William Walker (May 8, 1824 – September 12, 1860) was an American physician, lawyer, journalist and mercenary who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America, with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as "filibustering". Walker usurped the presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled until 1857, when he was defeated by a coalition of Central American armies. He returned in an attempt to reestablish his control of the region and was captured and executed by the government of Honduras in 1860.
|President of the Republic of Nicaragua|
July 12, 1856 – May 1, 1857
|Preceded by||Patricio Rivas|
|Succeeded by||Máximo Jerez and Tomás Martínez|
|1st President of the Republic of Sonora|
January 21, 1854 – May 8, 1854
|1st President of the Republic of Lower California|
November 3, 1853 – January 21, 1854
|Born||May 8, 1824|
|Died||September 12, 1860 (aged 36)|
|Cause of death||Firing squad|
|Resting place||Old Trujillo Cemetery, Trujillo, Colón, Honduras|
|Political party||Democratic (Nicaragua)|
Walker was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1824 to James Walker and his wife Mary Norvell. His father was an English immigrant. His mother was the daughter of Lipscomb Norvell, an American Revolutionary War officer from Virginia. One of Walker's maternal uncles was John Norvell, a Senator from Michigan and founder of The Philadelphia Inquirer. William Walker was engaged to Ellen Martin, but she died of yellow fever before they could be married, and he died without children.
William Walker graduated summa cum laude from the University of Nashville at the age of fourteen. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and University of Heidelberg before receiving his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania at the age of 19. He practiced briefly in Philadelphia before moving to New Orleans to study law.
He practiced law for a short time, then quit to become co-owner and editor of the New Orleans Crescent. In 1849, he moved to San Francisco, where he was a journalist and fought three duels; he was wounded in two of them. Walker then conceived the idea of conquering vast regions of Latin America and creating new slave states to join those already part of the United States. These campaigns were known as filibustering or freebooting.
William Walker first gained national attention after his duel with William Hicks Graham on January 12, 1851, in San Francisco. Walker was the editor of the San Francisco Herald while Graham was a clerk in the employ of Judge R. N. Morrison. Walker criticized Graham and his colleagues in the newspapers, which angered Graham and prompted him to challenge Walker to a duel. Graham was a notorious gunman and duellist in his time, having taken part in a number of duels and shootouts in the Old West. Walker on the other hand, had experience dueling with single-shot pistols at one time, but his duel with Graham was fought with revolvers.
The combatants met at Mission Dolores and each was given a Colt Dragoon with five shots. They stood face-to-face at ten paces, and at the signal of a referee aimed and tried to fire. Graham managed to fire two bullets, hitting Walker in his pantaloons and his thigh, seriously wounding him. Walker, though he tried a number of times to shoot his weapon during the duel, failed to fire even a single shot and Graham was left unscathed. The duel ended when the wounded Walker conceded. Graham was arrested but was quickly released. The duel was recorded in The Daily Alta California.
In the summer of 1853, Walker traveled to Guaymas, seeking a grant from the government of Mexico to create a colony. He said the colony would serve as a fortified frontier, protecting US soil from Indian raids. Mexico refused, and Walker returned to San Francisco determined to obtain his colony, regardless of Mexico's position.
He began recruiting American supporters of slavery and Manifest Destiny doctrine, mostly inhabitants of Kentucky and Tennessee. His plans then expanded from forming a buffer colony to establishing an independent Republic of Sonora, which might eventually take its place as a part of the American Union as the Republic of Texas had done. He funded his project by "selling scrips which were redeemable in lands of Sonora."
On October 15, 1853, Walker set out with 45 men to conquer the Mexican territories of Baja California Territory and Sonora State. He succeeded in capturing La Paz, the capital of sparsely populated Baja California, which he declared the capital of a new Republic of Lower California, with himself as president and his former law partner, Henry P. Watkins, as vice president. He then put the region under the laws of the American state of Louisiana, which made slavery legal.
