Jerry D. Thompson

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Publications

A Wild and Vivid Land: An Illustrated History of the South Texas Border


With more than 150 images, many never before published, historian Jerry Thompson tells the story of what Pulitzer Prize-winning historian William H. Goetzmann has called a "wild and vivid land." From the Coahuiltecan Indians and the Spanish colonizers who clustered along the banks of the Rio Grande, to the cattlemen and oil wildcatters who conquered the brush country, Thompson details six centuries of exciting and entertaining history in a thoroughly researched and comprehensive text, lavishly illustrated by the work of artists Lino Sanchez y Tapia, Theodore Gentilz, and Frederic Remington, photographers Robert Runyon, E. O. Goldbeck, and Russell Lee, and many others.It was on the South Texas border that the Mexican War began and the Civil War ended. Over the centuries the border area has been the setting for extraordinary endeavors and events, many of them related in A Wild and Vivid Land: José de Escandon's gallant band of colonizers, the grandiose dreamers who struggled to shape the 1840 Republic of the Rio Grande, the ill-fated Mier expedition, and the soldiers who fought at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in 1846. The dramatic historical events and the strong personalities that influenced the region's growth and development are skillfully presented in words and pictures. Readers will see the steamboat commerce on the Rio Grande, where Richard King of King Ranch fame began to amass his fortune; the Civil War cotton trade; the sheep and cattle industries; the coming of the railroads in the 1880s; and the citrus and oil and gas industries of the twentieth century. Thompson also recounts Juan Cortina's brazen raid on Brownsville; the Union occupation of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in December 1863 and the Confederacy's legendary defense of Laredo in 1864; Catarino Garza's run from the Texas Rangers in the chaparral in the 1890s; and the ordinary men and women who, throughout, survived floods and depressions, bandits, revolutions, and drought.The exciting history presented here is distinguished by scrupulous scholarship and by the author's clear enthusiasm and love for South Texas. This book of remarkable pictures and stories is the kind of book one returns to again and again, that causes one to muse and dream on the past. The South Texas border becomes vivid in the mind--a singular and an unforgettable encounter.Contents:• The Land• Coahuiltecans• Spanish Exploration• José de Escandón• Camargo, Reynosa, Revilla, and Mier• Dolores• Laredo• San Patricio, Corpus Christi, and Dolores• Revolutions• Republic of the Rio Grande• Second Texas-Mexico War• Mier Expedition• Mexican War• Steamboats on the Rio Grande• Brownsville• Cortina War• Secession and Civil War• Guerrilla Warfare in the Nueces Strip• Reconstruction• Catarino Garza• Gregorio Cortez• Mexican Revolution• Railroads• Sheep and Cattle Industry• Jovita and Nicasio Idar• Citrus• Oil and Gas• Falcon Dam and Reservoir

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Civil War and Revolution on the Rio Grande Frontier: A Narrative and Photographic History


The Civil War on the Rio Grande frontier began in Zapata County only days after the first shots of the bloody conflict were fired at Fort Sumter, and the conflict ended at Palmito Hill more than a month after Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Far from Washington and Richmond and the killing fields of the east, this dark corner of the Confederacy has a rich history of Civil War photography. One of the superbly talented photographic artists operating in Matamoros and Brownsville during this epic era was a Prussian named Louis de Planque. With his lens, de Planque skillfully captured the leading personalities of the era, including Servando Canales, Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, Mariano Escobedo, Tomás Mejía, Richard King, Mifflin Kenedy, and John S. "Rip" Ford.
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Fifty Miles and a Fight: Major Samuel Peter Heintzelman's Journal of Texas and the Cortina War


