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WALKER, JAMES (1764–1831), rear-admiral, born in 1764, was son of James Walker of ‘Innerdovat’ in Fife, by his wife Mary, daughter of Alexander Melville, fifth earl of Leven and fourth earl of Melville. He entered the navy in 1776 on board the Southampton frigate, in which he served for five years, at first in the West Indies, and afterwards in the Channel. He was then appointed to the Princess Royal, the flagship of Sir Peter Parker (1721–1811) [q. v.], by whom, on 18 June 1781, he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Torbay, one of the squadron which accompanied Sir Samuel (afterwards Viscount) Hood [q. v.] to North America, and took part in the action off the Chesapeake on 5 Sept., as also in the operations at St. Christopher in January 1782, and in the battle of Dominica on 12 April, when she sustained a loss of ten killed and twenty-five wounded. Walker, whose father was an intimate friend of Rodney, was on the point of being promoted, when Rodney was superseded by Admiral Pigot, and the chance was gone; he was still in the Torbay when, on 17 Oct. 1782, in company with the London, she engaged and drove ashore in Samana Bay, in the island of Hayti, the French 74-gun ship Scipion. After the peace, Walker spent some years on the continent, in France, Italy, and Germany. While in Vienna in 1787 he had news of the Dutch armament, and immediately started for England. On the way, near Aschaffenburg, the diligence, which was carrying a considerable sum of money, was attacked by a party of robbers. Walker jumped out and rushed at them; but as he received no support from his fellow travellers he was knocked on the head, stripped, and thrown into the ditch. When the robbers had retired, he was picked up and carried into Aschaffenburg, where his wounds were dressed; but the delay at Aschaffenburg, and afterwards Frankfort, prevented his reaching England till after the dispute with Holland had been arranged; so he returned to Germany. In the following year he was offered the command of a Russian ship, but the admiralty refused him permission to accept it [cf. Trevenen, James]. In 1789 he was appointed to the Champion, a small frigate employed on the coast of Scotland; from her he was moved to the Winchelsea; and in 1793 to the Boyne, intended for the flag of Rear-admiral Affleck. As this arrangement was altered, and Sir John Jervis hoisted his flag in the Boyne, Walker was moved into the Niger frigate, attached to the Channel fleet under Lord Howe, and one of the repeating ships in the battle of 1 June 1794.

On 6 July he was promoted to the rank of commander. After a short time as acting-captain of the Gibraltar, and again as commander of the Terror bomb, he was appointed in June 1795 acting-captain of the Trusty of 50 guns, ordered to escort five East Indiamen to a latitude named, and, ‘after having seen them in safety,’ to return to Spithead. The spirit of his orders took Walker some distance beyond the prescribed latitude, and then, learning that some forty English merchant ships were at Cadiz waiting for convoy, he went thither and brought them home, with property, as represented by the merchants in London, of the value of upwards of a million, ‘which but for his active exertions would have been left in great danger at a most critical time, when the Spaniards were negotiating a peace with France.’ It was probably this very circumstance that made the government pay more attention to the complaint of the Spanish government that money had been smuggled on board the Trusty on account of the merchants. Walker was accordingly tried by court-martial for disobedience of orders and dismissed the service. When the war had broken out, and it was no longer necessary to humour the caprices of the Spaniards, he was reinstated in March 1797. Shortly after, he was appointed to a gunboat intended to act against the mutineers at the Nore; and, when that was no longer wanted, as acting-captain of the Garland, to convoy the Baltic trade as far as Elsinore. Returning from that service, he was appointed, still as acting-captain, to the Monmouth, which he commanded in the battle of Camperdown, on 11 Oct. As they were bearing down on the enemy, Walker turned the hands up and addressed them: ‘My lads, you see your enemy; I shall lay you close aboard and give you an opportunity of washing the stain off your characters [alluding to the recent mutiny] in the blood of your foes. Now, go to your quarters and do your duty.’ In the battle, two of the Dutch ships struck to the Monmouth.

On 17 Oct. Walker's promotion as captain was confirmed. During the years immediately following, he had temporary command of various ships in the North Sea, and in 1801 commanded the Isis of 50 guns, in the fleet sent to the Baltic, and detached under the immediate orders of Lord Nelson for the battle of Copenhagen, in which Walker's conduct called forth the very especial approval of Nelson himself. The loss sustained by the Isis was very great, amounting to 112 killed and wounded out of a complement of 350. In command of the Tartar frigate, Walker was shortly afterwards sent in charge of a convoy to the West Indies, where he was appointed to the 74-gun ship Vanguard, and on the renewal of the war took an active part in the blockade of San Domingo, in the capture of the French 74-gun ship Duquesne on 25 July 1803 (Troude, Batailles Navales de la France, iii. 291–3), and in the reduction of Saint-Marc, whose garrison of eleven hundred men, on the verge of starvation, he received on board the Vanguard, as the only way of securing them from the sanguinary vengeance of the negroes. A few months later Walker returned to England in the Duquesne, and was then appointed to the Thalia frigate, in which he made a voyage to the East Indies with treasure and convoy. He afterwards took a convoy out to Quebec, commanded a small squadron on the Guernsey station, and in October 1807 was appointed to the Bedford, one of the ships which went to Lisbon and to Rio Janeiro with Sir William Sidney Smith [q. v.] For the next two years Walker remained at Rio, where he was admitted to the friendship of the prince regent of Portugal, who on 30 April 1816 conferred on him the order of the Tower and Sword, and, when recalled to England, presented him with his portrait set with diamonds and a valuable diamond ring. The Bedford was afterwards employed in the North Sea and in the Channel, and in September 1814 went out to the Gulf of Mexico, where, during the absence of the flag-officers at New Orleans, Walker was left as senior officer in command of the large ships. On 4 June 1815 he was nominated a C.B. After the peace he commanded the Albion, Queen, and Northumberland, which last was paid off on 10 Sept. 1818. This was the end of his long service afloat. He was promoted to be rear-admiral on 19 July 1821. He died after a few days' illness, on 13 July 1831, at Blachington, near Seaford. He was twice married, and left issue.

[Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biogr. ii. (vol. i. pt. ii.) 848, 882; Ralfe's Nav. Biogr. iv. 144; O'Byrne's Nav. Biogr. Dict. p. 1239; Gent. Mag. 1831, ii. 270.]

J. K. L.