forces were preparing themselves on more favorable ground and Arredondo had ordered his men to shoot when the rebels were as close as forty paces. When the republican forces arrived they knew nothing of what awaited them. When Menchaca’s forces broke rank in battle many died. Those that survived were killed while retreating and less than 100 escaped. This decisive and bloody battle of Medina lost the republicans Texas once more.
In the battle, Arredondo only lost fifty-five men, but the bodies of the republican soldiers were left on the battlefield for nine years. Likely as a reminder to other rebels, until the Texas Governor, Jose Felix Trespalacios, ordered their burial near an oak tree on the battlefield. The battle of Medina was considered so disastrous it was largely forgotten and today neither the battlefield nor remains of the soldiers have been found. [Elizabeth Volz, edited by Jennifer McPhail]
Learn more at this video about the 2008 Seminar held about the Battle of Medina and about one artist/author who paints about the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition.
Hardin, Stephen L. 1994. Texian iliad: a military history of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Hatcher, Mattie Austin. 1908. “Joaquin de Arredondo’s Report of the Battle of the Medina, August 18, 1813. Translation”. The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association. 11 (3): 220-236.
Schwarz, Ted, and Robert H. Thonhoff. Forgotten Battlefield of the First Texas Revolution The Battle of Medina, August 18, 1813. Austin, Tex: Eakin Press, 1985. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=27671>.