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Samuel Walker: the real Walker, Texas Ranger

One of the most adorable Texas Rangers of all time was Samuel Hamilton Walker—no relation to, shall we say, the fictional Chuck Norris character Cordell Walker. Many Ranger fans consider Sam Walker to be the second most important Texas Ranger of all time after Jack Coffey Hayes, with whom Walker worked as a ranger. Now this is a dream team.

Samuel Walker arrived in Texas six years after Texas gained independence. In another five years, in 1847, he would die. But in those five years, he would defend San Antonio from Mexican troops, invade Mexico four times, escape a Mexican prison, and help develop one of the most famous pistols in history, the six-shot Colt Walker.

Walker’s first foray into Mexico was part of Mier’s ill-fated expedition to punish Mexico for its illegal incursions into San Antonio. Walker was not yet a Texas Ranger. He was with a group of people who thought they would pay back Mexico for their illegal incursions into Texas. His group was attacked by a much larger army of Mexican troops who were defending Mier. 180 Texans were taken prisoner.

Santa Anna ordered them all to be shot, but the more cold-blooded in the Mexican government prevailed, and instead an extermination took place: one in ten would die. The Texans were ordered to pull the bean out of the pot. Among the 159 white beans, there were 17 black ones. Those who received black beans were executed on the spot; those who painted white beans will live. Sam Walker got white beans.

The prisoners were driven 800 miles through the brutal deserts of Mexico. Walker mentioned in his journal of Mier’s expedition that he would not trade Texas for 100 Mexicans. However, he was impressed by the fine architecture he encountered in the churches of San Miguel de Allende, which remains true for the many expatriate Texans who live there today.

Once in the capital, some of the prisoners, including Walker, were imprisoned in Takubaya, a suburb of Mexico City, and some walked another 100 miles and were imprisoned in the infamous Perote prison.
Walker’s group was forced to do road work, including building a road from Mexico City to Santa Anna’s summer villa, further angering Walker. It was a lot of salt in a deep wound, and he harbored hatred for Santa Anna – and for all Mexicans – all his life, so much that his friends called him “crazy Walker.”

There is a widespread myth about Walker’s time in prison in Mexico. The story goes that he was ordered to dig a hole for the flagpole and raise the Mexican flag. According to one version of the legend, he placed a coin at the bottom of the pit and vowed to one day return, return the coin, and raise the Texas flag. The story goes that a few years later he took his cent back when he returned with American troops to occupy Mexico City. It’s a good story, but probably not true. Walker never mentioned it in his journals. In addition, the flagpole in various versions of the myth is always located in the Perote prison in the state of Vera Cruz, and Walker was never imprisoned there. However, he was part of Winfield Scott’s invasion force that sacked the prison in 1847, and it is possible that this is where the legend originates.

Walker eventually escaped from Takubaya Prison—a story that could have made a good novel in its own right—and returned to Texas. He joined Jack Hayes and the Texas Rangers in 1844 and fought in many of the most famous Indian battles.

When General Zachary Taylor sent out a call for volunteers to scout his federal troops in 1845, Walker immediately signed up. He sent messages through Mexican lines of communication to inform Fort Texas (soon to become Fort Brown) of Taylor’s plans to invade Mexico. Walker led the battle for Monterrey.
It was after Taylor’s forces captured Monterrey in 1846 that Walker took a short leave and headed back east. There he shared with Samuel Colt some ideas for improving an earlier model of Colt’s revolver called the Paterson pistol. Colt, in gratitude, named a special, very heavy model of his new six-shooter after Walker.

Walker then joined General Winfield Scott’s campaign to pacify Mexico City. Although he officially became a US soldier, everyone still considered him a Texas Ranger and called him Ranger Walker. Scott’s army invaded Mexico at Vera Cruz and advanced towards Mexico City from there. Along the way, they sacked the Pero prison, freed the prisoners, and turned it into a fort for American troops.

But Walker was not destined to return to Texas. He was to die a few months later fighting the army of his old enemy, Santa Anna, in the city of Huamantla, where Santa Anna had stationed her forces to stop the march of American troops to rescue the American garrison under siege at Puebla. Walker led his company there, which was ahead of the main US forces. His men fought furiously until the main force arrived to defeat Santa Anna, but Walker failed to enjoy the victory. He lay dead; his prized Colt Walkers by his side. He was 32 years old. In retaliation, his men went on a wild rampage, sacking and pillaging the city.

Walker’s body was returned to San Antonio; he was eventually buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery next to the unidentified remains of the Alamo defenders.

It is said that Walker was not one of those who can be seen in everyday life. He was of medium height and quiet. But in battle he was a lion. In his Notes on the Mexican War, 1846-1848, J. Jacob Oswandel observed of Walker that “war was his element, bivouacs his joy, and the battlefield his playground.”

Walker lived more in his short life than the average ten people lived in their long lives combined. He is Walker, the Texas Ranger most remembered for.

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