Monday, April 11, 2011

Leroy Pope Walker and his handkerchief

Leroy Pope Walker

       Leroy Pope Walker was born in 1817 in Huntsville, Alabama. His father was a United States Senator. He attended college at the University of Alabama, but left there to study law at the University of Virginia. He then returned to Huntsville where he began his profession as an attorney at the age of 21. Six years later he began his political career in the Alabama state legislature. He was a supporter of secession. By the time the war began Walker was one of the wealthiest men in the state. 

Home of Walker in Huntsville

       Walker was a leader in taking Alabama out of the Union and then went to Tennessee to help that state prepare for secession. Davis made Walker the Confederacy's first secretary of war, although the lawyer had no military experience whatsoever. Walker truly believed there would be no war, that there would be a peaceful separation. He is famous for making the statement that all the blood shed as a result of secession could be wiped up with a handkerchief. 
       Walker was a very unpopular secretary of war. Men found him to be extremely aloof although he was a very considerate man, his quite manners caused him to be misunderstood. Davis constantly interfered with Walker's job because of his own experience as secretary of war in the United States and also because a lack of experience on the part of Walker. 
       Walker was actually attempting to accomplish something extremely important for the Confederate States when he was forced from office. He was trying to prevent Leonidas Polk from moving into Kentucky knowing that would throw Kentucky onto the Federal side of the war. He lost a lot of favor in the Confederate Congress and with Davis and his cabinet. He then resigned his seat. Polk moved into Kentucky and that state was lost forever to the Union side. 
       President Davis was happy to see Walker go, but also understood that the man had powerful friends in Alabama. The Confederate president would commission Walker a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He returned to Huntsville, Alabama where he took command of a brigade and they were sent to Mobile, Alabama under Braxton Bragg. 

Braxton Bragg

       Bragg despised Walker as a political general and openly stated that he would make the man miserable. Bragg stayed true to his word. Walker only lasted five months as a soldier before resigning his commission without seeing any action at all. 
       Following the war, Walker returned to his profession of lawyer. He would never be involved in politics again. His son once said that Walker was no politician. He wasn't much of a soldier either having never gotten the chance to be. Walker is probably more famous for being the attorney of Frank James during his trial in the state. Walker County, Alabama is named in his honor. 

Walker in his later years

       Walker died in 1884 and was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, Alabama where he rests today. 

Me at the grave of Leroy Pope Walker


  1. poor man never got chance to prove himself, might be a good thing though, good blog

  2. It would be interesting to find out what they could have accomplished back then and us today if we could sometimes put our personal feelings aside and concentrate on the issues at hand.

  3. Interesting. Wonder what he would of done if he only got a chance. Is his house still standing? Haven't been to Huntsville yet but when we do I'd like to find it.

  4. Here's an obscure question for ya...any ideas what regiments General Walker had in his brigade? I am researching the 1862 Cumberland Gap Campaign and, while I do not believe Walker's Brigade was part of that action, I do believe some of those regiments were involved at Mill Springs in January of 1862. Right after the fight at Wildcat Mountain in October of 1862, the Confederate Assistant Adjutant General asked Gen. Walker to move his command to Knoxville and I'm trying to figure out just what his command was exactly.

    Source for claim: War of the Rebellion, SERIES I--VOLUME IV [S# 4] CHAPTER XII. pg470