Fearful of attacks by Mexico, Walker moved his headquarters twice over the next three months, first to Cabo San Lucas, and then further north to Ensenada to maintain a more secure position of operations. Although he never gained control of Sonora, less than three months later, he pronounced Baja California part of the larger Republic of Sonora. Lack of supplies and strong resistance by the Mexican government quickly forced Walker to retreat.
Back in California, he was put on trial for conducting an illegal war, in violation of the Neutrality Act of 1794. Nevertheless, in the era of Manifest Destiny, his filibustering project was popular in the southern and western United States and the jury took eight minutes to acquit him.
Since there was no inter-oceanic route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the time, and the transcontinental railway did not yet exist, a major trade route between New York City and San Francisco ran through southern Nicaragua. Ships from New York entered the San Juan River from the Atlantic and sailed across Lake Nicaragua. People and goods were then transported by stagecoach across a narrow strip of land near the city of Rivas, before reaching the Pacific and ships to San Francisco. The commercial exploitation of this route had been granted by Nicaragua to the Accessory Transit Company, controlled by shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt.
In 1854, a civil war erupted in Nicaragua between the Legitimist Party (also called the Conservative Party), based in the city of Granada, and the Democratic Party (also called the Liberal Party), based in León. The Democratic Party sought military support from Walker who, to circumvent U.S. neutrality laws, obtained a contract from Democratic president Francisco Castellón to bring as many as three hundred colonists to Nicaragua. These mercenaries received the right to bear arms in the service of the Democratic government. Walker sailed from San Francisco on May 3, 1855, with approximately 60 men. Upon landing, the force was reinforced by 110 locals. With Walker's expeditionary force was the well-known explorer and journalist Charles Wilkins Webber as well as the English adventurer Charles Frederick Henningsen, a veteran of the First Carlist War, the Hungarian Revolution, and the war in Circassia.
With Castellón's consent, Walker attacked the Legitimists in the town of Rivas, near the trans-isthmian route. He was driven off, but not without inflicting heavy casualties. In this First Battle of Rivas a school teacher called Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio (1834–1872) burned the Filibuster headquarters. On September 4, during the Battle of La Virgen, Walker defeated the Legitimist army. On October 13, he conquered the Legitimist capital of Granada and took effective control of the country. Initially, as commander of the army, Walker ruled Nicaragua through provisional President Patricio Rivas. U.S. President Franklin Pierce recognized Walker's regime as the legitimate government of Nicaragua on May 20, 1856. However, Walker's first ambassadorial appointment, Colonel Parker H. French, was refused recognition.
Walker's actions in the region caused concern in neighboring countries and potential American and European investors who feared he would pursue further military conquests in Central America. C. K. Garrison and Charles Morgan, subordinates of Cornelius Vanderbilt's Accessory Transit Company, provided financial and logistical support to the Filibusters in exchange for Walker, as ruler of Nicaragua, seizing the company's property (on the pretext of a charter violation) and turning it over to Garrison and Morgan. Outraged, Vanderbilt dispatched two secret agents to the Costa Rican government with plans to fight Walker. They would help regain control of Vanderbilt's steamboats which had become a logistical lifeline for Walker's army.
Concerned about Walker's intentions in the region, Costa Rican President Juan Rafael Mora Porras rejected Walker's diplomatic overtures and began preparing the country's military for a potential conflict. Walker organized a battalion of four companies, of which one was composed of Germans, a second of Frenchmen, and the other two of Americans, totaling 240 men placed under the command of Colonel Schlessinger to invade Costa Rica in a preemptive action. This advance force was defeated at the Battle of Santa Rosa on March 20, 1856.
