Palmito Ranch Battlefield National Historic Landmark
The Battle of Palmito Ranch (sometimes referenced as the Battle of Palmito Hill), which took place May 11-12th of 1865, is considered the last major battle of the Civil War. Although having taken place 34 days after General Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, this battle commanded by Theodore H. Barrett (Union) and John "Rip" Ford (Confederacy) ended with a confederate victory. Though some may consider this merely a "post-war battle" or "skirmish", it was in this battle that the last casualty of the Civil War, John J. Williams, was recognized. The battlefield, almost completely unchanged since 1865, was designated in 1997 as a National Historic Landmark. It consists of over 5400 acres of land and is marked by a landmark just off of Texas State Highway 4 near where Palmito ranch was originally located.
Backstory and Context
The Battle of Palmito Ranch National Historic Landmark, located right off of "Boca Chica Highway", or Texas Highway 4, consists of multiple signs telling the story of the Battle of Palmito Ranch - the last major battle of the American Civil War. Visitors are welcomed throughout the year, volunteers are provided to give more information about the site. Please make sure to bring your ID, as this area is located near Mexico Border. Sometimes local police may question you; not having your ID might cause some problems. You can contact the information center at (512) 463-6100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org If you will also tune to 1610 AM, the radio station will give you more information about the site as well.
On May 11, 1865, the newly promoted Brevet Brigadier General of the 62nd Colored Infantry Regiment, Theodore H. Barrett, sent troops from Brazos Island towards Fort Brown led by Lieut.-Col. Branson. This was two days after May 9, when President Andrew Johnson had proclaimed that "armed resistance to the authority of the government in certain States ... may be regarded as virtually at an end," after the confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured. This fort had been captured in 1864 by the confederates and Brig. Gen. Barrett intended on reclaiming it, even after being told not to. After encountering and skirmishing with Capt. W. N. Robinson's 190-man company of Lt. Col. George H. Giddings's Texas Cavalry Battalion, both sides retired for the night and went undisturbed until around 0300 on May 12. Lt. Col. Branson sent to Barrett for reinforcements.
Barrett himself arrived at 5:00 A.M. on May 13, 1865, with 200 men of the Thirty-fourth Indiana Infantry, bringing the federal's strength up to 500 officers and men. Reinforced, their 500 men marched onto Palmito Ranch again, against the Confederate's 190. At around 1500, Colonel Ford arrived to reinforce Robinson's 190 men with 300 more, alongside additional field artillery under the command of Capt. O. G. Jones. At 1600, Jones' artillery began to fire on Barrett's troops, who were quite disadvantaged with no such weaponry and with no cover from the terrain. After some time of this, Brig. Gen. Barrett decided that a retreat was necessary. Colonel Ford did not have the troops follow, and instead said, "Boys, we have done finely, we will let well enough alone, and retire."
Confederate forces suffered a few dozen wounded. The federal forces, on the other hand, suffered around 30 some men wounded or killed and 115 soldiers captured, although Barrett's original report showed a smaller number. The last solider known to have died was a Private John. J. Williams, officially recognized as the last combat casualty of the Civil War.
Vogt, Ryan. “Texas History 101,” August 1, 2005. https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/texas-history-101-14/.
Neufeld, Rob. “Confederacy's Last Strategic Victory.” Citizen Times. Citizen Times, April 12, 2015. https://www.citizen-times.com/story/life/2015/04/12/visiting-past-confederacys-last-strategic-victory/25686179/.
Barrett, Theodore H. “Report of Colonel Theodore H. Barrett, Sixty-Second U.S. Colored Troops.” American Battlefield Trust. American Battlefield Trust, April 1, 2017. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/report-colonel-theodore-h-barrett-sixty-second-us-colored-troops.
Fold3_Spotlight. “John J. Williams Last Civil War Fatality: Topic, Pictures and Information.” Fold3, July 13, 2016. https://www.fold3.com/page/642817081-john-j-williams-last-civil-war-fatality/stories.
American Battlefield Trust. “Battle of Palmito Ranch Facts & Summary.” American Battlefield Trust, July 7, 2017. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/palmito-ranch.
William, Jeffrey. “PALMITO RANCH, BATTLE OF.” The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). Texas State Historical Association, June 15, 2010. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qfp01.
HMBD. “Battle of Palmito Ranch Historical Marker.” Historical Marker. Historical Marker Database, October 11, 2016. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=35271.
American Battlefield Trust. “Theodore Harvey Barrett.” American Battlefield Trust. American Battlefield Trust, April 17, 2017. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/theodore-harvey-barrett.