Eyewitness account of the death of Samuel Walker: "Capt. Walker moved out of the gateway for the purpose of giving orders when he was fired upon"[Samuel H. Walker]. Mexican War Diary of Sergeant George W. Myers, U.S. Mounted Rifles, Walker's Co. "C", Dated from February 26, 1847, through July 5, 1848, with Myers' Tintype. Consisting of 179 pages, 3.25" x 5.25", in pencil. In this thrilling and absorbing diary, Sgt. George Myers, serving directly under Captain Samuel Walker in his Company "C", details the company's travels and military exploits from the time they left Baltimore in February 1847 until they returned to New Orleans from Mexico in July 1848. Among the diary's details are those of Samuel Walker, particularly a description of the beloved Texan's heroic death at the Battle of Huamantla on October 9, 1847. Before Walker's death, Myers served under him for nine months and, in this diary, records details about him. Myers also records particulars about Company "C's" mission as a scouting unit that often confronted Mexican guerillas and escorted American troops in support of General Winfield Scott in crippling heat and across the mountainous terrain between Veracruz and Mexico City. Also included with the diary is a 1/9th plate tintype housed in a worn leather case that is missing the cover. The tintype features Myers, several years after the Mexican War, sporting a beard and wearing a neckerchief and button shirt. His sleeves are casually rolled up. The image has slightly faded.
According to the seller's tag affixed to the back pastedown of the diary, Myers purchased the diary new in Baltimore from "N. Hickman, No. 88 Baltimore Street. Baltimore." The front and back pastedown and endpapers contain numerous annotations. Covered in brown leather over boards, the worn covers and several pages of the diary have mostly detached from the hinges; the spine is missing. Some foxing and expected stains exist throughout. Dampstaining occurs around the edges of some middle pages and pages at the end. Four blank pages at the end of the diary have been removed.
By the time Samuel Walker (1817-1847) had recruited Company "C", he had already become one of the first heroes of the Mexican War for his daring missions during the war's early months as a Texas Ranger under John Coffee "Jack" Hays gathering intelligence for General Zachary Taylor. The young Texan was soon promoted by President James Polk to captain of a new, unformed cavalry company in the U.S. Mounted Rifles Regiment -- Company "C". The company was to be trained to scout and use anti-guerrilla tactics in support General Scott's invasion off the eastern coast of Mexico. In the winter of 1846, Captain Walker travelled to the environs of Washington, D.C., to recruit men for his new company. In Baltimore on February 23, 1847, George W. Myers, a tall twenty-seven-year-old clerk, enlisted, and three days later, he started this journal. Earlier during his recruiting trip to the northeast, Walker had met with Samuel Colt at Colt's invitation. Knowing that Walker had served as a Texas Ranger under Colonel Hays on the Texas frontier and had effectively used the .36-caliber five-shot Colt Paterson revolver, Colt asked for Walker's help in redesigning the pistol. Together they produced a powerful .44-caliber six shot named after the Texan -- the Colt Walker revolver. Walker, wanting to secure the pistols for his new company, worked desperately to convince the secretary of war to authorize the purchase of 1,000 of them, with 250 going to his new recruits. The purchase was approved, but delays centering around Colonel George Talcott and his U.S. Ordnance department hindered the delivery of the pistols. Meanwhile, Walker wrote letters imploring their delivery. (The shipment of pistols was not delivered to Company "C" until shortly after Walker's death, but Walker did receive a pair of the new pistols as gifts just days before his death on October 9, 1847.)
After the successful recruitment of 250 men, Walker, Myers, and the rest of the new company began the long journey to Mexico. The first part of Myers' diary tells of the company's journey from Baltimore to Veracruz, Mexico. He begins by recording that they left Baltimore on February 26, 1847: "Capt. Walkers Company of Mounted Riflemen left Balt[imore] on Friday morning at 7 ¼ O'clock, the outer depot at 8 O'clock The weather Cold & Cloudy." By Monday they had arrived at Wheeling [West] Virginia. There, they boarded the steamboat Monongahela and started down the Ohio River, "a noble river," until they arrived at Cincinnati on March 3. Captain Walker, who had remained in the east, joined his recruits at the barracks three days later. The fresh recruits spent all of March 1847 just across the river from Cincinnati in northern Kentucky in the "Newport Barracks" and began drilling - "such a set of awkward men you never did behold, it was really laughable." On March 22, Myers records that the company received their uniforms with great excitement; one week later, Myers "was made Sergeant in Capt. Walker's Company of M Riflemen."
