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Who Killed Capt. Walker? by Jonathan F. Kelley

 

Few incidents of the campaign in Mexico seem so mixed up and indefinite as that relative to the taking of Huamantla, and the death of that noble and chivalric officer, Capt. Walker. In glancing over the papers of Major Mammond, of Georgia, which he designates the “Secondary Combats of the Mexican War,” we observe that he has given an account of the engagement at Huamantla, and the fall of Walker. We believe the Major's account, compiled as it is from “the documents,” to be in the main correct, but lacking incidental pith, and slightly erroneous in the grand denouement, in which our gallant friend—whose manly countenance even now stares us in the face, as if in life he “yet lived”—yielded up the balance of power on earth.

We have taken some pains, and a great deal of interest surely, in coming at the facts; and no time seems so proper as the present—several of the chivalric gentlemen of that day and occasion, being now around us—to give the story its veritable exhibition of true interest.

Capt. S. H. Walker was a Marylander, a young man of the truest possible heroism and gallantry. He entered upon the campaign with all the ardor and enterprise of a soldier devoted to the best interests of his country. He commanded a company of mounted men, whose bravery was only equalled by his own, and whose discipline and hardiness has been unsurpassed, if equalled, by any troops of the world. We shall skip over the thousand and one incidents of the line of action in which Walker, Lewis, and their brave companions in arms did gallant service, to come at the sanguinary and truly thrilling denouement.

Gen. Lane, after the landing and organization of his troops at Vera Cruz, with some 2500 men, started for Puebla, where it was understood that Col. Childs required reinforcement. Lane left Jalapa on the 1st of October, and hurried forward with Lally's command. At Perote, Lane learned that Santa Anna would throw himself upon his muscle, and give the advancing columns jessy at the pass of Pinal, and there was every prospect of a very tight time. Col. Wynkoop was in command at Perote; the men were anxious to be “in” at the fight in prospective, and Wynkoop obtained permission to join the General with four companies of the Pennsylvania Regiment; a small battery of the 3d Artillery, under command of Capt. Taylor, with Capts. Walker, of the Texan Rangers, and Lewis, of the Louisiana Cavalry. The column was now swelled to some 2800. They moved rapidly forward, and upon reaching Tamaris, Lane heard that the old fox was off—Santa Anna had gone to Huamantla. Lane determined to hunt him up with haste. The main force was left at Tamaris. Troops were forwarded—advanced by Walker's Rangers and Lewis's Cavalry—who approached to within sight, or nearly so, of Huamantla. The orders to Walker were to advance to the town, and if the Mexicans were in force, to wait for the Infantry to come up. Walker's command rated about 200 men. Upon reaching the outskirts of Huamantla, the Mexican Cavalry were seen dashing forward into the town, and the brave Walker ordered a pursuit.

Santa Anna was evidently in the town. Capt. Walker, says his gallant comrade Lewis, made up his mind to be the captor of the wily old chief. The fair prospect of accomplishing the deed so excited Walker, that danger and death were alike secondary considerations, and so the command charged into the town. Some 500 lancers met the charge, but with terrific impetuosity the Rangers and Cavalry dashed in among them, cutting them down right and left, and soon sent them flying in all directions! It was at this moment, says Capt. Lewis, that one of the most heroic acts of bravery was performed, unsurpassed, perhaps, by any act of personal daring during the whole war! A tremendous negro, a fine, manly fellow, named Dave, belonging to Capt. Walker, with whom he was brought up—boys together—being mounted, and armed with a heavy sabre, dashed forward down a narrow street, (up which, a detached body of lancers were striving to escape,) and throwing himself between three poised lances and the person of Dr. Lamar, one of the surgeons, who would have been most inevitably torn to atoms, Dave raised himself in his saddle, and with a yell, and one fell swoop, the heroic fellow “chopped down” a lancer, clean and clear to his saddle! Two lancers pierced Dave's body, and he fell from his horse, dead!

Charging up to the Plaza—the Mexicans flying—Capt. Walker dismounted, with some thirty of his men, and advanced up a flight of steps to force an entrance into a church or convent, where he supposed Santa Anna was hid away. The flying lancers were pursued by the Rangers, who, very injudiciously, of course, scattered themselves over the town.

Capt. Lewis, in the mean time, had found a large yard attached to a temporary garrison, in which were some sixty horses, equipped ready for immediate use, and which the Mexicans had, in their hurry to escape, left behind them! The irregular firing of the Rangers, in pursuit of the Mexicans, being deemed useless and unnecessary, Capt. Lewis left several of his men, among whom was “Country McCluskey,” the noted pugilist, a volunteer in Capt. Lewis's company, to guard the horses, while he rode forward to the convent.

“Capt. Walker,” said Lewis, “I deem it, sir, not only useless, but bad policy, to allow that firing by the men, around the town.”

Capt. Walker immediately ordered the firing to cease, and being apprized of Capt. Lewis's discovery of the horses, &c., ordered him to bring up his command. Capt. Lewis wheeled his horse; some one fired close by, and Capt. Walker cried out—

“Who was that? I'll shoot down the next man who fires against my orders!”

At that moment three guns were fired from the convent—and simultaneously a cannon was fired down the street, from a party of Mexicans in the distance. Capt. Lewis faced about just in time to see Capt. Walker drop down upon the steps of the convent, as he emphatically expresses it,—

“Like a lump of lead, sir!”

The piece up the street was fired again. Capt. Lewis ordered the fallen, gallant Walker, to be placed upon the steps close to the wall. A shot from the piece alluded to striking off the stone and mortar, he ordered the doors to be forced, and Capt. Walker to be taken in, which was done. The bugle sounded, and in an instant a horde of lancers poured into the town, rushing down upon the Americans from every avenue! Capt. Lewis had wheeled about to collect his men, when he found McCluskey and others leading out “the pick” of the captured horses.

“Drop—drop the horses, you fool, and mount! Mount, sir, mount!”

They mounted fast enough; Lewis formed, and met the enemy in gallant style; and though there were ten, aye, twenty to one, possibly, he drove them back! To quote our friend, Major Hammond's words, “Lewis, of the Louisiana Cavalry, assumed command, struggled ably to preserve the guns (captured), and held his position fairly, until assistance arrived.”

One hundred and fifty of the enemy fell, while of the Rangers and Cavalry some twenty-five were killed and wounded. They were engaged nearly an hour, and the bravery displayed by Walker, Lewis, and their men, was worthy of general admiration, and all honor.

Poor Walker! a ball struck him in the left shoulder, passed over his heart, and came out in his right vest pocket!

Thus fell the gallant leader of one of the most formidable war parties, of its numbers, known to history. Walker was a humane, impulsive man; a warm friend, a brave, gallant soldier. His dying words were directed to Capt. Lewis—to keep the town, and drive back the enemy; and that the chivalrous Captain did so, was well proven. Capt. Walker, and his heroic “boy” Dave, who fell unknown to his master, were buried together in the earth they so lately stood upon, in all the glory and heroism of men that were men!

 
 
 

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