Created by blais191 on Apr 19, 2011
Last updated: 04/19/11 at 05:02 PM
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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 much later. At 2:00 am, on May 12, the expeditionary force surrounded the Rebel outpost at White’s Ranch, but found no one there. Exhausted, having been up most of the night, Branson secreted 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 the Rebels of the Federals’ whereabouts. Branson promptly led his men off to attack a Confederate camp at Palmito Ranch. After much skirmishing along the way, the Federals attacked the camp and scattered the Confederates. Branson and his men remained at the site to feed themselves and their horses but, at 3:00 pm, a sizable Confederate force appeared, influencing the Federals to retire to White’s Ranch. He sent word of his predicament to Barrett, who reinforced Branson at daybreak, on the 13th, with 200 men of the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. 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 on. A few miles forward, 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, approached, and the Federals formed a battle line. The Rebels hammered the Union line with artillery. To preclude an enemy flanking movement, Barrett ordered a retreat. The retreat was orderly and skirmishers held the Rebels at a respectable distance. Returning 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. Many combatants reported that firing came from the Mexican shore and that some Imperial Mexican forces crossed the Rio Grande but did not take part in the battle. These reports are unproven.
Early on April 9, the remnants of John Broun Gordon’s corps and Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry formed line of battle at Appomattox Court House. Gen. Robert E. Lee determined to make one last attempt to escape the closing Union pincers and reach his supplies at Lynchburg. At dawn the Confederates advanced, initially gaining ground against Sheridan’s cavalry. The arrival of Union infantry, however, stopped the advance in its tracks. Lee’s army was now surrounded on three sides. Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9. This was the final engagement of the war in Virginia.
BY GARY D. JOINER
AT THE TIME OF THE RED RIVER CAMPAIGN IN APRIL 1864, THE OUTCOME OF THE Civil War appeared to be decided. The agricultural South had fought long and hard against the industrial North, but the zeal and military prowess of the Confederates was not enough to prevail against the vast resources of the North. The Red River Campaign, which included the largest combined army-navy operation of the war, was the last decisive Confederate victory of the war.
On September 23, 1862, the Union Steamer Kensington, Schooner Rachel Seaman, and Mortar Schooner Henry James appeared off the bar at Sabine Pass. The next morning, the two schooners crossed the bar, took position, and began firing on the Confederate shore battery. The shots from both land and shore fell far short of the targets. The ships then moved nearer until their projectiles began to fall amongst the Confederate guns. The Confederate cannons, however, still could not hit the ships. After dark, the Confederates evacuated, taking as much property as possible with them and spiking the four guns left behind. On the morning of the 25th, the schooners moved up to the battery and destroyed it while Acting Master Frederick Crocker, commander of the expedition, received the surrender of the town. Union control of Sabine Pass made later incursions into the interior possible.
From mid-Oct. 1862, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant made several attempts to take Vicksburg. Following failures in the first attempts, the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs, the Yazoo Pass Expedition, and Steele's Bayou Expedition, in the spring of 1863 he prepared to cross his troops from the west bank of the Mississippi River to a point south of Vicksburg and drive against the city from the south and east. Commanding Confederate batteries at Port Hudson, La., farther south prevented the transportation of waterborne supply and any communication from Union forces in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Naval support for his campaign would have to come from Rear Adm. David D. Porter's fleet north of Vicksburg. Running past the powerful Vicksburg batteries, Porter's vessels, once south of the city, could ferry Federals to the east bank. There infantry would face 2 Confederate forces, one under Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton at Vicksburg and another around Jackson, Miss., soon to be commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.
After the discovery on June 30 that Gettysburg was occupied by Brigadier General John Buford's division of Federal cavalry, the Confederates on July 1 sent the divisions of Major General Henry Heth and Major General William Pender of Hill's Corps, down the Chambersburg Road to drive Buford away and occupy Gettysburg.
The battle began at 5.30 a.m., when shots were exchanged over Marsh Creek. In the face of Buford's resistance, Heth pushed on cautiously until he reached a point about two miles west of Gettysburg. Here he deployed two brigades in line, and pressed ahead; it was nearly 10 a.m. Federal General John F. Reynolds, commanding I Corps, arrived on the field at this point, and determined to engage Herb. He ordered I Corps and Major General Oliver 0. Howard's XI Corps to march to Gettysburg.
Soon after 10.30 a.m., I Corps arrived and engaged Heth along McPherson's Ridge. By 11.30 a.m., Heth had been defeated and forced to withdraw to Herr Ridge. Early in the action, Reynolds was killed, and field command devolved upon Howard. A lull now settled over the field as both sides brought up reinforcements. The Federal I Corps deployed to defend the western approaches to Gettysburg, while XI Corps formed up north of the town. Buford's cavalry covered the flanks. Howard left one division in reserve on Cemetery Hill. His strategy was simple: delay the Confederates long enough to enable the rest of the Federal army to concentrate. Lee arrived on the field after noon. He had initially hoped to avoid a general engagement since the strength of the enemy was unknown, and the terrain in the Gettysburg area unfamiliar. But, soon after noon, Rodes's division of Ewell's Corps arrived on Oak Hill and attacked the right of I Corps. At 2 p.m. Heth's division joined the attack on I Corps. At 3 p.m., the battle spread north of the town when Jubal Early's division of Ewell's Corps attacked down the Harrisburg Road and crushed the flank of XI Corps. At about the same time, west of Gettysburg, Pender's division relieved Heth and assaulted I Corps' position along Seminary Ridge. By 4 p.m., both Federal corps were in retreat through Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill. Federal losses numbered slightly over 9,000, including some 3,000 captured, compared with Confederate losses of about 6,500.
