The presence of runaway slaves in Mexico continued to attract American
filibusters and slave raiders throughout the 1850s. Ford estimated that there
were 4,000 runaways in Northern Mexico, a situation he railed against from the
pages of The Southwestern American and The Texas State Times, two
of several newspapers he edited during the period. In private correspondence he
was equally blunt:
Something must be done for the protection of slave property in this State.
Negroes are running off daily. During the past week seven slaves left this
portion of the country. Let the frontier of slavery begin to recede and when or
where the wave of recession may be arrested God only knows.
The rhetoric from Ford and other slaveholders ultimately contributed to an
infamous raid in 1855 led by Captain James H. Callahan of the Texas Rangers. The
official pretext for Callahanís raid was a punitive expedition against Lipan
Apaches. The actual plan appears to have been a straightforward punitive slaving
expedition directed at the Black Seminoles. When Callahanís main force engaged
the allied Seminole and Mexican forces, associates under William R. Henry staged
a side attack attempting to seize the Black Seminole women and children.
Fortunately for the Black Seminoles, they ambushed Henry before his raid could
take place. Callahanís men were forced to retreat to Piedras Negras. There,
facing 700 Mexican regulars, including the Seminole allies, the Texans briefly
held on before torching the town and beating an ignominious retreat across the
John S. Ford to John A. Quitman, July 2, 1855, as quoted in
May 260, Tyler 8-10, Mulroy 78-79, Sumpter 62-69.