"It is the fate of America ever to 'go ahead'...That is her 'manifest destiny' ...filibusters ...steal and fight gratuitously for their own fast-following Uncle Sam. When they fail in their schemes they are certainly scoundrels, and are commonly so termed; when they succeed, though they be dubbed heroes, they are still the old rogues." --Fran Soule, John H. Ghion, and Isaac Nisbet, The Annals of San Francisco (1855) "INVASION, n. The patriot's most approved method of attesting his love for his country." --Ambrose Bierce, The Enlarged Devil's Dictionary (1967) Nashville-born William Walker was staying at the local City Hotel on July 13, 1857, when the Shelby Guards (commanded by Capt. W. H. Horn) escorted him up Capitol Hill for a public speech. The packedto-overflowing House of Representatives chamber heard him exclaim: "I feel that my aims and purposes are appreciated by those who knew me in my boyhood and youth..." Then he summarized his exploits, probably minimizing (or omitting) his illegal fiasco invasions of Baja California and Sonora, Mexico. Walker preferred the glory of his Nicaragua takeover. His speech was interrupted by applause--then he reminded his listeners of at least four Tennesseans who'd served with him. Andrew Ewing, a former U.S. Congressman--and trustee of Walker's alma mater, the University of Nashville--even rose to add words of support. Then the crowd clamored for the appearance of Walker's comrade, Captain Fayssoux (who would fight in the Civil War). Aaron Burr had also appeared at a ball at the City Hotel, in 1806, expressing his Tennessee loyalty-while hoping to inflict an anti-Spanish Texas invasion. And ex-Tennessee governor Sam Houston would encourage a Mexican conquest as a way of keeping Texas out of the Civil War, while governor of Texas in 1860. Walker's University of Nashville eventually evolved into Peabody College, itself now part of Vanderbilt University. Its statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt on West End Avenue is a scathing reminder that its benefactor--who destroyed William Walker's career--was a victor. Losers don't usually get statues. Yet an implicit memento to William Walker is the forgotten cornerstone moved to the current campus of Peabody engraved "The University of Nashville Founded 1784". Vanderbilt's college football hero, William "Rip" Robertson, helped the covert overthrow of Guatemala in 1954 (with novelist E. Howard Hunt) on behalf of the United Fruit Company, as well as the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961 (both for Fruit Company stockholder, Allen W. Dulles). Nashville attorney John J. Hooker


~as a Bay of Pigs veterans' consultant at Key West. The Guatemalan conquest led to eventually 100,000 civilian deaths--and the Bay of Pigs cost the lives of over 100 invaders, and helped plunge the U.S. into Vietnam. Then on August 26, 1988, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North spoke at a banquet at Nashville's Hyatt Regency Hotel, to raise $45-50,000 in defense funds for his Iran-Contra scandal regarding covert war in Nicaragua. "I love God and country," extolled one of North's sponsors--while one of fifty sidewalk protestors lashed a sign declaring "Ollie Belongs Behind Bars." Often during the Iran-Contra charade, William Walker's name resurfaced as a ludicrous analogy. In 1987 New Yorker journalist Judith Thurman visited Granada, Nicaragua--and asked a nine year-old girl, Fatima, about William Walker. She exclaimed: "El Filibustero!," confirming that filibuster, whose original meaning had been obsolete in the United States for a century, was still a common term in Central America, thanks to Nashville's William Walker.*(* Dutch vrijbuiter for "freebooter," was the source. Filibusters, in fairness, weren't mere pirates--they wanted to grab land for political aggrandizement.) Indeed, the infamous movie, Walker, was being filmed then and there! Nashville itself was called the "Capital of Manifest Destiny" by historian Jesse C. Burt, echoed by Robert F. Kennedy award-winning historian John Egerton: "It had kept its gates open for half a century, attracting thousands of newcomers and even sending restless soldiers of fortune on to the next horizon." Walker's popular biographer, Noel B. Gerson, confirms that when Walker was growing up, Nashville, "the gem of the West," was perhaps the most exciting city in the United States, and her attitudes influenced the No profession took precedence over that of the soldier who States, and Nashville's greatest citizen, Major General. Andrew Jackson, was bot the hero of the War of 1812 and Creek Indian wars and President of the States. Walker's father James Walker--and uncle Robert T. Walker--had come to Nashville from Scotland in 1820 (either Edinburgh or Glasgow). Other kin were already here--James inherited property from an uncle named Tate. On the public square James ran a dry-good store, and founded the Nashville Insurance Company--and ~as one of three trustees representing Nashville when the city turned Capitol Hill over to the state. He married Mary Norvell of Kentucky on August 7, 1823--and on May 8, the following year, William Walker was born at 142 Cherry street, now Fourth Avenue (as Howard William Walker, according to one source). Ironically, the Walker home site is commemorated with a city historical marker-near the Ryman Auditorium, shrine of the Grand Ole Opry. If country music is Nashville's grandest tourist attraction, William Walker is perhaps its most quixotic

