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Battle Of Palmito Ranch
Boca Chica, Texas

Battle of Palmito Ranch
Battle Of Palmito Ranch Historical Marker
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, February 2007

BATTLE OF PALMITO RANCH

On May 13, 1865, the last land action of the Civil War took place here, more than a month after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. The Confederates forces knew of the surrender since May 1, when a New Orleans newspaper was tossed from a boat on its way to Brownsville to soldiers at Palmito Ranch. On May 9, 1865, Confederate Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, stated that he proposed to continue fighting.

On May 11th, under the cover of darkness at Boca Chica Pass, 300 Union troops crossed to the mainland in an attempt to occupy Brownsville. After a forced march, they reached White's Ranch at dawn and attempted (unsuccessfully) to conceal themselves to rest. With the element of surprise gone, the troops openly marched toward Brownsville but didn't get far.

At Palmito Ranch they were confronted by a Confederate force of 190 members of Lt. Col. George H. Giddings's Texas Cavalry which resulted in a brief skirmish. Both forces disengaged with the Union force camping for the night. The Confederates attacked at 3 a.m., forcing the Union troops to return to White's Ranch.

Early on May 13, 200 reinforcements arrived, bringing the Union strength up to 500. This larger force moved on Palmito Ranch where the major battle took place. The outnumbered Confederate received succor late that afternoon, from Colonel "RIP" Ford's Second Texas Cavalry, and a six-gun battery of field artillery.

The flat, open land gave the advantage to the Confederate mounted cavalry and the Union troops were routed. A seven-mile running fight to Brazos Island ensued - and there the Federal troops were met by reinforcements, now causing the Confederates to retreat.

Since everyone knew the war was officially over, this may have seemed to Ford to be a good note to go out on. He addressed his troops, saying, "Boys, we have done finely. We will let well enough alone, and retire."

The four hour battle left a score of Southerners wounded, but the Union fared much worse. Thirty men were killed or wounded and over a hundred were taken prisoner. A few days later a truce was signed. This seemingly minor see-saw confrontation may have been small by comparison with the Civil War's major battles, but it won a footnote in history by being the last land fight of the war - one that was won by the losers.
See Boca Chica, Texas
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