Texas, was originally named for Mississippi legislator Robert J. Walker, the Congressman
responsible for introducing into the United States Congress the resolution to
annex Texas. Unfortunately for Congressman Walker,
he later fell out of favor with the residents of Huntsville
and the surrounding county when he supported the Union during the Civil War. Reluctant
to change the name of their county, residents searched for another, more suitable
Walker and decided to rename the county for Texas Ranger Sam Walker. Looking down
on the scene from his place in Ranger heaven, Sam was sure to have been both honored
Hamilton Walker was born in Prince George County, Maryland in 1815, and died during
the Mexican American War in 1847, at the small Mexican town of Huamantla. Thirty-two
years is not a long life as measured against most men, but Sam Walker’s brief
years were an epic adventure filled with Indian battles, wars, public renown,
and honor; not to mention being credited with assisting in the design of a revolver
that has forever carried his name and altered the concept of side arms.
Little is known of Sam Walker’s early years, but it could be said that his adventures
began when he enlisted in the United States Army in May 1836, to fight in Florida
against Chief Osceola’s Seminole Indians. During the fighting, Walker was promoted
to corporal for “exceptional courage” in the Battle of Hacheeluski. Mustered out
of the army in 1838, he eventually ended up in Galveston,
Texas, in January 1842, after a stint in Florida working for a friend in railroad
later Sam joined the Bastrop militia
and participated in the Battle of Salado Creek,
where a small group of volunteers, militia, and Texas Rangers defeated a much
larger Mexican force under the command of French mercenary General Adrian Woll.
After the defeat of Woll, Walker’s militia company joined with a small unit of
Texas Rangers and for the first time Sam found himself under the command of Jack
Hays. The Texans pursued the Mexicans as they retreated toward the Rio Grande,
but heavily outnumbered, they had little choice except to return to San
Antonio after a few minor skirmishes.
In retaliation for Mexico's
incursion, the President of the Republic of Texas, Sam
Houston, commissioned General Alexander Somervell to undertake a punitive
expedition. Somervell was also granted discretionary authority to cross the Rio
Grande. Sam Walker was one of the first privates to sign up for the expedition.
Somervell’s 750 man army arrived at the Rio Grande on the morning of December
8, capturing Laredo
without a fight. During the march south there had been a general lack of discipline,
but the problem grew worse when some of the men left camp without authority and
looted Laredo. In
light of the discipline problems and lack of supplies, General Somervell elected
to abandon the mission and return to San
Antonio on December 18. Not everyone agreed with this decision. Nearly 300
men, Sam Walker among them, voted to quit the expedition, electing William Fisher
as their new commander.
On December 23, the small Texas army crossed the
Rio Grande and marched on the border town of Mier, defended by 3000 Mexican troops
under the command of General Pedro Ampudia. Disregarding odds of more than ten
to one, the Texans launched an attack and nearly succeeded until they ran low
on powder and ball and were forced to surrender.
Ampudia marched the Texans south to rancho Salado where, led by Sam Walker, they
overwhelmed their guards and escaped. Unfortunately, the escapees became lost
in the mountainous desert north of Salado and 176 were recaptured and sentenced
to death by Santa Anna. Thanks to the good auspices of the American and British
ambassadors, the dictator later commuted the death sentence to one man in ten.
In the infamous “Black
Bean Episode” that followed, Walker and the other prisoners were forced to
draw beans from a jar. Sam was lucky, but the seventeen men who drew black beans
were stood against a wall and summarily executed by firing squad. Walker and the
remainder of the Texans were marched to Perote Prison outside Vera Cruz where
Sam was forced to do hard labor until he escaped. Eventually making his way to
the port of Tampico, Walker managed to board a ship bound for New Orleans.
New Orleans, Sam publicly vowed revenge against Santa Anna before returning to
in January 1844, where he rejoined Jack Hays. Due to the Republic’s wretched financial
condition, Hays’s company of Texas Rangers had been reduced to only 25 men and
was about to be disbanded altogether until President Sam
Houston provided limited funding. However, more important than the money was
Houston’s authority for Hays
to take possession of the Texas Navy’s supply of Colt
The five-shot, .36 Caliber Colt Paterson was unique
in appearance, with no trigger guard and a trigger that appeared only when the
hammer was cocked. Although the weapon was fragile, it was the world’s first successful
cap and ball percussion revolver and revolutionary in its design. Armed with two
repeating Colts and an extra cylinder for each weapon, the Texas Rangers for the
first time were more than a match for the Comanches on horseback.