nation. fought for the United United


native-born son. Yet Walker was short, freckled-face, excruciatingly shy, and almost effeminate. Whenever visitors dropped by, they would usually notice him reading to his invalid mother, who had tuberculosis. Young William usually wore a grave expression--his austere father hoped he would become a preacher for the Disciples (today's Church of Christ). But he was the eldest and most rebellious of three sons. He loved to read Napoleonic history (his grandfather on his mother's side had been in George Washington's army); and he probably read Sir Walter Scott.* (*Mark Twain managed to blame the Civil War on Scott in Life on the Mississippi: Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments... [he] sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms...with the silliness and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless longvanished society. He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any, other individual that ever wrote... the Walter Scott Middle Age-sham civilization [has] practical common sense, progressive ideas and progressive works mixed up with the duel, the inflated speech, and the jejune romanticism of an absurd past that is dead, and out of charity ought to be buried.. .It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in the South a major or a colonel, or a general or a judge, before the War; and it was he, also, that made these gentlemen value these bogus decorations. For it was he that created rank and caste down there, and also reverence for rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them. Certainly the family's repressive Victorian morality, contrasted with the Southern vainglory exemplified by Scott, helps explain Walker's megalomaniacal ambition. Add to that tinder the spark of perhaps too much education. At age twelve, Walker entered the University of Nashville, which was a short stroll up College Hill from the Walker home (today's Rutledge Hill). Walker was the President and Secretary of the Agatherdian Society, for literary debates. He was graduated at fourteen. Many of Nashville's leaders went there. In 1785, the North Carolina legislature chartered Davidson Academy, located above Nashville where Spring Hill Cemetery on Gallatin Road is today. General William Harney, involved in the San Juan Island "Pig War", attended class there. Davidson Academy was renamed Cumberland College, moving near today's Peabody Street and Third Avenue South. Andrew Jackson Donelson attended--he negotiated the treaty annexing Texas to the U.S. Then in 1826 it became the University of Nashville. General Gideon Pillow, serving in the Mexican War and Civil War, was a graduate; so was Confederate martyr Sam Davis. Numerous figures identified with Western conquest or adventure also went there--including Walker's two brothers, soldier of fortune Roberdeau Wheat (all of whom served with him in Nicaragua), and Walker's California ally, Henry A. Crabb.* (*Such as George C. Childress, newspaper editor and author of the Texas Declaration of Independence; John Austin Wharton, Sam Houston's Adjutant General who fought at San

Jacinto; John Coffee Hays, most famed Texas Ranger and California leader; Peter Pitchlynn, Choctaw chief after the Indian removal to Oklahoma; Benjamin Butler Harris, a Texas "Argonaut" on the Gila Trail to California; Edward Dickson Hicks II, who after his graduation in 1848 at once headed for the California gold fields; and William Hardeman, grandson of a Watauga pioneer, a Texas Ranger, and fighter in two wars and over fifty battles. After graduation, Walker took another degree with a heavy curriculum--Bible studies, Latin, Greek, and subjects useful later: navigation, international law, and oratory. Next, he spent eighteen months at the University of Pennsylvania, becoming a Doctor of Medicine in 1843. (In his last campaigns, without a surgeon, he himself would bind the wounds of his men.) His dissertation was on the iris of the eye-biographer Albert Z. Carr wonders if hypnotism weren't maybe one of his interests! His eyes, called "white"--or more often, grey--burned powerfully. Whatever its source, the little man's charisma would later magnetize men into following him through lethal gunfire against all the odds. Back in Nashville he studied (and maybe practiced) medicine under a Dr. Jennings. Two of his close friends were Dr. James Farquharson, and Dr. John Berrien Lindsley, who headed the University of Nashville-- both living on College Hill. Then he went to Paris, Edinburgh, London and probably Heidelberg. He wrote home to Lindsley, condemning Parisian morals--husbands taking multiple mistresses, wives having lovers ("What a striking lesson may the moralist learn here!"). Walker was always nervous around women, and his later conquests would be military, not amatory. He confessed that his boyhood dream of being a politician was returning to torment him--but whether from "an angel of light or an angel of darkness," he wasn't sure! He switched to international law--how humorous, considering neutrality violation is such a great filibuster tradition, anticipating the post-World War II Cold War covert cult! By 1845 he was studying law in Nashville, then went to New Orleans, practicing law...or trying to. Lack of clients drove him to join the New Orleans Crescent in March, 1848. Though he'd never published a word, he was made editor of foreign affairs--and before he left, was listed as one of the publishers. His literate, slashing editorials went against the conventional grain--and immediately increased the readership. He attacked slavery, and though he endorsed the peaceful purchase of Cuba~~as did fellow Tennessean, president James K. Polk-Walker denounced a scheme to invade the island and presumably turn it into a slave state. He said the aspiring conquerors ("filibusters") should go to jail, even if one of them was apparently a friend from Nashville: Roberdeau Wheat. That same year he came back to address the Alumni Society of his old alma mater on "The Unity of

Art"--declaring that science itself led toward "the invisible world, the world of spirit"; that war itself was an artistic endeavor; and that Milton's Paradise Lost made Satan's willpower and undying hate most unforgettable. Importantly, he praised poets Byron and Lamartine for having become revolutionary patriots and men of action. Back in New Orleans, he began wearing a black, wide-brimmed sombrero, after the style of revolutionary Louis Kossuth (1848 being the year of Europe's revolutionary upheaval). The diminutive, inhibited William Walker also found the perfect woman. Ellen Martin was deaf and mute; and Walker, who would one day address the world through news headlines, learned sign language. They probably would have married. But Ellen Martin unexpectedly died of pneumonia, plunging her suitor into morose grieving and rubbing raw his already irascible righteousness. His editorials grew more vehement and bitter. Soon he fought the first of his four duels (neither man got shot), and personally flogged a rival editor for attacking him in print. It might be romantically (or Freudianally) argued that Ellen Martin's death permanently tilted U.S.Latin American relations. For shortly thereafter, stricken, dour William Walker sailed for California in early 1850. America's Mexican and Central American conflicts have always been "wild western" in their origins--as President Polk proved in his Texas-driven Mexican War, and as conquest-crazed Walker would soon prove in California. The Crescent had been sold--and Walker's friend Edmund Randolph, who had introduced him to Ellen, was already in San Francisco. He'd co-founded the Herald newspaper. The very day Walker arrived in town, he was hired at the Herald by Randolph's partner, John Nugent--who'd come to California with Captain John Coffee--("Jack") Hays, the famous Texas Ranger from Tennessee (and the University of Nashville!). Nugent had successfully run Hays for sheriff, by having him jump his horse acrobatically out on the town square. Only three years earlier, gold had been discovered in California. Initially "people were honest, or made to be honest," wrote stanton A. Coblentz: "California was virtually a land without crime." Fortunately for storytellers, this boring morality was short-lived. As the tale of King Solomon warns, gold wreaks profound changes in the human soul. The bewitching ore had allured unimaginably hard and grasping men to California--often the rejects and dregs of Eastern society, or ex-inmates from the penal colonies of the British empire. The gold camps were exciting, and the gaming tables, bars, and brothels could quickly absorb a miner's wealth. From Sidney, Australia came criminals who helped break down San Francisco's government eight months after it started. Gangs like the Sidney Ducks extorted