After receiving orders to continue on to Mexico, they finally left Newport Barracks on April 1, steaming past General Joseph Lane's home on Indiana's northern Ohio River banks on April 3 where "We gave him six cheers." The next day, they "entered the Mississippi River, the father of all waters. As we were going down a negro man on one of the islands shouted out at the top of his voice hurra for Capt. Walker now the Mexicans will catch hell." They arrived at New Orleans on April 9 and embarked for Veracruz on May 3 aboard the steamer Mary Kingsland. When they arrived at Veracruz six days later, Myers noted disdainfully that the Mexicans looked like "some of our dirty Indians." He also noted the condition of Veracruz, which had been assaulted and ravished when General Scott's 12,000-strong American force landed there exactly one month earlier on March 9, 1847, performing the U.S. military's first large-scale amphibious landing. "The south end of the town where we are in camp is battered all to pieces by General Scott. Almost every house has either a round shot or shell through it and some houses have a dozen through it where we are encamped. I counted eighteen that went through the solid walls They the Europeans tell me was an awful sight when they returned to the city the streets torn all up by the bursting of shells and shot down knocked in windows half open and dead men, horses, dogs and cats struin here and there & everywhere throughout the place."
Walker's company did not have time to get comfortable in Veracruz. Only five days after arriving, they were ordered to the small town of Santa Fe, nine miles away, to rescue a small American depot from an attack by local rancheros. They captured a few prisoners which, Myers writes, they were ordered to shoot. The order was "promptly executed. With the exception of one, which was allowed to go free with a note from Captain Walker to the band telling them if he heard of any more murders or robberies, he would hang them (in another) visit and kill and destroy everything he could." Walker's company next escorted a train of 500 wagons en route to "Jallappa" [Xalapa], sixty-three miles northwest of Veracruz. On the march, they "paid a visit over to Santa Ana's country place," which they looted-Myers himself picking up a tortoise shell comb. At Xalapa, they met up with General Scott and his army, which was on its way to its target of Mexico City. Company "C" accompanied them on May 20 to Perote, (157 miles from Mexico City), camping at the famed Castle of Perote the following night. The castle had served as a prison for several Texans, including Samuel Walker and other members in the Mier Expedition just three years earlier. Myers describes it as "completely bomb proof with walls from ten to thirteen feet thick with a large mote all around it which can be filled with water in it having to the depth of 20 feet & 50 yards wide & by hoisting the drawbridge, no one can enter the Castle. . . . What the Castle was built for I can not tell. Certainly not to protect the town of Perote which a poor, miserable hovel of a place. I forgot to mention on our way up to Jallappa we (passed) the famous pass of Sierra Gorda where Santa Anna obtained the Independence of Mexico by gaining a decisive victory over the Spaniards. But he was not so lucky this time with Gen. Scott." In an odd twist of fate, Sergeant Myers himself had his turn as a prisoner at Perote Castle. On June 15, he writes that he was "arrested by Capt. Walker on the charge of robing a Mexican woman on Sunday last & sent to the Castle as a prisoner." Myers, however, maintained his innocence and was soon released, "the captain withdrawing all charges against me. . . . He said he thought I would be the last man that would be guilty of any such charges knowing that I always took such good care of myself & Character & appeared to be very sorry that anything was said against me."
