The Civil War Ended In Texas

Historians usually fail to mention it and Yankees don't believe it, but the fact is the last battle of the Civil War was fought in Texas and won by Confederate forces. It happened on May 13, 1865, exactly 34 days after the war supposedly came to an end.

Colonel John S. "Rip" Ford, a former Texas Ranger who, since 1861, had been in the Rio Grande Valley recruiting and commanding a volunteer force to keep the area in the hands of the South, had succeeded in keeping Brownsville an open port. Yankee forces had taken Brazos Island and blockaded or captured almost every other Confederate port, but never managed to capture Fort Brown or the port of Brownsville. In the spring of 1865, the Union troops, numbering about 2,000 on Brazos Island and about 600 Confederates in Fort Brown and around Brownsville had peacefully co-existed as both sides realized the southern cause was coming to an end. However, in late April, a Union change of command changed things.

Colonel Theodore H. Barrett of the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry assumed control. Barrett had never led men in combat and he seems to have thirsted for a little battlefield glory before the war ended altogether. In the early hours of May 11, he ordered approximately 300 men, most from the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry, to proceed from Brazos Island to White's Ranch, where he believed a contingent of Rebels were camped. Arriving at the ranch at 2:00 AM, May 12, they found the Confederates had left several days earlier. They burned the ranch and made camp close to Palmetto Ranch, about 1 1/2 miles away. About noon, they made contact with the handful of Rebels at the ranch, but nobody was hurt as the vastly outnumbered southerners made a strategic advance to the rear. A couple of Texans who were to sick enough to be bedridden were captured along with 4 head of cattle.

Soon afterwards, Colonel Ford arrived on the scene with 200 men and 6 cannon and immediately ordered an attack by 1/2 of his men on the left flank of the Federals. After one volley from the Rebels, the Yankees broke and stampeded in retreat. They reformed about 1/2 mile later though and began a counter attack. Once again, the Rebels fired a volley and this time, several of the cannon joined in. The Yankees stopped in their tracks as they weren't aware the Confederates had any cannon with them. Colonel Ford rode in front of his troops and shouted, "Men, we have whipped the enemy in all our previous fights and we can do it again!" His men responded with cheers and the Rebel yell and began their own counterattack, rushing forward and shooting at everything that moved. From that point on, the fight became a rout.

In their headlong run back to the safety of Brazos Island, the Yankees littered the road with dropped canteens, haversacks, and rifles. When the sun went down, a handful of them fired shots toward the following Confederates and both sides decided to retire for the night. The next morning, May 13, shots from the Rebels proded the Yankees to resume their retreat. Once they neared Brazos Island that evening, the 200 Confederates, knowing there were 1,700 Federals in reserve, backed off their attack and watched as the Yankees pushed and shoved each other trying to get into the skiffs that would take them across the water and to safety.

As darkness descended and the men settled in for the night, a Federal gunboat, the S.S. Isabella, which had entered the Rio Grande, lobbed a shell toward the Rebels. It landed harmlessly in a nearby field, but it angered a 17-year-old Rebel private who leaped to his feet and fired at the gunboat with his Enfield rifle. The last shot of the Civil War had been fired. (see Who Fired The First Shot of the Civil War.)

When the reports were filed, despite all of the shooting, only one man was killed; Union Army Private John Jefferson Williams, of Jay County, Indiana; the last battlefield death in the Civil War. Nine Yankees had been wounded and 103 officers and men captured, most of them from the 34th Indiana. On the Rebel side, there were "only 5 or 6 wounded" according to Colonel Ford. Even the 2 bedridden  Texans captured in the beginning stages of the battle were left behind by the retreating Yankees and found by their southern brothers. The Confederacy had the satisfaction of claiming victory in the last battle of the war.

England Day 10

Picture taken from our balcony our last
morning - sunrise over the River Thames.
Got up at 4:00 as we had to finish packing, get checked out of the hotel and be picked up by the car service at 5:15. While reviewing the invoice during check out, I discovered they had charged us for an extra night, plus they had added a 1 Pound charge 5 times for a contribution to "Make A Difference," a local charity. Company won't pay for that and it pissed me off they added it without asking so I had them take it off along with the erroneous extra night. They even charged 30 pence (about 48 cents American) for a room-to-room call one of the guys had made! I'm surprised they didn't add 50 pence every time somebody flushed a toilet. It was a nice hotel, but unless you are made of money, my advice would be to find somewhere other than The Compleat Angler in Marlow, UK.

