Bigfoot in Texas

Bigfoot sightings in Texas
If you think Bigfoot is only in the northwest states of America, you would be wrong. There have been sightings reported in every state except Hawaii. One of the area's with the most sightings is the nearly 12-million acre "Piney Woods" region in East Texas. Stretching from the Gulf Coast all the way up to Texarkana in the northeast corner, this huge strip of land contains four national forests, five state forests, and accounts for almost all of the state's commercial timber.

It is also home to one of the first documented sightings in history - the strange case of "The Wild Woman of Navidad." This story was recounted in the "Legends of Texas" book published by the Texas Folklore Society in 1924. The creature was described as covered in brown hair and was very fast. She eluded capture because the horses were so afraid of the strange creature that they could not be urged within reach of the lasso. The events occurred in 1837 in the Texas settlements of the lower Navidad. Mysterious barefoot tracks were seen frequently in the area for years. There are Native American legends dating back hundreds of years that describe tribes of giants that were hair-covered and lived in the woods.

In 1965, there was a spike in sightings reported by a number of people living in several small, rural towns located deep in the woods. One of the first of these came from an encounter in a cemetery just outside the town of Kountz.

At that time, there was a group of students at Kountz High School who called themselves the Rat Finks. There sure wasn't much for teenagers to do in the small, isolated town so on weekends they would amuse themselves by going "booger hunting," their name for running around in scary places looking for a boogeyman. One night they took a prospective new member of their group to their favorite place, the Old Hardin cemetery located in the woods a couple of miles outside of town. On that night though, they got more than they bargained for.

The Talking Angel
There is a gravestone in Old Hardin cemetery that has a statue of an angel pointing at the heavens. The Rat Finks called it the Talking Angel and would take the prospective club members to the cemetery in the dark of night to ask it questions. The legend they had made up was that if the angel did not answer you, you were doomed!

On this particular night though, with the half-moon providing just enough light to cast shadows, their ceremony was cut short by an eerie figure racing across the cemetery grounds. It ran into a maintenance shed, turning over cans, tossing equipment around, and generally just making a noisy ruckus for a few seconds. The figure came out of the shed and before running away as fast as they could, each of the kids got a good look at the boogeyman. To their horror, it was a huge, hairy apelike creature! One of the few girls in the Rat Finks, Sharon Gossett, let out a scream and when she did, the boogeyman turned to look at them. That was all they needed to beat feet out of there and jump in their car.

After driving back toward town for a couple of miles and regaining their wits, the teens realized that if they ever told anyone about  their experience, they would be accused of having overactive imaginations, so they went to Sharon's aunt's house and persuaded her to return with them to the cemetery for another look and to verify their sighting.

Closer look at the
Talking Angel.
Sure enough, as they pulled into the graveyard entrance, the car's headlights illuminated the creature standing on two legs at the edge of the woods on the other side of the small cemetery. The aunt later described it as being about 7 feet tall and covered with hair like an ape. The creature disappeared into the trees as the aunt and the teenagers got out of the car with several flashlights. After looking into the shed and verifying for herself the disarray of the contents, they were heading back to the car when they heard rustling noises. Their flashlights illuminated the creature which was now back inside the fenced cemetery. As they ran to the car, the boogeyman followed them, loping on all fours alongside them.

After speeding away, the horrified aunt made the kids drive her straight back to her home. Fearing she would be reluctant to verify the kid's account, they then found an adult male to go back with them. After carefully looking all around the cemetery and in the woods along the fence line and seeing nothing, the adult man was getting mad thinking the kids were playing a trick on him. Wanting to show him how the contents of the maintenance shed had been thrown around, they were walking toward it when the beast once again walked out of the shed's door. This time the creature quickly ran away in the opposite direction, leaped over the fence in one bound and into the woods. It was a good thing it did as after seeing the boogeyman, the brave adult male passed out on the spot from sheer fright!

Later, the grandmother of one of the Rat Finks told the kids she remembered hearing of similar sightings near Old Hardin in the Cypress Creek bottoms when she was a child.