The day's action had resulted in a Confederate victory, but Federal forces held onto the high ground south of Gettysburg, where their position was soon strengthened by reinforcements.
In the fall of 1862, Union Commodore William B. Renshaw sailed into Galveston harbor and demanded the surrender of the island city by its occupants. With virtually no defense force, the Confederate commander on the island, Colonel Joseph J. Cook, had little choice but to comply.
About the same time in late 1862, Major General John B. Magruder was named Confederate commander of the District of Texas. Upon arriving in Houston, Magruder immediately began making plans to recapture Galveston. To implement his plan, Magruder outfitted the decks of two river steamers, the Bayou City and the Neptune, with bails of cotton. The compressed cotton would be used to protect an on-board attack force to challenge the Federal fleet in Galveston harbor. A land force would also be used in a joint land-sea attack.
On New Years Eve, the Confederate Cottonclads, as the curious looking vessels were called, threaded their way from Harrisburg, through Galveston Bay, and toward the western entrance to Galveston harbor.
About dawn on New Year's Day, 1863, the Confederate Cottonclads entered the west end of Galveston harbor. Their nearest and first target was the Union's Harriet Lane.
After a brief encounter and some maneuvering, the tide of battle foretold an almost certain Union victory. The Confederate ground forces had been outgunned and effectively held in check by the Federal warships. After only a brief contest at sea, one-half of the two-vessel Texas fleet was lying on the bottom of the harbor. Further, the lone surviving Confederate Cottonclad, the Bayou City, was outnumbered six-to-one among the armed vessels in the harbor.
After recovering from its first encounter, however, the Bayou City circled around and made a second desperate run on the Lane. This time, the Confederates hit their target with remarkable precision. In short order, the crew of the Bayou City succeeded in storming and overpowering the crew of the Lane.
Meanwhile, across the harbor, the Federal Flagship Westfield, with Commodore Renshaw on board, had become hopelessly grounded in shallow water. The crew tried furiously to dislodge her, but she would not budge. At that point, a temporary truce was negotiated as both sides considered their positions.
During the truce, Renshaw decided to destroy the still immobilized Westfield and attempt a Federal escape from the harbor. Even this plan went terribly awry. As Renshaw and his crew fused the gunpowder on the flagship and quickly rowed away, nothing happened. They returned for another attempt. But as they debarked the second time, the gunpowder prematurely exploded, rocking the entire harbor. The explosion killed Renshaw and thirteen of his crew.
With flags of truce still flying, the remaining Federal vessels stoked their boilers, and quietly began heading for the open sea. In this endeavor they were successful, for the Confederates had little means to pursue.
Thus, the island of Galveston was recaptured. Twenty-six Confederates had been killed and 117 wounded. About twice that many Federals died in the conflict. The Union's showcase vessel and nearly 400 men were captured. More importantly for the Texans, however, was that their victory restored control of Galveston to the Confederacy, where it would remain for the balance of the war.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.
Throughout March of 1861 the Confederate authorities sought to drive out the Union occupants of Fort Sumter peacefully. However, once Abraham Lincoln's administration would not surrender the fort to the Confederates, Jefferson Davis decided to take action. Davis hoped that in seizing command of Fort Sumter he could drive the northerners out of the South and help South Carolina secede to the Confederate States of America. Action could not be delayed for fear of reinforcements of the garrison at Fort Sumter. Davis and his cabinet decided to dispatch General Beauregard to siege Fort Sumter. Buearegard was faced with a difficult situation. Anderson, the commanding officer at Fort Sumter, was his instructor at West Point, who recommend his elongated service at West Point due to his outstanding behavior. Prior to the bombardment, Buearegaurd sent a letter formally requesting surrender of the Fort. Anderson regretfully denied this offer, and the bombardment began. On April 12th at 4:30 AM he opened fire, bombarding the fort with heavy fire. General Anderson, with his ammunition on fire and supplies depleted, surrendered the following day and left the fort on April 14th. Although no casualties were caused by the enemy, one Union soldier was killed during the surrendering ceremony when a cannon backfired. The fort was neither a strategic location nor a deciding battle, but it did start what was to be the United States worst war and one of the bloodiest in history.
The Texas Ordinance of Secession was the document that officially separated Texas from the United States in 1861. It was adopted by the Secession Convention on February 1 of that year, by a vote of 166 to 8. The adoption of the ordinance was one of a series of events that led to Texas' entry into the Confederacy and the American Civil War.