The most important strategic defeat of Walker came during the Campaign of 1856–57 when the Costa Rican army, led by President Juan Rafael Mora Porras, General José Joaquín Mora Porras (the president's brother), and General José María Cañas (1809–1860), defeated the Filibusters in Rivas, Nicaragua on April 11, 1856 (the Second Battle of Rivas). It was in this battle that the soldier and drummer Juan Santamaría sacrificed himself by setting the Filibuster stronghold on fire. In parallel with Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio in Nicaragua, Santamaría would become Costa Rica's national hero. Walker deliberately contaminated the water wells of Rivas with corpses. Later, a cholera epidemic spread to the Costa Rican troops and the civilian population of the city of Rivas. Within a few months nearly 10,000 civilians had died, almost 10 percent of the population of Costa Rica.
From the north, President José Santos Guardiola sent Honduran troops under the leadership of the Xatruch brothers, who joined Salvadoran troops to fight Walker. Florencio Xatruch led his troops against Walker and the filibusters in la Puebla, Rivas. Later, because of the opposition of other Central American armies, José Joaquín Mora Porras was made Commandant General-in-Chief of the Allied Armies of Central America in the Third Battle of Rivas (April 1857).
During this civil war, Honduras and El Salvador recognized Xatruch as brigade and division general. On June 12, 1857, after Walker surrendered, Xatruch made a triumphant entrance to Comayagua, which was then the capital of Honduras. The nickname by which Hondurans are known popularly still today, Catracho, and the more infamous nickname Salvadorans are known today, Salvatrucho are derived from Xatruch's figure and successful campaign as leader of the allied armies of Central America, as the troops of El Salvador and Honduras were national heroes, fighting side by side as Central American brothers against William Walker's troops.
As the general and his soldiers returned from battle, some Nicaraguans affectionately yelled out "¡Vienen los xatruches!" ("Here come Xatruch's boys!") However, Nicaraguans had so much trouble pronouncing the general's last name (a northeastern Spanish name, like Guardiola) that they altered the phrase to "los catruches" and ultimately settled on "los catrachos."
A key role was played by the Costa Rican Army in unifying the other Central American armies to fight against Filibusters. The "Campaign of the Transit" (1857), is the name given by Costa Rican historians to the groups of several battles fought by the Costa Rican Army, supervised by Colonel Salvador Mora, and led by Colonel Blanco and Colonel Salazar at the San Juan River. By establishing control of this bi-national river at its border with Nicaragua, Costa Rica prevented military reinforcements from reaching Walker and his Filibuster troops via the Caribbean Sea. Also Costa Rican diplomacy neutralized U.S. official support for Walker by taking advantage of the dispute between the magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt and William Walker.
Walker took up residence in Granada and set himself up as President of Nicaragua, after conducting a fraudulent election. He was inaugurated on July 12, 1856, and soon launched an Americanization program, reinstating slavery, declaring English an official language and reorganizing currency and fiscal policy to encourage immigration from the United States. Realizing that his position was becoming precarious, he sought support from the Southerners in the U.S. by recasting his campaign as a fight to spread the institution of black slavery, which was the basis of the Southern agrarian economy. With this in mind, Walker revoked Nicaragua's emancipation edict of 1821. This move increased Walker's popularity in the South and attracted the attention of Pierre Soulé, an influential New Orleans politician, who campaigned to raise support for Walker's war. Nevertheless, Walker's army was weakened by massive defections and an epidemic of cholera, and was finally defeated by the Central American coalition led by Costa Rican President Juan Rafael Mora Porras (1814–1860).
On October 12, 1856, Guatemalan Colonel José Víctor Zavala crossed the square of the city to the house where Walker's soldiers took shelter. Under heavy fire, he reached the enemy's flag and carried it back with him, shouting to his men that the Filibuster bullets did not kill.
On December 14, 1856, as Granada was surrounded by 4,000 Costa Rican, Honduran, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan troops, Charles Frederick Henningsen, one of Walker's generals, ordered his men to set the city ablaze before escaping and fighting their way to Lake Nicaragua. When retreating from Granada, the oldest Spanish colonial city in Nicaragua, he left a detachment with orders to level it in order to instill, as he put it, "a salutary dread of American justice". It took them over two weeks to smash, burn and flatten the city; all that remained were inscriptions on the ruins that read "Aqui Fue Granada" ("Here was Granada").