Although there is not yet factual proof for the existence of a Bigfoot creature, it's hard to fully dismiss all of the stories and reported sightings. New creatures are routinely being found in the oceans and jungles of the world; strange creatures which have never been seen until now, living and even thriving in places and environments we assumed could never support life. Would it be that much of a surprise to find a species living off the land alongside creeks, streams, and ponds deep in the sparsely inhabited woods of America? Surviving members of the Rat Fink club still swear - the boogeyman is out there!

Aurora, TX. - UFO Crashes Into Windmill - Alien Buried In Local Cemetery

Cigar-shaped UFO
In 1896 & early 1897, more than six years before Orville Wright made his first flight of 12 seconds covering 120 feet, thousands of sightings of a cigar-shaped flying object were reported from California to Michigan and then down to Texas. Witnesses gave the same general description, sometimes with two lights, sometimes with none, in daylight and at night, hundreds of feet in the air, making right-angle turns and even stopping in mid-air and reversing course. On April 17, 1897, according to reports, a cigar-shaped flying machine suffered a malfunction and, trailing smoke, crashed into a windmill in the tiny town of Aurora, Texas. Afterwards, reports of seeing the UFO dropped off dramatically.

Witnesses at the time said the spaceship exploded upon impact with the windmill and the largest piece of debris hit a large tree with smaller pieces scattered across several acres. In the debris was found pieces of strange metal inscribed with hieroglyphics and the body of the pilot, a small child-sized humanoid. Although the body was badly torn up, it was evident it was a being "not of this world."

Entrance of Aurora Cemetery
The kind, rural folks buried the alien in a grave in the local cemetery underneath a tree and marked the spot with a small hand-made headstone inscribed with the outline of a cigar-shaped airship containing windows.

On April 19th, a small article appeared on page 5 in the Dallas Morning News. It read:
"About 6 o'clock this morning the early risers of Aurora were astonished at the sudden appearance of the airship which has been sailing around the country. It was traveling due north and much nearer the earth than before.

"Evidently some of the machinery was out-of-order, for it was making a speed of only ten or twelve miles an hour, and gradually settling toward the earth. It sailed over the public square and when it reached the north part of town it collided with the tower of Judge Proctor's windmill and went into pieces with a terrific explosion, scattering debris over several acres of ground, wrecking the windmill and water tank and destroying the judge's flower garden.

"The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one aboard and, while his remains were badly disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world."

Texas State Historical Marker at the
Aurora Cemetery
Over the next few weeks, the debris was removed and the farmers went on with their lives. The story was basically forgotten until May 24, 1973, when newspapers around the country published a United Press International account of the story. Within days, the alien's headstone was stolen and on several occasions, intruders were run off from the cemetery by police or, in some cases, local residents armed with their shotguns. The state of Texas declared the area a State Historical Spot and erected a Historical Marker, but eventually, things died down again and Aurora returned to being the small, quiet, rural little town it has been for over 100 years. In 2000, the town's people, utilizing memory and existing pictures, replaced the stolen headstone on the alien's grave.

Alien grave?
Is the story true or was it all just a hoax? The mystery remains.

When I visited recently, I found the residents living across the street from the cemetery to still be wary, watchful, and protective. Parking by the front gate, several dogs began barking as soon as I exited my truck and an elderly lady came out onto her porch to watch me. I waved to her and I think she nodded in return, but I was far enough away that I couldn't be sure. She watched me for a few minutes and then went inside her house and opened the curtains in a front window. About 10 minutes later, a police car slowly cruised by, but didn't stop. I was dressed in good jeans and a pullover shirt and carried nothing in my hands except my camera so I guess I passed his inspection.

Alien's headstone?
The cemetery was very well-kept and pretty with fields of Bluebonnets. It took a while to find the alien's grave. I finally figured out the corner containing the oldest graves and concentrated my search there. Eventually I found what I was looking for. It had been easy to miss because the marker is small and there are no other graves within about 10 feet of it. All of the other graves were next to each other in the normal layout. It was as if nobody had wanted their kin buried next to the alien.

