Description

    Col. Rip Ford had received "intelligence of the opening of hostilities between the Confederate States and Mr. Lincoln's government..."

    Extraordinary John Salmon "Rip" Ford Autograph Letter Signed "John S. Ford/Col. Commandg/Rio Grande Mil. Dist.," five separate pages, 8" x 12". Head Quarters Rio Grande Mil. Dist., Fort Brown, April 21, 1861. Ford had gotten the nickname "Rip" when, as adjutant during the Mexican War, he would write the official letters announcing deaths, adding to the letters "Rest in Peace" or "R.I.P." Nine days after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Col. Ford, Second Texas Cavalry, writes to Texas Gov. Edward Clark who, a month earlier, as Sam Houston's Lieutenant Governor, had succeeded to the office when Houston refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. As Governor, Clark moved quickly to address problems brought about by secession. To protect the frontier, regiments of cavalry were enrolled by Henry E. McCulloch and John S. Ford. There are numerous cross-outs and additions as Ford reread what he had written before he sent his report to the Governor. In part, "I have the honor to report that on the evening of the 18th inst Capt. Love [Captain W. P. Love, Confederate spy] arrived here, from Galveston, bringing intelligence of the opening of hostilities between the Confederate States and Mr. Lincoln's government, and of the sailing of an expedition for the coast of Texas, supposed to be destined for Brazos Santiago. Among other things I received a copy of a telegram directed to Gen. Nichols by Hon. John H. Reagan [Texas Congressman, 1857-1861; Confederate Postmaster General], which was intended to warn the Executive and the military authorities of Texas of the impending danger. I very soon determined upon a course of action, but in order to have the opinion of my officers, and to enable them to understand matters fully, and to know my determination, I called a council of war. It was the opinion of all that Brazos Santiago is not ofensible [sic], that the post should be abandoned for the present and that we concentrate and make a stand at this point. Capt. Powers, who was here on business, left at midnight, accompanied by Mr. Lawton of the Engineer Department. To the Captain was assigned the task of superintending the withdrawal of men, ordnance, and supplies of every kind from Brazos Island, and their transportation to this post by steamboats and waggons [sic]...There are no guns of long range on the island. A war vessel could shell a force out of Brazos Santiago without ever coming within reach of any piece we had there. One revenue cutter can make the place utterly useless to us. On the 19th the men were put to work to repair old Fort Brown, and they are progressing rapidly...It can not be approached without subjecting an enemy to serious annoyance and loss in reaching it from the coast or from any other direction. In the neighborhood mounted troops can be subsisted, and it answers the double purpose of defending Brownsville against the inroads of Black Republicans, and of keeping Matamoros within due bounds. I shall be able to place it in about 10 heavy siege pieces and ammunition for siege purposes. I forward a drawing of the fort...Rations can be had here and will be needed, if the enemy land soon. The citizens will furnish hands to work in the trenches, and volunteer companies will be organized. However, it would be improper not to state, that the preparations are not only being made to meet an invading force from the coast but an anticipated raid from Cortinas.

    "On the 17th inst. I received a communication from citizens living in the vicinity of rancho Baston, some forty miles above this...Capt. Littleton was previously marching his company to the neighborhood of that ranch. I notified him of the state if things, and ordered him to beat Zamora if he crossed...I am confident there is danger of a descent from Cortinas. The opinion is general among the Mexicans, and they ought to know. In relation to the rebellion in Zapata county, the report of Capt. Nolan, and the letter of Mr. Redmond...will place you in possession of the facts. I think Capt, Nolan acted promptly, boldly, and properly. It is the only appropriate way to treat traitors, who avow against the authorities of the State. I hope the affair will end in nothing more serious, yet if, as some suppose, Cortinas is implicated in the matter there is no telling what may happen. It would certainly be very consoling to the gentlemen at Austin who have had a hand in this affair to know they have so able a backer as Gen. Juan Nepomuceno Cortinas
    [Mexican bandit]. I have strenuously endeavored to preserve the most amicable relations with the authorities and people of Mexico. Maj. Edwards reported that two of his command had been imprisoned without cause in Camargo, and that he wrote the Alcalde a very sharp letter. The Alcalde wrote to Gen. Garcia, that the men were arrested for fighting in the street, and, that upon their representation Maj. Edwards wrote him an insulting letter. I believed Maj. E. was to blame, and addressed him a communication - a copy of which is sent. I also forwarded a copy of the communication to Gen. Garcia...I am determined, as far as able, not to give our neighbors any just cause to complain of our want of friendship or a disposition on our part not to reciprocate acts of kindness and comity. Capts. Nolan and Donelson have been ordered to this point. Capt Littleton has been directed to hold himself in readiness to move at a moments notice. Capt. Tomlinson will be stationed at Carrizo. Capt. Benavides will remain near Fort McIntosh." In May 1861, Cortinas invaded Zapata County and attacked the county seat, Carrizo. He was defeated by Confederate Captain Santos Benavides and retreated into Mexico; Cortinas lost seven men, while eleven others were captured by Benavides and hanged or shot. Col. Ford concludes his report to the Governor thusly: "If Mr. Lincoln's army lands near Brazos Springs, I anticipate giving them something to do all the way up. They shall be fired upon from every place affording shelter to a sharp shooter. Their march shall be no holiday parade. I shall hold Fort Brown as long as I can offer resistance. Do not think, however, that we have the most distant idea of not being able to beat back the Black Republican hordes who would come sword in hand to force a president upon us elected in violation of the spirit of the Constitution & as an enemy to the Constitutional rights of the South..."

    Col. Ford, who had been one of the prime movers of and a delegate to the Texas Secession Convention, initiated a trade agreement between Mexico and the Confederacy later in 1861 and was engaged in border operations during the war, protecting Confederate-Mexican trade. At the end of the war, he commanded the southern division of Brig. Gen. James E. Slaughter's Western Sub-District of Texas in the Brownsville area. On May 13, 1865, more than a month after Lee's surrender, Confederate forces routed Union troops at Palmito Ranch, chasing them for seven miles to Brazos Island. As Ford was leading his men to victory, the Confederate Governors of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Missouri were authorizing Gen. Kirby Smith to disband his armies. A few days later, federal officers from Brazos Santiago visited Brownsville to arrange a truce with Gen. Slaughter and Col. Ford. The Battle of Palmito Ranch was the last land engagement of the Civil War. In very fine condition.


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    Auction Dates
    December, 2007
    1st-3rd Saturday-Monday
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