Peter Sides and the Other Battle for Texas Independence
By Mary Jane Bell

What would be your first thought if I mentioned a fight for Texas Independence, Santa Anna, and the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil? Of course, you would answer without any hesitation, it is the Battle for the Alamo in 1836. And just as quickly I would answer that you are wrong. It was the Battle of Medina fought in 1813 just a few miles south of San Antonio. Your thoughts are now probably running something like mine were a few months ago when I first came upon the Battle of Medina while researching my genealogy. As a native Texan and occasional student of Texas History, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the War for Texas Independence, but I had no idea what happened in Texas 23 years prior to the Alamo. I was especially curious when I found that my four times great grandfather, Peter Sides (or Seitz), who had previously fought the British in the War for American Independence, came to Texas at the age of 63 to lead a unit in this new battle for independence. He fought and died in this battle. All of this was a total surprise to me since I had never heard of the battle and never heard of this ancestor. So now I am wondering just who is this fellow Peter Sides; is he really related to me; why did he come to Texas; what is the Battle of Medina, how does it figure into Texas History, and why haven't I ever heard of it or him before. I've managed to find a few of these answers and would like to share them with you. Maybe someone else has a few more answers.

We don't have a lot of specifics about the beginnings of Peter Sides, although there are several possibilities as to his early family line and there is quite a bit of research work being done in this area. His family name was originally Seitz and they probably came from Germany by way of Switzerland and probably settled first in the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania.1 It is very likely that the family was a part of the Palatine Anabaptist movement in Switzerland, where many Germans headed who were Mennonites.2 Some of the earliest records of Peter Sides are from North Carolina so it appears that he was either born there or his family moved there from Pennsylvania  shortly after his birth around 1750. Sometime around 1774, Peter married Barbara Carpenter. Barbara's Swiss family name was Zimmerman and that was translated literally into Carpenter when the family came to America. There is a document in Tryon County, North Carolina3 signed by Peter Sides and his father- in- law, Christian Carpenter and other patriots in the area vowing to resist British forces. And that he did. He fought as an Ensign in the 2nd North Carolina Battalion in November 1776 and later received a land grant in Davidson County, Tennessee in appreciation for his service. Sides was one of the earliest settlers in the area of Tennessee that would eventually become Nashville.

There are records in Tennessee showing Sides as a lieutenant in the local militia. He is documented there on tax rolls in 1787. At some point he moved his family to Logan 1 There is currently an ongoing DNA project to determine exactly how the various Sides/Seitz families are related. 2 The Mennonite religion began about 1525 in Switzerland.

3 Tryon County has been divided into several other counties around Mecklenburg and is not a current county in North Carolina, but there are numerous websites referencing it and its history and genealogy.

County, Kentucky4 where his son, John, was born. In 1799, the family moved to East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana along with the Kuykendalls and some of Barbara Carpenter's family. One of Peter's daughters would eventually marry a Kuykendall.i

This was a time of much upheaval in the history of East Baton Rouge. This area was claimed by both the French and Spanish as a part of various treaties. The only problem was that most of these treaties failed to properly define the boundaries and thus the control of the area was difficult to ascertain. It appears that Spain was in control of East Baton Rouge when Peter Sides moved his family there in 1799. The government was still undecided a few years later when the United States purchased the huge Louisiana Territory from France in 1803. Spain was still laying claim to the area around Baton Rouge and the entire Gulf coast strip. They claimed that this territory had never belonged to France and thus they had no right to sell it to the United States. This was the situation when the local settlers revolted against Spanish rule in 1810. The result of this successful revolt was the establishment of the independent Republic of West Florida5.

This Republic lasted only a short time before being ceded to the United States.ii We do not know much about Peter Sides' stay in Baton Rouge. Although he apparently did not follow the peace-loving trends of many Mennonites, we cannot draw any conclusions about his religion. It is known that his descendants were instrumental in the founding of the Zoar Baptist Church in East Baton Rouge in 1868. It is also unknown if Peter Sides was involved in the armed struggle for independence from Spain that led to the Republic of West Florida, but everything we have discovered about his history and his proximity to this struggle would indicate his probable participation. It is amazing that sometime during all this fighting and moving, Peter and Barbara Sides managed to give birth to at least 6 children, including my ancestor, James Sides. There are indications that at least 2 of his sons, John and Jacob, followed in their father's military footsteps and fought in the War of 1812 which was brewing about this time and eventually culminated in 1815 with the nearby victory in New Orleans. That brings us up to 1812 and the events that brought Peter Sides to Texas.