protection money from merchants, burning out those who refused. Judges and politicians were eager to be bought off; the police openly fraternized with the criminals. In early 1850, in San Francisco alone, there'd been over 100 murders...and no executions. Of law-abiding citizens, the milder ones were increasingly leaving town--while the more resolute and politically ambitious were toying with the possibilities of the Great American Lynch Rope. Into this brawling milieu strode the diminutive William Walker--five feet-five inches of controlled, idealistic fury. He stood out with his courtly, Southern manners, conspicuous education...and ice-grey eyes. He didn't drink, and he manifested no destiny toward women, in a city where decent ones were in short supply. To the great benefit of the Herald's circulation, Walker wasted no time in mounting strident, anticrime attacks. He called the California Supreme Court "ridiculous...unprincipled...corrupt, "and reported the Sacramento Council as being full of "knaves and blackguards." Walker's editorial "A Way to stop Crime" was of immense seminal importance to Western history: he recommended that 2-300 "regulators" (an old Southern term for armed citizens) start offering "a free example of Lynch Law." other papers began repeating this civic-minded proposal, and there eventually came to pass the Vigilance movement of "popular tribunals" and rope law. (The San Francisco vigilantes were mostly businessmen who kept records and proceeded with considerable restraint, often offering banishment in lieu of hanging. Vigilantes in other Western states emulated them, but with far less discipline or justice...) Walker began flailing Judge Levi Parsons for having instructed a jury "to aid the escape of criminals." So the judge judged the Herald to be a public nuisance, and arrested Walker for contempt of court--he retorted that the court deserved everyone's contempt! Indeed, courtrooms were physically dangerous--the prisoner on trial, like everyone else, might pack a pistol for protection. At Walker's trial, a fistfight broke out. Flamboyant Edmund Randolph defended him--Walker was fined $500...which he refused to pay. Immediately handbills went up, announcing "Justice! Public Meeting!" Next day, a mob of four thousand people surged on the plaza, chanting "Set Walker free!." Edmund Randolph offered an harangue. "Three cheers for Walker, three groans for Judge Parsons!," the crowd ranted. A legislative committee unsuccessfully petitioned to impeach Judge Parsons. Walker wrote two more editorials--from jail!--one of which cited Parsons's "masterly inactivity" in checking the epidemic of crime. All this uproar set Walker free. In tribute to law-'n'-order, the underworld started one of its usual fires, destroying twenty blocks of buildings--including the newspaper office. One editorial, "The Organization of Crime in This State," accused the authorities of shielding the

arsonists. Obviously, Walker needed another duel. One of Parsons's surrogates, Graham Hicks, was a deadly shot--and called Walker to the field of honor. As in all of his duels, Walker failed to hit his opponent. Most likely he was a good shot--but he was probably fulfilling his Southern code of chivalry, while abstaining like an ascetic from actual violence. Walker was maybe more drawn to danger, than to the actual struggle of trying to kill a foe. Hicks shot him in the shoulder. By now, the vigilante movement was moving--but typical of Walker, he stepped off the stage he had helped erect with his bombast for the Herald. Other men could stage-manage the show; let them swing the culprits from the lamp-posts; Walker 'Was retiring from journalism to practice law in Marysville. His partner, Henry P. Watkins, was a nephew of Henry Clay. (Part of the vigilante agenda was to do it in the local Democratic Party.) But the law office tedium Has stultifying. And in court, Walker failed to sway judges and juries with his overly abstract arguments. Happily he was rescued from such boredom by the energetic Apaches. In one week alone in 1853, they'd reportedly killed eighty Mexicans. What welcome news!--clearly, the people of Sonora deserved outside deliverance. Already Count de Raousset-Bouldron was being honored in San Francisco for merely trying (and failing) to assist (and take over) Sonora. Yes, it was being called the Golden Age of Filibusters. So Walker and Watkins sneaked into Mexico disguised as journalists. At Guaymas, Sonora, Walker was an amusing spectacle--braving the l00-degree heat in a huge white fur hat, and an ill-fitting blue coat with gold buttons. Then he and Watkins scented danger, and left, Walker claiming there was a price on his head, necessitating his flight "in order to save the important member advertised." Perhaps the Sonorans knew that as early as May 1, 1853, Walker had been issuing $500 bonds to be redeemed by "one square league of land" in the projected "Republic of Sonora," signed by himself of the "Independence Regiment." Back in San Francisco, money went for guns and a ship. Recruiting was easy. One biographer, Laurence Greene, calls the rougher Californians of the l850s "the most headlong breed of men the United states had ever known...These men, fighters and killers, could not long be satisfied with the routine of San Francisco's normal bawling. They looked about for a larger stage upon which to perform... Filibusterism fitted these men..." The governor of Sonora was inviting Walker down to discuss peaceful colonizing--and Indian fighting. Walker smelled a trap, so aimed to seize Sonora by force. The U.S. Army, however, captured his ship...

