In the 180-year history of the Texas Rangers,
there have been many shining stars, but none glowed any brighter than Samuel Hamilton Walker.
Sam Walker was born in Prince George County, Maryland, in 1815 and died in Huamantla, Mexico on
October 9, 1847. His 32 years were epic adventure. Wars, Indian fights, filibusters, honor and celebrity
were all a part of his life. History has given his name to a pistol of his design that became the basis of
mounted battle and changed the concept of sidearm.
Little is known about Walker’s life as a child. Surviving letters and reports document that he was well
educated. In 1832, still a teenager, Walker ended up in Washington, DC. Four years later, in May 1836, he
joined the army.
Walker saw two tours of duty in the Florida swamps fighting Chief Osceola’s Seminoles. For “exceptional
courage” shown in the Battle of Hacheeluski in January 1837, he was promoted to corporal. No small feat
in that era, such a promotion could, and usually did, take years.
Walker mustered out in Maryland in 1838. Single and seeking adventure, he headed back to Florida,
where he had a job waiting for him. An army buddy, George Meade (of Gettysburg renown) had also left
the service and was supervising the construction of the Alabama, Florida, and Georgia Railway. Walker
remained in Florida until 1841 when he departed for Texas to become a legend.
Records show Walker arrived in Galveston in January, 1842. Eight months
later, Walker joined Captain Jesse Billingsley's company of Mounted Volunteers,
a Bastrop County militia command of seventy-five men. Billingsley had
commanded Company B in Colonel Edward Burleson's Texas Army regiment at
San Jacinto. The Billingsley MV Company was posted to San Antonio.
By 1842, Mexican General Santa Anna had sent several invasions against Texas, most notably that of
Raphael Vasquez in early March 1842. After plundering and looting San Antonio for two days, Vasquez
retreated to Mexico. Only President Sam Houston’s calming hand prevented a war. In September, 1842,
even Houston couldn't keep a lid on the situation when the mercenary Adrian Woll and a thousand strong
Mexican army occupied San Antonio.
Billingsley's company wasn't the only Texas outfit headed for San Antonio to fight Woll. An estimated two
hundred Texas militia and a small band of Texas Rangers under Captain John Coffee Hays on September
18, engaged and defeated elements of Woll's army at the Battle of Salado Creek. This battle and the
approach of even more Texas militia convinced Woll it was time to retreat. He left San Antonio and
marched back to the Rio Grande.
Following the Salado Creek fight, Billingsley’s company joined that of Matthew “Old Paint” Caldwell, and
Walker found himself serving under Jack Hays and Henry McCulloch pursuing the Mexican force. Woll
retreated to the border and the Texans, after only minor further skirmishes with the invaders, returned to
In November of 1842, Texas Regular Army General Alexander Somervell, operating under broad
discretionary powers from President Sam Houston, set about organizing his First Brigade of the Texas
Militia. The mission was to undertake a punitive expedition against Mexican army commands said to be
operating in South Texas. Muster rolls show Samuel H. Walker was the first of 77 privates who enlisted in
Captain Ewen Cameron's Company A. Somervell's army would eventually consist of some 750 officers and
men. On November 3, the first elements of the Texas Army marched out of San Antonio. Somervell had
two sets of orders: show restraint or invade Mexico.
When the Somervell expedition arrived at the Rio Grande, it first occupied Laredo without a fight, then
moved down river toward Mier. During the march there was a general lack of discipline shown within the
army. Many soldiers refused to carry out orders from their officers and as a result the safety and
usefulness of the army was in question.
On December 18, 1842, as the Mexican army was reported approaching from the south, Somervell elected
to abandon the approach on Mier and take the Texas army back to San Antonio. A number of men refused
to quit the expedition and elected William Fisher their commander to continue the attack. Jack Hays did
not join them, warning his comrades to abandon their foolish ideas. Two of those who disregarded Hays’
warning were Sam Walker and W. A. A. “Big Foot” Wallace, another Ranger beginning a prestigious
On December 23, the Texans crossed the river and invaded Mier unopposed. After demanding and
receiving supplies, they returned to the Texas side of the border. On Christmas Day, scouts reported that
700 Mexican soldiers were in Mier. Sensing a fight worthy of Texans, Fisher's filibusters crossed the river
and attacked, but couldn't handle the Mexicans' overwhelming numbers. The next day, December 26, they
were forced to surrender.