In order to understand what was going on in Texas at this time, it is necessary to do a little review of Texas History. The first step is to remember that "Six Flags Over Texas" is more than just a clever name for an amusement park. Texas belonged to Spain in 1812, as did all of Mexico. Spain laid claim to this territory in 1519 as the result of various early explorers and that claim had continued uninterrupted except for a brief period of about 15 years when La Salle had attempted to claim the land for the French. Spain, however, had done little to settle the land and most of the inhabitants in 1812, other than the Native American tribes, were from other Mexican states or from the United States. These settlers were not happy about Spanish control and encouraged by the recent revolution in Louisiana, planned their own revolution. On Aug 7, 1812, The Gutierrez-Magee Expedition crossed the border from Louisiana into Texas. They drew in many settlers from Louisiana, such as Peter Sides, with their promise of a League 6 of land.

They also drew in many Tejanos and Indians. Their first successful target was the Spanish Garrison at Nacogdoches in East Texas. This was a relatively easy battle and the 4 James Bowie of Alamo fame was also born in Logan County, Kentucky in 1796 and his family also later moved to Louisiana. Although younger than Peter, the families may have been acquainted 5 West Florida is not to be confused with East Florida which was primarily the present state of Florida.

6 A league is bout 4228 acres.

Spanish Flag was quickly replaced by the Green Flag of the Republican Army of the North, as this expeditionary force was called. The expedition proceeded through Texas and left their Green Flag flying at Trinidad de Salcedo7 and La Bahía8, where Magee died, and finally at San Antonio, where independence was declared on April 6, 1813. Thus was formed the first Republic of Texas. Unfortunately, this republic would only have a life span of about 4 months. Even though of short duration, this period should mark a 7th flag over Texas, but it appears that the "Green Flag" has been lost to history. During their short stay in San Antonio, many men of the expeditionary forces stayed in the Alamo.

Many things conspired against the new republic, including internal leadership strife, poor planning, and the Spanish Army that was advancing from Mexico. San Antonio at this time had a population of about 4000 and rather than stand their ground there, The Republican Army decided to head south and meet the Spanish forces outside of town. The two armies met about 20 miles south of San Antonio near the Medina River on August 18, 1813. The Republican Army numbered about 1400 and the Spanish forces numbered about 1830. Theoretically, the fight might have been about equal, but lack of proper leadership and training and poor planning led to confusion, withdrawal, and eventual slaughter of all but about 100 of the Republicans in the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil. It was all over in 4 hours. The Spanish forces under Commandant Joaquín de Arredondo and his Lieutenant, Antonio López de Santa Anna, won a complete victory with losses of only about 55 of their men. Santa Anna would gain some valuable military experience during this battle that he would use 23 years later at the Battle of the Alamo. The Spanish commander, wanting to make a lasting statement about this insurrection, buried his own dead with dignity, but ordered that the bodies of the fallen revolutionaries were not to be touched. The bodies remained in the field where they had fallen for 9 years. Finally in 1821, the Spanish government in Mexico was overthrown and the newly established Mexican government in Texas allowed the burial of the remains in a mass grave under a large oak tree on the banks of the Medina.iii

Peter Sides, who had fought many battles during his life, was 63 at the time of his death in the Battle of Medina. The story is told that he led his troop into battle with a cry of, "Come on boys!" Unfortunately, many of the "boys" turned tail and ran. We can only speculate as to what would motivate a man of his age to take on this fight. It may have been the promise of land or the chance to make another stand for freedom or maybe just a quest for adventure. Whatever it was, it seems apparent that his fight may not have been popular with his family. Instead of dying a hero with tales told from one generation to another, his name was essentially not mentioned until fairly recently. He may have been forgotten altogether if it weren't for some legal papers filed by his family and uncovered by some family researchers. One document asked that he be declared dead so that his daughter could inherit his estate. Another action involved the disposition of his slaves and yet another involved a debtor hearing in Kentucky. It is assumed that the stigma of losing the battle was something that caused the family shame and regret and that little was mentioned about him to the next generation. It also appears that many Texans must have felt the same way about this battle since so few have even heard of it. 7 Just beyond the northern boundary of present Madison County near Midway, TX. 8 Presidio La Bahía is located one mile south of Goliad, Texas on U.S. Highway 183 (77A).

