William Walker life and biography

William Walker picture, image, poster

William Walker biography

Date of birth : 1824-05-08
Date of death : 1860-09-12
Birthplace : Nashville, Tennessee
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-04-23
Credited as : American filibuster, President of the Republic of Nicaragua, Died executed

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William Walker (May 8, 1824– September 12, 1860) was an American filibuster who attempted to conquer several Latin American countries in the mid-19th century. He appointed himself President of the Republic of Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled from that year to 1857. He was executed by the government of Honduras in 1860.

William Walker gained fame for his wild-eyed military exploits south of the United States border in the mid-19th century. By the time he was 25 years old, William Walker had worked as a physician in Pennsylvania, a lawyer in Louisiana and a journalist in California. Taking the expansionist concept of Manifest Destiny to heart, Walker hired soldiers of fortune and between 1853 and 1860 made several attempts to take over territories in Mexico and Central America. He first invaded Lower California and declared it an independent republic; he then proclaimed the annexation of the nearby Mexican state of Sonora and dubbed it the Republic of Sonora, naming himself president in 1853. Forced out by Mexican attacks in 1854, he surrendered to United States forces and was tried for violating neutrality laws, but was acquitted by a sympathetic jury. Next he invaded Nicaragua and captured the city of Granada, where he set up a puppet government and named himself president in 1856. Run out by Costa Rican forces in 1857, Walker returned to the U.S. and was again acquitted of violating the law.

After writing an account of his Central American campaign (published in 1860 as War in Nicaragua), Walker once again returned to the region.The British government was trying to reduce its holdings in the region so it was giving established governments in central America its land possessions in the continent. British colonists on the Island of Roatan, which was owned by Honduras, knowing of Walker's reputation approached him to help establish a separate government there. He disembarked in the port city of Trujillo, in the Republic of Honduras, but soon fell into the custody of Captain Salmon of the British Royal Navy. The British government controlled the neighboring regions of British Honduras (now Belize) and the Mosquito Coast (now part of Nicaragua) and had considerable strategic and economic interest in the construction of an inter-oceanic canal through Central America. It therefore regarded Walker as a menace to its own affairs in the region.

Rather than return him to the U.S., Capt. Salmon delivered Walker to the Honduran authorities, who executed him near the site of the present-day hospital by firing squad on September 12, 1860. Walker was 36 years old. He is buried in the Cementerio Viejo in the coastal town of Trujillo, Colón.

Walker's campaign has inspired two films, both of which take considerable liberties with his story: Burn! (1969) starring Marlon Brando, and Walker (1987) starring Ed Harris. Walker's name is used for the main character in Burn!, though the character is not meant to represent the historical William Walker and is portrayed as British. On the other hand, Alex Cox's Walker incorporates many of the signposts of William Walker's life and exploits, from his original excursions into northern Mexico to his trial and acquittal on breaking the neutrality act to the triumph of his assault on Nicaragua and his execution.

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