- Fighting Stock: “Rip” Ford of Texas
Many historians with a passing acquaintance with Texas history remember “Rip” Ford (1815–97) as a Texas Ranger, but few non-specialists know that he was a man of many talents, a Renaissance man—Texas-style. Originally from South Carolina, he moved to Texas in 1836, just missing the battle of San Jacinto by about ten weeks. Even so, he joined Texas’s revolutionary army and served from 1836 and [End Page 310] 1838 under John Coffee “Jack” Hays. After his military service, he moved to San Augustine where he practiced medicine. Later he also practiced law. In 1844, he won political office and served a term in the Republic House of Representatives. He had the honor of being the man who introduced a resolution to accept the United States’ terms of annexation. In 1845, Ford moved to Austin where with a partner he bought and became editor of the Austin Texas Democrat.
When the Mexican-American War (1846–48) broke out, he immediately joined the Texas Rangers and served under Jack Hays again. By 1849 high command promoted him to captain of the Rangers. He served in South Texas from the Nueces River to the Rio Grande. In 1852 South Texas voters sent him to the Texas State Senate. When he moved to Austin, again with a partner he founded a new paper, the State Times, which lasted until 1857. In 1858 Ford sought and won a commission to lead a contingent of the Texas State Troops, a command that sent him to South Texas again. He and his men campaigned against Indians, as well as Juan Cortina when he raided north of the Rio Grande. Later, he was elected to the Secession Convention and voted with the majority. Once the Civil War became a reality, Ford volunteered for service by joining the Second Texas Cavalry whose men elected him as its colonel. In May 1865 he gained a type of immortality by fighting and winning the last battle of the Civil War at Palmito Ranch.
After the war, Ford returned to the newspaper business when he moved to Brownsville in 1868. He bought and became editor of the Brownsville Sentinel. He continued his interest in politics, and voters made him a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in 1872 and in 1875 to the Texas Constitutional Convention. From 1876 to 1879, he returned to the Texas Senate. In 1879, state leaders appointed him to his last public position, superintendent of the state’s Deaf and Dumb School (later called the Texas School of the Deaf).
In his sunset days, Ford became something of a historian and wrote his memoirs. He became a charter member of the newly founded Texas State Historical Association and supported the new association’s journal. Indeed, he penned one of the first articles to appear in the new journal. He died in San Antonio on November 3, 1897.
In the running theme of the narrative, McCaslin notes several times that both of Ford’s grandfathers fought in the American Revolution and did their part to secure American independence. As a youngster and later as a mature adult, Rip Ford became determined to emulate both of them, with locations like Lexington and Concord replaced by the broad expanse of Texas. McCaslin has produced a meaningful volume and has done an excellent job. And, yes, when I use the words “McCaslin” and “excellent” in the same sentence, I know that I am being redundant.