I had been roaming around the cemetery for about an hour and nobody else came in. There had even been very few cars pass on the road, but I still felt like I was being watched the whole time. I'm sure the old lady across the street never took her eyes off me. It wasn't a scary feeling, it wasn't like that "somethings not right, I better be on alert" feeling you sometimes get when you are by yourself in an unfamiliar place; just that general feeling of having someone's eyes on you. I noticed the police car slowly cruise by again, but by then, I was already on my way out. I waved at the policeman and received a small wave of his hand in return, but no smile. I could almost hear the thoughts in his head saying, "It doesn't appear you are here with harmful intent and you are not breaking any laws, but I'm keeping my eye on you just the same." I didn't hang around to see him come back a third time.

I don't know if there's anything in the "alien" grave or not; don't know if the tale is true or not, but either way, it's an interesting story.

Philip Work - Civil War Hero Beat The Odds

Philip A. Work shortly after the
Civil War.
Philip Alexander Work, lawyer, Confederate soldier and arguably, the luckiest man to ever go to war, was born in Cloverport, Kentucky, on February 17, 1832. The son of John and Frances, Philip moved with his parents to Velasco, Texas, in 1838 and then to Town Bluff, Texas, where John established a plantation.

In 1853, Philip was admitted to the bar in Woodville. He then enlisted and served with the rank of first sergeant for four months in Capt. John George Walker's Company B, Mounted Battalion of Texas Volunteers protecting the Texas frontier from Indian attacks. After surviving several skirmishes, Philip and the rest of the surviving volunteers were mustered into the regular United States Army. After serving uneventfully for several years, he was honorably discharged and returned to Texas.

In 1861, Philip was one of the two delegates from Tyler County to the Secession Convention, but before the convention reconvened on March 2, he resigned to raise a company of Texas militia known as the Woodville Rifles. The company was mustered into the Confederate Army at New Orleans in May 1861 and became Company F of the First Texas Infantry Regiment, Hood's Texas Brigade. By the beginning of 1862, Philip and his men would be in Virginia and almost continuously right in the middle of the most intensive, bloodiest battles of the war.

During the year 1862 alone, Philip and the brigade would engage the enemy in 24 battles, sustaining a causality rate of over 60%. Due to his leadership abilities, the appalling number of casualties suffered by both the enlisted men and the officers and the fact that he miraculously came through each engagement with hardly a scratch, Philip rose steadily in rank, receiving battlefield promotions almost every month until he became the regimental commander on June 27 during the battle of Gaines' Mill after Col. Alexis T. Rainey was seriously wounded. Afterwards, Philip commanded the First Texas Infantry in the battles of Malvern Hill, Freeman's Ford, Thoroughfare Gap, Second Manassas, Boonesboro Gap, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. By the end of the war, of the approximately 4,400 men who served in Hood’s Texas Brigade, only 600 remained and the unit would go down in history as one of the hardest fighting and most well-known and respected units of the Civil War.

At Sharpsburg, Philip’s regiment suffered 81% casualties, the greatest percentage of losses sustained by any regiment, Union or Confederate, in a single day of fighting during the war. Of the 226 men he began with that morning, only 44 were still alive by nightfall. His post-battle report is considered one of the most poignant, yet straightforward accounts of the war. At least 8 men had been killed carrying the company’s flag during the fighting and it was lost as he and the handful of survivors retreated through a corn field. When they emerged from the field and he discovered the flag was not with them, he ran back desperately trying to locate it, but only made it into the rows of corn a few yards before encountering a wall of Yankees. He was forced to return without the flag, running through the field as corn stalks all around were cut down by the musket balls being fired at him. In his report, he wrote, “It is a source of mortification to state that, upon retiring from the engagement, our colors were not brought off. I can but feel that some degree of odium must be attached… the loss of our flag will always remain a matter of sore and deep regret.”

