THE LAST BATTLE OF THE CIVIL WAR:
A Gentlemen's Agreement Broken.
Palmito Ranch: Other Names: Palmito Hill
Location: Cameron County
Campaign: Expedition from Brazos Santiago
Dates(s): May 12-13, 1865
Estimated Casualties: Total unknown (US 118; CS unknown)
Principal Commanders: Col. Theodore H. Barrett [U.S.]; Col. John S. "Rip" Ford [C.S.]
Forces Engaged: Detachments from the 62nd U. S. Colored Infantry Regiment, 2nd Texas Cavalry Regiment, and 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry [U.S.]; detachments from Gidding's Regiment, Anderson's Battalion of Cavalry, and numerous other Confederate units and southern sympathizers[C.S.]
Palmito Ranch is considered the last battle of the Civil War. Of course there has be a last
battle in every war, but this one did not have to evolve my grandfather's regiment, the 62nd
Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry. Fortunately, grandfather Sergeant Anderson Davis alias
Jacob Anderson, who fought for his freedom as an escaped slave, survived the ordeal unharmed.
On March 1865, a gentleman's agreement was struck to forgo fighting between Union and Confederate forces on the Rio Grande. In spite of this agreement, Col. Theodore H. Barrett, commanding forces at Brazos Santiago, Texas, dispatched 250 men of the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment and 50 men of the 2nd Texas Cavalry Regiment under the command of Lt. Col. David Branson, to the mainland, on May 11, 1865, to attack Rebel outposts and camps.
Point Isabel was the designated point of crossing, but severe weather would not allow the landing of troops. Instead, the expedition crossed to Boca Chica much later than projected. At 2:00 a.m., on May 12, the Union forces surrounded the suspected Rebel outpost at White’s Ranch, but found no one there. Branson, realized his men were exhausted, so he secured his command in a thicket and among weeds on the banks of the Rio Grande and allowed his men to sleep.
Around 8:30 a.m., Mexicans on the other side of the river raised the alarm, informing the Rebels of the Union force's position. Branson immediately led his men to attack the Confederate camp at Palmito Ranch. After much skirmishing along the way, the Federals attacked the camp and scattered the Confederates. Supplies and other foodstuffs were torched. At 3:00 p.m., a very large Confederate force appeared, threatening the survival of Branson's men. Branson ordered a retreat back to White's Ranch. A courier was dispatch to Col. Barrett, who reinforced Branson at daybreak, on the 13th, with 200 men of the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Upon his arrival, Col. Barrett, took command and headed back towards Palmito Ranch, skirmishing most of the way. After torching more supplies at Palmito Ranch, and moving forward a few miles, they were forced into a firefight. On the Tulosa river the Union troops were approached by a large Confederate cavalry force, commanded by Col. John S. "Rip" Ford. The Federals formed a battle line which was pounded by the Rebel's artillery. Col. Barrett ordered a retreat, which was orderly and successful in holding the Rebels at bay. They arrived at Boca Chica at 8:00 p.m., the men embarked at 4:00 a.m., on the 14th.
Native Americans, Afro-Africans, and Hispanic Americans were all involved in the fighting.
Many Union combatants were certain that firing came from Imperial Mexican forces on the otherside of the river
and that these same soldiers crossed the Rio Grande into the U.S., but did not take part in the battle. The validity
of these reports were unproven.
CWSAC Reference #: TX005
Preservation Priority: III.4 (Class D)
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© 2000 Stanford L. Davis,
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