Texas Ranger in the Cortina War

Michael Wade Hampton, nephew of our SHEPPARD BAKER, was a Texas Ranger. Wade Hampton is mentioned often in several histories of the little-known Cortina War along the Texas-Mexican border in 1859. Principal references are:

    Rip Ford's Texas, by John Salmon Ford, edited by Stephen B Oates, University of Texas Press, 1998

    The Men Who Wear the Star: The Story of the Texas Rangers, by Charles M Robinson III, Random House, NY, 2000, 130-132

First, we establish that author Ford and our Wade Hampton were rivals, using Rip Ford's Texas.

pp xxviii-xxx (by editor Oates):

"Directly across Congress Avenue [from Ford's newspaper, the South-Western American] was a shrewd competitor, the Texas State Gazette, edited by Wade Hampton and William R. Scurry, both veteran newsmen. They welcomed the new enterprise, noting that "Ford has the reputation of being a good writer and a courteous gentleman; he is, besides, an old Texian, thoroughly acquainted with the history and resources of the state, and will be able to make his paper a very interesting sheet. We welcome him to the ranks editorial right cordially." Then in the next issue of the Gazette Hampton impugned him for belonging to a rival faction of the Democratic party.

... Hampton wrote that he didn't give much of a damn what Ford took [on a campaigning trip] since he was "crazy" as a result of an old head wound that had allowed his "not overly plentiful supply of brains to leak out."

In end Pease [backed by Hampton's paper] won the governorship, but Ford came out the better in his feud with Hampton. On December 31 Austin voters elected Rip mayor by a whopping majority, and the circulation of the American increased twofold as a result. ...

When his term as mayor ended, Ford went back to editing his paper, whose name he had changed to the Texas State Times, took on a partner named Joe Walker, an old ranger friend [see below], and with open glee resumed his war with "that pop-gun of democracy across the street" - the State Gazette."

p 208 (by author Ford):

"Early in 1853 Captain Joe Walker and the author established the State Times in Austin. ... The State Gazette of Austin was owned and conducted by Major William R. Scurry and Wade Hampton. Of course the usual rivalry sprang up between the Gazette and the Times."

Next, we describe the Cortina War that involves the two of them, Hampton and Ford, as Rangers.

pp xxxiv-xxxv (by editor Oates):

"... in the fall of 1859 ... he [Ford] read with a compelling interest ... the newspaper accounts of a Mexican outlaw named Juan "Cheno" Cortina, whose army of gunmen during the past month had raided nearly every settlement along the Rio Grande from Brownsville to Laredo.

Since Ford had experience in leading Texas Rangers, the governor asked him to organize a ranger company and go after Cortina. In October Captain Ford with a small comamnd of six-month volunteers was on his way to the Rio Grande, where he joined force with a company of United States regulars under Major Sam Heintzelman. In a wild, running campaign lasting nearly sixty days, the combined forces whipped Cortina in three straight battles, at Rio Grande City (or Davis Ranch), La Bolsa, thirty-six miles above Matamoros, and La Mesa, about four miles from Agua Negra, Mexico. When Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee's United States cavalry reinforced the Americans, Cortina's band gave up the war and rode away from the border. The Cortina War had cost the United States 95 lives and a half million dollars in destroyed property."

pp 269-70 (by author Ford):

"About the twentieth of December [1859] a forward movement was made. The main body consisted of regular infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Tobin's and [Peter] Tomlinson's companies followed the road leading from Brownsville to Rio Grande City. The second encampment was at the Carricitos Ranch, twenty-two miles above Fort Brown. Ford and Captain Hampton were directed to move to the right and nearly parallel with the main body in order to make a thorough reconnaissance of the country and to cover Major Heintzelman's right flank. ...

... The third day's march brought to light many acts of vandalism. Houses had been robbed and fired, fences burned, property destroyed or carried into Mexico. Settlements were broken up for the time being; the inhabitants had fled for their lives. Cortina had committed these outrages upon citizens of the United States regardless of race and upon 
Mexicans suspected of being friendly to Americans.

On the evening of December twenty-sixth we encamped at Las Cuevas Ranch, eighteen miles below Rio Grande City. A council was held, at which Ford was present, and a plan of operations determined upon. Major Ford, with his old company (under the field command of Captain Joe Walker), and with the companies of Captain Hampton and Captain 
Harmon, was to make a night march and, if possible, pass around Cortina's flank and get on the road from Rio Grande City to Roma. To use Major Heintzelman's exact words: "You must be extremely cautious; do not stir Cortina up tonight." The main body was to move at midnight. The intention was to attack at daylight. We had information that Cortina was in Rio Grande City. ... he outnumbered the Texians more than six to one."

Then Ford details the ensuing battle for several pages. Suffice it to say that the enemy was routed: "After the defeat and dispersion of Cortina's forces at Rio Grande City, the bandit crossed into Mexico ..."

"During these operations the efficiency of the Texas Rangers was materially lessened by the order for an election for major. Captain Tobin was a candidate, and, as was usually the case on such occasions, he at times appeared amenable to the charge of working more to secure this election than to assure success to the operations ...

... Inasmuch as Major Tobin [after election] had declined to accept the terms proffered by Ford, he did not conceive himself bound to remain in the service. Ford announced his intention to retire. Captain Walker [Ford's newspaper partner] and his men did likewise. They had been mustered for no specific time, and claimed the right to leave when 
they chose, more particularly since Cortina had been routed and his followers driven into Mexico." [Then Ford proceeds to fight Cortina in several more battles anyway.]

From The Men Who Wear the Star, pp 130, 132:

"... Ford, supported by Ranger companies under Tobin, Capt. Peter Tumlinson, and Capt. Wade Hampton, had attacked Cortina's line from the front."

"Tobin was elected major ... . The men of Joe Walker's company refused to serve under Tobin, and he ordered them mustered out along with the companies of Wade Hampton and a captain named Herron [this after Cortina was neutralized]."

So our Texas Ranger, Capt Wade Hampton, fought in the Cortina War during the first successful battle, at Rio Grande City, alongside his rivals Ford and Walker, and under Major Heintzelman, who was later replaced by Lt Col Robert E Lee in this war - but after Hampton had been mustered out.