Philip was promoted to the command of Hood's Brigade on the third day of the battle of Gettysburg. Although having never been physically wounded during any battle, he became ill on September 18, 1863, the day before the battle of Chickamauga and had to be evacuated to a hospital. He resigned as lieutenant colonel of the First Texas Infantry on November 12, 1863. At that time, he was simply diagnosed with “fatigue.” Today, he would most probably be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). After dozens of battles, a number of them requiring hand-to-hand fighting, witnessing hundreds of men die horrible deaths or sustaining disfiguring wounds following his orders, personally killing an unknown number of the enemy, seeing the effects of war every day for over a year, and the stress of almost constant battle, every day waking up never knowing if that day would be his last, nothing else could be expected.

He returned to Texas in late 1863, but just 8 months later, raised and commanded a company in Col. David Smith Terry's Texas Cavalry regiment. Returning to the war, Philip fought in battles in Kentucky and Tennessee under Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. His company of men fought in numerous skirmishes as part of the forces under Gen. Joe Johnston that attempted to slow Sherman’s "march to the sea" during the final months of the war. Philip and the remaining Terry’s Rangers delivered what was probably the last charge of the Army of Tennessee at the battle of Bentonville (March 19–20, 1865). Rather than surrender with the rest of Johnston's army at Durham Station, North Carolina, on April 26, 1865, Philip and 157 of the 248 survivors of the regiment slipped through Union lines to join other Confederates that were still in the field. At the actual end of the war, the few remaining Rangers, including Philip, drifted home as individuals and in small groups, having never officially surrendered. 

With the exception of Hood’s Texas Brigade, the Eighth Texas Cavalry was probably the best-known Texas unit to serve in the Civil War. It earned a reputation that ranked it among the most effective mounted regiments in the western theater of operations. Against all odds, against all reason, Philip Work not only survived, but remained virtually unharmed through dozens of battles while serving with two of the most infamous combat units in the Civil War.

Philip Work's simple grave marker.
Work returned to Texas and resumed his law practice in Woodville. After 1874, he lived in Hardin County, Texas, where he became well-known as a land lawyer and the owner of the steamboat Tom Parker, which navigated the Neches River. Late in his life, he wrote several accounts of his wartime experiences, but unfortunately, only fragments of these manuscripts have been preserved.

Philip A. Work died on March 17, 1911, and was buried in Hardin Cemetery in Kountz, Texas, a very rural, quiet graveyard. Rest in peace, Philip, rest in peace.

Wonder What Happened To Aunt Jemima?

When I was growing up, my favorite breakfast was Aunt Jemima pancakes. Before I escaped out into the world on my own, it was mostly my grandparents who raised me. It didn't happen often, maybe just when she felt good for some reason or maybe when she had managed to squirrel away a couple of extra dollars to afford it, but on an occasional Saturday morning, my grandmother would make pancakes with Aunt Jemima mix. Oh happy days! The only kind of syrup I knew of was dark maple that came in a tin can; a very large tin can. We didn't have pancakes all that often so that can of syrup lasted a very long time. Eventually the syrup crystallized, but rather than throw it out and buy fresh, my grandmother would put that can in a pot of boiling water until the syrup became liquid again. I'm sure that wasn't the most healthy thing to do, but what did we know about being healthy back in those days before enlightenment? Eventually, the syrup tasted like burnt sugar so I'd just take my Aunt Jemima pancakes dry and wash them down with a big glass of healthy whole milk.

The modern version of Maple Syrup in a can.
Then Quaker Oats came out with Aunt Jemima syrup. Aunt Jemima pancakes with Aunt Jemima syrup was like having a little piece of heaven in your mouth! One of the few arguments I remember my grandparents having was over syrup. Paw-Paw got mad because Grandma "wasted money" on a few ounces of Aunt Jemima syrup when she could have gotten about a gallon of cheap-ass rot-gut maple syrup in a tin can for the same price.

In my childish way of thinking back then, the Aunt Jemima character became a symbol of maternal love and warmth and comfort. After all, if Grandma would spend some of what little money she had buying Aunt Jemima food and fixing it for me, then that must mean she loves me! Many years later, after Paw-Paw had passed on, I noticed the only syrup Grandma had in her house was Aunt Jemima. I also noticed she always had Aunt Jemima pancake mix in the cupboard. I told her I remembered when she made Aunt Jemima for me as a kid and how special those rare mornings were to me. She responded, "We would have had them a lot more often if Andy (my grandfather) had let me spend the money. What? Did you think I enjoyed making stuff from scratch every morning? When I could get away with buying them, I used mixes 'cause that was easier!" Sometimes cherished memories die a sudden and horrible death.

