Sam Walker -continued-
The day of his discharge from the Republic of Texas Rangers, Ad Gillespie formed a new company of
mounted volunteers. They were called the Texas Mounted Rangers and were mustered into federal
service that same day. The company was mostly composed of men recruited in San Antonio and was
used to range the northern and western frontiers. The company scouted and skirmished with hostile
Indians while federal troops were posted to the Rio Grande. Sam Walker was twenty-eight years old
when he joined Gillespie's company again as a private.
There were few Indian actions for Gillespie's company. As the end of Sam Walker's enlistment in the
Texas Mounted Rangers approached, he arranged a meeting with General Zachary Taylor
headquartered at Corpus Christi. Walker offered his services to a United States Army which was
facing an inevitable war with Mexico in unfamiliar country against an army whose military tactics
and language they did not understand.
That Sam Walker had previously served in the Army in Florida and Alabama did not hurt his prospects,
nor did having his friend, Lt. George Meade, attached to Taylor's command. Of greatest interest to
Taylor was Walker's knowledge of the theater Taylor faced. Walker had forgotten nothing of his time
in Mexico, nor of the Mexican army that held him prisoner, nor the lessons of his escape. Taylor had
found a prize in the seasoned Ranger.
On San Jacinto Day, April 21, 1846, Walker was authorized to raise the first volunteer company of
scouts for Taylor’s army. Walker named his company the Texas Mounted Rangers. Not Texas
Rangers, but a Texas volunteer command in federal service and attached to the federal army. The
unit was initially enlisted to serve until July 16, 1846 under command of Captain Samuel Walker,
with a complement of ninety-three officers and men. Walker recruited a number of veterans of the
Somervell and Mier Expeditions along with a bevy of former Texas Rangers.
The press made Captain Walker a celebrity and national hero with his legend and exploits. After his
reported death and then his success in a mission to Fort Brown behind enemy lines in May, 1846,
he was lionized such that the city of New Orleans presented Walker with a "magnificent horse" named
"Toranado" and sent it to him in Matamoros on the steamer Alabama.
On June 24, Walker was appointed brevet lieutenant colonel to the newly organized First Regiment,
Texas Mounted Riflemen, as second-in-command to Colonel John Hays. Walker would join this
organization when his earlier enlistment ran out on July 16. About that same time, Walker also
accepted a regular army commission as a captain of the First United States Mounted Rifles. He
delayed this appointment until the Texas Mounted Riflemen was mustered out of federal service,
October 2, 1846.
When enlistments of the Texas Mounted Riflemen ended, Walker and Hays left Mexico. After
arriving in San Antonio, they traveled to Galveston, where they were treated to a gala ball and a dinner
in their honor. Shortly thereafter, they sailed for New Orleans, where their arrival “created a sensation
throughout the city.” In New Orleans, the two separated. Hays went to Mississippi and Walker headed
By his commission in the Army, Walker was authorized to recruit, equip,
and train his command. In pursuit of this, he spent the next
six months getting appropriations for arms, equipment, and men.
By November Walker was in New York City. Sam Colt, the bankrupt
developer of the Colt Paterson revolver, had heard that Walker was
in the city looking to buy arms. Walker had Sam Colt on his agenda
and when Colt contacted Walker, he found him an enthusiastic
potential buyer. Walker and Colt became fast friends.
Walker had a list of suggestions to improve Colt’s pistol and Colt was
anxious to adopt them. Colt knew Walker's prestige and sway with the
Army could put him back in business in a big way.
The two agreed that Colt would modify his pistol with Walker’s suggestions, and Walker would pursue
government contracts to buy them. Both men kept their bargain and the Walker Colt was born.
In January, 1847, Walker returned to Washington and secured a personal appointment with President
James Polk. Upon receiving the now very celebrated Walker’s explanation of the new pistol to be
produced by Colt, the President immediately ordered William Marcy, the Secretary of War to purchase
the weapons. Marcy passed the purchase order for 1,000 Walkers at twenty-five dollars each to
Lieutenant Colonel George Talcott, Army Chief of Ordnance. Colt contracted with Eli Whitney to
manufacture the new pistol and vaulted from bankruptcy to fortune overnight.
The .44 caliber Walker was no gentlemen’s sidearm, but rather a nearly five-pound “horse pistol” to be
holstered in pairs on saddle pommels. Walker said it was "effective as a common rifle at 200 yards,"
and unlike the less powerful
Paterson, one hit could
readily down man or horse.
One Ranger remarked
that it was just as effective after it was emptied,
“a fine cudgel for close up fighting”. Its adaptability
to the rigors of Ranger style mounted fighting forces
would forever change the way mounted men fought.
While Colt was producing guns, Walker raised his company of men and in April,
reported with his Company C, First U.S. Mounted Rifles at Newport Barracks. They arrived at
Vera Cruz on May 10, 1847 to join Winfield Scott's invasion of Mexico. On June 26, the first lot of
revolvers was dispatched to reach Walker at Vera Cruz. However, it would be months before the
weapons got to Walker’s men as they sat crated on the docks in Vera Cruz.
