To say that Major General William Henry Talbot “Shot Pouch” Walker was a difficult man is an understatement. Known for his quarrelsome personality, he was a West Point classmate of Braxton Bragg and Joe Hooker and had demonstrated personal bravery on many fields and in many wars. His nickname of “Shot Pouch” came from being shot so many times in the Second Seminole War and the War with Mexico (he was wounded in the battle of Lake Okeechobee, Florida, five times alone). After Mexico, he spent time recruiting and then as commandant of cadets at West Point before becoming one of the first United States officers to resign his commission during the Secession crisis, doing so on December 20th, 1860, to offer his services to his native state, Georgia.
Walker took a commission as a colonel in the Georgia Militia and, shortly thereafter, was made a major general for the state. He soon transferred to Confederate service with the rank of colonel and then brigadier general, only to resign seven days later in disgust over lack of significant assignments. Walker returned back to state service as a general.
Walker again entered Confederate service in 1863 and made it to division-level command, promoted to major general serving in Mississippi in the failed relief of Vicksburg. Walker commanded the Reserve Corps at Chickamauga and a division at Chattanooga, seeming to quarrel with everyone but his old friend, Braxton Bragg. At Dalton, he launched a campaign against Patrick Cleburne over his proposal to arm slaves for Confederate service.
On his final day—July 22, 1864—as Walker led his division forward in the Confederate flank attack, he discovered his approach was covered in briars. He asked his commander, Gen. William Hardee, if he can move by a different rout. “This movement has been delayed too long already,” Hardee snapped. “Go and obey my orders!”
Walker turned away, enraged, and on the ride back, muttered that when this was over, Hardee “must answer me for this.” Hardee sent an apology to Walker, but to no avail.
Walker gruffly led his men through the rough country only to find that, as he approached the Union lines, he was confronted by a large mill pond. Walker roared in anger and drew his revolver on his guide, 50-year-old Case Turner, a local worker at nearby Cobb’s Mill. Only the intervention of Walker’s adjutant saved Turner’s life. Turner quickly advised an alternate route and Walker continued on at the head of his column through a muddy expanse to the west of the pond.
Coming to a rise just north of the pond, Walker halted and raised his field glasses to examine a wooded area to his front. Then gunshot was heard. Walker tumbled from horse with his eighth wound—this one mortal, killing him instantly.
It was one of the first shots fired in the battle of Atlanta.