John Grimes Walker

This article is about the United States Navy admiral. For the Confederate general, see John George Walker.
For other people with the same name, see John Walker.
John Grimes Walker
Born (1835-03-20)March 20, 1835
Hillsborough, New Hampshire, U.S.
Died September 16, 1907(1907-09-16) (aged 72)
Ogunquit, Maine, U.S.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 18501897
Rank Rear Admiral
Commands held Baron DeKalb
White Squadron
Battles/wars American Civil War

John Grimes Walker (20 March 1835 16 September 1907) was an admiral in the United States Navy who served during the Civil War. After the war, he served as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, head of the Lighthouse Board, and commander-in-chief of the Squadron of Evolution and of the North Atlantic Squadron. In retirement, he led commissions to investigate the construction of a Central American canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Early life and career

Born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Walker was appointed a midshipman on 5 October 1850 and graduated at the head of his class at the Naval Academy in 1856. He served in Falmouth and St. Lawrence in 1858 and 1859; in Susquehanna in 1860 and 1861; in Connecticut in 1861; and in Winona in 1861 and 1862.

Civil War service

Walker distinguished himself under David Dixon Porter during the Mississippi River campaigns while serving in Winona, Baron DeKalb (which he commanded), and Saco. He participated in the engagements with Forts Jackson and St. Philip, as well as the Chalmette batteries during the operations which resulted in the fall of New Orleans.

He later took part in the Navy's operations against Vicksburg. During the winter of 1862 and 1863, Walker participated in the thrusts against Haines Bluff and Arkansas Post. He also took part in the Yazoo Pass Expedition, the attack on Fort Pemberton, and the capture of Yazoo City.

At the siege of Vicksburg, Walker commanded the naval gun battery attached to the 15th Army Corps. His subsequent war service included operations which resulted in the capture of Fort Fisher, and he participated in the ensuing bombardments of Forts Anderson and Caswell on the Cape Fear River and in the capture of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Post-Civil War service

Promoted to commander in 1866, Walker served as Assistant Superintendent of the Naval Academy from 1866 to 1869. After commanding Sabine in 1869 and 1870during which time he took the ship to Europe on a midshipman training cruisehe served as secretary to the Lighthouse Board from 1873 to 1878.

From 1881 to 1889, Walker held the post of Chief of the Bureau of Navigation before he went to sea commanding the Squadron of Evolution (or "White Squadron") in 1889, with his flag in Chicago.

Created in 1882, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), directed its reports to the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation until 1889 when it was seconded to the assistant secretary of the navy's office.[1]

Walker was the subject of a feature article in the September 12, 1891 edition of the New York Times. The article detailed how, as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, Walker gave senior officers assignments beneath their abilities in hopes that they would retire from the Navy sooner and, thereby, enable Walker to get promoted faster.[2]

Flag assignments

Appointed rear admiral in 1894, he took the White Squadron to Hawaii in 1895 when a coup d'etat posed a threat to American interests. He received a commendation for his attitude of watchful waiting and his squadron's posture of readiness to respond to a possible emergency.

Upon his return to shore duty in 1896, he headed the Lighthouse Board and concurrently chaired the committee investigating locations for deep-water harbors in southern California.

Post-Navy activities

Soon after retiring as a rear admiral in 1897, Walker was chosen to serve as President of the Nicaragua Canal Commission. Two years later, in 1899, he was appointed President of the Isthmian Canal Commission to look into possible routes for a canal across the Central American isthmus.

Admiral Walker was a veteran companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and the Naval Order of the United States. He was also a hereditary companion of the Military Order of Foreign Wars.

Rear Admiral Walker died at the age of 72, at Ogunquit, Maine.


Two destroyers have been named USS Walker in his honor.

Dates of rank


  1. Shulman, Mark. Navalism and the Emergence of American Sea Power, 1882-1893 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1995), 30.
  2. New York Times. September 12, 1891.
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Military offices
Preceded by
Bancroft Gherardi
Commander-in-Chief, North Atlantic Squadron
10 September 1892June 1893
Succeeded by
Andrew E. K. Benham
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