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Civil War Trust

Battle of Palmito Ranch

May 12, 1865–May 13, 1865

Cameron County, TexasVisit on the Discovery Trail »

Palmito Ranch Battlefield (Shenandoah Sanchez)

Starting in March 1865, a gentleman’s agreement precluded fighting between Union and Confederate forces on the Rio Grande.  In spite of this agreement, Col. Theodore H. Barrett, commanding Union forces at Brazos Santiago, Texas, dispatched an expedition force composed of 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, on May 11, 1865.  Branson, after several failed attempts at locating Confederate outposts, led his men on the Confederate camp located at Palmito Ranch on May 12th.  After much skirmishing along the way, the Federals attacked the camp and scattered the Confederate force stationed there.  Branson and his men remained at the site to feed themselves and their horses but at 3:00 pm, a sizable Confederate force appeared, forcing the Union soldiers to retire.  Branson was reinforced at daybreak on the 13th by 200 men of the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry led by Colonel Theodore H. Barrett, who took command of the combined force.  Barrett started out towards Palmito Ranch, skirmishing most of the way, and again met the Confederates before leading his force back to a bluff near the river.  However, at 4:00 pm, a large Confederate cavalry force under by Col. John S. “Rip” Ford approached and forced the Union soldiers to flee.  The retreat was orderly and skirmishers held the Rebels at a respectable distance before both sides halted with the approaching darkness, thus ending the final battle of the American Civil War.  The final combat death of the Civil War, the most deadly war in all of American history, was Union Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana.

1865-05-12 1865-05-13

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