and Walker unsuccessfully sued to get it back. It was easier to secure another vessel, the Caroline--so clandestinely, at one in the morning on October 17, 1853, he left San Francisco with his forty-five man "First Independence Battalion." With twenty-five rifles, and around eighty muskets-~plus over a hundred pounds of gunpowder--they sailed on down the long peninsula of lower (Baja) California. On November 3, they invaded La Paz, and Walker ran up his own flag, and declared in English--he didn't yet speak Spanish--that the Republic of Lower California now had himself as its president. Walker showed how much he respected local government by letting his troops ransack local offices and destroy many of the records. He held the governor and his successor prisoner. Finally a handful of Mexicans fired some shots, and were routed. Walker inflated this minute skirmish into a major battle--the news of which helped Henry Watkins back in San Francisco. He was running a recruiting office at the corner of Kearney and Sacramento streets, flying Walker's colors (two red stars on a blue field). Forty men Nere enlisted at one meeting, described as "failures, gold seekers "who had not found, or had found and spent, saloon loafers, wharf rats, killers, and boys meant by their mothers to be ministers." On December 7, 1853, men, guns, and ammunition were loaded on a ship bound for republican glory with William Walker. President Walker was meanwhile sailing north to Ensenada, below San Diego, and petitioning the U.S. government for recognition. He issued a proclamation condemning Mexico for failing to protect its citizens from the Apaches--and invoking God "who controls the destinies of nations, and guides them in the ways of progress and improvement." Then at three o'clock in the morning, November 30, some of these would-be saviors of Sonora sneaked up on a ranch, and liberated some horses and saddles, perhaps by divine right of conquest. They "paid" for their booty with a receipt signed by President Walker. On December 2, some other Walkerites repeated this pre-dawn procedure--stealing more horses, and capturing a couple of Mexicans. But they failed to find the noted bandit, Antonio Melendrez, who was hiding in the house. He reported Walker to the authorities, then rounded up some fighters of his own! No, Walker was not exactly winning over the hearts and minds of the people he had come to rescue. By now, Hispanic citizen posses were forming in lower California--not to help him shake off the yoke of Mexican tyranny, but to crush him or at least drive him out. As Don Juan Bandini said: "The marauders were behaving as though they were the absolute masters of the country. Heaven help anyone who resisted..." At Ensenada, Walker with his cabinet and troops chose an adobe building for their executive

headquarters. Soon enough, it became their fortress...as Melendrez attacked with 200 Mexicans! Despite Walker's lack of military training and experience, his recruitment preference for San Fancisco dockside toughs proved astute. They repulsed the assault. By the time Vice-President Watkins arrived, the little republic needed food more than powder and shot. Simultaneously, the U.S. government was trying to buy land from Mexico in the "Gadsden Purchase" (today's southern New Mexlco and Arizona). James Gadsden, minister to Mexico, had helped Andrew Jackson conquer the Seminole territory in Florida in the War of 1812. The Mexican diplomats, balking at the low price, were suddenly shocked into acquiescence by the news of Walker running amok. The yanqui emissaries swore that Walker wasn't theirs...but all the same, the Mexicans signed a little faster than expected. If Walker Was credited with having scared them into selling quicker and cheaper, he was also blamed for angering them into withholding Baja California which they might have sold--but for his antics! Perhaps he cost the U.S. the resort of Tijuana. Characteristically, Walker condemned the entire Gadsden Purchase...for having placed limits on future expansioneering. Dauntless Walker was now declaring his republic of Sonora to include the Baja California peninsula, as well as mainland Sonora. No longer could the tolerant San Francisco press restrain itself--it began jeering Walker. Cool as ever, he convened a few dozen compliant natives... and issued a "Declaration" of representative government for his Republic. Next came a mutiny, which Walker quelled with two floggings, and two executions. His reputation in the press sunk further. Finally he instigated a hard march across the peninsula to the Colorado River, driving a herd of cattle for a food supply. Bandits harried them, Indians stole some cattle, "and Walker's increasingly ragged band stumbled over the Sierras in excruciating hardship. Some of the cattle drowned in the Colorado River. A number of troops deserted. And one soldier shot another one dead, for having stolen his jar of stale corn. President Walker justly reduced the killer's rank from captain to lieutenant--after all, the corn grabber was a mere Englishman. By now, fearing capture by U.S. forces, Walker and his forces retreated back to San Vincente over the same, rocky two hundred miles. Back at their old garrison, they discovered many of their soldiers slain. In scattered groups, the survivors straggled toward the border...harassed all the way, by Melendrez and his enthusiastic followers. On Walker's thirtieth birthday, May 8, 1854, they crossed the border on the San Diego road. Haggard, and famished from days without food, they surrendered to the U.S. Army--then were paroled as "Officers and Privates of the (so called) 'Republic of Sonora'." Walker was still wearing his foppish white fur hat and the

