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150th Anniversary (1865–2015) This Month in the Civil War: Battle of Palmito Ranch

Civil War Collection 150th Anniversary

On May 12–13, 1865, 800 Federal troops under Colonel Theodore H. Barrett engaged Colonel John S. Ford‘s 350 Confederates outside Brownsville, Texas, in the Battle of Palmito (Palmetto) Ranch, the last battle of the Civil War.

Although an informal agreement to avoid conflict had existed between the Federals and Confederates along the Rio Grande since March, Barrett (who had only recently taken command) decided to launch an attack. A few hundred of his troops advanced on White’s Ranch on May 12, only to find it deserted, so the Federals continued on to Palmito Ranch, skirmishing along the way. The Federals successfully took Palmito Ranch, but Confederate forces returned later that day, causing the Federals to fall back to White’s Ranch.

Fred F.B. Coffin fought in the Battle of Palmito Ranch for the Union with the 62nd USCT
The next day, the Federals were reinforced by another few hundred men, and they set off again for Palmito Ranch, destroying what remained and again skirmishing with Confederates. However, later that afternoon, Ford and his Confederates (who had also been reinforced) launched an attack of their own. The Confederate artillery forced the Federals to retreat, leaving the Confederates the victors.

There were relatively few killed or wounded on either side, though about a hundred Federals were captured. The conflict is significant almost entirely because of its status as the final battle of the war.

Want to learn more about the Battle of Palmito Ranch and the final days of the Civil War? Start a search on Fold3 or explore our Civil War Collection.


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  2. CindySouther says:

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  5. Herb Meyer says:

    Having a 25 year in U.S. military I asses that the Union General had a new command, a last chance to lead his troops into battle and win battle to his Own glory before the Civil War ended. And the confederates beat him! Justice!

  6. Margy gray says:

    What’s one battle—they lost the CivilWar “big time”

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  13. FaarOut says:

    The only thing I liked about the War of Northern Aggression is when Carol Burnette put on the gown made from the drapes and the rod was still in them.

  14. Charles T. Watts says:

    My 3rd Great GrandFather was in the 4Th Texas Cavalry Co.B . His recollections of that battle were as follows . They were on patrol in that area and had been told of the federal troops disembarking . The french Garrison at Matamoros Mexico were aware of their being there and were of the impression that they were there to try to attack their garrison . Earlier threats by the U.S. Government demanding them to leave because of violation of the Monroe Doctrine and seeing the transports loaded with troops caused the commander to engage the Federals. The French did attcak them and beat them pretty soundly. When the Texas Forces did arrive on the scene the French commander handed over the field to the Texas Commander John S. (RIP) Ford. the Texas Cavalry Forces Pursued the Fleeing Federals and forced them back to the troop ships and they left. People were from time to time saying that this had happened and not until a few years ago after the State historical Commission did an archelogical survey with metal detectors was it found that yes french forces had been there period accoutrements were found and uniform buttons and weaponry used at that time by French Forces were also found was it a misstatement in history books yes and just like at the Alamo Battle history leaves alot out but with time it’s being corrected . The Federal Army wouldn’t show its face on Texas soil until June19th 1865 at Galveston to bring word that hostillities were over and read the Amancipation Proclomation. I’m afraid though that working in the Education Field not much is said about that battle or about the Mexican defenders of the Alamo and their fighting to end a tyrants rule . Or much said about San Jacinto either ,Here’s the sad truth NOTHING was said to the students that Veterans Day was Near , Nothing was sad about Pearl harbor on that day, And the teachers and students think that Lee Surrendering his troops on April 9th 1865 ended that war . well that didn’t end the war. The Confederate Government never Capitulated power and Never signed a treaty ending the war. So Heres to Grandpa Sherman Of Kerville,Texas .Thanks for your service to the Great State Of Texas!!

    • Ronald F. Townsend says:

      According to Gen. Sheridan, who took over control of that area after Lee’s Surrender, the prime concern was Maxmiliun, and the French and Austrian troops in Mexico. Secretary Seward did not want to invade Mexico but thought the Maxmilliun dilemma was part of the problems of the civil war. Sheridan wanted to invade Mexico but politics did not. Why the battle of Palmitto Ranch ever took place is beyond me and it was a confederate victory. Sheridan had to fight other Texas units , passified them, and created much fear in Maxmilliuns forces. Eventually civil strife in Mexico caused the withdrawal of European troops and the execution of Maxmillium.Therefore, Sheridan acheived his goal by a ciruitous route.
      As far as the civil war itself, and both parties were just as guilty, it should never have been fought. The South, even before Lincoln called for 75,000 troops were forming militias and doing so at an alarming rate. Slavery was not the prime issue, some say State’s rights, but I disagree. What you had was a bunch of Northern Industrialists, and Southern Planter’s both vying for the available Political Power and the Planters lost. That loss cost 600,000 lives. Most Slaves became Sharecroppers which is another word for Serfdom not one step above Slavery.

  15. Dennis M says:

    So Texas is still a confederate State?

  16. Charles T.watts says:

    Texas , Is and always will be Texas, Such as being a Confederate State .Home of more people that fled from Jennisons Red Legs from Missouri. Fled Northern Armies who committed more war crimes under General Order #6 . Who let in to her Borders more people trying to start over their lives is neither pro Confederate but Especially NOT Unionists the only state to come into the union as a Sovereign Nation and sent over 50 thousand troops who served the cause without question and lost a great proportion of them is really and should be it’s own nation. Before the act of Seccession was voted on there was an effort to remove Texas from the union become a Independent Republic rather than join the Confederacy. But hotter heads prevailed and we went to War, and paid the price. France and England courted Texas . The State had legitimate reasons to leave the Federal Government wasn’t meeting the terms as were stated on the treaties signed by all parties ,What’s New.

  17. Liz Mauro says:

    Please tell us about Fred F. B. Coffin, where was he born?

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