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A Ranger’s Honor Defended by "Rip Ford"

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526.     [TEXAS RANGERS]. FORD, John Salmon (“Rip”). Autograph letter signed, Brownsville, Texas, August 5, 1860, to Ranger John J. Dix with statement and signatures of seven fellow Rangers on verso with notary public certification. [2] pp. on a single sheet. 4to (25.2 x 19.7 cm). Lightly creased where formerly folded, one small void at one fold barely affecting two letters, otherwise fine. Highly legible with clear signatures.iTEM

Ford’s letter reads:

“Sir, I acknowledge the receipt of your note. In reply I can state, that I know of no other causes for your resignation than those expressed in your communication on the subject-namely: Sickness in your family, and the indispensable necessity of your presence at home to attend to your private affairs. I am unable to say what may have been talked of in camp, yet I never heard that the men had invited you to resign. Truly yours, John S. Ford. No news.”

     The verso contains: [1] a statement dated “Corpus Christi Sept 30th 1860” signed by Mat. Nolan, Wm. McMahon, Peter Steffanek, John S. Leonard, John S. McGregor, James Walker, and DeWitt C. Foster supporting Dix’s conduct; and [2] a notarized statement by Holbein authenticating Nolan’s signature.

     The confluence in the document of the signatures of so prominent a Ranger as Ford and seven of his Rangers is unusual.

     Although nefarious rumors about Dix’s alleged crimes had circulated in 1860, he was able to clear his name by accumulating recommendations such as this one and undergoing an investigation by Adjutant General E.F. Gray. Dix (1826-1910; Handbook of Texas Online) came to Texas in the mid-1830s and moved to Corpus Christi in 1845, where he engaged in surveying and managed stock for the United States and Texas troops. After serving with Ford as a Ranger, he assumed various duties as sheriff of Duval County and was its representative to the Texas legislature. He also helped to subdue bandits and Native Americans who preyed on Texas citizens.

     “Rip” Ford (1815-1897), a South Carolina native, arrived in Texas in June of 1836 and served in the Texas Revolution under John Coffee “Jack” Hays, rising to first lieutenant. Ford was a man with a wide range of accomplishments and interests and a mover and shaker in Texas history for over five decades. During the Mexican-American War, commanding a spy company, and fought in the last battle of that war (the Battle of Zacualtipán on February 25, 1848). He became a Ranger captain in 1849; at the time of this letter, his troops were active as an Indian fighter. During the Civil War, he served as commander of the Rio Grande District and led Confederate troops in what was also that war’s last battle (the May 13, 1865, battle at Palmito Ranch in far South Texas), After the war, he again resumed domestic and political pursuits for the remainder of his life. “[Ford] is famous for introducing the term ‘R.I.P.’ into the English language. While serving as adjutant to Hayes spy company in the Mexican-American War, Ford acquired the lasting nickname ‘Rip.’ When officially sending out notices of deaths he kindly included at the first of the message, ‘Rest in Peace’; later, under the exigencies of battle conditions, this message was shortened to ‘R.I.P.’” See Handbook of Texas Online.

     Mat Nolan (d. 1864) enlisted at the age of twelve as a bugler and served in that capacity in the Mexican-American War. He fought with Cecilio Balerio at Corpus Christi during the Civil War in the service of the United States, interdicting Confederate supplies (Handbook of Texas Online: Cecilio Balerio). While serving as sheriff of Corpus Christi, Nolan was gunned down in the street, making him the second Corpus Christi peace officer to be killed in the line of duty, the first being his brother Tom. Holbein (1826-1888; Handbook of Texas Online), who attests to Nolan’s signature, held various political appointments, including that of the mayor of Corpus Christi. He was associated with the King Ranch in later years and helped to manage the ranch after King’s death. William McMahan and James Walker were veterans of the Texas Revolution, the latter having served in the Battle of San Jacinto.

     This important letter reveals the internal workings, feelings, and processes that influenced one’s standing in both society and the military during this period. See also Item 191 herein. For further information, consult the web site.



Auction 22 Abstracts

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