Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Walker, William (adventurer)

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WALKER, William, adventurer, b. in Nashville, Tenn., 8 May, 1824; d. in Trujillo, Honduras, 12 Sept., 1860. He studied law in Nashville and medicine in Heidelberg, Germany, was a journalist in New Orleans and San Francisco, and finally settled in the practice of law in Marysville, Cal. In July, 1853, he organized an expedition for the conquest of the state of Sonora, Mexico, and, eluding the vigilance of the authorities of the port of San Francisco, early in November landed at La Paz, Lower California, with 170 men and three field-guns. He then issued a manifesto to the people, proclaimed himself president of the Pacific republic, and, having received re-enforcements, set out in January, 1854, for Sonora. He was pursued by a strong force of Mexicans, and, as he was near the frontier, he surrendered to the U. S. commander at San Diego, Cal. In May, 1854, he was tried at San Francisco for violating the neutrality laws, and was acquitted. He continued to plan expeditions against Sonora, but was compelled to abandon them, and in 1855 he was induced by American speculators in Nicaragua to interfere in the intestine troubles in that country, ostensibly in aid of the Democratic party there. He landed at Realejo on 11 June, with sixty-two followers, was joined by a small native force, and endeavored to take possession of the southern transit route. He was defeated at Rivas, but, being re-enforced with 170 native soldiers, routed the Nicaraguan army of 540 men at La Virgen on 1 Sept., took possession of the city of Grenada on 15 Oct., and by a treaty with Gen. Ponciano Corral, the opposing leader, was made secretary of war and commander-in-chief. Recruits rapidly arrived from the United States, and on 1 March, 1856, Walker had 1,200 men. In the mean time he charged Corral with conspiracy, presided over a court-martial for his trial, and sentenced him to be shot on 8 Nov., 1855. War began with Costa Rica, and Walker was defeated at Guanacaste on 20 March, 1856, but routed the enemy at Rivas on 11 April, and hostilities ceased. He was then in undisputed control of Nicaragua, but to replenish his treasury he broke up the interoceanic transit route by confiscating the property and revoking the charter of the Vanderbilt steamship company. He caused himself to be elected president, and in September, 1856, annulled the existing prohibition of slavery. His minister, whom he sent to Washington, was recognized by President Pierce. Walker's arbitrary acts soon provoked an insurrection, which was assisted by several surrounding states and by agents of the Vanderbilt company. He was defeated in several encounters, burned the city of Grenada, which he was unable to hold, and on 1 Mav, 1857, surrendered with sixteen officers, at San Juan del Sur, to Com. Charles H. Davis, of the U. S. sloop-of-war “Mary,” which conveyed him to Panama. Thence he went to New Orleans and was put under bonds to keep the peace, but returned to Nicaragua in November. He soon organized a new force, but in December Com. Hiram Paulding, of the U. S. navy, compelled him and his 132 men to surrender, and took them to New York. President Buchanan declined to recognize Walker as a prisoner, on the ground that his arrest on foreign soil was illegal. He sailed with a new expedition from Mobile, Ala., in October, 1858, but was arrested at the mouth of Mississippi river and tried at New Orleans and acquitted. In June, 1860, he again set out with a small force from that city, intending to create a revolution in Honduras. He reached Trujillo and issued a proclamation against the government; but his arrest was demanded by the commander of the British man-of-war “Icarus,” and he was forced to retreat to Tinto river, where he surrendered on 3 Sept., 1860. The commander of the “Icarus” delivered him to the Honduras authorities on their demand, and he was tried by court-martial and shot. He published “The War in Nicaragua” (Mobile, 1860). See also “Walker's Expedition to Nicaragua” by William Vincent Wells (New York, 1856) and “Reminiscences of the Filibuster War in Nicaragua,” by Col. Charles W. Doubleday (1886).