dignified mein which never left him. They sailed on back to San Francisco. Walker's San Diego surrender would have its uncanny aftermath--in the 1990s, a cocaine smuggler named Blandon Reyes would be tried in San Diego. Hilariously, the Federal government was accused of covering up his dope-running, in order to help overthrow the Nicaraguan regime. Thanks to his own San Diego fiasco, Walker's next filibuster destination would be...Nicaragua. Back in March, Walker's partner Henry P. Watkins had been tried for violating the neutrality law. One of his attorneys had been Walker's ally, Edmund Randolph, of the famous Virginia family--whose grandfather had defended that other great Western misadventurer, Aaron Burr. Watkins's other lawyer had been Henry Stuart Foote--Texas historian, ex-Governor of Mississippi, and compulsive fighter of duels, whose last days would be in Nashville (his house is now on the Vanderbilt campus!). Foote audaciously argued that the neutrality laws were unconstitutional. But Watkins was found guilty, fined $1500 by a lenient (and pro-filibuster) judge. Watkins pleaded he had no money. When Walker got back to town, he and his Secretaries of War were indicted for the same offense. While awaiting his trial, he plunged back into politics. He'd opposed the spread of slavery while in New Orleans, so now backed David C. Broderick's attempt to wrest the Democratic party away from the Southern, pro-slavery faction led by Tennessee-born William McKendree Gwin. The Democratic convention was held in July at a church in Sacramento. The proceedings were something of a desecrator Walker and some other Broderick backers formed a "crash squad" which physically tried to seize the pulpit platform. Walker was named Chairman of the Platform Committee, among other titles; the slavery faction nominated a competing candidate. When Walker tried to speak, someone's pistol accidentally went off-~even as several men dove through the windows. Next day, Walker attempted to head a compromise committee--he was hooted down, one delegate formally proposing that he be ejected through a window. Wisely, he retired from colorful California politics, even as the Democratic party had split apart and would remain divided for nearly half a century. (Walker's icon, Broderick, would die in a duel instigated by the Gwin clique.) Walker stood trial in October, Edmund Randolph defending him. Henry A. Crabb, Walker's old classmate, had not been in the invasion, but testified anyway. Walker partly conducted his own defense, and despite his prior, lackluster record as a lawyer, this time" did not have a fool for a client. In eight minutes, the jury acquitted the man who, as a journalist, had so often inveighed against the courts' laxity on crime. In his defense, he'd claimed that when leaving San Francisco, his expedition had fraught no military

purpose ("It was not my intention to proceed and land there [La Paz] in a hostile manner"). T'his, despite his public recruiting office and his flagrant sale of Sonoran bonds! Such an argument may have been suggested by another friend from Nashville, Chatham Roberdeau Wheat (fellow University of Nashville graduate). Wheat , had successfully used this rationale when he'd been indicted for his role in the Lopez invasion of Cuba in 1850. The previous March, Wheat had written to his mother: "I am thus far on my way to California...think of me as your emissary in the cause of Liberty," an odd remark unless he was planning to join Walker's Sonoran caper. He arrived too late for this, so he entered the California Guard and began plotting another Cuban filibuster. Later he would unsuccessfully plan to aid Walker in Nicaragua (and died for the Confederacy in the Civil War). By now Walker's surviving men had traipsed into San Francisco--only to learn that their payroll drafts, drawn against the defunct Republic of Sonora, couldn't even buy them a drink! The city welcomed them, all the same, as conquerors and celebrities; no doubt some of their refreshments--and more personal entertainment were on the house. A good many of them regained faith in their frosty-eyed leader. Walker dabbled some more in journalism--then in March, 1855, fought his third duel. But soon he returned to his true calling. The previous November, President Franklin Pierce, in his State of the Union message, had defended expansionism and, specifically--American interest in Nicaragua. Already Walker's old schoolmate and ally, Henry A. Crabb, had gone to Nicaragua, picking up an invasion contract from one of the revolutionary factions. But Crabb wanted to wade further into California politics, so tried to interest Walker in his glowing accounts of the country. Walker rejected Crabb's exact offer--hilariously, because it sounded illegal--but instead managed to get a "colonization" contract from Nicaragua's Liberal party. He even cleared it with the local U. S. District Attorney. Even John Charles Fremont quietly encouraged Walker (his own Bear Flag Revolt was really a filibustering that succeeded). Walker's fame attracted more volunteers than he could transport. Considering San Francisco's lack of females, maybe they surrendered to the siren temptation of Nicaragua's population ratio: seven women for each man. The former minister to Nicaragua had praised the native girls for being "of all shades from white to ebon black, straight as arrows, lithe yet full-figured, with quick mischievous eyes." Whatever their motives, fifty-eight men were carefully selected...dubbed by Walker "The Immortals." The typical recruit was a Mexican war veteran, armed with a Mississippi rifle, two Colt's revolvers and a Bowie knife. (Yet Walker attracted many moony, intellectual types as well, quite a few of whom wrote tribute poems or memoirs later.) Walker and "The Immortals" sailed in May of 1855, after having first

been halted by creditors till Henry A. Crabb helpfully interceded. To escape, Walker had to capture a deputy sheriff who was offered the easy choice of champagne and cigars--or handcuffs, if he objected-before being plopped ashore down the coast. Walker and "The Immortals" landed at Realsjo on June 16, 1855--they were soon dubbed La Falange Americana (the American Phalanx). At first, some of their jealous Nicaraguan rivals withheld support. Walker and his band marched through a lush rain forest alive with insects and scented by flowers. Outnumbered 500 to 50, they still attacked Rivas. Soon they were trapped inside a house, seemingly without hope till they dove out a door, shooting their way through, against all the odds. Such reckless courage awed the Nicaraguans. Finally with a force of 250, Walker captured Granada, capital of the Legitimatist foes, with only one casualty--a drummer boy, hit by a ricocheting bullet. Walker prohibited raping and looting by his men--and he would personally treat the enemies wounded in the field, rather than killing them as was the Central American custom. Such scruples endeared him to the Nicaraguans, and his audacity captivated the American minister. Walker even managed to step into an Indian legend about a promised savior with eyes of grey...ever since, he has been effusively called "the grey-eyed man of destiny." The Alta Californian humorously praised Walker as being greater than "William the Conqueror,

