There are a lot of people out there who claim to be related to the great names of history. Maybe they are and maybe they are not but for good or for ill, the claimants often get more attention then they should. It is not often that I get to write about someone I am related to, but I recently discovered (via my great-aunt who, in her advanced age, has become very enamored with genealogy) that I am directly related to a Captain Benjamin Walker (a many times great uncle). There isn’t much on Walker at first blush, so most of what I am going to write is based on the Wikipedia entry for the guy and then some of his diary entries my great-aunt got a hold of.
Walker was born in London in 1753 and attended a Bluecoat School prior to moving to New York City. He served as a soldier in the American Revolution, a captain and a naval customs officer, and also as a member of the 7th Congress after the war. What I find most fascinating about my many-times great uncle is that he preferred the company of men.
Hold on, perhaps I am putting too fine a point on it. He was strongly sexually attracted to men instead of women. History debates this fact a bit, conflicting stories from historians state that he was the consort of General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, while others report that he held the general in high esteem but never returned the man’s obvious interest. The general referred to Ben Walker as his “angel” multiple times in his writings which lends some credence to the idea that he was a very good-looking man. It is confirmed in his own journals and diaries that he did prefer the company of men to women (or as my great-aunt put it, he was very “swish”). Walker never confirms nor denies a sexual relationship with General von Steuben and rather states that the general’s interest is “the utmost flattery.”
Walker served as a member of the Federalist party on the 7th Congress from 1801 to 1803 and died in Utica, New York on January 13th, 1818.