Pea River at Hobdy's Bridge
The Confederates used the
cover of the swamp on the
west bank to lay their ambush.
Last Casualties of the War
The U.S. Army later ruled that
the soldiers who fell at the
bridge were casualties of war.
Skirmish at Hobdy's Bridge - Pike and Barbour Counties, Alabama - Civil War Skirmish at Hobdy's Bridge, Alabama - Civil War Skirmish at Hobdy's Bridge, Alabama
Hobdy's Bridge, Alabama
Confederate "guerrillas" ambushed a detachment of
Union soldiers at Hobdy's Bridge in Alabama, two
weeks after the "last battle" of the Civil War.
Last Man Killed in the Civil War
It is generally stated by historians that the
last battle of the Civil War was fought and its
last casualties sustained at Palmitto Ranch,
Texas, on May 12-13, 1865. An event that
happened one week later at Hobdy's Bridge
in Alabama, however, could change part of
the accepted story.  

A detachment of Union soldiers from the 1st
Florida U.S. Cavalry had been sent from
Montgomery to
Eufaula to escort a mail
shipment through the unsettled regions of
eastern Alabama. Lee had surrendered and
Wilson's Raid had devastated the region, but
many former Confederate soldiers were
drifting through the region on their way home.

The mail escort, commanded by Lt. Joseph
Carroll, left Montgomery on May 11, 1865,
and reached Eufaula without difficulty. The
total strength of the detachment was only 25
men, but because all seemed quiet, Carroll
decided to spend a few days in Eufaula to
rest his horses. Since some of his men were
natives of the area, he granted them short
leaves to go and visit their families. The
entire detachment was to reassemble at
Hobdy's Bridge over the Pea River on May 19,

After many of his men dispersed to their
homes, however, Carroll learned that a party
of pro-Confederate "guerrillas" had been
seen in the area. The identity of this unit, if it
had an identity, is unknown, but at about the
same time General Alexander Asboth in
Pensacola reported that several companies
of cavalry made up of "unrepentant rebels"
were still active in the Alabama and Florida

Upon receiving this intelligence, Carroll
decided to return to Montgomery as quickly
as possible and crossed Hobdy's Bridge
with the main body of his detachment two
days before the appointed rendezvous. The
other men of his command, at home and
visiting their families, had no way to know of
his decision to leave early or of the danger
they faced.

According to military records, they gathered at
Hobdy's Bridge as ordered on the morning of
May 19, 1865, only to learn that Carroll and
the main body were already gone. Turning
their horses onto the long wooden bridge,
the Florida cavalrymen started off to follow
their commander's route. They rode straight
into a trap:

...On attempting to cross said bridge, [they]
were fired upon by a band of rebel guerrillas,
one of the party being killed, and all the rest...
were wounded, with one exception.

The soldier killed in the Skirmish at Hobdy's
Bridge can be identified as Corporal John W.
Skinner of Company C, 1st Florida U.S.
Cavalry. He was killed in action six days after
Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana,
who died at Palmitto Ranch and is generally
said to have been the last man killed in the
Civil War.

That sad distinction actually belongs to
Corporal Skinner, who died on the wooden
planks of Hobdy's Bridge in Alabama.

Three of the Union wounded can also be
identified. They were William Smith and
Nathan Mims of Company F, 1st Florida U.S.
Cavalry, and Daniel V. Melvin from Company
C of the same regiment.
Smith's records illustrate the severity of the
fight. It was reported that he suffered
"gunshot wounds right arm, right shoulder,
left hand and left side." He reached St. Mary's
Hospital in Montgomery on May 24th and
remained there until June 1, 1865.

Smith, Mims and Melvin later became
trapped in a nightmare of government red
tape as they tried to secure the pensions to
which they were entitled in later years. All
three had been wounded in action, in the line
of duty, in the Civil War, but lower levels of the
U.S. Government ruled that they had been on
leave at the time they were wounded and that
the war was over. Their pension applications
were denied in 1896.

Smith then appealed to the Commissioner of
Pensions, who reviewed the matter and
determined with finality: "There does not
appear to be an question or controversy
about the facts of this case."

It was determined that the men killed and
wounded at Hobdy's Bridge had returned to
active duty when they reported to the bridge
as ordered on May 19, 1865. The Assistant
Secretary to the Commissioner went on to
overturn the original pension decision and
rule that the men had been wounded in
action against the enemy:

To hold otherwise would not only be unjust
and inequitable, but contrary to the dictates
of sound reason and common sense as well.

As a result of this ruling, Skinner, Williams,
Melvin and Mims were the last casualties of
the Civil War.

Hobdy's Bridge was located where present-
day Highway 130 crosses the Pea River
seven miles west of Louisville, Alabama. A
marker on the west end of the bridge tells the
story of the
Battle of Hobdy's Bridge, an
engagement of the Creek Wars.

There is no marker pointing out the bridge as
the site where the last man was killed during
the Civil War.
Guerrilla Action in Alabama
The Hobdy's Bridge ambush
was one of hundreds of
guerrilla fights in Alabama
during and after the war.
Creek War of 1836-1837
Hobdy's Bridge was the site
of a important battle during
the Creek War of 1836.
Eufaula, Alabama
The soldiers killed and
wounded at Hobdy's Bridge
on May 19, 1865, were
returning from a mission to
the beautiful old city of
Eufaula, Alabama.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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