The main mission Walker's Company "C" was to assist infantry units between Perote and Veracruz by acting as a scouting unit. While doing this, they often encountered gangs of plundering rancheros or Mexican guerillas. On one scouting mission for five infantry companies, Company "C" found themselves in a hot battle with "from 10 to 12 hundred lancers." Walker and his men performed valiantly and Myers was full of praise: "Our Capt. ordered that the horses should be tied behind the houses & the men to take their stantz behind the wall & let them have it. I assure you we did just about do the thing right. There were not more than thirty five or forty of us & between six to eight hundred of the Mongrels for all that we (repulsed) them with severe loss. . . . It would of done you good to see them come up to the man every one trying to out do the other & our brave Captain not caring anything about himself (he was heard to say don't give up on em boys but give them hell.) but with saber in hand he was constantly going from one end of the line to the other encouraging us to take good aim & not to waste our ammunition & every time that he would see one fall he would appear to be exalted & when he saw them about to retreating he hollered out, see boys they are worsening."
General Scott's army of invasion was successful too. On August 28, Myers learned that "Gen. Scott had possession of the heights around the city of Mexico & that he had them at his mercy." The Mexican capital was captured only days later in September. Success like this may have contributed to Myers reenlisting three days later: "This day we were enrolled or mustered into service of the U.S. it is requisite that it should be done every 2 months." American successes in central and eastern Mexico continued. On August 31, Myers learned of a recent battle near Puebla, the second largest city in Mexico, involving American troops "accompanied by a company of Mexican Lancers or Guerrillas in the employ of Uncle Sam commanded by a Virginian by the name of Spooner. They were fully equipped with rifle, saber & (cintos) & lances. The escort under this command of Capt. Ruff of the rifle regiment who had a fight with the Mexican at the town about 30 miles from Perote. There were none of the Americans hurt except one man who was shot right under the (bur) of the ear. The ball passing out of his mouth. He was in the act of biting his cartridge at the time for to load his piece not being any way daunted, he loaded his rifle and shot the Mexican dead that shot him and they say the man will get over his wound. The escort left the same evening for Puebla."
Optimism permeated the company in the late summer of 1847. In a moment of patriotism for his nation and respect for his commander, Myers records on September 15, "This day we started for the nob on the top of the mountain to put a flag there. Climbing the mountain, which required the use of a ladder, the small group of men finally reached the peak. The staff was 20 feet high. We succeeded in planting our staff securely & in a few minutes after we let float to the breeze of heaven the glorious stars & stripes of our country far above the clouds which were floating hundreds of feet below us. It was a glorious sight to behold from our position. . . . We sang the Star Spangled Banner and christened the peak as Walker Peak."
Samuel Walker's circumstances, however, were about to take a turn for the worse. Myers records on September 3 that Walker and his men assisted Colonel Francis M. Wynkoop, commander of the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers, on a mission in search of stolen cattle. While in the field, Col. Wynkoop arrested Walker. "Some misunderstanding took place between Col. Wynkoop & Capt. Walker on account of Capt. W not ordering his company to make a rush into the town where there was no person to oppose us but a few men & women. The consequence was our Capt. Was put under arrest but he would not obey the mandate until he carried his company back to the castle. The Col. ordered the orderly Sargent to take command of the company but they would not obey him without it was with the consent of Capt. Walker. . . . it was astonishing to see with what coolness our captain acted under the circumstances while the abuses were being heaped upon him saying that he was not fit to command a company that he could not understand an order that was given to him & Our Captain told him Sir I am not allowed to draw my sabre or my pistol but Sir you are a damned coward & left him." Walker remained under arrest in Perote Castle throughout September until General Joseph Lane arrived on October 4 with his train of 3,000 men and released him.
