The Story of William Walker and Roatan

There is a little-known story of William Walker and Roatan! Most people relate William Walker with Nicaragua. He was president of Nicaragua for a period of time. Eventually Central American countries ran him out of Nicaragua. On his way out, via Lake Nicaragua, he burnt the city of Granada to the ground. This famous representative of the filibustering years in the USA yearned to create a prove slavery English speaking country in Central America. After running away from Nicaragua he set up home in Memphis, Tennessee. However his retirement did not last long.

William Walker
Walker was a successful Filibusterer who became president of Nicaragua. He was put before a firing squad in Trujillo Honduras

In 1860, a group of Islanders requested the assistance of William Walker to help them resist the transfer of the Bay Islands from the UK to Honduras. They told him that the islanders would support him in resistance against becoming part of Honduras.  Walker readily agreed and rounded up a group of mercenaries to accompany his new adventure. Several US citizens arrived in Roatan shortly thereafter. Walker himself arrived in Roatan in June 1860. This was just over one month before the scheduled turnover of sovereignty of the islands to Honduras!


Walker found that a detachment of UK troops where on the island. Furthermore, the promised enthusiastic support from the islanders was not forthcoming. Yet he was committed to the undertaking and was not ready to give up. Walker came up with an alternate plan. He would sail into the port of Trujillo, on the Caribbean mainland coast of Honduras, not far from Roatan. He would seize the port and then use it as a bargaining chip in exchange for the Bay Islands. William Walker did in fact sail into the Bay of Trujillo and took the town.

William Walker
A view of from the Fortress of Santa Barbara in Trujillo Honduras

The government of Honduras immediately sent an army to Trujillo to retake the port. They also requested to postpone the turn over date of the islands to Honduras. This was to take place on the last day of July 1860. Up to now, the story of William Walker and Roatan was looking positive. However, the Honduras Army was much larger that he anticipated. In addition, when he decided to abandon the cause, a British warship sailed into the Bay of Trujillo, cutting his escape route.


William Walker had no option but to escape at night in the direction of the Miskito Coast Protectorate, that is East of Trujillo. He did so on foot and with scarce provisions for his army. He was eventually caught and brought back to Trujillo, where he was tried by a military tribunal, and put before a firing squad. Thus, the Story of William Walker and Roatan came to an end!

William Walker
The Gravestone at William Walkers Tomb in Trujillo, Honduras

Today, you can still see William Walkers Tomb in the old Cemetery in Trujillo. This event marked the end of the US filibusters attempts on Central America. Soon the USA would be caught up in its own internal conflicts. The Civil War broke out in April 1861. This put a hold on the ambition of building a Trans Continental canal across Central America for almost 4 decades. When the interest was back on the table, the French who were broke after a long construction period with their own canal project in Panama were desperate to unload their venture on the USA. The United States original plan was to build the canal through Nicaragua.


The French were successful in their efforts, and the United States took over the project. Soon a new country would be born, with the USA backing the Panamanians in their efforts to become independent from Colombia. The country of Panama was born in November, 1903. But then, that is another story! I hope you enjoyed reading about the story of William Walker and Roatan…