I started wondering though, was the Aunt Jemima icon just a picture or was there a real Aunt Jemima? And if she was real, what happened to her? Turns out, there was indeed a real live Aunt Jemima. Several in fact.

The first person hired in 1890 to portray Aunt Jemima was 300-pound Nancy Green, a former slave from Kentucky. She signed a lifetime contract with the R. T. Davis Milling Company, owners of the Aunt Jemima brand. She traveled around the country promoting the pancake flour product and when she operated a pancake cooking display booth at the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago, she and her off-the-cuff statement "I's in town, Honey" became famous. She continued to portray Aunt Jemima, opening each of her appearances with "I's in town, Honey," singing songs and telling stories of the Old South until her death on September 24, 1923. Some in the African-American community protested that she was being exploited by white men, but being a bit more pragmatic perhaps, she stated, "I was born a slave and now I've been all over this country and have more money than I ever dreamed about so I ain't complaining."

In 1913, the company was renamed Aunt Jemima Mills and in 1926, the Quaker Oats Company purchased the brand. In 1933, they hired the second person to play Aunt Jemima, Anna Robinson. She portrayed the character at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 and continued her job until the late 1940's. She died in 1951.

Four more people were hired to be Aunt Jemima after Anna, each portraying the icon at numerous fairs, on TV and radio and other personal appearances around the country. In the 1940's through the early 1960's, several ladies portrayed her at the same time. One, Alyene Lewis, was Aunt Jemima only at the Aunt Jemima Cafe in Disneyland, talking to customers and posing for pictures while Ethel Harper, Ann Harrington, and Rosie Hall made the appearances around the country.

By the early 1960's, the only "Aunt Jemima" was Rosie Hall. Born in a small wooden house 9 miles outside Hearne, Texas in 1899, Rosie married early in life. That marriage failed and she moved to Oklahoma in her 20's. Eventually she remarried and got a job working for Quaker Oats in the advertising department. When the company needed another Aunt Jemima, she was "discovered." Until her death in 1967, she toured the country promoting the Quaker Oats Company and delivered the message of a warm, caring, motherly woman serving up delicious breakfasts.

Ms. Rosie's headstone. She is surrounded by
loved ones.RIP Rosie.
During her time touring the country, she always returned every Christmas and Thanksgiving to the Blackjack Community where she was raised and had family. When she passed away on February 12, 1967, she was buried at the Hammond Colony African-American Cemetery near Blackjack.

I visited the Hammond Colony cemetery on a Wednesday afternoon. It's in a very rural area and hard to find. It was several miles of 2-lane blacktop and then 2 miles on a worn, pot-holed 2-lane blacktop and then another mile down an even rougher 1 1/2 lane semi-blacktop road. If you get there, you were either going there on purpose or were seriously lost. I missed the last turn twice and had to retrace before I figured it out.

When I arrived, there were 3 men sitting on the tailgate of an old beat-up pickup truck having a smoke. Leaning against the truck were hoes, rakes, and shovels. One of the men, shirtless with dirty streaks of sweat dripping down his neck and chest, approached me with a weed eater in his hand. He was getting on up there in years, but still had broad shoulders and heavily muscled arms and he did not have a smile on his face. Here I am in the middle of nowhere and in front of me are 3 younger, tough-looking men who do not appear to be in a friendly welcoming mood at all. The thought of a horrible death by weed eater did run through my mind, but nothing from nothing leaves nothing so I put a smile on my face and walked up to the apparent leader of the group, stuck out my hand to shake and introduced myself. The scowl on his face didn't change, but he did change hands with the weed eater to shake my hand. I told him I was seeking the grave of Rosie Hall and when he asked why, I told him about my memories from childhood of Aunt Jemima pancakes. He finally smiled and told me his name is John, Rosie was his aunt and he remembers her well.