Walker helped prove the worth of the Paterson in June of 1844, when he rode with
Jack Hays at the Battle
of Walker’s Creek (not named for Sam). During a running fight on horseback,
the Comanches suffered 23 dead and 30 wounded compared to the Rangers who had
only one dead and four wounded. The victory was widely reported, and the Texas
Rangers and their Colts became famous. Unfortunately the publicity came too late
to save Sam Colt. His business had gone bankrupt in 1842.
Jack Hays resigned from active Ranger service in August 1845, Sam Walker rode
for a time with his good friend Ad Gillespie’s Ranger Company. However, with the
dawn of the Mexican American War, Sam arranged for a meeting with General Zachary
Taylor headquartered in Corpus
Christi at the mouth of the Nueces River. Walker offered his services to a
United States Army facing an unknown enemy in unfamiliar country, stating to Taylor
that his men knew both the Nueces Strip where the fighting was likely to begin,
and the Mexican cavalry with whom they had been skirmishing for years.
1845, the United States Army did not have a cavalry branch. Instead, General Taylor
was authorized mounted infantry referred to as dragoons. Dragoons rode to battle,
but they were trained to dismount and fight on foot when they engaged the enemy.
Taylor soon learned his dragoons were a poor substitute for cavalry when sixty
of them were easily captured by the highly mobile and well-mounted Mexicans. As
a result, Sam Walker was given authority to raise the Texas Mounted Rifles. During
the remainder of the war, Walker’s men, and later the Texas Rangers would serve
as the army’s cavalry.
General Taylor called on Walker's Texas Mounted
Rifles to keep his lines of communication open between the army and the supply
depot at Port Isabel,
and between him and the small detachment at Fort Brown on the Rio Grande across
from Matamoras. The Mounted Rifles accomplished their mission, and more importantly,
discovered that Mexican General Ampudia had crossed the Rio Grande with the main
part of his army and was preparing to launch a surprise attack on the unsuspecting
Making a daring night ride directly through Mexican lines,
Sam Walker and his men arrived in time to warn Taylor, and the General’s forces
were waiting for Ampudia’s army at Palo Alto, a thorny, chaparral covered plain
north of the Rio Grande. The Americans won the day after a hard fought battle,
and then routed the Mexicans the following day at Reseca de La Palma, a dry lake
a few miles south of Palo Alto. Ampudia was forced to retreat across the Rio Grande.
The fame of the Texas Rangers spread far and wide, and Sam became celebrated as
a national hero.
Battle Of Palo Alto, Painting
by Carl Nebel|
June 1846, Walker was appointed a regular Captain in the United States Army and
authorized to raise a volunteer company. However, he served as a Ranger until
his enlistment was up in October when he and Jack Hays returned to San
Antonio from Mexico. After a whirlwind of parties and banquets held in their
honor, the Rangers sailed for New Orleans. The duo’s arrival in Louisiana created
a sensation and they were received as honored visitors. From New Orleans, the
Rangers went their separate ways, with Jack Hays heading for Mississippi and Sam
for Washington D.C. to recruit, equip, and train his new command. Walker spent
the next six months in the east raising money to buy arms and equipment.
November, Walker met with Samuel Colt in New York and the two men soon became
good friends. The bankrupt inventor also found an enthusiastic buyer for his invention,
but Sam pointed out that the Paterson had a few problems and offered some solutions.
First, he said the Patterson was too fragile and the emerging trigger was more
suited to a parlor gun than a working weapon. The need to remove the barrel before
reloading was also a serious drawback. Eager to make a sale, Colt readily agreed
to everything Sam suggested and added a few additional improvements on his own.
The result was the most powerful handgun ever made, until the introduction of
the .44 magnum revolver more than a hundred years later. The six-shot “Walker”
Colt had a longer cylinder than the five-shot Paterson, capable of holding a greater
charge of powder. The revolver was manufactured in .44 caliber rather than .36,
and it had a lever attached underneath the nine inch barrel for easy reloading.
With a standard trigger and guard, the weapon weighed in at nearly five pounds,
but the big revolver was as accurate as a rifle out to 200 yards. Truly a weapon
made for the Texas Rangers.
The next step was to convince the government
to purchase the powerful handguns in sufficient quantity to justify their manufacture.
Sam Walker went straight to the top. Traveling to Washington D.C. in January 1847,
he relied on his new found fame to secure a personal meeting with President Polk.
When the now celebrated Texas Ranger explained the need for the new revolver,
the President immediately ordered his Secretary of War to purchase 1,000 “Walkers”
at twenty-five dollars each. Sam Colt contracted with Eli Whitney to manufacture
the weapons. The Walker Colt’s adaptability to Texas Ranger style warfare would
forever change the way in which mounted men fought.
