Baptists and the American Civil War: May 12, 1865

Texas Civil War MapMore than a month has passed since the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Some Texas troops, although having learned of Lee’s surrender, have thus far refused to lay down their arms. Today in the Battle of Palmito Ranch they surprise a contingent of Union forces en route to Brownsville. The Confederates emerge victorious in a the running battle that lasts until the morrow, only to surrender a few days hence.

The Battle of Palmito Ranch is effectively the last major battle of the war.

To the east in Mississippi, Captain William Thomas Ratliff (1835-1918) is paroled in Jackson. Ratcliff, a Baptist layman, enrolled in Kentucky in the winter of 1861 as a private, later serving in Company A, First Regiment of the Mississippi Light Artillery. Ratcliff was promoted to rank of captain following exemplary service at Vicksburg.

Following his surrender and parole, Ratcliff opens a military school in Raymond, Mississippi. He is involved in local politics and civic life for much of the remainder of his life. Ratcliff is also a leader in Mississippi Baptist life, serving as a deacon in the Raymond Baptist Church, president of the board of trustees of Mississippi College, and president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

Sources: Battle of Palmito Ranch (link) and (link) and (link); “Davenport, Overton Fletcher,” Texas State Historical Association (link); “Mississippians in the Confederate Army,” William Thomas Ratliff (link)