By Bill Patterson
Editor’s Note: during the month of May, Vevay Media Group will be sharing a series of articles about Allen Walker, a native of Switzerland County who went on to earn the Medal of Honor while serving this country. The articles are written by Bill Patterson, who is the great grandson of Allen Walker, and lives near Louisville, Kentucky. Allen Walker is buried in a cemetery in Laredo, Texas.
The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration that may be awarded to recognize U.S. military service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. In the history of the United States, only 3,504 members of the military have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
1891 A Pivotal Year
Welcome back. As you may know, the events of the night of December 30th led to Allen Walker being awarded the Medal of Honor. There are two other life milestones that happen in 1891:
• Allen Walker marries Alvina Fuentes, a Tejano girl whose family owns silver mines in northern Mexico. The are married on March 29th, 1891. Their love grows out of mutual love of horse and riding. Alvina was reputed to be every bit Allen’s equal on horseback and his better when racing. He loved her competitive spirit and the fact that she never conceded anything. They welcomed their first child, Sophia, on June 27th, 1891.
After seven years in Rio Grande City, Allen Walker has learned to speak Spanish, assimilated into the Tejano society, and married a Tejana girl. He could discuss the comings and goings back and forth across the border with people who had interest in both countries. Being in the know about what was going on in Mexico was a huge advantage. Because he was an enlisted man, Allen was not viewed as threat due to the inability to issue orders. People were much more open talking around him and since he was married to one of their own he was more likely to treated as one of them.
This was a period know as the Garza War. Catarino Garza launched a campaign from Texas to start an uprising against Mexican dictator Porfilio Diaz. This was a violation of American neutrality and so the Army became involved in tracking down and stopping Garza followers in the U.S. The action was centered in Texas and the Mexican state of Coahulia. As change would have it, the Fuentes family made frequent trips to Coahulia to check on their business interests. This meant that Allen Walker would have been privy to any news or information they brought home.
Fort Ringgold was the hot spot in Texas for the Garzistas. In September of 1891, 60 to 80 Garzitas crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico to overthrown the Mexican government. Many of these men were Tejanos with a criminal record were known to the Army. It was extremely difficult for the Army to gather intelligence. The good guys and the bad guys all looked and acted the same. The revolutionaries never spent more than two or three days in Mexico. They crossed the Rio Grande almost at will, usually under the cover of darkness.
All this led Captain John Gregory Bourke to recommend that all field commanders speak Spanish to better communicate with the locals and guides.
A long range fire fight erupted on the night of December 26th on the banks of the Rio Grande at San Ygnacio. Neither side crossed the river and one Mexican soldier was and several people on both sides were wounded.
Four nights later, while riding dispatch duty, Allen Walker encountered three Army Mexicans riding in the desert near the border. Private Walker killed one of their horses, and in their haste to flee they left behind a saddle bags containing plans for an insurrection in Texas.
For this daring deed, Captain Bourke recommended the Allen Walker receive the Medal of Honor.
Life After the Medal
For many, receiving the Medal of Honor would have been the high-water mark of their career. In the case Private Allen Walker, it was an opportunity to continue serving his country in an ever-expanding capacity.
No doubt that having a Medal of Honor would have brought a high degree of recognition. Certainly, his peers had a different view of Allen Walker and he received greater respect from the commissioned officers. Assuredly this led to new opportunities.
The Graza War went on until 1893. Private Walker is being recognized as a greater asset. His role has expanded from that of a fighting man to someone who can gather intelligence and has the respect of the local population. Even the Mexican government was aware of his deeds.
Things change dramatically in 1898. The Spanish-American War caused Allen Walker to become at traveling man. First from Texas to Georgia for exercise leading up to the war. Then to Tampa, Florida for deployment to Cuba. Walker was on the S.S. Rio Grande, along with the general staff, for the voyage to Cuba. Once in Cuba, Walkers unit was held in reserve for the charge up Kettle Ridge. Both of theses actions suggest to me that Walker’s fluency in Spanish had taken on a new importance. As soon as Cuba was secured, Allen Walker was on a ship to Puerto Rico for the invasion there. After the successful invasion, Walker was stationed in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico as an important part of the building and pacification program.
Four years later, John J. Pershing was placed in charge of suppressing the Moro rebellion on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. Allen Walker embarked on a journey that would take him to the other side of the world. First Lieutenant Walker’s first task was to train a group of Philippine Scouts and track down and neutralize a fellow American who had joined the rebels. The mission was quickly accomplished. Because accurate information was slow in coming from Davoa, all that was immediately known was an American lieutenant had been killed in action with rebels. Headlines in several major newspapers read, “Pershing fears Allen Walker dead”. Walker is rewarded by being appointed military governor for Davoa. His responsibilities included recruiting and training Philippine Scouts, building schools and infrastructure, and the pacification of the countryside. For his efforts, he was promoted to Captain Walker. The Philippine army gave him the rank of Colonel Walker.
Captain Walker left the Philippines in 1912 after 10 years in Davoa. He was assigned to Fort Sam Houston and continued training Philippine Scouts. In 1916, after 32 years in the Army, Captain Allen Walker retired from the Army, but his service to his country was still not completed. Allen Walker was appointed Deputy U.S. Marshall for Southeastern Texas based in Laredo. He later became the Marshall for Southeastern Texas. He held that office until 1924 when he fled to Mexico under mysterious circumstances. Later, he returned to the United States and lived in Laredo until his death in 1953.