Two days after Walker's release, General Lane requested Walker's men to escort his force to Puebla, eighty-one miles southwest of Perote. "We expect to have a fandango before we reach Puebla," Myers anticipated, "as Santa Ana is at the pass this side of the city an intends to make a stand. Capt. Walker has been put in command of all the mounted men now being upwards of 200 men." Myers then writes his eyewitness account of the death of "the gallant Walker" at the Battle of Huamantla:
"Saturday 9 Saddled up at 7 O'clock cleaned & inspected arms (& ammunition issued to all requiring it) Sent one Sergent & 12 men to the town of La Paluca where it was though information of a large body of Mexican troops might be obtained. Party returned in due time bringing the Alcalda & reported Santa Ana at Huamantla with from 2 to 3000 lancers & 6 pieces of artillery. We immediately received orders to march as light as possible, accompanied by the greater part of Gen. Lane's command. The cavalry commanded by the gallant Walker formed the advance guard & proceeded at a rapid pace to the town about 11 miles distance. On arriving at the town a small body of lancers appeared in sight in the peripheral street whom we immediately charged disbursed & killed. We scanned the streets taking several prisoners amongst whom were a brother of Gen La Vega & Major Iturbide son of a former King (Emperor) of Mexico & also a nephew of Gen Herrera of Perote. . . . We captured 3 pieces of artillery & returned to the plaza. Capt. Walker then sent small parties out in different directions with orders to make observations & report. An alarm was now given that the whole Body of Lancers were upon us which was true as they appeared in great numbers in every street amongst us hemming us in completely & leaving us to our own resources being considerably in advance of the infantry & artillery they did look splendid as they appeared in sight & made there charge they being handsomely equipped & well mounted having a lancer, escopet, sabre & pistols - 197 men amongst 2 or 3000 - in front of our small force took refuge in a large House adjoining the church - & the remainder under Capt. W took post in the yard of the Church - dismounted & defending the entrance where a 6 pounder was placed. The battle raged with fury for some time, our men doing considerable execution among the enemy, & suffering some loss - about this time Capt. Walker moved out of the gateway for the purpose of giving orders when he was fired upon from the right of the street one ball entering his back coming through his breast - He immediately fell & some of his men ran out & carried him in - His last words were to this effect - Men. Fight to the last, I am dying, do not lose time in attending to me. Go & tell Capt. Lewis not to surrender this place as long as there is a man breathing. He expired in a few minutes - The service losing an invaluable officer & we a brave & good Commander. We defended our position for upwards of one hour when the remainder of our force came up & dispersed the enemy then remaining about town. We now searched the streets for our missing & had the melancholy satisfaction of finding the dead bodies of several. Some we did not find. The body of Capt. Walker was conveyed with Military honors to a carriage supposed to belong to Gen. Santa Ana - by the Pennsylvania regiment under command of Colonel F. Wynkoop - who formerly had been at variance with Capt. Walker & who on receiving the dead body of the Capt. Burst into tears & exclaimed - 'I would give six years of my existence to have spoken with Capt. Walker before he died.' - We collected our dead & wounded."
After the battle, Myers records that, in addition to Walker, four others from the company were killed, six were missing, eight were wounded, "and David, Capt. Walkers servt. Killed." Among the wounded was Myers himself, who only sustained a slight wound. In 1850, Myers submitted this account (slightly altered) to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, for submission as "a correct account" of the Battle of Huamantla. His account with transmittal letter were published in the evening edition on December 3, 1850. (Facsimiles of this article are included.)
As Walker lay dying from his wounds, he gave his two Walker Colt pistols to a member of Company "C" named Ashbough. Shortly after he expired, Myers took up his captain's sword, hoping to return it to Walker's family. Two weeks later, however, a Lieutenant Claibourne, also of Company "C", took the sword and pistols away from Ashbough and Myers. According to a letter from Myers to Samuel Walker's sister-in-law, the wife of his brother Thomas Walker, dated January 10, 1849, Myers accused Claibourne of giving the sword as a gift to General Robert Patterson. Myers didn't, however, know what became of the pair of Walker Colts. (See the facsimile of Myers' letter to Mrs. Thomas Walker of Washington, D.C., which is included among the research material with this diary.)
The remainder of the diary consists of Sergeant Myers' activities after Walker's death. Along with General Lane's men, Company "C" made it to Pueblo on October 12 where, upon entering, they were "fired upon from the Churches & Houses." They gained control of the city and stayed there until October 18, when General Lane and his escorts left for Atlixco. On the way, they again met part of Santa Anna's army. In the ensuing battle, the company charged and "did much slaughter amongst them. . . . The town was bombarded by Gen Lane before we entered."