Cortez and Pizarro." Soon Walker had his own newspaper, mainly to impress U.S. and European readers. At some point Colonel Walker became General Walker--then was even elected president, taking

office December 7, 1856. The final "returns" were grossly exaggerated in his favor, since as Albert

Z. Carr tartly notes, "Nicaraguan elections were traditionally almost as dishonest as those held in

New York or San Francisco at the same period." At his inauguration, fifty-three toasts were


drunk...albeit in light wine, at his own request. The United States ambassador to Nicaragua, John H. Wheeler, had officially recognized the latest revolt--thus did the U.S. momentarily accept Walker as President. But President Pierce rebutted the acknowledgement, and yanked Wheeler home in disgust! Walker, born in the future "Music City, U.S.A." upheld the Bible Belt with a Bible pledge of his presidency--which was followed by some local musicians playing what we'd like to call the "Nashville Sound of Filibustering," since one was called "Rock the Cradle, Lucy," and another-proposed by one of his troops--rhymed "The Fifty-Six" (the number of his Immortals) with "1856," the year of conquest. Fittingly, Walker was a hero in the Galveston Weekly News---a faint echo of Tennessean James Long's Galveston filibustering, and earlier, pirate Jean Lafitte's Andrew Jackson connection ("If it is criminal to aid Nicaragua now, it was criminal in Lafayette to join the American Revolution"). [Lafayette never had political ambition in America.] Other Texas papers rallied to Walker's support. One romantic Walker partisan was eighteen-year-old Elleanore Callaghan, from North Nashville. She and some family members yearned for Nicaragua's "garden spot of the world." But fever slew her niece, and gun blasts during the latest battle filled up the church where Callaghan and family were hiding in Grenada. Bloody soldiers staggered in, and she tore up her bloomers/ petticoats to plot their gore. In 1857 her sister and brother-in-law died--but she persevered, with her black slave boy, using her skirts as wadding for a cannon, and missing a cannonball that crashed into her room. Yet she survived... dying in North Nashville in 1898.* (*She married German business man Henry Ratterman--and on June 1, 1996, their home at 1215 5th Avenue North was the site of the Tennessee Bi-Centennial mini-drarna, "The Ratterman Haus" (including the Nicaragua Walker saga). But Walker the visionary conqueror was no politician, and he made worldly error after error. "GreyEyed Man of Duncery," might be more accurate. While consolidating his power, he discovered that General Corral, one of his subdued rivals, was betraying him to Honduras. So Corral was publicly executed, while many Granadans looked on in grief. His second mistake was his ousting of Henry L. Kinney, who was struggling to establish the Mosquito kingdom (named for Indians, not insects), a wacky all-Negro state set up by Great Britain. Said Walker of


Kinney: "If I ever lay hands on him on Nicaraguan soil, I shall surely hang him." Kinney, down but not out, began working hard at turning his friend President Franklin Pierce against Walker. Even more unpolitic was his recruitment of Parker H. French, first as a cabinet member, then as minister to the U.S. French was engaging and pretentious--and limitlessly crass, running innocentsounding "immigration" ads in New York papers, drawing young men "to go a short distance out of the city...Apply at 347 Broadway, corner of Leonard Street, Room 12," the short distance being down to Nicaragua. Soon the U.S. Attorney was alerting district attorneys in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco, to halt such filibusters posing as "emigrants." Then Parker French's past began leaking into print. Earlier he had bilked emigrants out of tens of thousands of dollars, steering them to California on the Gila Trail, paying his way with fake drafts against an unsuspecting New York firm; later he became an actual highwayman; there'd even been an 1851 pamphlet published exposing him. His own lawyer admitted that "everything connected with his career is either mysterious or feigned." Yet this dedicated swindler was walker's ambassador to Wall street-~namely, to the Accessory Transit Company owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt, which transported travelers by boat across Nicaragua's lakes. Soon, two of Vanderbilt's partners, Cornelius K. Garrison and Charles Morgan, began betraying him. They egged Edmund Randolph into persuading Walker to seize Vanderbilt's Nicaraguan holdings. Randolph got a fat cut of these stolen profits. Walker's official excuse was Vanderbilt's failure to compensate Nicaragua fairly. Dear Vanderbilt probably admired his fellow pirate, William Walker, and would have supported his Nicaraguan monetary "Manifest Destiny." Had Walker accepted, perhaps Nashville could claim prideful credit for having colonized Central America--eventually Vanderbilt University might have had a Nicaraguan branch! Instead, Cornelius Vanderbilt was now rousing Nicaragua's neighbors...against Nashville's grey-eyed man of duplicity. And Parker H. French, long since ejected from Nicaragua for having dealt the new regime (in Walker's words) "all the injury his genius is capable of," was soon delighting audiences across the Southern U.S.A. with his lectures on Nicaragua. But Walker's worst mistake was to lift Nicaragua's ban against slavery." He who had opposed slavery in New Orleans and California, now hypocritically hoped to sell Nicaraguan bonds in the South. After all, in the South "niggers" were inferior human sub-species, at least to "good" Christian aristocrats who went to church, feeling no guilt over making slaves work ten or twelve hours a day, and reaping "family values" by severing black families on the auction block! To oppose racism, like the damned Yankee abolitionists, was to thwart Southern economic integrity! Walker was becoming a Catholic, but thank God


