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Eyewitness account of the "Death of the Heroic Captain Walker"
[Death of Samuel H. Walker]. David W. Haines Autograph
Eyewitness Account with Watercolor Illustration of the Death of
Texas Ranger Samuel Walker. Both appear within the pages of a
journal book (6.5" x 8.75", circa 1847) originally owned by
Mexican soldier "Doml. Pazos" of the "3er Regimt. Ligero
de Infateria." David Haines, a member of Company "F," 6th
Infantry, U.S. Army, writes in ink this enthralling and detailed
eight-page account of the famous battle-death of the
thirty-year-old Walker, a Texas Ranger and one of the earliest
heroes of the Mexican War, during the Battle of Huamantla, Mexico.
According to our research, Haines' account has never been published
or cited in scholarly works. The fascinating watercolor
illustration (4" x 7.5") shows Walker and his horse dead near the
entrance to Huamantla. Next to Walker is his swallow-tailed guidon
displaying the crossed rifles.
Though little is known of David Haines, Samuel Walker is a legendary Texas hero. By the time he migrated to Texas in 1842 at twenty-five, he was already a veteran of Indian wars. Before his death five years later, he had leaped to the defense of the Texas Republic against General Adrian Woll's invasion, marched in the Somervell and Mier Expeditions, and survived the 1843 Black Bean Episode. In 1844, he joined John Coffee Hays' famous Texas Ranger company, the Frontier Ranging Company. One year later, he answered General Zachary Taylor's call for volunteers and was quickly commissioned a captain in the U.S. Mounted Rifles. Sent to the northeast on a recruiting mission in late 1846, Walker-already a national figure-worked with Samuel Colt to improve the Colt revolver from a five shot to a six shot known as Colt's Walker Model.
Haines' account of Walker's violent death is particularly important since scholars have disagreed on the particulars of its cause. Entitled "Battle of Huamantla. Brilliant Victory and Capture of Mexican Artillery" and subtitled "Santa Anna again beaten, and two of his Aids made Prisoners. Gallant Conduct of our Mounted Riflemen and Dragoons and Death of the Heroic Captain Walker," the eight-page account begins with events from October 5, 1847, three weeks after Mexico City fell to the Americans. Haines narrates that Walker and his men were escorting a supply train under the command of General Joseph P. Lane from Perote to Puebla. Thinking Santa Anna was hiding in nearby Huamantla (100 miles east of Mexico City), the U.S. force quickly changed course and advanced on the town. Walker's Mounted Rifles kept "some distance in the advance." After a short march, Walker made the decision to "push on at a gallop and Surprise the enemy."
Upon entering the town, Walker's company (numbering 195 according to Haines) quickly engaged "what must have been more than five hundred" Mexicans, "killing many." Haines records: "The[re] Rose a wild yell & such a charge, the flashing of the sabres, the thundering of the horses feet over the paved streets, were enough to strike terror into the hearts of enemy. Two of their cannon were pointed up the street, another pointed down a cross street, and the fuse was burning in it. The terrified artilleryman moved merely to sides of the houses, at whom our men made their thrusts and right & left cuts; killing many in this manner; the cavalry rushed over their cannon." Haines reported that "3 or 4 hundred [Mexican lancers] died" in this initial charge.
The narration contains numerous details about the unfolding battle in the town's plaza. At the point that the enemy countercharged, a bullet struck Samuel Walker from behind. "Capt. Walker while examining the approach of the enemy . . . was shot from behind, from a house that displayed a white flag, he sunk down immediately and was borne into the yard, the men bursting into tears as the cry spread among them." Walker died thirty minutes later, but before then, Haines records that the dying hero "directed we should never surrender." Writing for all of his countrymen, Haines eulogizes that "Co 'C' lost its gallant captain, whose fame needs no eulogy and whose loss is irreparable. His valor, often tried, is appreciated by the whole of his countrymen."
Haines reports that Samuel Walker was not the only member of his household to die in Huamantla. His slave, David, sacrificed his life for the company's surgeon: "Surgeon Lamar was in the first charge by the side of Walker; was in the plaza when the charge was made and was saved by the devoted act of Capt.Walker's slave David, who caught at the lance aimed at him & received it himself he died in a few minutes he was honest & faithfull and a favorite of his noble master. In death they were not divided." Haines also listed all the names of the American dead and wounded (over twenty), reporting that the Mexican dead numbered "over 100 men."
