This research guide provides guidance for students who wish to learn more about the Battle of Palmito Ranch (also known as Palmito Hill, Palmetto Hill), the final battle of the U.S. Civil War. Resources from our collections include links to digital collections and books from our library catalog. Links to external resources of interest, including information on historical figures, are also included.
On May 12, 1865, weeks after other major Confederate armies surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia and Bennett Place, North Carolina, forces of the United States of America and the Confederate States of America clashed on the coastal plains east of Brownsville, Texas. The series of violent skirmishes endured for two days, over twelve miles of prairie. When the engagement ended on the afternoon of May 13, with a decisive rout of Federal troops, the Confederacy had prevailed in the last battle of the American Civil War. Learn more from CHAPS Civil War Trail.
Located on the south Texas border region known as the Rio Grande Valley, this trail traverses a five-county region along the Rio Grande [river] between Brownsville and Laredo with a few sites inland where applicable. During the Civil War, the Rio Grande served as a significant point of contention as skirmishes between both Union and Confederate forces erupted along the border between the military forts of Fort McIntosh in Laredo, Ringgold Barracks in Rio Grande City and Fort Brown in Brownsville. It is an important facet of American History that the last land battle of the Civil War was fought along the Mexican border at Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas.
Explore the rich historical heritage of the Rio Grande Valley. The series includes articles written by scholars from a variety of institutions across the United States and Northern Mexico.
"The Ghosts of Historic Palmito Hill Ranch," by Antonio N. Zavaleta
This collection contains photographs of artifacts found at Fort Brown and Palmito Hill Battlefield, including Civil War-era hardware and ammunition. Sponsored by Texas State Library, Train to Share, UTB/TSC, and Manuel Hinojosa.
This collection contains photographs of historical artifacts on display at museums in Port Isabel, including some dating to the Civil War.
Colonel "Rip" Ford
John Salmon Ford, better known as “Rip” Ford, would epitomize the saying “win the battle but lose the war,” as he would command the Confederate forces that won the Battle of Palmito Ranch, the last engagement of the Civil War.
See also Rebellious ranger: Rip Ford and the old Southwest, by W.J. Hughes (1964).
Image Credit: Corbis via Getty Images/Historical
John Jefferson Williams
(1843 - 1865)
John Jefferson Williams was a Union soldier and private in Company B the 34th Regiment Indiana Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Palmito Ranch, the last land battle of the Civil War, and is generally recognized as the last soldier killed in the American Civil War. Learn more from Fold3.
See also the dissertationSantos Benavides: his influence on the lower Rio Grande, 1823-1891, by John Denny Riley (1976)
Juan Nepomuceno Cortina (1824–1894)
Following his service in the Mexican War, Cortina actively protested the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and its treatment of ethnically Mexican landowners, leading to a series of violent clashes along the U.S.-Mexico Border (Cortina Wars, 1859-1863). In 1861, Cortinistas were defeated by Confederate Captain Santos Benavides, thus leading to Cortina's welcoming of Union soldiers in the years to follow. Learn more about Cortina and the Civil War.
See also, Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas, by Jerry D. Thompson (2007)
The research guides compiled by UTRGV staff and students are intended to assist patrons who are embarking upon new research endeavors. Our goal is to expand their knowledge of the types of resources available on a given topic, including books, archival materials, and websites. In so doing, our compilers have taken care to include collections, digital items, and resources that may be accessed not only through UTRGV but also via other institutions, repositories, and websites.
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