On May 1, 1857, Walker surrendered to Commander Charles Henry Davis of the United States Navy under the pressure of Costa Rica and the Central American armies, and was repatriated. Upon disembarking in New York City, he was greeted as a hero, but he alienated public opinion when he blamed his defeat on the U.S. Navy. Within six months, he set off on another expedition, but he was arrested by the U.S. Navy Home Squadron under the command of Commodore Hiram Paulding and once again returned to the U.S. amid considerable public controversy over the legality of the navy's actions.
After writing an account of his Central American campaign (published in 1860 as War in Nicaragua), Walker once again returned to the region. British colonists in Roatán, in the Bay Islands, fearing that the government of Honduras would move to assert its control over them, approached Walker with an offer to help him in establishing a separate, English-speaking government over the islands. Walker disembarked in the port city of Trujillo, but soon fell into the custody of Commander Nowell Salmon (later Admiral Sir Nowell Salmon) of the British Royal Navy. The British government controlled the neighboring regions of British Honduras (now Belize) and the Mosquito Coast (now part of Nicaragua) and had considerable strategic and economic interest in the construction of an inter-oceanic canal through Central America. It therefore regarded Walker as a menace to its own affairs in the region.
Rather than return him to the US, for reasons that remain unclear, Salmon sailed to Trujillo and delivered Walker to the Honduran authorities, together with his chief of staff, Colonel A. F. Rudler. Rudler was sentenced to four years in the mines, but Walker was sentenced to death, and executed by firing squad, near the site of the present-day hospital, on September 12, 1860. William Walker was 36 years old. He is buried in the "Old Cemetery", Trujillo, Colón, Honduras.
William Walker convinced many Southerners of the desirability of creating a slave-holding empire in tropical Latin America. In 1861, when U.S. Senator John J. Crittenden proposed that the 36°30' parallel north be declared as a line of demarcation between free and slave territories, some Republicans denounced such an arrangement, saying that it "would amount to a perpetual covenant of war against every people, tribe, and State owning a foot of land between here and Tierra del Fuego."
Before the end of the American Civil War, Walker's memory enjoyed great popularity in the southern and western United States, where he was known as "General Walker" and as the "gray-eyed man of destiny". Northerners, on the other hand, generally regarded him as a pirate. Despite his intelligence and personal charm, Walker consistently proved to be a limited military and political leader. Unlike men of similar ambition, such as Cecil Rhodes, Walker's grandiose scheming ultimately failed against the union of Central American people.
In Central American countries, the successful military campaign of 1856–1857 against William Walker became a source of national pride and identity, and it was later promoted by local historians and politicians as substitute for the war of independence that Central America had not experienced. April 11 is a Costa Rican national holiday in memory of Walker's defeat at Rivas. Juan Santamaría, who played a key role in that battle, is honored as one of two Costa Rican national heroes, the other one being Juan Rafael Mora himself. The main airport serving San José (in Alajuela) is named in Santamaría's honor.
Walker's campaign has inspired two films, both of which take considerable liberties with his story: Burn! (1969) directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, starring Marlon Brando, and Walker (1987) directed by Alex Cox, starring Ed Harris. Walker's name is used for the main character in Burn!, though the character is not meant to represent the historical William Walker and is portrayed as British. On the other hand, Alex Cox's Walker incorporates into its surrealist narrative many of the signposts of William Walker's life and exploits, including his original excursions into northern Mexico to his trial and acquittal on breaking the neutrality act to the triumph of his assault on Nicaragua and his execution.