Sam Walker was not one the Texans who surrendered. He and fellow scout, Patrick Lusk, had been the
first Texans captured in the ill-fated expedition. On Christmas Day, he and Lusk were in the Mexican
camp scouting. Walker came upon some Mexican soldiers and fired, but as he and Lusk were crawling
under a fence to escape, soldiers grabbed them by their feet and took them prisoner.
Of the estimated 261 Texans who crossed into Mexico and fought at Mier, 10 were killed in battle and 6
died of wounds. The rest of the men were documented as captured military under terms of surrender,
thinking themselves subject to customary parole provisions regarding prisoners of war.
What followed Fisher’s debacle enraged Texans as nothing had since Travis' and Fannin’s massacre
during the Revolution.
The Texans were marched to south to prison in Saltillo. Several died or escaped along the way. On March
1, 1843, General Santa Anna abrogated his San Jacinto treaty terms and ordered the remaining prisoners
shot. Coahuila's Governor Francisco Mexía stopped the execution, calling it an atrocity.
The prisoners were then marched further south to San Luis Potosí. By March 25, when they arrived at
Hacienda Salado, orders arrived from Santa Anna that every tenth man be shot. From a jar containing a
hundred fifty-nine white beans and seventeen black beans, each Texan drew his lot. Anyone unfortunate
enough to draw a black bean died. Walker and Wallace both drew white and were spared. The Texan
commander, William Fisher, also drew a white bean, but Santa Anna would not hear of the Texas
commander being spared, and he was shot.
For the next months, Walker and his fellow Texans were summarily marched, beaten, and worked, in some
cases to death. Others, Captain Ewen Cameron among them, were ordered shot. On July 30, 1843, from a
camp at Perote outside Mexico City, Walker and a group escaped. Walker and two others eventually
reached the coast at Tampico. Walker managed to get on a ship headed for New Orleans, finally arriving
in September, 1843.
In New Orleans, Walker very publicly declared his intended revenge against Santa Anna and his readiness
to get back to Texas to start settling scores south of the border. He repeated his vow so often to his
friends that he earned a nickname, “Mad” Walker. He raised a small following of men for service as
Rangers and left in January, 1844, to rejoin Jack Hays.
Hays’ official command, by late 1843, had been reduced to a company of 25 and was finally declared
disbanded altogether by the Texas government for lack of money. Hays went to the capitol at Washington-
on-the-Brazos, appealed the disbanding, and stumbled onto the luck of being given the stores of the
decommissioned Texas Navy. Hays was commissioned some funds, but, more importantly, he came into
possession of the Navy's supply of weapons and ammunition, among which were some 150 Colt Paterson
The five-shot Paterson revolver was so called for the shop
in Paterson, New Jersey where Samuel Colt made them.
It had a 9 inch barrel in .36 caliber and held five rounds.
It was the first percussion revolver and revolutionary
in its design.
When Captain Hays returned to duty commanding the new Texas Ranger company in February, 1844, he
apparently had a better opinion of the Colt revolver than had the Navy. Hays saw the advantage of his
men fighting from horseback, each with a pair of repeating pistols and the Colt Patersons came with him.
No records have been found for the exact number of weapons issued. Colt’s sale had been through an
agent and the track there has been lost as well.
Hays and the Rangers were detailed to suppress the Comanche attacks on the northern frontier of the
Republic. Prior to the advent of repeating guns, Indians had been able to draw the fire of single-shot guns
and renew an attack before the guns could be reloaded. While a Ranger was reloading, a well-trained
Comanche could have five or six arrows in the air toward him. Change was definitely on Hays' mind.
Hays took to the field at the end of February with a contingent of men and left Ben McCulloch at the
Ranger headquarters in San Antonio to complete the recruitment of the full complement of the Ranger
company. Walker and his small crew arrived in San Antonio in March, enlisted, and left to join Hays.
