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    Spy report for "Rip" Ford on Union troop evacuation of Brownsville

    [John S. "Rip" Ford] Handwritten Confederate Spy Report by Refugio Benavides written near the end of the Civil War. One and one-half pages, 8" x 12.5", Matamoros, addressed to "Col [Ford]" and signed "No. 2 [Confederate spy Captain Refugio Benavides]."

    In this intelligence, Captain Benavides reports on Union troop movements in Brownsville, Texas, a southern Texas city strategically important to the Confederacy for the European and Mexican trade which came through it. From his position across the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Benavides writes in part: "The work of evacuation goes on so far as the material is concerned, and also some troops have left for below, as a guard for the stores. No transports have yet arrived to take them away, they will be ready to move at a very short notice. From what I can hear, and from good sources-I think every thing will be ready by Tuesday-and if the transports arrive I think sooner. The General has told some of his intimate friends that they will leave a small force at Brazos [Island] with one gun Boat in the harbor, and one outside. If it is not so, he is deceiving one of this best friends here." Concerned about the unequal odds (Ford's force numbered around 1,800), Benavides cautioned, "In a stand up fight, and open ground, you can do nothing with them-they will move with about 3444 Infantry 250 Cavalry and two Batteries. . . . You have the advantage in the woods-close down on them as soon as you can-don't let them get away without seeing you. . . . Few will remain in Brownsville after the Yank's leave. Every one is leaving. If you come close, they will go to you, but from what I can learn are not anxious although perfectly confident. Most will leave here tomorrow." Benavides, who was later praised for his gallantry in the Rio Grande expedition, continues his report by giving Ford a suggestion and a warning: "Pardon me for the suggestion, but don't let them leave without some demonstration against them. If you do, it may injure you, but at the same time, be careful." The report concludes: "NB-they are ready to move at short notice, but will not move from Brownsville until they hear their transportation is off the bar. I know the General has given some of them until Tuesday to settle their business, but that may be deception."

    Before the Civil War, Refugio Benavides (1821-1899) had been a Laredo, Texas, politician who had helped push the state toward secession. Promoted to captain early in the war, he was familiar with the Rio Grande area, which resulted in an assignment in 1864 as a scout for Ford in the Rio Grande expedition. John "Rip" Ford (1815-1897), a Texas Ranger and popular statesman, had been involved in almost every major Texas event of the nineteenth century. In the spring of 1864, Ford was tasked with protecting Mexican-European-Confederate trade along the Rio Grande which Union forces were attempting to disrupt. By early July, Union forces had captured Brownsville. When Ford received this intelligence from Benavides, he was waiting at Port Isabel, Texas, northwest of Brownsville, for reinforcements. Those reinforcements from General James E. Slaughter arrived fifteen days after Benavides wrote this report, though they were not needed because Benavides' espionage information was correct: Union troops did quickly withdraw from Brownsville on their way to Louisiana, which allowed Ford to march unopposed into Brownsville on July 30. Benavides was also correct that a small Union force (1,200 men) was to be left at Brazos Island, which became the only Union presence in south Texas throughout the remainder of 1864. On lined, blue paper with slight ink bleed-through. Smoothed folds, fine.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2009
    21st Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,901

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