Palmito Ranch: From Civil War Battlefield to National Historic Landmark

Palmito Ranch: From Civil War Battlefield to National Historic Landmark

Palmito Ranch: From Civil War Battlefield to National Historic Landmark

Palmito Ranch: From Civil War Battlefield to National Historic Landmark


Despite the strategic importance of the Lower Rio Grande Valley during the Civil War, the two battles fought there--the first (September 1864) and the second (May 1865) battles of Palmito Ranch--have largely faded from public memory even as the second battle earned the title "Last Land Battle of the Civil War." In Palmito Ranch: From Civil War Battlefield to National Historic Landmark, Jody Edward Ginn and William Alexander McWhorter document efforts to redress this lacuna in the popular consciousness. They offer new information about these battles while chronicling the efforts to save and preserve the battlefield site, one of the few places in Texas where the war was contested.

Opening with a crisp retelling of the principal military events that unfolded at Palmito Ranch, near the Confederate port city of Brownsville, Ginn and McWhorter recount the initiative pursued by a multidisciplinary team organized largely through the efforts of the Texas Historical Commission to study, document, and preserve this important Texas historic site. Now, visitors to the area may benefit from not only improved and expanded historical markers, but also a radio transmitter and a viewing platform, along with other interpretive aids. All this is due to the campaign spearheaded by McWhorter, Ginn, and a cohort of dedicated volunteers and professionals.

Providing a case study in constituency building and public awareness raising to preserve and promote historic sites, Palmito Ranch will interest and educate heritage tourists, Civil War enthusiasts, and travelers to South Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley.


Texans, native and adopted, love their history. As well they should, because the story of the Lone Star State is an essential component in defining the modern United States. But for so many Texans, like so many of their fellow Americans, the details of the past fade into obscurity, and history often gives way to myth. Texas schoolchildren for decades could recite the names of the three battles in which Texas Confederates repelled Federal invasions of their state during the Civil War: Galveston, Sabine Pass, and Palmito Ranch. Today Sabine Pass and Palmito Ranch are unknown to an increasing number of Texans, especially as the location of Civil War battles, and Galveston is recalled most often as a leading vacation spot. An observant traveler to Galveston, however, will find markers recalling the battle on New Year’s Day in 1863 for control of that old port city, and it would be very difficult for any visitor to the state historical park at Sabine Pass to overlook the dramatic statue of Lt. Richard W. Dowling, whose gunners in September 1863 blocked the second attempt by a Union landing force to establish a beachhead in Texas there. Palmito Ranch, located in a relatively isolated corner of southern Texas, has not benefited from the same level of attention as the other two members of the Texas trio of Civil War triumphs. the Texas Historical Commission, through the laudable efforts of William A. McWhorter and Jody E. Ginn, along with a tremendous host of staff and allies, has worked hard to recall to public memory the history of the two battles at Palmito Ranch, the first in September 1864 and the second in May 1865, which earned it the enduring title “Last Land Battle of the Civil War.” This book is yet another important step in that effort.

The obscurity of the battles at Palmito Ranch is perhaps odd because both were won by John S. “Rip” Ford, whom a prominent Federal officer . . .

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