Thursday, August 20, 2015

Battle of Medina, 2015

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

Bugler John Thompson
Barbara Westbrook and Tom Green
On Saturday morning, August 15, a crowd of Texas history buffs gathered on a country road about 20 miles south of San Antonio near the site of the Battle of Medina. We assembled beneath oak trees in the vicinity of the bloodiest battlefield in Texas. On August 18, 1813, a Spanish royalist army of 1,800 soldados led by General Joaquin de Arredondo, clashed with a revolutionary force of 1,400 Anglo adventurers, Mexican rebels, Spanish deserters, and Indian warriors. A revolution to free Mexico – and its northernmost province, Texas – from Spain was launched in 1810. In 1812 rebel leader Jose Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara raised an insurrectionary band under the command of Augustus Magee, a young U.S. Army lieutenant who resigned and was commissioned a colonel by Gutierrez. The Gutierrez-Magee Expedition marched into Texas from Louisiana, capturing Nacogdoches, withstanding a winter siege in Presidio de La Bahia, then seizing San Antonio and declaring the independence of Texas, on April 6, 1813.

Grenadier re-enactors
During the campaign Colonel Magee died and Bernardo Gutierrez was displaced by an ambitious politician, Jose Alvarez de Toledo. In August, when Arredondo’s Spanish column approached, Toledo led his largely victorious but outnumbered force out of San Antonio for a decisive confrontation. But the wily Arredondo set an ambush and lured his poorly-led opponents into an exposed position. The revolutionaries fought desperately, but finally were overwhelmed, and only 100 or so survived. Most of the corpses were left on the field of battle. Arredondo lost only 55 men, who were buried with military honors. A participant in the victorious slaughter was an aggressive young officer, Lt. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Tom Green, of the Sons of the Republic of Texas, San Jacinto Chapter, has been instrumental in organizing the annual celebrations of the Battle of Medina, and he served as emcee throughout the day. There was an invocation by Rev. James Taylor, Chaplain General of the Texas Sons of the American Revolution. A color guard made up of re-enactors presented the colors, including the Lone Star Flag, the Green Flag of the Gutierrez-Magee revolutionaries, the U.S. Flag (of the War of 1812 era), and the Flag of Spain. Tom Green introduced a number of guests, including the Texas State Historian and Bill McWhorter, Military Sites Director of the Texas State Historical Commission. Reverend Taylor provided a memorial statement and prayer on behalf of the men who died at the Battle of Medina. A salute of three volleys was fired by the re-enactors, followed by “Taps” played by John Thompson, Former President of the Fredonia Sons of the American Revolution Chapter.

Following a lunch break, we convened at the First Baptist Church of Pleasanton for an afternoon of programs. We were greeted at the spacious Fellowship Hall by Atascosa County Judge Robert Hurley, and by Barbara Westbrook, Chairman of the Atascosa County Historical Commission, which sponsored the event. There were delicious refreshments and interesting displays, as well as two re-enactors of Spanish Grenadiers – “Granaderos.” Tom Green introduced Judge Hurley, who offered a welcome, and then I was introduced.

Judge Robert Hurley
Bill McWhorter of the THC
It was my second year in a row to attend the celebration of the Battle of Medina. Last year I provided a program on the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition, which I researched for my master’s thesis. This year I developed a presentation on “Spanish Influence on Texas History and Culture.” The recorded history of Texas dates back five centuries, to the beginning of Spanish explorations, in the second decade of the 1500s. The Spanish flag flew over Texas for three centuries, until just seven years after their victory at the Battle of Medina. Therefore there was Spanish dominance over Texas for 60 percent of our existence. The resulting Spanish imprint upon Texas was deep and prominent - a subject I lectured on for decades in my Texas history classes. I enjoyed developing the subject more deeply for this occasion, and the audience of nearly 100 was quite complimentary. Soon after returning home from Pleasanton, I taped another radio program with host Johnny Rowland, and the subject of much of the interview was the Battle of Medina celebration and the topic of my address. Johnny provided a link for this program, which we have included below.

It should be added that when I arrived in Pleasanton the day before the Battle of Medina event I stopped – as I did last year – at the Longhorn Museum, which styles itself the “Birthplace of the Cowboy.” Docent Jolynn Casias showed me around the displays of the Cattle Industry, Spanish, Indians, Exotic Wild Game, and, outside, a railroad exhibit that features the old Pleasanton depot and a Union Pacific caboose. Any history buff who travels to Pleasanton will enjoy the Longhorn Museum.
Docent Jolynn Casias
The Old Rock School was built in 1874.
Pleasanton's first schoolhouse.
For more information:
Interview by Johnny Rowland with Bill O'Neal

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