"Walker" Colt Model
Wikimedia Commons - Author Older Firearm
the new Colts were being manufactured, Sam Walker’s Company C, First U. S. Mounted
Rifles boarded ship and arrived at Vera Cruz on May 10, in time to join General
Winfield Scott’s invasion of Mexico. The first shipment of Colts arrived in June,
but they sat crated and forgotten in a Vera Cruz warehouse. Meanwhile, the men
of Company C fought their way inland as far as Perote to gain a foothold for Scott’s
army beyond the support of the Navy’s guns.
Although they were officially
a part of the United States Army, as far as Walker’s men were concerned, they
were Texas Rangers. This assertion ruffled the feathers of many regular army officers,
but the Texans silenced their critics by distinguishing themselves far beyond
any other unit in Scott’s army. Engaging both Mexican army units and guerrillas,
the Texans skirmished with tenacity and skill, provided intelligence, and kept
General Scott’s supply lines to Vera Cruz open.
October 4, Walker, as usual, was riding at the head of General Joseph Lane’s Division
when a courier delivered a personal gift from Sam Colt; two engraved “Walker”
Colts. He and his men had fought for the first few months using personal and army
issue weapons, and thanks to an inept supply system, the Colts still languished
on the Vera Cruz docks.
General Scott, having attacked and occupied Mexico
City, was pressing General Lane to advance on Puebla where a small American force
was besieged by 4000 Mexicans under the personal command of Santa Anna. After
conferring with Walker on October 8, Lane decided to attack the Mexican advance
force at Huamantla. The Rangers would lead the assault, and with an obsession
to capture Santa Anna, Sam Walker would have had it no other way.
following morning, Lane ordered Sam to remain within support distance of his main
force as he began a cautious approach on the small town. Within minutes Walker’s
scouts reported the Mexicans deploying to ambush General Lane’s approaching troops,
and disregarding Lane’s order to stay close, Sam immediately ordered his 250 Rangers
to attack a weak point in the enemy’s lines. The Rangers drove deep into the Mexican
lines, but their lightning advance left them open to a counterattack by Santa
Anna. Fighting became close and vicious with no quarter being asked or given by
Battle Of Vera Cruz, Painting
by Carl Nebel|
When Lane and
his reinforcements arrived, nearly an hour after the fight had started, the enemy
was in total disarray. The Mexicans suffered 461 casualties during the intense
battle and the Rangers had 47 wounded and 27 dead, among them Sam Walker. Though
he had been killed, his victory over Santa Anna was complete. The remainder of
the Mexican troops at Huamantla fled the field, only to be hunted down like animals
over the next two days by the vengeful Rangers, many of whom were Sam’s long-time
friends from Texas. Santa Anna somehow managed to elude the Texans and ended up
exiled in Jamaica, but his government was shattered.
On October 12, General
Lane moved his forces into Puebla, breaking the siege, and most of the regular
Mexican Army units ceased hostilities. However, guerilla activity continued against
Scott’s supply line to Vera Cruz until the arrival of a regiment of Texas Rangers
under the command of Jack Hays. Finally putting the “Walker” Colt to the use Sam
had envisioned, the Rangers devastated the guerillas with the weapon’s overwhelming
The War with Mexico officially ended with the signing of the
Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo on February 2, 1848. Sam Walker’s fame had spread
far and wide by the end of the war, and his passing was headline news in every
newspaper in America. Walker’s body was returned to San
Antonio for burial.
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for "Sam Walker Texas Ranger and the “Walker” Colt"
|Bauer, Jack K.
; Johannsen, Robert W. (1992), The Mexican War, 1846-1848, New York: Macmillan.Dunn,
Betty, Texas Ranger Samuel H. Walker, Texas Center for Regional Studies,
William (1996), The Making of an American Legend, University of Massachusetts
Press, ISBN 979-1558490437.Levinson,
Irving (2005), Wars within Wars: Mexican Guerrillas 1846-1848, Fort Worth,
TX: Texas Christian University Press.Nieman,
Robert, Texas Ranger Dispatch Magazine, Issue 9, Winter 2002, http://texasranger.org/dispatch/9/Walker.htm
[4/30/2009], retrieved April 10, 2013.Spurlin,
Charles D., Walker, Samuel Hamilton, Handbook of Texas Online, http:/tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwa23,
retrieved March22, 2013, Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Witt, Gerald, The History of Eastern Kerr County, Austin, Texas, Nortex
Press, 1986, pp. 100-106.
The Occupation of Mexico, May 1846, July 1848,
http:/history.army.mil/brochures/occupation.htm , retrieved April 10, 2013. |
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