Meanwhile, Walker and his men fought their way inland to Perote, giving Scott’s army its first foothold
beyond naval support at Vera Cruz. Perote Fortress held no fond memories for Walker. It was there he
and his comrades had been imprisoned following the ill-fated Mier Expedition. It was also from Perote
that Walker and some of his fellow prisoners tunneled out of prison, making their escape.
Ranger legend passes down from this era - that Walker and his fellow Mier prisoners had been forced
by their captors at Perote to erect a flagpole. According to legend, Walker then and there swore that
one day a Texas flag would fly from that same pole. The story continues that when Walker, as part of a
work gang planting a flagpole, placed a Yankee dime in the flagpole’s base. The first thing Walker did
when he arrived at Perote was retrieve the coin and hoist the Lone Star.
Though officially an element of the United States Army, Walker’s men referred to themselves Texas
Rangers. A number of politically appointed "gentleman" Army officers voiced exception to the Rangers’
methods, audacity, and adherence to identity, but Walker was no hell-raiser. Scott and his professional
officers insured that Walker and his men continued to operate as a unit with autonomy. Regular army
officers serving Scott included Captains R.E. Lee and U.S. Grant and Lieutenants Meade, McClellan,
and Sherman, but Walker and his men distinguished themselves beyond any other units. For the next
four months, Walker and his men engaged the Mexican regular army and guerillas in Ranger fashion,
skirmishing brilliantly, providing intelligence, and keeping Scott’s supply line intact lest the federal
army starve. Scott's command never wanted for food or intelligence courtesy of the Rangers.
Throughout these months, Walker and his men had fought using personal and army issue weapons, but
without the pistol named for him. On October 4, 1847, a courier delivered Walker a personal gift from
Samuel Colt, two of his namesake revolvers. Walker was, as usual, with his Rangers at the front ahead
General Joseph Lane's army. The company’s allotment of Colts had still not found its way to the fighting
Rangers from its Annapolis dock keepers and West Point clerks and the safety of Vera Cruz.
Scott, having attacked and occupied Mexico City from the north, was pressing the political appointee
Lane to advance his command of 3000 toward Puebla, where Col. Thomas Childs and 500 men were
under siege by Santa Anna’s main body of 4000. Lane balked at the orders and stopped outside
Huamantla where Walker’s men had scouted and confined Santa Anna and an elite force of 1600 lancers.
On October 8, after Lane conferred with Walker, he decided to stage an attack on the numerically
smaller Mexican advance forces. Walker and his Rangers would lead the assault. The Rangers would
have it no other way. Later, many of those who knew him best said Walker was obsessed with capturing
the Mexican dictator.
On October 9, the cautious Lane began a plodding approach on Huamantla, instructing Walker to stay
within support distance of his main force.
When Ranger scouts reported a weak point in the Mexicans’ planned ambush of Lane’s approach,
Walker immediately ordered his 250 Rangers to draw pistols and sabers and charge. Walker’s men
hit the elite Mexican force and drove deep into the enemy position, ruining the ambush, but leaving
themselves open to Santa Anna’s counterattack. The ensuing fight between the Mexicans and Rangers
was vicious, but by the time Lane arrived, an hour after the fight started, the enemy was in disarray.
The Rangers had lost 47 wounded and 24 dead, among them Captain Samuel Walker. The Mexican
army counted 461 casualties.
Sam Walker lived only long enough to see his personal victory over Santa Anna begun. The balance
of the Mexican force at Huamantla scattered and fled. Over the next two days, many more of Santa
Anna's force were hunted down and killed by vengeful Rangers, several of whom had served Walker
from his earliest days with Hays in Texas. Santa Anna himself eluded the Rangers and fled into hiding,
eventually to Jamaica. In Mexico City, his broken government was taken over by Manuel de la Peña
and the pacified remains of his army by José Herrera. Lane continued into Puebla, the Mexican
resistance faded, and on October 12 and the war ended
Walker’s body was returned to San Antonio for burial. Twenty years later,
on April 21, San Jacinto Day, his body was exhumed and re-interred in the
Odd Fellows Cemetery in San Antonio beside his friend,
another great Texas Ranger, Ad Gillespie.
At the time of his death, Walker’s fame was nationwide. His passing was
news in every major newspaper in America. In 1846, there was a Broadway
stage production, "The Campaign on the Rio Grande, or, Triumphs in Mexico”,
whose main character was Sam Walker.
In 1846, the Texas legislature had formed Walker County. It was named for
Robert J. Walker of Mississippi, not Sam Walker. When the Civil War started,
however, there was a major problem - Robert J. Walker was a Unionist.
So it was in 1863 that the Confederate Texas legislature decreed that the name of the county was
"named to honor the memory of Captain Samuel H. Walker, of the Texas Ranger Service.”
|Sam Walker and the Walker Colt
- Destiny and Invention Meet
|Captain Samuel H. Walker
Photo courtesy of the
Texas Ranger Museum
|Walker's Last Post
photo courtesy of the
Texas Ranger Museum
The Walker Colt
photo courtesy of the Texas Ranger Museum