Palmito Ranch, TX

Date(s): May 12-13, 1865

Campaign(s): Expedition from Brazos Santiago [1865]


  • Since 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 forces at Brazos Santiago, Texas, dispatched an expedition, 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, to the mainland, on May 11, 1865, to attack reported Rebel outposts and camps.

  • Prohibited by foul weather from crossing to Point Isabel as instructed, the expedition crossed to Boca Chica.


  • Union: Col. Theodore H. Barrett

  • Confederate: Col. John S. "Rip" Ford

Principal Forces:

  • Union: Detachments from the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, 2nd Texas Cavalry Regiment, and 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry[450]

  • Confederate: Detachments from Gidding’s Regiment, Anderson’s Battalion of Cavalry, and numerous other Confederate units and southern sympathizers


  • At 2:00 am, on May 12, the Lt. Col. David Branson's Union  expeditionary force surrounded the Confederate outpost at White’s Ranch, but found no one there.

  • Exhausted from being been up most of the night, Branson hid his command in a thicket and among weeds on the banks of the Rio Grande and allowed his men to sleep.

  • Around 8:30 am, people on the Mexican side of the river informed Confederate forces of the Federals’ location.
  • Branson promptly led his men off to attack a Confederate camp at Palmito Ranch.

  • After skirmishing along the way, the Federals attacked the camp and scattered the Confederates.

  • Branson and his men remained at the site to eat and feed their horses but, at 3:00 pm, a sizable Confederate force appeared, forcing the Federals to retreat to White’s Ranch.

  • Branson sent word of his situation to Col. Theodore H. Barrett

  • on the 13th, Barrett sent 200 men of the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry to reinforce Branson.

  • The augmented force, now commanded by Barrett, started out towards Palmito Ranch, skirmishing most of the way.

  • At Palmito Ranch, they destroyed the rest of the supplies not torched the day before and continued until they became involved in a sharp firefight.

  • After the fighting stopped, Barrett led his force back to a bluff at Tulosa on the river where the men could prepare dinner and camp for the night.

  • At 4:00 pm, a large Confederate cavalry force, commanded by Col. John S. “Rip” Ford, attacked the Union camp.

  • The Confederates hammered the Union line with artillery.

  • In order to avoid a flanking movement, Barrett's forces retreated to Boca Chica at 8:00 pm, the men embarked at 4:00 am, on the 14th.

  • This was the last battle in the Civil War. Native, African, and Hispanic Americans were all involved in the fighting.

Slide Presentation: None

Classification1: D


  • Union: 118

  • Confederate: Unknown

Results: Confederate Victory

Battlefield Website:

Lodging and Restaurants: Texas Tourism

Resources: Palmito Ranch, TX Civil War

  • Books

  • Computer and Video Games

  • DVDs

  • VHSs

1 Classification:

  • A - having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war

  • B - having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign

  • C - having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign

  • D - having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives

2 Casualties are someone killed, injured, wounded, captured or missing.

Revised 02/05/2015