TAMIU’s Thompson Pens Book on Tejano Civil War Experience
Posted: 3/3/11

New Thompson Book Looks at Tejano
Civil War Experience through Letters

Jerry Thompson
Dr. Jerry Thompson's new book looks at period letters for the Tejano Civil War experience.

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) professor and author Dr. Jerry Thompson’s latest book, Tejanos in Gray: Civil War Letters of Captains Joseph Rafael de la Garza and Manuel Yturri traces the Tejano Civil War experience through period letters.

“The Civil War is often conceived in simplistic, black and white terms: whites from the North and South fighting over states’ rights, usually centered on the issue of black slavery -- but the motivations for allegiance to the South were often more complex than traditional interpretations have indicated,” Dr. Thompson explained.

Just released by The Texas A&M University Press, the 160-page cloth-bound book includes black and white photos.  It gathers for the first time 41 letters and letter fragments written by two Mexican Texans, Captains Manuel Yturri and Joseph Rafael de la Garza.  Retired TAMIU history professor Dr. Jacinto Juarez assisted with translation.  Thompson said the letters reveal the intricate and intertwined relationships that characterized the lives of Texan citizens of Mexican descent in the years leading up to and including the Civil War.

The experiences and impressions reflected in the letters of two young members of the Tejano elite from San Antonio, related by marriage, provide fascinating glimpses of a Texas that displaced many Mexican-descent families after the Revolution, yet could still inspire their loyalty to the Confederate flag. De la Garza, in fact, would go on to give his life for the Southern cause.

“The letters deepen and provide nuance to our understanding of the Civil War and its combatants, especially with regard to the Tejano experience,” Thompson concluded

Thompson is a Regent’s Professor of History at TAMIU and considered one of the nation’s top authorities on the Civil War.  The author of over 20 books, he is a past president of the Texas State Historical Association.  Thompson holds a doctorate from Carnegie-Mellon University and has received numerous awards from the Texas Historical Commission, Western Writers of America, Texas State Historical Association, Historical Society of New Mexico, and Arizona Historical Society.

He was a recipient of a 2009 Texas A&M University System’s Teaching Excellence Awards, a voluntary, student-selected honors program and was just named a recipient of  The Texas A&M University System’s 2010 Chancellor’s Teaching Award. The Texas Institute of Letters awarded him the Best Scholarly Book Published in 2006 award for his “Civil War to the Bloody End: The Life and Times of Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman.” His recent biography, Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas, is thought to be the definitive study of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina and has won numerous awards.

Tejanos in Gray: Civil War Letters of Captains Joseph Rafael de la Garza and Manuel Yturri will be available at the TAMIU Bookstore.  Additional information is available at tamupress.com

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