In Part Five, Chapter 48, of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell cites William Walker, "and how he died against a wall in Truxillo", as a topic of conversation between Rhett Butler and his filibustering acquaintances, while Rhett and Scarlett O'Hara are on honeymoon in New Orleans.
William Walker is a little-known figure in American history, evidenced in 1988 when President George H. W. Bush selected a new ambassador for El Salvador to ease tensions following the Central American crisis, whose name was, by chance, William Walker.
Events from the year 1860 in the United States.Alexander P. Crittenden
Alexander Parker Crittenden (January 14, 1816 – November 5, 1870) was a 19th-century pioneer American attorney and politician, and a member of the influential Crittenden family of Kentucky. Crittenden was killed by his mistress, Laura Fair, whilst sitting with the wife who he had sworn to leave.Burr conspiracy
The Burr conspiracy was a suspected treasonous cabal of US planters, politicians, and army officers in the early 19th century. The alleged cabal was led by Aaron Burr, the former Vice President of the United States (1801–1805). According to the accusations against him, his goal was to create an independent country in the center of North America including the Southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. Burr's version was that he intended to farm 40,000 acres (160 km2) in the Texas Territory which had been leased to him by the Spanish Crown.
President Thomas Jefferson ordered Burr arrested and indicted for treason, despite a lack of firm evidence. Burr's true intentions remain unclear to historians; some claim that he intended to take parts of Texas and the Louisiana Purchase for himself, others, that he intended to conquer Mexico, and yet others, that he planned to conquer most of the North American continent. The number of men backing him is also unclear, with accounts varying from less than forty to over seven-thousand. He was acquitted of treason, but the trial destroyed his already faltering political career.Butterworth Stavely
Butterworth Stavely is a fictional character in Mark Twain's 1879 story "The Great Revolution in Pitcairn". He is an American adventurer and filibuster who instigates a coup d'état and has himself crowned Butterworth I, Emperor of Pitcairn's Island.
Twain based his story on one sentence in a naval report by Admiral Algernon Frederick Rous de Horsey: "One stranger, an American, has settled on the island – a doubtful acquisition", which probably referred to Peter Butler, a survivor of the 1875 Khandeish shipwreck. The story was probably also inspired by the life of Joshua Hill, a real-life American dictator of Pitcairn in the 1830s.Stavely rises to political power by exploiting the internal divisions and suspicions surrounding a lawsuit between Thursday October Christian II and Elizabeth Mills Young waged over a trespassing chicken. His machinations lead to the impeachment of the chief magistrate James Russell Nickoy, Stavely's election as magistrate, a revolt against the "galling English yoke", and his coronation as emperor.
Stavely's cynical manipulation of the easily corruptible islanders has been interpreted as an indictment of Western imperialism and the cultural tyranny of American missionaries.Crabb massacre
The Crabb massacre was the culmination of the eight-day Battle of Caborca. It was fought between Mexico and their O'odham allies against American forces in April 1857. Due to the outbreak of the Reform War in Mexico, the rebel Ygnacio Pesqueira invited the American politician Henry A. Crabb to colonize the northern frontier region in the state of Sonora, on the basis that the colonists would help Pesqueira fight in the civil war and against the Apache. However, when Crabb arrived in Mexico, his command was attacked and ultimately defeated. Some 50 survivors of the battle, out of about 85 men, were murdered by the Mexicans.Elizabeth Oakes Smith
Elizabeth Oakes Smith (August 12, 1806 – November 16, 1893) was a poet, fiction writer, editor, lecturer, and women's rights activist whose career spanned six decades, from the 1830s to the 1880s. Most well- known at the start of her professional career for her poem "The Sinless Child" which appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1842, her reputation today rests on her feminist writings, including "Woman and Her Needs", a series of essays published in the New York Tribune between 1850 and 1851 that argued for women's spiritual and intellectual capacities as well as women's equal rights to political and economic opportunities, including rights of franchise and higher education.Filibuster (military)
A filibuster or freebooter, in the context of foreign policy, is someone who engages in an (at least nominally) unauthorized military expedition into a foreign country or territory to foment or support a revolution. The term is usually used to describe United States citizens who fomented insurrections in Latin America, particularly in the mid-19th century (Texas, California, Cuba, Nicaragua, Colombia). Filibuster expeditions have also occasionally been used as cover for government-approved deniable operations.
