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The Surrender of Gen. E. Kirby Smith

May 26, 1865 in New Orleans, Louisiana

 

From 1862 until the war's end, Lt. Gen. E. Kirby Smith commanded the Trans-Mississippi Department. By early May, 1865, there was not any regular Confederate forces left east of the Mississippi River. Smith received official proposals that the surrender of his department be negotiated.
The Federals inimated that terms could be loose, but Smith's demand were unrealistic. He then began planning to continue the fight. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant took preliminary steps to prepare a force to invade West Texas should that prove necessary. It did not.

The war's last land fight occured on May 12-13th at Palmitto Ranch, where 350 Confederates, under Col. John S. Ford, scored a victory over 800 overconfident Federals under Col. Theodore H. Barrett. But afterward the Confederates learned that Richmond had fallen and Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered more than a month earlier. The news devastated their morale, and they abandoned their lines.

A similar decay in morale occured all over the department. On the 18th, Smith left by stagecoach for Houston with plans to rally the remnants of the department's troops. While he traveled, the last of the department's army dissolved. On the 26th, at New Orleans, Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, acting in Smith's name, surrendered the department. This surrender included all 20,000 Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River. This ended all organized Confederate military resistance to Union authorities. Smith reached Houston on the 27th and learned that he did not have any troops.

Not all of the Trans-Mississippi Confederates went home. Some 2,000 fled into Mexico; most of them went alone or in squad-sized groups, but 1 body numbered 300. With them, mounted on a mule, wearing a calico shirt and silk kerchief, sporting a revolver strapped to his hip and a shotgun on his saddle, was Smith.

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