Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    "[I] hope you will let no person See none of them as it would be death for me"

    [John "Rip" Ford] Confederate Spy Autograph Letter Signed "J. J. Potts" to Confederate Colonel Ford. One and one-third pages, 7.75" x 12", Brownsville, Texas, July 14, 1864. This letter is a fascinating report from a Confederate spy inside Union-occupied Brownsville to "Rip" Ford, who was leading a force of 1,800 soldiers to free the south Texas border city. Potts hastily writes this vital intelligence on locations, movements, and other activities of Union troops in and around Brownsville as they prepared to evacuate the city for Louisiana. In part as written, "Sutlers & merchants Boxing up Goods, merchants Sending Goods over the River. Families moving over - A few Renegades going to New Orleans. Seven Siege Peaces went as stated 6 leaves tonight. . . . All the whisky on hand going, I don't know whether on boat or on the Train of wagons. . . . There is also a section of 2 Pieces of Bat. B. going tonight. They are still tearing down the Fort that is if you call Taking out all the Brick Tearing down. All the ammunition is out of the magazine on the Bank of River ready to go on board & will be but little left after 6 tonight. Trains leaving tonight with Q.M. stores. . . . Picketts all the way down. Squads of Cavalry at whites Ranch. I heard the Post. Com. Say today they did not have more than Rations Enough to do them to New Orleans. I cannot tell when they will leave here. But think Saturday or Sunday they Say it will be a week But they are in too much of a Stir for that. . . . I will send this as soon as I can start it & hope you will let no person See none of them as it would be death for me. I Send you Something very precious to me. will Show you where I live and that I am not trifling & hope you will Send it with the two letters Enclosed to your lady to keep as if you Should unfortunately fall or be captured before I See you. It would not cause my death. After this I will Sign my name - Weasle to all I send you. . . . Excuse bad composition & also bad writing as I had but few moments to write this as I had to be alone. I assure you I will Send all information I can get by first opportunities. They have Erected a lookout from which they can See from four 6-5 miles from town during the day."

    John "Rip" Ford, famous before the Civil War for his exploits as a Texas Ranger, was chosen in March 1864 to expel the Union army from the Rio Grande Valley. After success at Laredo in mid-April, Ford warily moved down the Rio Grande toward Brownsville where he expected to find the much larger Union force of around 6,000. When Ford received the information in this letter, he was waiting at Port Isabel, Texas, northwest of Brownsville, for reinforcements, which arrived two weeks later. Intelligence, such as this from Potts, notified Ford that the Union force was evacuating the city. On July 30, Ford and his cavalry rode unopposed into Brownsville. The letter bears folds and some minor stains.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2010
    23rd Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,084

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 35 days left to consign to the 2020 May 3 Luxury Accessories Signature Auction - New York !

    Learn about consigning with us

    The department director has the heart of a true and highly knowledgeable collector with the business acumen of someone who has been not only successful but has decades of an impeccable track record
    David Greenburg,
    Chicago, IL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 December 14 Historic Flags of World War II Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 December 14 Historic Flags of World War II Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $1,016,674