At the airport, they checked our passports at the ticket counter. Then, they were checked again while waiting in line to get our passports checked (that made a lot of sense) plus we were asked a lot of questions about why we had been in the country, what we had done there, if we packed our own bags, etc. Next we got to the desk where they check your passport and they were checked again. I was in front of the wife and Youngest-daughter with our passports, the security guard checked all our passports and airline tickets, asked the same questions we had just been asked by the previous guard, and waved us on through. As I walked away, I heard him say, "Wait a minute." He evidently had glanced in the wife's handbag and saw a couple of apples she had brought as a snack. No fruit allowed. Now we all had to go to a security checkpoint where they checked our passports and all of our carry-on luggage. Threw away the apples. Walked for what seemed a mile to get to our gate. But before we could go in, we had to go through another security station where they checked our passports and again x-rayed our luggage. Youngest-daughter and I passed on through, but the wife got busted again - she had a bottle of water. How had nobody caught this before now? Had to wait again while they threw away the water and went through all of her luggage.

The big silver bird that will whisk us
back home.
After all the security checks, which I actually didn't mind all that much, we made it to the duty free shopping area and bought a couple of t-shirts. Can't go on a trip like that and not get a t-shirt! Arrived at the gate and only had to wait about 10 minutes before boarding.

A long flight, but fairly comfortable. Each seat had it's own individual screen with plenty of choices of movies, TV shows, and music videos to watch. You could also look at a screen which showed our position, speed, etc. And again we were fed 2 meals, snacks, and beverages.

Shortly before landing, I filled out the little card stating we were not bringing back over $600 worth of personal goods and nothing that would be commercially resold. The wife wanted to know what I was filling out so I handed it to her. Apparently unnerved by her recent security experience, she marked through the check I had placed next to "No" and checked that we were bringing back some food. We had a nice little chat which started with me saying, "Why in the world did you do that? They don't care that we have a couple of boxes of chocolate covered shortbread cookies!" Landed at O'Hare and had to go through security where they checked our passports again. As we were being waved through, once again I heard, "Wait a minute." Uh-oh. "You checked that you are bringing in food so you have to go over there in that other line and get your bags checked." Wonderful, just wonderful. After once again having our carry-on checked (they didn't care at all that we had a couple of sealed boxes of chocolate covered cookies), we had to retrieve our checked luggage, get to another terminal, check in our luggage and go through security again. Since the wife had been relieved of all her contraband, we all made it through OK this time. Good thing we breezed through because we barely made it to our gate in time.

Landed in Little Rock, Arkansas 5 minutes ahead of schedule. A bit weird to leave London at 7:00 AM, travel for 12 1/2 hours and arrive home at 1:30 PM. After retrieving "Little Black Dog" from the kennel, we pulled into our driveway a few minutes before 3:00. I made it until 7:00, when my body was screaming, "It's 1:00 AM fool and you've only had 4 hours of sleep in almost 2 days!" and passed out on the couch. Woke up at 8:30 only to crawl straight into bed and immediately crash again. So tired I slept all the way to 3:30! It's gonna take a couple of days to get the body clock right again, but we had survived another great adventure.

England Days 7, 8 & 9

The next 3 days were big for the wife and Youngest-daughter; for me, not so much. Some of the wife's English relatives came to pick them up Monday morning and they went to Windsor Castle and several other places I can't remember. Of course I worked all day. They were nice enough to wait on my return that evening and we all went out to eat. Wife and I had another bland hamburger and chips and Youngest-daughter had chicken strips, all for a mere $65. Those people should be drawn and quartered for charging such outrageous prices for such tasteless food. And it wasn't like we went to some posh, multi-star foo-foo place; we were in a friggin pub!

Tuesday was a worrisome day for me. Wife rented a car early that morning and drove with Youngest-daughter to some other relative's homes about 2 1/2 hours away in Stoke-on-Trent. Another big day for them as they visited the house where my wife's mom grew up, saw the places she told the wife about when she was a kid, met more relatives and looked at pictures of her young mom and grandparents. The wife is not known as a good driver even in America so I had visions of her causing a mass pile-up trying to drive safely on the wrong side of the road. Evidently the concentration required resulted in her being cautious and she made it safely. She spent the night there so I had the bed to myself after another evening of uninspiring expensive food with a large group of people from work.