In November, Myers was reassigned to Colonel Jack Hays' celebrated Texas Rangers. Hays' regiment of five companies - the 1st Texas Mounted Volunteers - had been reassigned from a supporting unit for General Zachary Taylor in northern Mexico to a supporting unit for General Scott in central Mexico. Myers writes that as Company "C", down to only twenty-eight men, started for Mexico City on November 16, Myers was separated from his company and "detailed by Colonel [John Coffee] Hays to act as his Sargent Major. . . . The command consisted of Capt. [Jacob] Robert Company of Texas Rangers, Lieut. [Alfred] Evan's Company G of [Texas Rangers] Company A, Lou[?] Mounted Vol Company E. [Texas Rangers] & Lieut. Field with one piece of artillery in all 165 men the whole under the command of Gen. Lane." It was not long after Myers joined Hays' Rangers that he learned why they were known as such a fearsome bunch. In a battle at Atlixco, they "made a charge in the town which was done in handsome style. Talk about hollering. I think the Texas Rangers can beat the world for I could hardly hear my ears for half an hour. We killed upward of 60 officers & men, among whom we recognized Col. Piedras & several others." The Rangers suffered only two casualties, "Lieut. Ridgely and one Texas Ranger."
For the next several weeks, Myers continued to work with the Texas Rangers between Veracruz and Mexico City. On December 15, General Lane left Pueblo for Mexico City, leaving behind Myers and Hays' Texas Rangers. Myers records that "Every officer & soldier appeared to be very sorry to lose him Knowing his good qualities towards them. He is one of the pleasantest Gen. I ever saw in all my life. Any man can approach him with ease to himself & be as much at home as if it was one of his comrades." Later, while responding to an attack by Mexican guerillas, Myers met Samuel Walker's brother, Lieutenant Thomas Walker, whose men had just lost "6 or 8" men while "engaged with the enemy." From February through June 30, Myers put away his pencil, recording nothing, but on July 1, 1847, he again picked up it up to note that he had received his "order to embark immediately on board of the Bark George Henry Capt. for New Orleans." His steamer set out for New Orleans on July 2. For George W. Myers, the Mexican War was over.
In this diary, Myers mostly chronicles military details, but he also comments on the Mexican people, their culture and food ("They are a great people for red pepper for they put in in almost everything they eat"), and the environment in Mexico. He often notes on the unhealthy situations that the soldiers and Mexican natives lived, such as when he writes that "This place is very unhealthy for they [Mexicans] bury from ten to fifteen a day. Sometimes 8 or 10 in one hole. They die mostly from having dizsentary & inflammation on the bowels." Throughout the diary, Myers' devotion to Captain Walker and Company "C" never wavers. He describes his commander as "brave," "much esteemed," and "gallant" with "nothing daunted." The Mexicans were as "afraid of us as the Devil is of Holy water"; "The Mexicans call us Capt. Walker's Devils. They do not like us at all. I assure you there is no love lost between us."
Also included with the diary are six period newspaper clippings, three offering tributes to Walker. One is the text of a portion of an address given by Congressman R. M. Williamson to the Texas House of Representatives assembled to honor Captain Walker's remains. According to the article, the congressman said that one of Walker's dying wishes was to be buried "under the shadows of the Alamo" in San Antonio; therefore, the congressman demanded, "Let his dying wish be religiously observed!" And it was; Walker's body, which had been buried on the outskirts of Huamantla, rests today at Odd Fellows Cemetery, one mile from the Alamo. Another clipping contains the text of a letter from "a member of the brave Ranger's company to his wife," which reads in part, "He [Walker] was a father to us in his care, and one of the very best men I have ever met. . . . We have lost our best friend." Another, a letter from "An officer of the Pennsylvania regiment," writes, "He had more feeling for those poor Mexicans that any officer I have seen in the army; and he would not allow one of his men to impose on them with impunity." Two of the remaining clippings report on the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which ended the conflict. Also included is a complete transcription of the journal, along with numerous research materials.
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