Rip Ford and the Texas Rangers

JANUARY 12, 2020

John Salmon Ford was a doctor, a lawyer, a journalist, a Confederate Colonel, the Mayor of Brownsville, eventually a Texas Senator, and a renowned Texas Ranger. He got his nickname, “Rip” Ford, during the Mexican-American War in 1846, when he was assigned the duty of writing condolence letters to the families of his troops killed in action. At the end of his letters, he’d sign off Rest In Peace, but casualties got so hot and heavy, he abbreviated it to RIP. Hence, Rip Ford. He later commanded the Confederate troops who fought, and won, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, outside Brownsville – two weeks after the end of the Civil War. It’s thought by some that he knew the war was over, he just wanted one more chance to whup the Yanks.

He plays only a minor role in Matamoros, alluded to a few times, and briefly in one scene. But he’s the mentor of a more important character, the young Ranger Jessup. It’s Jessup who sings the song on the Matamoros CD, The Mighty Fine Texas Rangers – words and link below.

The song recounts the young man’s love of the Rangers, and goes over a few historical points of interest in their history.

The first mentions a light-skinned African-American woman named Emily West, who was kidnapped in 1836 by Mexican General Santa Anna shortly after he’d won the Battle of the Alamo. She was forced to accompany his army until April of that year, when Sam Houston attacked at San Jacinto, defeating Santa Anna (“Remember the Alamo!”) and winning Texan independence.

But according to legend, probably apocryphal, Emily West was actually a Texas spy, who distracted Santa Anna at the start of the assault, thereby aiding Houston in winning the battle. She was evermore known as the “Yellow Rose of Texas.”

Sam Houston became himself a Texas legend in that battle, beloved by all Texans, and eventually elected Governor of the state. And though Texas seceded from the Union at the start of the Civil War, Houston always opposed that, believing it was traitorous to the country. This little political family squabble is also mentioned in the song – as is the origin of Rip Ford’s nickname.

The Mexican General Juan Cortina is also in the song. He fought against Ford in the Mexican-American War, and remained bitter about Mexico’s loss of Texas and all the other territory the U.S. won in that war. So even after the peace treaty in 1848, Cortina raised a private army and continued making cross-border raids, harassing settlers and fighting Texas Rangers – a practice that continued even through our Civil War. He was considered a Revolutionary and a patriot by many Mexicans – but just a lowly bandit by the Rangers.

So without further ado, here are the lyrics, with link to listen to the song at the bottom.

The Mighty Fine Texas Rangers

We’re the genuine, hold-the-line, mighty fine Texas Rangers
And we never been slow to go toe to toe with no dangers
We by God made Texas free – that’s our Manifest Destiny
To the struggle and the rumpus and the fracas we are no strangers

In 1836, or so, Santa Ana took the old Alamo
But we gained the day, God only knows, with a little help from the Yellow Rose
Long live the Republic of Texas

In ‘48 the Ranger Corps helped win that Mexican-Merican War,
Cortina’s Army wanted it back, but we held the line, we cut no slack,
That old rascal Cortina was just a bandit

We’re the genuine, hold the line, mighty fine Texas Rangers
And we never been slow to go toe to toe with no dangers
We by God made Texas free – that’s our Manifest Destiny
To the struggle and the rumpus and the fracas we are no strangers

Oh I served with Colonel Ford, he taught me how to scrap and tussle,
He was a man of few words, grit and sinew, desert bone and muscle
We called him old Rip Ford, you see, cuz he signed his name with an R I P
When he wrote to a Ranger’s family,
That their patriot boy had died, a source of Texican pride,
Long live the Republic of Texas

In 18 hundred and 63, we fought for the Confed’racy,
But old Sam Houston, loved by all, said secession was a traitor’s call,
Sam Houston said it was treason

Oh, the Rangers love a good set-to, don’t matter much with what or who –
Rustlers, rattlers, grizzlies, Yanks, Comanches, thieves who rob them banks,
But I most love a scuffle… with the bandit Cortina

We’re the genuine, hold-the-line, mighty fine Texas Rangers
And we never been slow to go toe to toe with no dangers
We by God made Texas free – that’s our Manifest Destiny
To the struggle and the rumpus and the fracas we are no strangers

And the link to hear the song – Track 8 on the album – is at:
https://www.google.com/url?q=https://jameskahn.hearnow.com/matamoros&source=gmail&ust=1576794369291000&usg=AFQjCNG2X3VQeZq2MX_O_6VVShnpyrqzDg

2 thoughts on “Rip Ford and the Texas Rangers”

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