Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Last Man Killed in the Civil War was a Florida Soldier
It has long been held that Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana was the last soldier killed in the war. He fell at the Battle of Palmitto Ranch, which was fought in Texas on May 12-13, 1865. While Palmitto Ranch was undoubtedly one of the last engagements of the war, fighting did not end with that Confederate victory in Texas. In fact, the U.S. Government later ruled that a soldier killed in a skirmish on the Pea River in Alabama had died in combat six days after Palmitto Ranch.
The soldier in question was Corporal John W. Skinner of Company C, 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry. A resident of Alabama before the war, Skinner had crossed through the lines and joined the Union army after serving for a time in the 57th Alabama Infantry (Confederate). Enlisting in the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry at Fort Barrancas near Pensacola, he served in a number of actions across Northwest Florida and South Alabama.
As the war entered its final days, Skinner's command was sent to Montgomery which had been surrendered to the Union forces of General James H. Wilson. The situation throughout the region was deteriorating rapidly. As regular Confederate forces surrendered, there was a complete breakdown in order. The Union army assigned men from the 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry to escort mail shipments and Skinner was part of a detachment that guarded a mail delivery from Montgomery to Eufaula, Alabama, in May of 1865.
The Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Commissioner of Pensions would later rule that Skinner and the men wounded at Hobdy's Bridge had fallen in action while on active duty during the Civil War. "To hold otherwise," he wrote, "would not only be unjust and inequitable, but contrary to the dictates of sound reason and common sense as well."
As a result, a forgotten soldier from a Union regiment raised in Florida appears to hold the sad distinction of being the last man killed in the Civil War. To read a detailed account of the Skirmish at Hobdy's Bridge, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/hobdys2.