He used to sit in her lap when she came home for holidays and she told him about all the places she had traveled in her job. He introduced me to the other two guys and offered to take me to her grave. He told me he had recently been elected president of the Hammond Colony Cemetery Association and he had been drafting male friends and neighbors for the last month to clean the place up. Nobody had been taking care of it over the last 20 years and it had been covered in weeds, vines, and fallen tree limbs. Now, the tree limbs had been removed, most of the weeds had been pulled, the fence repaired and you could see the gravestones again. Rosie lies surrounded by members of her family in this very quiet, peaceful, tree-shaded place of eternal rest.

John left me beside her grave, went back to his truck's tailgate and lit up another smoke. I took a couple of pictures. The only sound was the clicking of my camera. I rested my hand on her headstone and quietly thanked her for the memories even though she wasn't actually responsible for them. I'll forget that convenience was the real reason for baking with the Aunt Jemima mix as I prefer the false memories of love that comforted me during those times.

I left and walked past John and his two draftees'. I told him thanks and got a nod of his head in return. I got in my truck and started her up. It was time to travel on down the road.

The Last Civil War Soldier Killed In Battle

The last known picture of 
John Jefferson Williams.
In the summer of 1863, the midpoint of the American Civil War, a surge of patriotic fervor swept the north. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had been crushed during the three days of hell that ended on July 3 outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The next day, Union control of the Mississippi was established when the city of Vicksburg surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant’s forces following a six-week siege. This effectively split the South and severed the Southern supply chain that brought critical food and material from the West to the theaters of war in the East. Many in the North believed these victories heralded a rapid Confederate collapse. Thousands of new recruits volunteered for duty that summer. Many were afraid they would miss an opportunity for great adventure and glory. Some wanted the monetary signing bonuses. However, pure and simple patriotism played a role also as more and more men sought to take part in the preservation of the Union.

One of those volunteers was a young man from Jay County, Indiana, by the name of John Jefferson Williams. He was 20 years old. He reported for duty in September, 1863, and trained at Indiana’s Camp Joe Holt, on the Ohio River just across from Kentucky. Later that autumn, Private Williams was assigned to the Indiana 34th Regiment Infantry in Louisiana, where he briefly helped patrol Union-occupied New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta, with a short stint along the quiet Central Texas coast. He saw no action; his unit never fired a shot. In December, 1864, came orders to move the Indiana 34th Regiment to the island of Brazos Santiago, near the mouth of the Rio Grande River. Here they joined with the 62nd U.S. Colored Troop Regiment to maintain control of the South Texas coast.

Though far removed from the major battlegrounds in the east, far South Texas was not without danger. While the Union blockade had effectively closed most southern ports, a bustling boom town with the name of Bagdad had sprung up in Mexico just south of the mouth of the Rio Grande. At this time, Mexico was little more than a French puppet state ruled by Napoleon III’s cousin, Emperor Maximilian. Smugglers, often aided by Napoleon’s French forces, snuck cotton and other materials across the river to Bagdad’s docks to avoid the Union blockade. It was a dangerous business, both for the Confederate smugglers as well as the Union occupiers. It was not uncommon for Union patrols along the Rio Grande to come under fire from Confederate, Mexican, French, or even Native American snipers across the river. Williams' luck still held though as he and the rest of his unit came to no harm during the next four months.

In March of 1865, with the war drawing to a close, the commanders of both Union and Confederate forces along the Rio Grande reached a gentleman’s agreement to end hostilities. The southern forces knew that without a major change in fortunes, they were engaged in a losing effort and the northern forces knew it was just a matter of time before the war would be over. There was no need for more death and nobody wants to be the last to die. It seemed Private Williams was destined to survive the war without a scratch. The agreement did not sit well with some, however. One who resented this unofficial truce was the white commander of the 62nd U.S. Colored Regiment, Col. Theodore Barrett.

