Sad Swashbuckler: The Life of William Walker

An engrossing biography of William Walker – the American adventurer, filibuster and revolutionary leader who succeeded in making himself President of Nicaragua.

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About the Book

How did an American physician, lawyer, and newspaper editor manage to install himself as President of Nicaragua? And how did he end up facing a firing squad?

Noel Gerson’s fascinating biography charts the rise and fall of one of the most unlikely mid-nineteenth-century adventurers in American history.

William Walker, born in Nashville, Tennessee was diminutive and unassuming. Yet despite having no military background, in the 1850s he launched several filibustering campaigns into Central America leading a private mercenary army. After failing to take Sonora from Mexico, Walker intervened on the side of the Liberals in a civil war in Nicaragua, declaring himself commander of the country’s army and, soon afterward, President.

He was, briefly, both Nicaragua and America’s most popular man. However, after attempting to take control of the rest of Central America, with no support from the U.S. government, he was captured and shot by the Honduran military in September 1860.

Sad Swashbuckler is the remarkable true story of duels, imprisonment, courtroom trials, military invasion, battles, slavery, and execution. Drawing on contemporary material, Gerson reveals the life and exploits of a romantic idealist who sought glory over financial gain, but whose insatiable appetite for recognition and power resulted in his ruin.

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