As I indicated before, we had lunch brought in by the client's food vendor each day so we could continue to work through. Unfortunately, they served the same exact thing every day - weird little dry finger sandwiches (pimento cheese on wheat was the best; little tiny shrimp on white the worst) with no mayo or mustard, hard, dry corn chips and mild "hot" sauce. The first day it wasn't so bad; the 2nd it was ok, but by the 3rd, we were getting pretty tired of them. The 1st day almost all were eaten; the 2nd day a few were left, and the 3rd, only about 1/2 were eaten. On the 4th day, people started verbally protesting and on the 5th, very few were eaten and a full revolt was imminent. Wednesday, our last work day, our host went down and requested they bring us something else. When we received those same sandwiches, we delivered them to a group of web developers (they'll eat anything if it's free!) and our host paid for us to eat in the cafeteria to avoid being beheaded by us peasants.

Wife and Youngest-daughter returned Wednesday evening, once again safe and without a scratch on the rental car. Yes, miracles still happen! It was raining hard and we had to pack for a 4:00 wake up to get to the airport the next morning so we decided to just get room service. Ham sandwich with a few potato chips and a salad with chicken strips wasn't bad - until I got the bill the next morning and found that in addition to the 17 Pounds for the food, they charged a 12.5% tip, a 3 Pound delivery charge and another 3 Pound charge for "tray pickup" - $40 for a room service ham sandwich and salad with chicken strips! Starting to get the picture? It was VERY expensive over there!

And so our trip was basically at an end. My team and I got a lot of work done and wife and Youngest-daughter enjoyed themselves immensely. Youngest-daughter can now go back to school having first hand knowledge in history and geography classes, plus the benefit of learning about a side of her family genealogy. I would judge the trip a success.

England Day 6

Sunday morning started with me hitting the snooze button when the alarm started buzzing at 6:00. A 2nd snooze assured we wouldn't make the 7:01 train into London. It did, however, assure time for a nice cup of coffee on the patio before heading out.

Outside the Sherlock Holmes Museum
After rousing the girls, we caught the 8:01 and a while later were standing outside the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Well done and pretty interesting place, even if it is for a fictional character. Wife and youngest daughter spent a long time in the souvenir shop next door. I found a bench outside and talked to a really nice family from New York for a while. Next stop was back to the Tower of London.

This turned out to be more of an adventure than intended. We had to take a tube across town and ended up getting lost and trapped underground. We kept following the signs saying "Way Out," but they all seemed to just lead to another station. It was very hot, we went up and down hundreds of stairs, and barely escaped before a death occurred in our family. Once above ground, polluted, but cooler air never felt so good.

Bloody Tower, built 1238 - 1272 in the Tower of
London complex. Numerous historical and
famous people were killed within these walls
which are rumored to be haunted.
The Tower of London was probably the most interesting site I visited during the whole trip. We spent about 2 1/2 hours there, exploring all of the towers, and just walking around taking pictures. It was very crowded and when we first got there, the line to see the crown jewels was about 2 hours long so we decided to skip that. However, just before we left, there was virtually no line so the girls got to see them while I decided to explore other areas on my own. Highly recommend if you ever make it to London.

Queen's House within the Tower of London where
Queen Anne Boleyn was held prisoner before she 
was beheaded. Guy Fawkes was also held prisoner
here before being hung, drawn and quartered. It is
reputed to be very haunted, especially by Boleyn
 who is said to walk around holding her severed 
head under her arm.
We really didn't get to see much else of note this day since we spent so much time lost underground and then spent a lot of time just walking and seeing different buildings and statues. We found another McDonalds so of course youngest daughter insisted on taking the opportunity for chicken nuggets. We wanted to see Windsor Castle, but ran out of time. It started raining, we were very tired, and I had to go to work the next day so we headed on back.

We arrived in Marlow on the 10:00 PM train and walked the 1/2 mile back to the hotel in heavy rain. London was interesting, crowded, and there was lots and lots of walking and standing in lines. I'm talking LOTS of walking! I was almost looking forward to going back to work just to be able to sit for a while - almost.

England Day 5

After 4 hours of sleep, I awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Small problem; it was 3:00 AM. I squished the pillow, I tossed and turned, I counted sheep and ex-girlfriends. Finally, with thoughts of a particularly boring and homely ex drifting around my head, I fell back asleep about 5:00. It was a good, deep sleep - until the alarm went off at 6:00. Bright-eye and bushy-tail was dead. But I managed a zombie walk into the shower and let the water bring me around.