No one knows why Col. Barrett decided to march on Brownsville, Texas. It was late spring, and Bartlett knew that Lee and Johnston had surrendered their Confederate forces the previous month. Surely, it was just a matter of a few days, before the remaining Confederate forces in remote places like South Texas would lay down their arms. Why did he decide to attack and occupy Brownsville? Having missed the opportunity to lead men in major combat operations, did Col. Barrett desire a last chance for glory before the war came to an end? Or were his motives monetarily driven? Perhaps he wished to seize for himself the large stores of cotton in Brownsville before they could be carried across the river to the wharves of Bagdad. His reasons will never be known, but regardless of his motives, the decision was poorly executed.

Leaving the 34th Indiana Regiment behind at Brazos Santiago, Col. Barrett ordered 300 men of the 62nd U.S. Colored Regiment to cross the rough waters that separated Brazos Santiago from the mainland. Once the crossing was complete, the regiment rested for the night to prepare for the next day’s march to Brownsville. Losing the element of surprise due to Confederate sentries on the south bank of the Rio Grande, Union forces engaged a small contingent of Texans at Palmito Ranch on the north side of the river. Although Barrett had the advantage of far superior numbers, the Texans put up a fierce fight and his troops were unable to push through to Brownsville. With daylight waning, they retreated from Palmito Ranch to safer shelter a few miles away. The Union forces had suffered 2 killed and 4 wounded and the Texans had suffered 1 killed and 2 wounded.

The next morning, Union forces once again marched toward Brownsville. The attack this time included 200 reinforcements from the 34th Indiana Regiment. Once again, they engaged the Confederates at Palmito Ranch. The number of Union forces were overwhelming this time and the Confederates were forced to retreat. The 62nd Colored Regiment formed a long defensive line to protect Union gains while the Indianans pushed on about a mile past the ranch to high ground within a bend of the Rio Grande. This position was well protected, but the Yankees were still several miles short of Brownsville. Even worse, by positioning themselves inside the bend with the rapid flowing waters of the river surrounding them on three sides and the Confederates now facing them on the fourth, the 34th Indiana regiment was effectively surrounded.

The engagement went on for several hours with neither side making headway.The Rebels were too few in number to make an attack and the Yankees were well dug in. Remarkably, for all of the shooting going on, there had been no deaths and only a few men wounded on both sides. At about 3:00 however, 300 Confederate reinforcements arrived. There were now 490 Confederates confronting 500 Federals. The situation shifted in the Confederates’ favor as in addition to the 300 reinforcements, they had brought a six-gun battery of artillery.

Headstone of John Jefferson Williams
At 4:00 PM, Union forces came under heavy bombardment from the Confederate artillery. The 62nd Colored Regiment quickly retreated back to Brazos Santiago leaving the Indiana 34th skirmish line unsupported. The Confederate commander, an experienced Indian fighter and colonel with the Texas Rangers named John “Rip” Ford, ordered his cavalry to charge. The young Williams fired his rifle at the charging, yelling Rebels, but in his fear and haste, his aim was off and didn't hit anyone. He was standing, reloading his rifle, when one of the Confederate cavalrymen noticed him. As Williams raised his now loaded rifle to fire again, the Rebel quickly aimed his Colt revolver and pulled the trigger. The ball hit Williams just above the right eye and the young volunteer from Indiana fell back into the prairie grass and breathed his last breath.

The Battle of Palmito Ranch was very small in comparison to most of the battles of the Civil War. The number of soldiers who took part numbered in the hundreds, not thousands. The casualty count was also quite small. Confederate losses on the second day of battle were 6 wounded. Union casualties that day amounted to 1 killed, 9 wounded and 105 captured. The captives would not remain prisoners for long. Just a few days after the battle, Colonel “Rip” Ford ordered their release and he told his own men to go home. The Civil War was over.

With the disbandment of Confederate control in South Texas, the bodies of those killed at Palmito Ranch were turned over to Union authorities. Ironically, they were buried on the grounds of Fort Brown in Brownsville, Texas, the town Union forces had failed to take during the battle. In 1867, the bodies of all soldiers buried at Fort Brown were disinterred and reburied at Alexandria National Cemetery in Louisiana. Williams was laid to rest in Section B, Site 797.

At least 623,656 men died in that terrible war. Private John Jefferson Williams was the last.