John Salmon (Rip) Ford


John Salmon "Rip" Ford was born in the Greenville District of South Carolina on May 26, 1815, the son of William and Harriet (Salmon) Ford. The family moved to Tennessee when Ford was young. In 1836 he came to Texas and began a distinguished and colorful career. According to one source, "he was one of those Renaissance men that Texas somehow produced when it couldn't produce much of anything else." Ford served two years in the Texas army and upon discharge settled in San Augustine. There he practiced medicine and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. In 1845 he moved to Austin, the State capital, and became the editor of the Texas Democrat. During the Mexican War he was commissioned adjutant of Colonel Jack Hays's regiment of Texas volunteers. After that war Ford helped explore the largely unknown west Texas plains, laid out a cattle trail, became captain of the Texas Rangers, and won fame as an Indian fighter. Returning to Austin, he was elected to the state senate and founded another newspaper, the State Times. In 1855 he helped found the Know-Nothing (American) party in Texas, but returned to the Democrats two years later. In 1859 he was commissioned an officer of Texas state troops. He defeated Indian bands in two major engagements, then was sent south to the Rio Grande River to stop Mexican border raids. "Old Rip," as he was known throughout the state, was a popular favorite there, described by one traveler as "hail-fellow-well-met with everybody, free with his money, and equally free with his six-shooter.. . . the most inveterate gambler and the hardest swearer I have ever met."

In 1861 Ford was elected to the Texas Secession Convention and voted to take Texas out of the Union. On February 5,1861, the convention appointed Ford commander of a military expedition to proceed to the Rio Grande, the sight of his prewar campaigns. Once there he was to secure all U.S. Army property in the area and guard the Mexican border. Within a month Ford organized a thousand-man force, which landed at the mouth of the Rio Grande, persuaded the U.S. Army troops on the border to surrender, and repelled two Mexican raids across the border. On May 18,1861, the convention elected Ford colonel of a newly authorized regiment of mounted men, later the 2nd Texas Mounted. For the remainder of 1861 Ford and his men guarded the border. A diplomat as well as a soldier, he initiated a trade agreement between Mexico and the Confederacy. In 1862 he was recalled to the state capital and appointed chief of conscription for Texas. On December 22,1863, Confederate Major General John B. Magruder, who commanded the District of Texas, ordered Ford to return to southern Texas. He organized an expeditionary-force of state and Confederate troops to retake the lower Rio Grande Valley, which had been occupied by Union troops in the fall of 1863. Colonel Ford commanded the Confederate forces in the last battle of the Civil War—a southern victory at Palmito Ranch on May 13,1865, one month after Appomattox. On May 26,1865, he was put in charge of the Confederate Western Sub-District of the District of Texas. Ford surrendered and was paroled July 18, 1865.

After the war Ford remained in southern Texas, the site of his wartime exploits. In 1868 he became the editor of a Brownsville newspaper, and in 1874 he was elected mayor of Brownsville. From 1875 to 1879 he served in the state senate. Ford spent the later years of his life writing his reminiscences and historical articles, and promoting an interest in Texas history. He died in San Antonio on November 3, 1897, and is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in San Antonio.

Ford is listed in Heitman as a Confederate general. In 1864 Governor Pendleton Murrah of Texas appointed Ford brigadier general of District No. 1, Texas state troops. During the war Ford often commanded Confederate troops or exercised district command, either as a Confederate colonel or a Texas state general.

Previous Page

Reference:  More Generals in Gray.  Bruce S. Allardice.  A companion volume to Generals in Gray.  Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.