My own connection to Peter Sides is through his son, James. James married Dorothea Key, daughter of Benjamin Key and Marie Brumfield, on March 18, 1810 in the Catholic Church in Baton Rouge. It is doubtful that they were Catholic, but the Spanish occupation at that time only acknowledged weddings in the Catholic Church. There is even some indication that Dorothea's father may have been Jewish. Later, Dorothea was listed in the membership of the Bethel Baptist Church in Newton, Mississippi. They had two girls, Susannah and Mary "Polly" who were born in East Baton Rouge in 1810 and 1812, respectively. They were born shortly before their grandfather, Peter, died in Texas. The census for East Baton Rouge in 1820 shows James Sides with his family of 3 and 3 slaves. James is listed as a farmer. Apparently he did follow in his father's footsteps. At some point, James moved his family to Mississippi.

There are records of land purchases there in 1825 and 1826. In 1829, James' older daughter, Susannah, married Lewis Bruce McClendon in Copiah County, Mississippi. After moves to the counties of Hancock and Jasper in Mississippi, L.B. and Susannah McClendon settled in Newton County, Mississippi in 1839. They eventually had 10 children which included my great grandfather, Charles Washington McClendon (1846 – 1924). Susannah and Lewis both died in 1886 in Newton County, Mississippi.

James Sides' younger daughter, Mary Polly, married John Shelton in 1829 in Baton Rouge. They had 1 daughter, Susan who was born in 1832. Shortly after her birth, her mother, Mary Polly, died of yellow fever and her father moved to Copiah County, Mississippi, where he married again and started a new family. We don't know for sure what happened to the infant, Susan Shelton, but we find her at 18 living with her grandmother, Dorothea Sides, who is now a widow, in the 1850 Newton County,

Mississippi Census, living just a few miles from Lewis Bruce and Susannah McClendon. It is possible that she was raised by her grandmother.

Charles Washington McClendon (or C.W.) must have picked up some of his great grandfather's flair for battle since he joined the confederate forces in 1863 at the age of 17. He served until the end of the war and later is said to have slept with a pistol under his pillow for most of his life. After the war he married Martha (Mattie) Bufkin (1850 –1928) and they moved to Falls County, Texas around 1884 to settle in the land where his great grandfather, Peter Sides, had fought and died. C.W. and Mattie had 11 children which included my grandfather, Charles Davis (Dave) McClendon (1882 – 1955). I don't think that Dave had a fighting bone in his body. He was a kind and gentle man who worked for the postal service on the railroad. He loved to tell stories, especially funny stories to his 8 children. The strange thing is that I don't think he ever told any stories about Peter Sides. That would lead me to believe that he had not heard of this ancestor.

When I started looking for information, I quickly came to Lewis Bruce McClendon and his wife, Susannah Sides, from family information, but I had to do a bit of digging to find her father, James Sides. Then it took quite a lot of digging to find the connection to Peter Sides and his fight for Texas Independence.

I am proud of my connection to this freedom fighter. Even though this battle was a total defeat, it was still an important part of Texas History with many parallels to the later Battle of the Alamo. I am not sure why it has become a forgotten part of Texas History. I know there are a number of people who have recently been working to try to preserve and publicize the story of the Battle of Medina and of Peter Sides and his fellow patriots, many unknown, who died there. On Saturday, August 19, 2006, there will be a special ceremony under that oak tree near the Medina River to commemorate the 192nd anniversary of this battle and to honor these men just as there has been for the last two years. Tom Green who is President of the Texas Society of the Sons of the American Revolution has been instrumental in planning and executing these ceremonies. Tom's son- in- law, Brian Childs, is a descendant of Peter Sides through his daughter, Elizabeth who married Jonathan Kirkendall.

I didn't know about the previous events, but I have set my calendar to be there for the ceremony this year. I hope that many of my McClendon relatives will also plan to be there that day to reclaim their heritage along with their Sides and Kuykendall cousins and others interested in Texas History and to pay homage to Peter Sides, our lost ancestor. If you have additional information or corrections about any of the people or events mentioned in this article, I would love to hear from you. You can also contact me if you want more information or directions for the ceremony this summer to honor the Texas patriots in Medina.

M.J. Bell
2720 Cordova Circle
Denton, TX

i Early family information was obtained from Sides researchers Martha Hardcastle Guthrie and Bob

Gartman and from various census documents available through

ii Wikipedia contributors (2006). West Florida. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:11, April

21, 2006 from

iii Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "MEDINA, BATTLE OF," (accessed April 21, 2006).


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