that New York archbishop John Hughes--demanded that a slave "be faithful to his master"--and Nashville Bishop Miles said nothing against slavery. Texas newspapers defended Walker's slavery campaign, wisely seeing it as a way of stymieing the nasty anti-slave propagandists. Alas, Southern support for filibuster-slave statery in Nicaragua was not forthcoming. And now, the British-who coveted Nicaragua as a potential canal route were ranging their ships against the hemmed-in country. Walker, who had fantasized a united Central America, had finally succeeded. His neighbors north and south Were united...but against him, pitting a force of 5000 against his 600.* (* Gen. Chatham Roberdeau Wheat, Nashville schoolmate of Walker's brother James, raised troops to aid Walker. His men loved him for his leadership and personal courage under fire. At one point, the British tried to woo away his troops with a promise of a safe passage home. Wheat tried to goad a British captain into a duel, to the delight of his own onlooking troop accusing the Briton of hiding his courage behind his rank.) And Vanderbilt's hired freebooters were now invading Nicaragua--even as the "grey-eyed man of destiny" was driven out of his newly-claimed nation, forced to surrender to the U.S. Navy. Yet no charges were filed. In New Orleans, cheering throngs welcomed the hero of Manifest Destiny. In New York, was even more triumphant, despite such journalists as Horace Greely who said it was a pity that Walker had not been exterminated in Nicaragua. While Walker did not represent official U.S. foreign policy, the nation was cleaving itself along sectional lines. Walker's sincere, if doubtful, "democratic" idealism gave new hope to pro-slave interests in the South and West. One of his key defenders in Congress, Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, would become Vice-President of the Confederacy. Now in the late 1850s, one of his San Francisco haunts was Abe Warner's "Cobweb Palace." Warner liked spiders, and his saloon was festooned like a haunted house in a horror movie, with cobwebs everywhere, plus cages of parrots and monkeys from o'er the seas. One day in 1857, Walker poked his cane into one of the decorative cobwebs. "That cobweb wiII be growing long after you've been cut down from the gibbet!," chided Warner. Yet Walker was being adulated throughout America, especially in Texas, happy home state of Manifest Destiny. "Nicaragua meetings" were popular in Houston and Galveston in 1857, and one Galveston editor compared Walker to Moses Austin and Lafayette. "Alamo Rangers, remember you are Texans," was inscribed on a flag that San Antonio ladies presented to their local Nicaraguan volunteer invaders. After his triumphant speech in Nashville in 1857, U.S. Congressman Felix Zollicoffer, a fellow Nashvillian, defended him on January 13, the following year, in the House of Representatives. A future,


understood the better than those who have

famous Confederate general, Zollicoffer called Walker a modest, quiet, selfreliant man, of bold. conceptions and courage...of the very best ability and education...sustained by the law at every step...I believe he has Constitution and laws of the United States infinitely denounced him so grossly and unjustly.

Walker was back in Nashville the following month, staying with his father in the house on Cherry Street. He'd been asked to give a speech on "The Progress of the Arts"--to which he consented in a letter of February 18, snarling about being "made the object of much personal abuse and detraction," yet praising those people in Nashville who approved of his actions and motives. Yet how did Mr. James Walker face his insurance company partners in Nashville? Thanks to his son Wiliam's filibuster exploits, one son Novell had died at sea--and his other son, James, had fallen in battle... In 1860 Walker's The War in Nicaragua appeared, selling well. Like Caesar's Commentaries, it's in the third person; and while self-serving and circumspect (Walker evaded his immense failures), it's still factually accurate--something even his arch-detractors admitted. Though its special pleading on behalf of slavery rings quite false. Later that year Walker landed at Trujillo, Honduras, aiming to reach Nicaragua by land. In midAugust he wrote to Jane H. Thomas in Nashville. Soon the Hondurans were attacking his as-usual small force. His old enemies, the British, were at hand. "President of Nicaragua" Walker, still clinging to his old title, proffered his sword and pistol to Commander Norvell Salmon, surrendering (he thought) to her Britannic Majesty. Treacherous Salmon turned him over to the Hondurans, who tried and convicted him. In six days of meditation and prayer, Walker converted to Catholicism if he hadn't already done so. (Before being caught, he stashed a box full of about $12,000 stolen from the government--though not from churches, as some suspected.) Against an adobe wall at Trujillo on September 12, 1860, a rattle of musket fire crumpled the little man who had dreamed so big. According to a story too good to be false, Walker was clutching a gold crucifix from his late beloved Ellen Martin of so many years before. A second, redundant volley was fired. Then an officer stepped forward with a pistol...and blew away part of Walker's jaw. On the very date of his death, California was celebrating its statehood anniversary. In what psychologist Carl Jung would have called "synchronicity," Edmund Randolph was speaking--alluding to those California pioneers who were led "to renew their adventurous [?] careers upon foreign soils. Combating for strangers whose quarrels they espoused, they fell amid the jungles of the tropics...And fatted the rank soil there..." Two other Americans retrieved Walker's mutilated body, and it was buried in a Catholic cemetery. The


