Like most people, these students thought they were right when they said that the American Civil War started on April 12th, 1861. It is fairly well known that on that date Confederate forces fired on Union forces at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, eventually forcing the surrender of the fort.
The fact is, however, that this is wrong. The first action in the Civil War actually took placed almost 2 months earlier in San Antonio, Texas. On February 9th, 1861, a newly formed Confederate Cavalry, supported by a large number of angry civilians who had just voted for Texas to secede, surrounded the Union Headquarters and forced the surrender of US Army Major General D.E. Twiggs and all Federal property in Texas –without firing a shot in anger. That was probably a wise choice by the General considering that the civilians arrived well equipped with ropes already tied with ‘hangman’s knots’. The terms of the surrender gave the Union forces permission to peacefully, and immediately, leave Texas (without any of their arms or equipment, of course).
Similarly, most Americans believe that the Civil War ended with the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox Court House on April 9th, 1865. That too is wrong. In the first place, when General Lee surrendered there were still several large Confederate Armies in the field. The last of those were the Cherokee Indian forces fighting for the Confederacy under General Stand Waite in Oklahoma. That was still not the end, however. Here is a brief description of the last battle of the Civil War:
From March 1865 on, a gentleman's agreement precluded fighting between Union and Confederate forces on the Rio Grande. In spite of this agreement, on May 11, 1865, Colonel 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 (Union) under the command of Lieutenant Colonel David Branson, to attack reported Rebel outposts and camps.
Prohibited by foul weather from crossing to Point Isabel as instructed, the expedition crossed to Boca Chica. 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 camped 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 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 feed themselves and their horses when, at 3:00 pm, a sizable Confederate force appeared. Branson decided to retreat to White's Ranch. He sent word of his predicament to Barrett, who reinforced him 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, fighting a skirmishing action with rebel forces most of the way. At Palmito Ranch, they destroyed their supplies so they could move faster 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 Colonel 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. Returning to Boca Chica at 8:00 pm, the men slipped quietly away and back to the safety of their fort at 4:00 am, on the 14th.
That was the last battle in the Civil War. Native, African, and Hispanic Americans were all involved in the fighting and it was considered a decisive, if futile, Confederate Victory.
And For Music -this: