TDISH: An American Lawyer in Nicaragua

On May 3, 1855, William Walker, a Tennessee-born lawyer and mercenary, set sail from San Francisco with a small army of 60 men.  His goal was to create an Americanized colony in Nicaragua under his personal leadership.  Walker was the perhaps the most well-known of a group of American men known as filibusters – individuals who undertook unauthorized military expeditions against foreign lands.  This practice was particularly prevalent in the Appletons'_Walker_Williampre-Civil War era of American history, that is, the period during which the national dream of manifest destiny was at its peak.

In the 1850s, Nicaragua was undergoing a revolution and Walker saw an opportunity.  He set sail from San Francisco, avoiding federal authorities who had attempted to keep him from sailing, since the invasion of a foreign country by an American civilian violated American neutrality laws.  Upon arrival in Nicaragua, Walker and his men succeeded in winning several military engagements which led to Walker’s installment as Nicaragua’s president in 1856.  His rule, effectively a dictatorship, lasted approximately one year when he deposed.  After some time fighting the new Nicaraguan government, the former “president” was captured by government forces.  On September 12, 1860, William Walker was executed by firing squad.

In October of that year, the New York Times ran the following passage:

I yesterday sent to Charleston “news” of the execution of WILLIAM WALKER at Truxillo [sic]
on the 12th inst. [September]. WALKER,it appears, was not permitted to have any communication with any of his followers previous to his execution. He marched from his cell to
the place of execution with a steady step and unshaken mien. A chair had been placed for him with its back towards the Castle. Having taken his seat, he was blindfolded. Three soldiers stepped forward to within twenty feet of him and discharged their muskets. The balls entered his body, and he leaned a little forward; but, it being observed he was not dead, a fourth soldier mercifully advanced so close to the suffering man that the muzzle of the musket almost touched his forehead, and being there discharged, scattered his brains and skull to the winds. Thus ends the life of the “Gray-eyed man of Destiny.”
Featured Image. “Flag of Walker’s Nicaragua.” By Jaume Ollé, changed to .png by Ninane –, CC BY-SA 3.0 By Jaume Ollé, changed to .png by Ninane –, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image 1. “William Walker.” By Jacques Reich (probably based on an earlier work by another artist) – Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, v. 6, 1889, p. 331, Public Domain.
Juda, Fanny. “William Walker.” The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco.
Norvell, John E. “How Tennessee Adventurer William Walker Became Dictator of Nicaragua in 1857.” Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy & History. Volume XXV. no. 4, 2012.

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