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John Salmon Ford

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John Salmon Ford

Col. John Salmon Ford of the Texas 2nd Cavalry

John Salmon Ford (May 26, 1815 – November 3, 1897), better known as "Rip" Ford, was a member of the Republic of Texas Congress and later of the State Senate, and mayor of Brownsville, Texas. He was also a Texas Ranger, a Confederate colonel, and a journalist. Ford commanded men during the Antelope Hills Expedition and he later commanded the Confederate forces in the last engagement of the American Civil War, the Battle of Palmito Ranch on May 12 and 13 of 1865. It was a Confederate victory, but as it occurred more than a month after Robert E. Lee's surrender it had no effect on the outcome of the war.


  • Early life 1
  • Texas 2
  • Civil War 3
  • Post Civil War 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Ford was born in Greenville District, South Carolina, but grew up in Lincoln County, Tennessee. His parents were William and Harriet Ford. When he was 16 he moved to Shelbyville, Tennessee to study medicine. There he met his future wife, Mary Davis. However, the marriage ended in divorce and Ford decided to move to Texas, then fighting for its independence from Mexico.


Ford arrived in Texas in June 1836, too late to participate in the Texas Revolution. He served in the Texas army until 1838. He opened a medical practice in the east Texas town of San Augustine, where he practiced for eight years.[1]:xix He also studied law and passed the bar exam before winning election to the Texas legislature in 1844, advocating annexation by the United States.[1]:xix The following year he moved to Austin, where he purchased the Texas National Register, renaming it the Texas Democrat.[1]:54

When the Mexican War began, Ford enlisted in John Coffee Hays' regiment of Texas Mounted Rifles. However, he was promptly appointed a lieutenant and would serve as both adjutant and medical officer. He saw active duty with his regiment in Mexico, commanding a scout company part of the time.[1]:60 He received the nickname 'Rip' for his peculiarity of including the words "Rest in Peace" after each and every name when composing his company's casualty lists.

In 1849, with Robert Neighbors, Ford explored the country between San Antonio and El Paso[1]:113 and published a report and map of the route, which became known as the Ford and Neighbors Trail. Later the same year he was made captain in the Texas Rangers and was stationed between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande, where he had numerous fights with the Indians during 1850 and 1851. In 1850 he captured the War Chief, Carne Muerto,[1]:161 a son of Santa Anna. After his Ranger unit was disbanded, Ford participated in Jose Maria Jesus Carbajal's Merchant's War as a Colonel.[1]:196

In 1852 he was elected to the Texas Senate, bought the Southwestern American,[1]:207 and established the State Times in 1853, which he sold in 1857.[1]:208 and 218 Early in 1858, he accepted a commission as Senior Captain in the state troops[1]:223 and defeated hostile Native Americans in the Juan Cortina in the Battle of Rio Grande City.[1]:268

Civil War

In 1861, Ford served as a member of the Secession Convention, and initiated a trade agreement between Mexico and the Confederacy.[1]:329 As a Colonel in the Confederacy, he had command of the Rio Grande Military District.[1]:325 In early April 1861, he commanded toops who defended Zapata County from invaders from Mexico who did not want Texas in the Confederacy in the Second Cortina War.[1]:324 They had entered Zapata County from Mexico and hung the county judge. Several of the invaders were killed, marking the first deaths in defense of the Confederacy, about two weeks before the bloodless Battle of Fort Sumter.[2] Between 1862 and 1865 he ran the Bureau of Conscription of the State,[1]:332 and at various times he was engaged in border operations protecting Confederate-Mexican trade. After raising 1300 troops, "The Cavalry of the West", Col. Ford recaptured Fort Brown on 30 July 1864.[1]:349, 352, 365 His forces defended a Federal attack a few miles above Palmito Ranch on 9 September 1864, forcing them to retreat back to Brazos Island on 12 Sept. 1864.[1]:374 In May 1865, he led Confederate forces in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, the last battle of the American Civil War.

"Some of the Sixty-Second Colored Regiment were also taken. They had been led to believe that if captured they would either be shot or returned to slavery. They were agreeably surprised when they were paroled and permitted to depart with the white prisoners. Several of the prisoners were from Austin and vicinity. They were assured they would be treated as prisoners of war. There was no disposition to visit upon them a mean spirit of revenge."-Colonel John Salmon Ford, May 1865.[3]

When Colonel Ford surrendered his command following the battle at Palmito Ranch he urged his men to honor their paroles. He insisted that "the negro had a right to vote." [3]

Post Civil War

Ford acted as a guide for the US military operating against "cow-thieves and other disturbers of peace and quietude", and was a correspondent for the Galveston News.[1]:411–412 Later, he was assistant editor for the Brownsville Ranchero, and wrote for the Brownsville Courier, before establishing and publishing the Brownsville Sentinel.[1]:434

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Ford, J.S., 1963, Rip Ford's Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, ISBN 0292770340
  2. ^ Rip Ford's Texas Memoirs, Briscoe library
  3. ^ a b RIP Ford's Texas:Personal Narratives of the West. Ford, Salmon John. Edited by Stephen B. Oates. University of Texas Press. Austin,TX. 1987)

External links

  • John Salmon Ford from the Handbook of Texas Online.
  • Texas history entry about John Salmon Ford from the Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas published 1880, hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
  • "John Salmon Ford".  
  • "FORD AND NEIGHBORS TRAIL," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 28, 2010.
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Burleson
Texas State Senator
from District 21

Succeeded by
Elliott McNeil Millican
Preceded by
Joseph E. Dwyer
Texas State Senator
from District 29

Succeeded by
Stephen Powers
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