(Credit: Bill Howard Collection)
In the early evening hours of September 8, 1936, Horatio Walker died at his home in Biloxi, Mississippi. He was eighty-eight years old and had lived in Biloxi for thirty-six of those years. Walker was known as something of a Biloxi character. The Daily Herald newspaper that served the communities of Gulfport and Biloxi, recalled that Walker took much interest in gardening and had cultivated some beautiful japonica bushes at his home. The newspaper went on to say that, before his health failed him, Walker had also maintained a fine vegetable garden. Such were the pursuits of an old man who lived out his days peacefully in the house at 1634 East Third Street in Biloxi.
In his long ago youth, however, Horatio Walker’s heart had burned with fire. A native of Baldwin County, Alabama, Walker was just thirteen years old when he joined Company F of the Baldwin Rifles in 1861. The Company became part of the 21st Alabama Infantry, and Walker participated in the battle of Shiloh before he was fourteen. At Shiloh, the Regiment suffered a large number of casualties, losing 200 killed and wounded out of about 650 engaged.
Testimony to the severity of the fighting, the Regiment lost six color-bearers in rapid succession during the battle. Walker continued to serve in the Regiment and was discharged before reaching the age of 18. He came home and resumed schooling but left again to fight with the Confederate army as part of a detached company. He was captured by Union soldiers and spent the remainder of the war as a POW at Ship Island, a Union prison located on a barrier island about 12 miles off the Mississippi coast. In the years after the war, Walker joined the United Confederate Veterans, an organization dedicated to preserving the history of the “lost cause.” He was celebrated as the youngest soldier to enlist in the Confederate army during the war.
Long after the war, Walker was interviewed about what it took to make a good soldier. In response to the reporter’s question Walker said: “No man can be a good soldier who is not, at heart, a good man. Whilst courage in battle is the first essential of a good soldier, it is by no means the only one, for with it comes endurance under trial and moderation in action. Nor is the best courage the absence of fearlessness, which is a virtue rather comfortable to those who have it, for no man deserves credit for what is born in him and for what he cannot help. Very few possess it when cannon begin to growl; grim watchdogs whose bark is yet worse than their bite, and when bullets, like birds of evil omen begin to sing sons of death, the greater number will find themselves very sensible of danger. Do not mistake this apprehension for cowardice, for it is no such thing. Self-possession in the presence of danger is the truest test of courage, and he is the bravest soldier who keeps his head, who knows perfectly the right thing to do and who does it when well nigh frightened out of his boots though his legs would fain carry him away. It is the sense of duty that will make him brave, duty to the flag, duty to county, and honor and to those dear ones at home who will follow them with tearful but brightening eyes.”