Monday, April 7, 2008

Columbus, Georgia and the Last Major Battle of the Civil War

It is a little known fact that the last major battle of the Civil War was fought for control of the city of Columbus, Georgia.
The last major Southern industrial center, Columbus was attacked by Union forces on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1865. Confederate forces fought to defend the city and a major battle erupted.
The battle was fought after both the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Also called the Battle of Girard, the Battle of Columbus was a Union victory and resulted in the fall of Columbus and destruction of the nearly-finished ironclad C.S.S. Jackson. Although several smaller encounters took place over the following weeks, the fight was the last major battle of the Civil War.
If you would like to learn more, our new Battle of Columbus page is now available at


Anonymous said...

Not True. The last battle of the Civil War was the battle of PALMITO RANCH in Texas...The battle took place on May 13th, 1865 which is well after the battle in Columbus. And it was major. 111 Yankees were killed, 4 officers captured, and 30 more Union soldiers were killed or wounded during the battle. It was a decisive Confederate victory. Only a few Texans were wounded.

Dale said...

Actually, there was fighting in Alabama, Florida and the Indian Territory after the Texas incident.

We'll have to agree to disagree on whether the Texas battle was a major encounter. I don't feel it was because it achieved no strategic objectives. The Columbus battle was part of a major campaign to eliminate the South's last industrial complex. It signaled the fall of the Chattahoochee line and end of major Confederate resistance.

This is not to diminish in anyway the action at Palmito Ranch. In my mind, the last actual battle of the war was fought between a company of Union troops and a Southern home guard in Florida in 1866.

Dale said...

By the way, more recent research on Palmitto Ranch indicates that Union losses were actually 2 killed, 6 wounded, 102 captured and 2 missing.

Anonymous said...

The previously stated dead and wounded statistics are correct. Although mixed reports were given, the most extensive book ever written on the subject "The Last Battle of the Civil War: Palmetto Ranch" by JW Hunt, University of Texas Press, confirms these numbers using many first-hand accounts of the battle.

In addition, it's irrelevant whether or not the Yankees achieved their objectives at Palmetto Ranch. The Union had very limited success against the Texans throughout the civil war, so little changed at this battle. The Union highly underestimated the fighting skill of the Texans, IMO. It's hard to fault Texas just because it didn't cave in like other Confederate States, but gave as good as they got and then some.

Lee said about the Texans(Hood's Brigade): "Texans always moves'em", "I use them in all the tight spots" and were always considered Lee's front-line shock troops for the Northern Army of Virginia.(even though Lee was a Virginian). Lee was fond of saying to regiments behind the Texans.."Just try and keep up with the Texans" as he rode to the rear of the forces and they looked up for orders.

Well, at any rate most historians consider the Texas battle the last battle. Although little skirmishes occurred other places, the line has to be drawn somewhere. I'm sure the debate will continue.

Dale said...

I think we are just disagreeing on whether Palmito Ranch was a major battle. It was the result of a minor expedition by the Federals and I just don't think it meets that criteria, whereas the fighting at Columbus and Fort Tyler involved thousands of men on each side and was part of a major campaign. Even Nathan Bedford Forrest couldn't hold back Wilson's "Yankee blitzkrieg."

By the way, these aren't the only two battles vying for the title. Alabama holds that Fort Blakely was the last major battle of the war, even though it happened before either Columbus or Palmito Ranch.

That's not to take anything away from the victory won in Texas by Ford and his men. They fought very well that day and it was a decisive Southern victory. I've always found the fight interesting and would like one day to see the ground where it took place.

By the way, Texas was not the only state to stand up during the closing days of the war. Floridians defeated a significant expedition at the Battle of Natural Bridge on March 6, 1865, preserving Tallahassee's status as the only Southern capital east of the Mississippi not conquered by Union troops.

That said, neither Texas nor Florida faced the kind of onslaught that devastated states like Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. Defeating a few regiments of Union troops in South Texas or North Florida was a lot different than facing the hundreds of thousands of men in the armies of Grant and Sherman. It was more than the South as a whole could handle.

And, to be totally fair, Gen. Stand Watie and his forces were still in the field in what is now Oklahoma long after the rest of the Southern troops went home.

Enjoyable discussion by the way.