Aside from the watercolor rendition of Walker's death, Haines has included six additional watercolor illustrations in the journal book featuring scenes during the Mexican War. He signed each and penciled the titles in the margins: "City and Castle of Perote. Mexico," "View of the National Bridge at Sante Fe Mexico," "Beach below Vera Crux. Mex.," "Robbers Bridge, Mex.," "Lobos Island. Mex.," "Vera Cruz, Castle and Cemetery. Mex.," and "Puebla, Mex."
The journal book also contains eighteen pages of "Inventions and Improvements by S. Becker. Ottawa, LaSalle Co, Illinois." The list of inventions include an "Amputating Spring Knife," a "Selfraking Harvester," "Machine for Digging Potatoes," and a "Washing Machine." Each invention contains additional information, such as the date invented. Some sketches are included. Other pages throughout the notebook include various drawings and notes. The front board of the journal book, embossed with "Libreta," has detached, and most of the spine is missing. The hardcovers exhibit the soiling and staining expected from a war-time journal book.
[Transcribed as written.]
Battle of Huamantla
Brillant Victory and Capture of Mexican Artillery
Santa Anna again beaten, and two of his Aids made Prisoners
Gallant conduct of our Mounted Riflemen and Dragoons and Death of the Heroic CAPTAIN WALKER
On the evening of Oct. the 5th the train halted at a hacienda two and a half leagues from Nopaluca; the General sent out a spy to the two of Huamantla that night, having received information that Gen. Santa Anna had gone thither during the day before. The next morning he returned and reported that the Cavalry of the enemy had left town, leaving behind six pieces of artillery. Orders were immediately issued for the cavalry under Capt. Walker, Col. Gormand's Regt, Maj. Lally's Battalion, Col Wynkoop's Regt, Capt. Taylors Battery, and Capt. Heintzleman's Battalion to be in readiness to march for the town, leaving the train with about eleven hundred men and two pieces of artillery, under the command of Col. Brough. At 11 o'clock the whole moved off in fine style. The cavalry were ordered to keep some distance in the advance.
We had gone about two miles, when Capt. Walker determined to push on a gallop and surprise the enemy; for five miles the cavalry moved at a very rapid pace until we reached the out skirts of the town; When Capt. Walker gave orders to form fours & close up; he then entered a very narrow lane, both sides of which were lined with thick maguey so narrow in many places that the sets of fours had to be broken and the column moved by twos. On we went at a trot, until the lane opened into the main street leading to the plaza. When in columns of fours, the order was given to draw sabres & charge. "The Rose a wild yell & such a charge, the flashing of the sabres, the thundering of the horses feet over the paved streets, were enough to strike terror into the hearts of enemy. Two of their cannon were pointed up the street, another pointed down a cross street, and the fuse was burning in it. The terrified artilleryman moved merely to sides of the houses, at whom our men made their thrusts and right & left cuts;
killing many in this manner; the cavalry rushed over their cannon. The lancers, (how many we did not know, but suppose there were 3 or 4 hundred died) fled, our men separating into small parties pursued them beyond the twon [sic], on the outskirts of which a good many were killed. Capt. Walker went beyond the town for the purpose of overtaking the artillery which had left the place. Capt. Lewis went in another direction for the same purpose; Capt. Besancon was ordered to follow the road to see if the artillery could be overtaken. In the mean time, the most of our men having gone in pursuit, Capt. Loyall with a few men, assisted by Adjt. Claiborne, secured some fifty or sixty prisoners at their quarters, together with their arms, to, and posted aguard[?], Lt. Claiborne then proceded to secure and bring up to the plaza the cannon (3 pieces) we had captured. Capt. Walker returned about this time, and going to the plaza was collecting our men, Lt. Anderson of the Ga. vol's with our 5 men[?]