On May 31, 1844, two of Hays’ Rangers were robbing a bee tree near Sister’s Creek when they sighted a
Comanche war party arrayed for battle and reported to Hays. The fifteen Rangers had been on the trail
three weeks, headed north from San Antonio to deal with reports of Comanches gathering on the Llano
River. A day later, scouts reported a large group of Comanche warriors moving in their direction. Next
day, near Walker’s Creek between the Guadalupe and Pedernales, Comanches gathered and attempted to
bait the Rangers.
Hays decided to find out just what his band of fifteen, newly armed, was capable of in combat and began
leading his men in a charge at the exposed Indians. Each had two of the Patersons and each gun was
accompanied by an extra cylinder. When, at sixty yards distance from the band of Indians, he saw a second
and a third rank behind the first, Hays wheeled and ordered his men into a stand of timber to the side. As
they approached the timber, concealed Comanches showered them with arrows. Hays plunged into the
position, surprising a dozen bowmen who sprinted in flight for their horses.
Now in a defensible position, three Texans held horses while the others deployed to meet the charging
The first line of Comanches absorbed a rifle volley then the main body raced to attack as the Rangers
supposedly reloaded. But the Texans stood up and poured a hail of pistol balls into the startled
Comanches. Warriors and ponies fell and the Indian charge was shattered.
Quickly, while the chiefs assembled their position at a distance, Hays’ men reloaded their two pistols each
with their extra cylinders, charged their rifles and shotguns, mounted, and counterattacked.
The Comanches loosed arrows and hit three Rangers, but companions kept the wounded men in their
saddles. Hays and nine men pushed their way through the Comanche line, knocking warriors off ponies
with pistol balls, and killing Chief Yellow Wolf. The Indians fell back disorganized, ducking behind shields
and riding zigzag to escape the hail of lead. The Rangers lost onekilled and four wounded including
Walker. Hays reported estimated Comanche casualties of fifty killed or wounded, including Chief Yellow
In his report, Hays credited the "five-shot repeating pistols" with the victory. He said, "Had it not been
for them, I doubt what the consequences would have been. I cannot recommend these arms too highly."
During the fight, Sam Walker and his good friend R. A."Ad"Gillespie were separated from the other
Rangers and both suffered wounds from Indian lances. According to Hays’ report, both were "wounded
badly." Upon the Ranger command’s return to San Antonio, the injured Walker was left in the care of
Mrs. W. H. Jacques, who nursed him back to good health and return to Hays' company. As a result of his
capture at Mier and imprisonment in Mexico and the later wounds he received fighting Indians, the
Rangers gave Walker a new nickname: "Unlucky Walker."
The skirmish, known as the battle of Walker’s Creek [not our Sam Walker] on June 8, 1844 was widely
and immediately reported and as it was repeated, the mythology of the Rangers and their Colt revolvers
grew. Unfortunately late for Samuel Colt, whose business had gone bankrupt in 1842, the legend was fixed
in history. The Rangers and the Colt Paterson changed warfare. The pendulums of public relations and
battle success against the Comanche swung in favor of the Rangers, and militaries all over the world paid
attention to Hays’ band of men in Texas.
“Unlucky” Walker was wounded again and again, though never seriously. After each recovery, he
continued fighting Indians. In February of 1845, greater appropriations were voted and the Ranger
command expanded to include Jack Hays’ increased company and smaller Ranger companies raised and
stationed in Travis, Bexar, Roberts, Milam, Goliad and Refugio Counties. Each company was led by a
Lieutenant. On August 12, 1845, Hays resigned from active Ranger service and was succeeded by R. A.
Gillespie as captain. Captain Gillespie and his last 43-man Texas Ranger company, including Private Sam
Walker, were ordered released on September 28, 1845 as part of the pending statehood treaty.
On March 28, 1846, his formal discharge in effect by the Act of Annexation, Walker ended his service to
the Republic of Texas in the Rangers, but his days as a Texas Ranger were far from over.
|Sam Walker and the Walker Colt
- Destiny and Invention Meet
The Colt "Texas" Paterson