Filibusters are irregular soldiers who (normally) act without official authority from their own government, and are generally motivated by financial gain, political ideology, or the thrill of adventure. The freewheeling actions of the filibusters of the 1850s led to the name being applied figuratively to the political act of filibustering in the United States Congress.Unlike a mercenary, a filibuster leader/commander works for himself, whilst a mercenary leader works for others.Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon
Charles Rene Gaston Gustave de Raousset-Boulbon (May 5, 1817 - August 13, 1854) was a French adventurer, filibuster and entrepreneur and, by some accounts a pirate, and a theoretician of colonialism.Patricio Rivas
Patricio Rivas, a wealthy Nicaraguan lawyer, was Acting President (then called Supreme Director) of Nicaragua from 30 June 1839 to 27 July 1839 and from 21 September 1840 to 4 March 1841. Later he served as a President of one of the several competing governments of Nicaragua from 30 October 1855 to 24 June 1857. However, he was merely a puppet president; rule was held by William Walker. He belonged to the Democratic Party (Liberal Party).
Rivas provisionally occupied the Presidency of the Republic of this Central American country during the worst period of the National War of Nicaragua, between October 25, 1855 and June 24, 1857. He had to face the parallel governments of the entreguista Fermín Ferrer (legitimist) and the usurper William Walker (filibuster).
He briefly served as interim Supreme Director of the State of Nicaragua from June 30 to July 27, 1839, before being popularly elected as Supreme Director, a position he held from September 21, 1840 to March 4, 1841 .
In 1855, Patricio Rivas was appointed Provisional President as a result of an agreement signed in Granada between the Legitimist General Ponciano Corral and the filibuster William Walker, de facto head of the democratic side. This agreement was rejected by the legitimist José María Estrada who was the Acting President.
Rivas had the support of Walker at the beginning of his government. Due to the patriotic attitude of the government of the Costa Rican President Juan Rafael Mora Porras against the presence of the filibusters in Nicaragua, the government of Rivas declared war on Costa Rica in early 1856, invading Guanacaste. However, the Costa Ricans commanded by Juan Rafael Mora, defeated the filibusters in the battle of Santa Rosa and the Second Battle of Rivas (not to be confused with the First Battle of June 29, 1855, and in which Enmauelle Mongalo had a role heroic to burn the Mesón de Máximo Espinoza).
The candidacies of Rivas, Máximo Jerez and Trinidad Salazar were presented at convened elections to elect a new President. None obtained an absolute majority and it seemed that Congress was going to choose Jerez. However, Walker wanted to be called new elections. Rivas, eager to get rid of the tutelage of the filibuster, moved from Granada to León, where Walker arrived in June 1856, still in apparent cordiality. But, when Walker left, Rivas moved the government to Chinandega and repealed his decree calling for elections. Walker then announced in Granada the deposition of Rivas and his replacement by the proxy government of Fermín Ferrer.
Rivas declared Walker a traitor in Nicaragua, and remained at the head of the government in the western region of the country, where the armies of Guatemala and El Salvador arrived shortly after, attacking the cities of Granada and Masaya. For its part, the Costa Rican army expelled the filibusters from the San Juan river basin.
Walker capitulated on May 1, 1857. Shortly thereafter, on June 24, a triumvirate took office, composed of Máximo Jerez and Tomás Martínez Guerrero, which ended the turbulent government of Patricio Rivas.
Rivas was popularly known with the nickname of "Patas Arribas."
1 in León.
|Types of pirate|
|Pirate battles and incidents|