The Last Great Battle
One hundred and fifty years ago, on May 12-13, 1865, the final skirmish of the Civil War took place at Palmito Ranch, Texas. Two days earlier, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured in Georgia, which ensured that the once noble Confederacy was now all but deceased.
On May 11, 1865, Union Colonel Theodore H. Barrett set out on an expedition with 250 soldiers of the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment and 50 men of the 2nd Texas Cavalry Regiment under Lt. Col. David Branson. Their mission was to attack Rebel outposts and camps on the Rio Grande, going against an agreement that had been struck in March 1865. On May 12 at approximately 8:30 a.m., people on the Mexican side of the river informed the Confederates that Union troops were invading. Branson attacked, scattering the Rebels. At 3:00 p.m., the Confederates retaliated, forcing the Federals to retire to White’s Ranch.
On the morning of May 13, Branson received assistance from Barrett. A skirmish ensued from White’s Ranch to Palmito Ranch. At 4:00 p.m., a sizeable Confederate cavalry force led by Col. John S. “Rip” Ford, approached, and the Federals formed a line. After being pounded by Rebel artillery, Barrett and his men retreated. It was the last battle of the Civil War, and ironically, it was a Southern victory.