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The Tejano Sacrifice

Study explores the treatment of Tejano vets after the Civil War

Here's a little known fact regarding the Civil War: Approximately 2,550 Tejanos fought for the Confederacy, while 900 Tejanos served in the Union Army.

"It's not common knowledge," said history major James Vasquez. "It certainly wasn't taught in my classes in school."

Vasquez, who is a student with UTSA's Honors College, is writing his thesis on Tejano Civil War veterans who applied for pensions after their military service.

"There were no pension programs immediately after the war," Vasquez said. "The federal and state pension programs both began in the 1890s after veterans were more aged and infirm in general. And there was a belief that some assistance should be provided to veterans in their old age. Of course, it cost less to pay pensions in the 1890s since many veterans had passed on in the preceding years."

The pension system was generated by Congress for Union veterans and the State of Texas generated an independent pension system for Texas Confederate veterans. While Union pensions were administered by the federal government, individual states in the South administered their own state programs.

James Schneider, interim chair of the Department of History, is supervising Vasquez with his thesis project and said the research will study how veterans fared in the years long after the Civil War ended, and if the federal government was more or less generous or discriminatory in dealing with veterans compared to the state governments.

Vasquez's research included visiting state archives in Austin to review 250 original pension applications of Confederate veterans from the 1890s. He also went to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to review 92 applications of Tejano Union soldiers. Among the Spanish surnames of applications he examined were Garcia, Hinojosa, Flores, Sandoval, Escamilla and Jimenez.

"It's real easy to get personally involved even though they're dead," he said. "This is a sad study of poverty and disabilities, but also it's a story of how the veterans supported one another to gain the benefits they were entitled to.

"The impression I've gained is that, while some Tejano veterans received pensions and benefits, they and their families did not earn acceptance into Texan society or much of a better life through their wartime efforts. Many veterans and widows died in the homes of their children, who often appealed to the government for burial benefits, having limited funds themselves."

—Rudy Arispe

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