pursued & captured Maj. Iturbide to Col. La Vega [a brother to Genl.] & a Lt. These he delivered up to Capt. Walker. Lt. Claiborne, assisted by Corpl. Hitchcock & Private Myers & one or two others, limbered up the six pounder, and brought it to the plaza. Leaving it limbered up when he was forced to leave it, by the appearance of all of Santa Anna's cavalry 2,500 strong .Corpl. Tilghman of Comp. C, Rifles, brought up a small howitzer, Private Dusenbery, of Comp C. took a Lt. of artl. prisoner and turned him over to Sugeon Reynolds. By this time a good many of our men had returned, & were in the plaza in scattered groups, when the lancers charged them suddenly & unexpectedly. Our men received them with great breavery & kept the plaza, with the exception of a few under Capt. Walker, who retired by a street leading west from the plaza; these were joined by Lt. Claiborne & his party, who were approaching the square. Capt. Walker led them from the plaza, the enemy colse [sic] on them at a charge; he turned the next street to his left, while the enemy see the four pounder, rushed to it to retake it. Fortunately for the few men with Capt. Walker, they saw this piece, for at the very next corner a still
larger force met him: he wheeled and dashing swiftly past the rear of those who had cut him off from the plaza, again entered it here the men dismounted & occupied the convent yard together with a large house on the corner of the square. Capt. Lewis, & Lt. Waters, with some ten or twelve men, charged twice upon the enemy, who gave way, & were pursuing them. When they discovered they were being surrounded by vast members of the lancers, they gallantly forced their way to the plaza; Capt. Besancon barely returned in time to save himself. Private Hugenen & Corpl. Mirrileen[?] of Comp C. rifles being entirely surrounded drove right into their midst & covered with wounds. Capt. Walker gave his orders promptly to form the men to receive the enemy, who made their appearance on our right in front & on our left. They had also run up the four pounder to open upon us. Lt. Claibourne, assisted by Col. Tilghman unlimbered the six pounder and pointed it at the column on our left. Having no port fire, he prepared to fire it with a horse pistol. The enemy came nearer and nearer, until at about 60 yards off, when they halted, at this moment the Lt. Fired the pistol, but the fuse of the cannon would not catch, & being left alone in the plaza, he retired to the corner house & posted some riflemen to keep the piece from recapture. At this juncture Capt. Walker while examining the approach of the enemy, and looking at the four pounder on our right, was shot from behind, from a house that
displayed a white flag, he sank down immediately, and was borne into the yard, the men bursting into tears as the cry spread among them. Capt. Walkers killed. Capt. Walker directed that we should never surrender; and died in about thirty minutes. Capt. Lewis made a detail of eight men, who went out & brought the six pounder and placed it in the gate. The enemy menaced us a long time, and fired the four pounder 6 to 8 times loaded with grape, one of which discharges shattered the leg of Frederick Raborg, Capt. Walker's interpreter, and a private of company "C" hesitated, faltered and fell back. Capt. Lewis formed the men after Walker fell, and by his energy & address assisted materially to suppress disorder. Lt. Lilly distinguished him self by his daring. Surgeon Lamar was in the first charge by the side of Walker; was in the plaza when the charge was made and was saved by the devoted act of Capt. Walker's slave David, who caught at the lance aimed at him & received it himself. He died in a few minutes he was honest & faithful and a favorite of his noble master. In death they were not divided. The infantry came up as the enemy were returning, Col. Gormans being the only portion of the infantry that got a shot at the enemy. There is much praise due them for the gallant manner in which they strove to be with the
cavalry. They ran themselves out of breath and then ran on. Never were men more anxious to reach the enemy, they had discovered the immense body of cavalry that making its way in a gallop by a parallel road to the town, and boath tried to reach town first, when they got to town we had possession. Surgeon Reynolds bhaved very gallantly, & his whole energies after the fight were bestowed upon the wounded. The whole force of Capt. Walkers command aid not exceed 195. The enemy dispersed in the first charge. There must have been more than five hundred; and in the subsequent fight they were two thousand five hundred strong. Co "C" lost its gallant captain, whose fame needs no eulogy and whose loss is irreparable. His valor, often tried, is appreciated by the whole of his countrymen. Peace to the ashes of the noble and gallant Captain. Killed Corpl. Merriken, Private Hugenen and Tarbox. Wounded Corpl. Glanding [since died] Meacham [severely] Raborg [Lost a leg], Welch, Wayne, McGill, Scott, and Myers, slightly. Missing Sergt. Goslin, Privates Dement, Darlington, Collins, McCleary, and Richards, of Co. "C" Rifles; Capt. Lewis's
Comp, Private Murry wounded, Capt. Loyally comp, killed, Private Richardson. Slightly wounded, Private Formely & Milton. The enemy, lost over 100 men 20 pieces of artillery, and large quantities ammunition. Most of the prisoners escaped during the charge. The whole command behaved in the most gallant manner and recived the highest praises from the Commanding general. The whole force under the command of General Lane, we returned to camp that night.
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