Paddington Station
We made it to the station with a few minutes to spare and boarded the 7:01 train. We purchased a Family Pack, which allowed us to ride any train, subway, or bus all day. Cost 32.80 Pounds - about $52 in real money. After changing trains at Maidenhead, we made it to Paddington Station where we were to catch the tube that would stop at Buckingham Palace. It was then we discovered the Central Line, the one we needed, was "shut" all weekend for repair work. Fortunately, the wife figured out an alternative way and after several more rides, we emerged above ground at The Green Park.

After walking a short distance through the park, there it was, Buckingham Palace - and about 30,000 people! We walked up as close as we could get, but were stopped about 100 yards away and across a road with cars whizzing by. The road was now roped off to pedestrians so we found a little open spot "on the front row" and looked around. After a while when nothing was happening we thought we had missed the Changing of the Guard ceremony so we were about to leave, but first I brought out my Nikon 300MM lens and took a few photos. Then we heard someone say the ceremony was about to start and would come by right in front of us. The crowd was rather large behind us by then and we had to fight off one particularly determined Indian lady who tried to push her way into our spot. I couldn't believe this "lady." She stepped on my toes twice, kept bumping into me much firmer than if it was by accident and eventually pushed her arm in front of me and tried to force me to get behind her. Several times while she was doing all of this I tried to politely get her to stop by saying, "Excuse me" and "Ma'am, please stop." Nothing worked. I finally grabbed her by the shoulder, got in her face and forcefully told her to back off. She retreated and the next time I looked over she was gone.

Changing of the Guards ceremony at
Buckingham Palace
The ceremony itself turned out to be a bit anti-climatic. Guards on horses rode in, the band marched in, guys on foot marched in, the band marched out, guys on horses rode out, and men on foot marched out. End of ceremony. Glad we got to see it so we can say we did, but it didn't live up to the expectations in my mind.

After it was over, we saw Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, then headed toward the London Eye, a 443 foot Ferris wheel located on the banks of the River Thames. The wife had purchased tickets the night before so we wouldn't have to wait in line. Good thing as there were about 1,000 people waiting to buy tickets and only about 100 in the pre-purchased que. After getting to the counter, they didn't have a record of our purchase. I was having rather unkind thoughts as I contemplated standing in the ticket line which now had about 2,000 people in it, but the helpful clerk agreed to let us buy our tickets from him. We found out later the credit card the wife used had been frozen for fraud alert. Somebody in London was trying to use her credit card! A quick call to let them know it's us trying to use our card solved that problem.

Big Ben from ground level.
After an interesting 3-D show and waiting in another long line, we boarded the ride. Pretty darn cool ride. All of London was laid out in front of us. I didn't ask the wife how much it cost and still don't know, but it was probably worth it.

From there, it was a short walk to catch the boat for a River Thames cruise. I really enjoyed that also. The guide was informative and amusing as we passed by many landmarks and under numerous famous bridges.

Big Ben, London and River Thames from the
top of the London Eye.
By now it was long past lunch and the youngest daughter was allegedly about to die of hunger. As we walked the streets, what to our wandering eyes did appear? McDonalds! Since youngest daughter has single-handedly kept afloat McDonalds stock, there was no way we were getting around it. And to show how bland I found the food over there, that Big Mac was the best burger I had the whole time. Sad.

We hopped a double-decker bus and took a tour of London. It wasn't as good as the river cruise because it just had a rather bland, recorded spiel describing the famous sites, but we did manage to get upper, open-air seats and it was fun seeing buildings and places I had heard about over the years. We stopped at a couple of places to look around and then just hopped on the next bus since they come around about every 15 minutes. Nice.

Tower Bridge over the River Thames on a
very overcast day.
We hopped off the bus to visit the Tower of London and found that it's a 2 - 3 hour tour and was past the time they let anybody in. So we saved that for the next day and just walked around the outside walls. It was getting dark and we were tired from all of the walking and standing in queues so we headed to the subway for the trip back. Of course the map we had wasn't detailed to the individual street level so there were several false starts and standing around street intersections trying to figure out where the heck we were. During our little unintended walking tour, we came across the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Youngest daughter was very excited as she is a big fan. Unfortunately, it was closed. So was the official London Beetles Store across the street. More for tomorrow.

We finally made it back to Marlow on the 11:01 PM train and fell in bed about 12:15. Set the alarm for 6:00 again and looked forward to another day of adventure in London. And for the first time since arriving, I slept soundly and all the way through the night. Blissful.