Civil War Wednesday: Major General W.H.T. Walker

  • Walker’s death

    Atlanta monument marking area of Walker’s death on July 22, 1864

Major General W.H.T. Walker
Major General W.H.T. Walker

Hoping to place segments of his army in the rear of the Federals holding the left flank outside Atlanta, on the evening of July 21, 1864, General John Bell Hood ordered Lieutenant General William Hardee to lead his corps on a forced march toward the northeastern quadrant of the city. Hood believed this maneuver would afford Hardee’s men the opportunity to get in the rear of Major General James B. McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee. Rugged terrain accompanied the early-morning heat and delayed Hardee’s advance. Major General Joe Wheeler’s cavalry force joined the mission, and the Southern troopers rode toward Decatur.

Major General William Henry Talbot Walker’s Division, part of Hardee’s Corps, participated in this operation. Walker, a native Georgian, born 1816 in Augusta, and a graduate of West Point, received several wounds while fighting gallantly in the Seminole Wars and in the Mexican-American War. When he became commandant at West Point, a post he held for two years, 1854-56, the cadets tagged him with the nickname “Shot Pouch,” because of the amount of lead his body had collected over the years. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Walker initially led a Georgia volunteer division before receiving a brigadier general’s commission in the Confederate Army. The stress and strain during the first year of the conflict weakened Walker’s bullet-scarred body, and for one year, he rested. In February 1863, he returned to active duty, commanding the post at Savannah. He received a promotion to major general in May 1863 and traveled west to join with General Joseph E. Johnston’s force near Jackson, Mississippi.

Leading from the front on July 22, 1864, Walker commanded a body of troops consisting primarily of Georgia regiments, supplemented with a few units from South Carolina and Mississippi. The Battle of Atlanta/Bald Hill, a Federal victory, claimed the lives of two major generals; the North lost McPherson, and the South lost Walker, both men falling within a short time of each other. Hood recalled of Walker, “I am certain that those officers and men who came within the sphere of his genial presence will unite in the verdict that no truer or braver man ever fell upon the field of battle.”[1] The Charleston Mercury reported, “Gen. Walker, the brave old hero of Georgia, was killed in front of his division. There were none braver than him, and his patriotism was of the purest and highest order.” Augusta College’s Walker Cemetery serves as the final resting place for this warrior.

[1] John Bell Hood, Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies, (United States: Da Capo Press, 1993), 182.



Michael Shaffer

Michael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center. He is a Civil War historian, author, and newspaper columnist, and a member of the Society of Civil War Historians. He serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and assists the Friends of Camp McDonald as a Civil War consultant.