Fifty Miles and a Fight: Major Samuel Peter Heintzelman's Journal of Texas and the Cortina War, a rare and dramatic firsthand account of one of the most volatile and traumatic events in the long history of Texas--the Cortina War, chronicles the day-to-day activities of one of the most cultured, dedicated, and well-respected (although often vain) officers of the antebellum frontier army. It was while Heintzelman was at Camp Verde on September 28, 1859, that a daring thirty-five-year-old illiterate ranchero named Juan Nepomuceno Cortina sent shockwaves throughout Texas by brazenly leading some seventy-five angry raiders into the dung-splattered streets of Brownsville. Tired of a clique of Brownsville attorneys, resentful of men he accused of killing tejanos with impunity, and determined to settle a blood feud with bitter enemy Adolphus Glavecke, Cortina initiated a war that would reverberate north to Austin and beyond to the halls of Washington and Mexico City.Fifty Miles and a Fight magnifies the brutal nature of the Texas Rangers, a portrayal not readily evident in other sources. Not only does Heintzelman, who was placed in command of the Brownsville Expedition with orders to crush Cortina, record his disdain and distrust of the Rangers, but also their indiscriminate killing of both mexicanos and tejanos. Heintzelman's journal, which reads like a Zane Grey thriller, provides a detailed and vivid account of the battles at El Ebonal and Rio Grande City as well as glimpses into the filibustering activities of the shadowy Knights of the Golden Circle, who were hoping to expand the Cortina War into a larger conflict that would lead to the eventual annexation of Mexico and the creation of a slave empire south of the Rio Grande. Heintzelman's impressions of his senior commander, Col. Robert E. Lee, are also noteworthy.A real jewel of soldiering on the Southwestern frontier, Heintzelman's journal begins on a sunny and optimistic New Orleans day, April 17, 1859, with his family on its way to Texas, and ends on a depressingly cool and overcast December 31, 1861, also in the Crescent City, with secession fever sweeping the South and the nation on the verge of war.
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Tejano Tiger: Jose de los Santos Benavides and the Texas-Mexico Borderlands, 1823-1891


Riding the rough and sometimes bloody peaks and canyons of border politics, Santos Benavides’s rise to prominence was largely the result of the careful mentoring of his well-known uncle, Basilio Benavides, who served several terms as alcalde of Laredo, Texas, and Chief Justice of Webb County. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, Basilio was one of only two Tejanos in the state legislature. During Santos’s lifetime, five flags flew over the small community he called home—that of the Republic of Mexico, the ill-fated Republic of the Rio Grande, the Republic of Texas, an expansionist United States, and in March 1861, the rebellious Confederate States of America. It was under the Confederacy in the disputed Texas-Mexico borderlands that Santos Benavides reached the pinnacle of his military career as the highest-ranking Tejano in the entire Confederate army. In the decades that followed the Civil War, he became an esteemed political leader, highly respected on both sides of the border. This is the first scholarly study of this important historical figure.
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The Reminiscences of Major General Zenas R. Bliss, 1854-1876: From the Texas Frontier to the Civil War and Back Again


The "Reminiscences" of Maj. Gen. Zenas R. Bliss are a remarkably detailed account of his army service in Texas before and after the Civil War. Many scholars consider Bliss's recollections to be one of the best from a soldier of the "Old Army." It has become a staple primary resource for Texas frontier research for the last three decades.Bliss's memoirs serve as a rare and important window into Texas' military, political, cultural, and geographical history. The memoirs cover Bliss's graduation at West Point in 1854, his antebellum service at Fort Duncan, Camp Hudson, and Fort Davis, as well as his return to the Texas frontier in 1870, and end with his duties at Fort Davis in 1876. Details also describe his capture by Texas Confederate forces in 1861, his tribulations as a prisoner of war, and his subsequent Civil War experiences as a Union regimental commander at Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, and Petersburg, where he was at the battle of the Crater. For gallantry at Fredericksburg, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor.While commanding buffalo soldiers at Fort Duncan in 1870, Bliss conceived the idea of enlisting Seminole-Negro Indians from Mexico as army scouts. After successfully lobbying the departmental commander and the War Department for approval, Bliss formed the first band of Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts in August of 1870. The unit served the army with extraordinary devotion and distinction until 1912.Bliss served in Texas longer than any other army officer (twenty-three years) and rose in rank from second lieutenant to departmental commander. Possessing a keen sense of humor, an eye for detail, and a boisterous social nature, his lively account of the people and places of the antebellum and post-Civil War Texas frontier is among the very best of Texas history.

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