Samuel Hamilton Walker (1817-1847), Texas Ranger and Mexican War veteran was the son of Nathan and Elizabeth (Thomas) Walker. He was born at Toaping Castle, Prince George County, Maryland, on February 24, 1817, the fifth of seven children. He attended the common country school and afterward worked as a carpenter's apprentice.
In May 1836 Walker enlisted in the Washington City Volunteers for the Creek Indian campaign in Alabama. Over the next two years, he had two tours of duty in the Florida swamps fighting Chief Osceola’s Seminoles. He was promoted to corporal or “exceptional courage” shown in the Battle of Hacheeluski in January 1837. After his enlistment ended in 1837, Walker remained in Florida as a scout until 1841. He may also have been a railroad superintendent.
Walker arrived in San Antonio in January 1842, and soon joined the company of the greatest Ranger of the pre-Civil War era, Captain John Coffee “Jack” Hays. The wounds of the Texas Revolution were festering in both Texas and Mexico, and several Mexican invasions had occurred, most notably that by Raphael Vasquez in early March 1842. After two days of plundering and looting in San Antonio, Vasquez had retreated to Mexico, taking some prisoners. President Sam Houston’s calm hand prevented a war, but he could not resolve the growing hatred felt on both sides of the Rio Grande. In September 1842, the Frenchman Adrian Woll led a Mexican army into Texas again and captured San Antonio. For ten days, Woll held the city, and Houston placed Alexander Somervell at the head of the Texas Army, with two sets of contradictory orders:
(1) show restraint
(2) invade Mexico
Walker signed on as a scout for Captain Jesse Billingsley, whose force joined up with Matthew “Old Paint” Caldwell. Walker served with Jack Hays and Henry McCulloch in that campaign. After Woll retreated back to Mexico, the Rangers returned to San Antonio, and organized the Somervell Expedition, which peacefully reoccupied Laredo and then moved down the Rio Grande to the town of Guerrero to re-supply. On December 18, 1842, General Somervell ended the expedition and ordered his 498 men back to San Antonio, but one hundred eighty-nine refused to quit. They elected William Fisher their commander and continued with the invasion of Mexico, but Jack Hays did not join them, warning his friends to abandon their foolish ideas. Two of those who disregarded Hays' advice were Sam Walker and W. A. A. “Big Foot” Wallace.
On December 23, 1842 the Texans invaded Mier, just across the Rio Grande, where they were unopposed, and returned to the Texas side of the river. However, on Christmas Day, some of Fisher’s spies reported that 700 Mexican soldiers were in Mier, and the Texans crossed the river again and attacked. On December 26, they were forced to surrender because of the overwhelming force of the enemy. Sam Walker was the first Texan captured in the ill-fated expedition. He and Patrick Lusk had been on a scouting expedition, and had come upon some Mexican soldiers. Walker crawled through a fence, killed one of the Mexican soldiers and was trying to crawl back under the fence when another large Mexican soldier grabbed him by his boot and held him tight until more soldiers arrived.
The Texans were marched to prison in Saltillo where on March 1, 1843, Santa Anna ordered all 176 prisoners be shot. However, Governor Francisco Mexia refused to comply with Santa Anna’s order. The prisoners were then marched toward San Luis Potosi. On March 25, they arrived at Rancho Salado, where another order from Santa Anna was received to shoot every tenth man. One hundred fifty-nine white beans and seventeen black beans were placed in a jar, and each man put his hand into the jar and brought out one bean. Those who drew a black bean died. Walker and Big Foot Wallace both drew white beans, as did the leader of the Texans, William Fisher. However, Santa Anna would not permit the leader of the Texans to be spared, and he was shot.
On July 30, 1843, Walker escaped and managed to get on a ship headed for New Orleans, where he arrived in September 1843. But he did not stay long in New Orleans because he wanted to get back to Texas and start settling scores with the Mexicans. He repeated his vows of vengeance so often to his friends that he earned a new nickname, “Mad” Walker. His bitterness and desire to get revenge for his experiences in captivity led ultimately to his death in 1847.
In 1844 Walker joined John C. Hays' company of Texas Rangers and rode for the next two years, fighting Indians. He participated in the Battle of Walker's Creek on the Pinta Trail near the confluence of Sister Creek and the Guadalupe River. During the battle some fifteen rangers using new Colt revolvers successfully defeated about eighty Comanches. It was the first time that the Colt revolvers had been used in combat with the Indians, and the results were so dramatic that they resulted in a permanent change in the tactics of the Indians. In that battle, Walker was run through with an Indian lance, and was not expected to recover. He was taken to San Antonio, where he was nursed back to health, and then rejoined the Texas Rangers under Hays.
In 1846, the United States and Mexico went to war again, and Walker rode to the Rio Grande to join General Zachary Taylor’s army. Taylor was impressed with Walker and authorized him to raise a company of Texas Rangers to serve in the federal forces as scouts for the army. On April 28 Walker was ambushed with his company en route to join Taylor at Port Isabel. He reached Taylor's camp on April 29 and his reports caused Taylor to move his encampment. Walker performed exemplary duty as a scout and courier on numerous other occasions. His company was the only Texas unit at the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. He was presented a horse by the grateful citizens of New Orleans in the spring of 1846 for his numerous exploits with Taylor's army.
Walker served as captain of the inactive Company C of the United States Mounted Rifles until the outbreak of the Mexican War. When the First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen, was organized in June 1846, Walker was elected lieutenant colonel. He fought in the Battle of Monterrey in September and on October 2, 1846, mustered out of federal service, activated his commission as captain of the mounted rifles, and proceeded to Washington, D.C., to begin recruiting for his company. During his recruitment excursion Walker visited Samuel Colt. Colt credited Walker with proposed improvements, including a stationary trigger and guard, to the existing revolver. The new six-shooter was named the Walker Colt. After arriving with his new company at Vera Cruz, Mexico, Walker was detailed on May 27, 1847, to the First Pennsylvania Volunteers, stationed at Castle San Carlos de Perote to counter Mexican guerrilla activities between Perote and Jalapa. On October 5, 1847, Walker left Perote with Gen. Joseph P. Lane to escort a supply train to Mexico City. According to J. J. Oswandel, author of Notes on the Mexican War, who wrote about the incident, Walker grew increasingly embittered against the enemy: "Should Captain Walker come across guerillas, God help them, for he seldom brings in prisoners. The captain and most all of his men are very prejudiced and embittered against every guerilla in the country."
En route Lane was informed of a sizable enemy force at Huamantla and ordered an attack. With Walker's mounted rifles in the lead, the assault force reached Huamantla on October 9. During the spirited contest that followed Walker was either shot in the back or killed by a man on foot carrying a lance. Following his death his unit took revenge on the community of Huamantla. Walker was buried at Hacienda Tamaris. In 1848 his remains were moved to San Antonio. On April 21, 1856, as part of a battle of San Jacinto celebration, he was reburied in the Odd Fellows' Cemetery in San Antonio.