Tennessee Historical Society tried to repatriate Walker's remains to local soil, since Walker--like Thomas Hart Benton, and Cherokee chief John Ross --was an honorary member. Already there'd been attempts to steal his body, so the Hondurans refused. Sometime after 1879, ex-Governor Porter tried to find where Walker's grave was; the Nashville press reported that sea waters had washed it away. But Walker's tombstone is still in place in a fenced enclosure today. His presidential Great Seal was bestowed upon the latest government of Nicaragua. Somehow his father recovered his musket, and during the Federal occupation of Nashville, Jane H. Thomas was asked to keep it hidden. It passed to Hugh Thomas of Loudon County, Tennessee, burning up in a fire around 1905. Several of Walker's men served in the Civil War (most, perhaps all of those from Nashville did). One of them, Charles Francis Henningsen, said Walker's men were tougher than any other soldiers he saw later, Northern or Southern. They would relentlessly fight on, even hobbling on broken limbs, saving their last bullet for themselves. In 1909, a Tennessee magazine published a narrative poem by William G. Erwin, "The Wraith of William Walker," whose opening stanza was also its closing stanza: One night each year in Honduras, they clear the roads for his ghost, Their long dead Gringo President--who rides with his phantom host. He sweeps o'er the land in silence and the cowering natives hide, From the Wraith of William Walker who haunts the land where he died. Some writers have presumed that if Walker had lived, he would have greatly assisted the Confederacy. Certainly he had splendid courage and captivating leadership to offer---along with incompetent strategic thinking, and cocksure arrogance that would have undermined anyone else's larger plans. Anyway, the Confederacy needed no more hothead cavaliers in its ranks! Besides, Walker wasn't interested in slavery per se (nor in its consequence, secession). He was obsessed with expansionism. Yes, he might have fought for the South if left with no choice--but he was hoping his success in Nicaragua might avert the impending Civil War. (Ditto: Sam Houston in Texas, yearning to invade Mexico to keep his gubernatorial state out of the silly fight Nith the Yankees.). While Walker disclaimed any ambition to attach Nicaragua to the U.S. in his book, it's hard to believe he would have spurned such a chance. He probably wasn't solely interested in being a gringo Caribbean emperor--better to ride a white horse out of Nicaragua into the White House or Congress in Washington, D.C. In those days of Manifest Destiny, what we might call the "Sam Houston blueprint" was tacked to the wall, since political aggrandizement beckoned the filibusters like a will-o'-the-wisp. Here's the

formula: (1) find a promising revolution south of the border; (2) join, fight, and win; (3) become president of the new republic, to spread "democracy" among the benighted Latinos; (4) after a discreet, "independent" interval, promote annexation to the United States under the guise of "protection"; (5) become the territorial or state governor; (6) run for the U.S. presidency or Congress. Just ask the ghosts of Aaron Burr and James Wilkinson. Indeed, Sam Houston and John Charles Fremont more or less accomplished steps (1) through (5). Walker, too, might have become an exciting candidate, had he gotten away with his vast Caribbean slave empire designs.* (*Many historians have w wondered--was Walker an agent of the Knights of the Golden Circle? This secret society plotted to set up a Southern and Caribbean slave empire, the "circle" being drawn with a compass to circumscribe the South and Central America. But its charlatan founder George W. L. Bickley was a bungler and crackpot who may have instead been inspired by Walker--as was another crank and scamp, Phineas C. Wright, who started the similar (and likewise futile) Order of American Knights. If either group aided Walker, they certainly deserved each other...Walker had his own secret society, the Central American League, with cells in Nashville, Charleston, Mobile, and other large cities. It ran occasional advertisements openly seeking funds; Walker toured as a lecturer, to raise more funds. Walker was at least successful in his own terms--which were poetic terms. The blame for his filibustering should be fairly placed on the Literary Department of the University of Nashville, for letting him read Byron who "Though he died young, yet was he old in fame and deads," as Walker prophetically said to the Alumni Society in 1848. Of Lamartine, he added: Sweetly has the poet sung, and nobly the patriot acted. The seeker after truth and beauty has been well rewarded, and the hero has been permitted to carry out in action the dreams of the poet and the convictions of the philosopher. Walker may well have fluttered occasional female hearts with such sentimental bravado, stirring perhaps maternal feelings. Certainly he could mesmerize educated men, as well as waterfront hoodlums, into braving deathly danger. But his most desperate recruits could hardly excel their bookish little general in terms of icy courage. When taking a town, William Walker always struck for the plaza, that being the most direct course...and the most perilous.


He permanently strained U.S.-Central American relations. South of the border he is still vilified as a tool of Yankee imperialism, forgetting that he was crushed by a big capitalist, Vanderbilt. Sometimes Walker is idealized as a lost hope for developing impoverished Central American countries, joined in a five-country empire friendly to, or even part of, the United States. Had the U.S. supported Walker, the history of the hemisphere would have been dramatically altered. His extraordinary blend of scholarly introspection, Southern chivalry, Western expansionism, and grandiloquent gall caused his very name William Walker--in his lifetime and ever since --to evoke the most fervid praise, the most damning denunciations. Tennessee novelist and historian Wilma Dykeman says that "His story exceeds much Hollywood fiction in its violence, boldness, and at times outright. lawlessness." President Buchanan condemned Walker's recruiting of "reckless and lawless men to enlist under the banner of any adventurer to rob, plunder, and murder the unoffending citizens of neighboring states who have never done them any harm." William Walker's neutrality-violation was seen as unconstitutional in the 19th Century--but was the harbinger for the 20th Century Cold War killing in Latin America. Such as the police schools in Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and especially Los Fresno’s, Texas, where the U.S. trained Latin Americans how to use bombs. An amusing torture technique was the utilization of U.S. Army telephone wires, attached to male or female genitals, for patriotic "interrogation." Even more entertaining was the tax-supported Nicaraguan murder manual in the 1980s, which advised rebels how to kill villagers in the name of Christ--a clear violation of the "separation of church and state." Quotes from this death's little instruction book appeared in Rolling Stone during President Reagan's dynamic commitment to Nicaragua. William Walker's romantic legacy of "Manifest Destiny" will never die, at least not as long as U.S. taxpayers support civilian-killing death squads from time to time.

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