Confederate and Union forces battle at Palmito Ranch, May 12-13, 1865. Source: Texas Military Forces Museum.

About the Battle

The battle of Palmito Ranch took place from May 12th to 13th, 1865, under the Union command of Colonel Theodore H. Barrett. This conflict occurred one month after General Robert E. Lee (Confederate) surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant (Union) at Appomattox Court House on April 12, 1865. It is therefore known as the “Last Land Battle” of the American Civil War. On May 11, 1865, Barrett’s army 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 struck out from Brazos Santiago, Texas to attack Rebel outposts, camps, and pickets in an apparent quest to capture Brownsville (McWhorter et al., 2010). Union troops encountered Confederate resistance in the areas of White's Ranch and Palmito Ranch setting the stage for the battle. At the time, the sparse landscape was dotted with just a handful of ranch houses and auxiliary buildings. An estimated 1,000 soldiers faced off at the battle of Palmito Ranch, with Hispanic men fighting for the South and Black soldiers for the Union. Rebel forces successfully fended off the Union attack, and following Barrett’s retreat, the last land battle of the Civil War came to an end. Union Private John J. Williams, from the 34th Indiana, was among the battle’s casualties and is considered by many historians to be the last soldier killed in a war in which ultimately more than 600,000 soldiers' lives were lost.

Listen to the Palmito Ranch Historical Narrative

Map of South Texas during the Civil War era. Source: Dobak, 2011 p. 426.

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For a more detailed story please visit the Palmito Ranch Battlefield Story Map.