About John Salmon Ford
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.
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, when he opened a medical practice in the east Texas town of San Augustine. Ford practiced medicine until 1844, when he won election to the Texas legislature, advocating annexation by the United States. The following year he moved to Austin, where he purchased the Texas National Register, renaming it the Texas Democrat.
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. 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 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, a son of Santa Anna.
In 1852 he was elected to the Texas Senate and again became an editor of the State Times, published in Austin until 1857. Early in 1858, he accepted a commission in the state troops and defeated hostile Native Americans in two major battles on the Canadian River. Late in 1859, he was sent to the Rio Grande, where he commanded operations against Juan Cortina.
In 1861, Ford served as a member of the Secession Convention, and initiated a trade agreement between Mexico and the Confederacy. He was elected colonel of the 2nd Texas Cavalry, with a command in the Rio Grande district. Between 1862 and 1865 he was commandant of conscripts, and at various times he was engaged in border operations protecting Confederate-Mexican trade. 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.
When Colonel Ford surrendered his command following the campaign of Palmito Ranch he urged his men to honor their paroles. He insisted that, "The negro had a right to vote."
John S. Ford was born in South Carolina on May 26, 1815. He grew up on a plantation in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Ford was a good student and by the age of 16 was qualified to teach, but instead he went on to study medicine. He moved to Texas in 1836. Joining the Texas Army he served until 1838. Ford settled in San Augustine and practiced medicine for eight years. During this time he also studied law and passed the bar exam.
In 1844 Ford was elected to the Texas House, where he introduced the resolution to accept annexation to the United States. This was the beginning of a long career of public service. Ford relocated to Austin in 1845 and reported on the activities of the annexation convention as a reporter for the Texas National Register. By the end of the year he had purchased the paper and changed the name to the Texas Democrat. During the Mexican War he served as regimental adjutant under Jack Hays. It was as adjutant that Ford earned his nickname "Rip." One of his main duties was to report on men killed in action. He completed each report with the words "rest in peace" after his signature. As the number of fatalities increased he abbreviated the phrase to "R.I.P." Soon the men were calling Ford "Old Rip."
In 1849 Ford made an exploration of the country between San Antonio and El Paso, publishing a map of what became known as the Ford and Neighbors Trail. He was also named captain of Ranger company stationed between the Nueces and Rio Grande. In 1858 he accepted a commission in the state troops and defeated the Indians in two battles near the Canadian River. IN 1859 he and his troops were sent to the Rio Grande. Here they spent many months trying to quell the activities of Juan Cortina.
During the Civil War Ford was elected colonel of the Second Texas Cavalry, with a command in the Rio Grande District. In May of 1865 he led the Confederate troops in the battle of Palmito Ranch, the last battle of the Civil War.
In the years following the War, Ford continued his work as a newspaperman and politician. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1875 and served in the Texas legislature from 1876 to 1879. In his later years, he wrote his reminiscences as well as several articles on Texas history. He died in San Antonio on November 3, 1897. He was buried beside the San Antonio River.