During service in the receiving ship at New York, Walke was promoted to lieutenant before reporting on board Boston on 5 October 1840. While Lieutenant Walke was assigned to that sloop of war, she made a cruise to the East Indies. Returning home in 1843, he went ashore for an extended leave before returning to sea in the brig Bainbridge in May 1844 for a cruise along the Brazilian coast.
He returned home early in 1846 and, after a year assigned to the receiving ship at New York, made an eight-month voyage in Vesuvius during which his ship participated in the Mexican War, blockading Laguna and supporting landings at Tuxpan and Tabasco. In October 1847, Lieutenant Walke went home for another extended leave after which he reported back to the receiving ship at New York on 22 September 1848.
On 23 June 1849, he returned to sea in Cumberland for a cruise to the Mediterranean that lasted until mid-January 1851. Following a post-voyage leave, he reported to the Naval Observatory on 22 April for a very brief tour before beginning further duty in the receiving ship at New York. That tour lasted three years, from 17 July 1851 to 17 July 1854, but consisted of two distinct periods separated by a very short tour of duty in St. Marys during September of 1853.
In January 1861, as the American Civil War approached, Commander Walke found himself on board Supply at Pensacola, Florida. On the 12th, Captain James Armstrong surrendered the navy yard to Confederate forces from Alabama and Florida. After providing temporary support for the defenders of Fort Pickens who refused to follow Armstrong’s example, Walke took off some of the loyal sailors and navy yard employees and got underway for New York on the 16th. After arriving at New York on 4 February, the commander and his ship loaded supplies and reinforcements for Fort Pickens. Supply set sail on 15 March and anchored near the fort on 7 April and landed the troops and supplies.
Operations supporting the nascent Union blockade occupied the ship for the next month, at the end of which Walke received orders to New York to take command of one of the Navy’s newly acquired steamers. Following that service—during the summer of 1861—and a four-day tour as lighthouse inspector for the 11th District early in September, Walke headed west in response to orders to special duty at St. Louis, Missouri.
That assignment proved to be the command of Tyler, one of the river gunboats of the Army’s Western Flotilla. In September and October, he took his gunboat downriver to bombard Confederate shore batteries at Hickman and Columbus in western Kentucky and traded a few shots with the Confederate gunboat Jackson. Early in November, his ship supported Grant’s move on the Southern camp at Belmont, Missouri, escorting troop transports, bombarding shore batteries and, finally, covering the withdrawal of Grant’s mauled forces.
In mid-January 1862, Commander Walke assumed command of the ironclad gunboat Carondelet, also assigned to the Western Flotilla. In February 1862, during his tenure as Carondelet’s commanding officer, Walke led her during the captures of Forts Henry and Donelson, which guarded the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, respectively. In April, he led her in the passing of heavily fortified Island No. 10 and in the attack on and spiking of shore batteries below New Madrid, Missouri. From April through the end of June, his ship participated in the drawn-out series of operations against Plum Point Bend, Fort Pillow, and Memphis. On 15 July, Commander Walke almost met his match when the Confederate ironclad ram Arkansas made its move down the falling Yazoo River toward Vicksburg. Carondelet supported by Queen of the West and Walke’s former command, Tyler, engaged the Southern ironclad. During the brisk opening exchange, Carondelet suffered heavy damage and was forced out of action in a disabled, though floating, condition. Queen of the West retreated immediately, leaving only little Tyler to face the powerful ram. The Southern warship, consequently, made it safely to the stronghold at Vicksburg.
On 4 August 1862, Walke was promoted to captain and assumed command of the ironclad ram Lafayette, then under conversion from a river steamer at St. Louis. He put her in commission on 27 February 1863 and commanded her during the dash past Vicksburg on 6 April and during the duel with shore batteries at Grand Gulf on the 29th. That summer, his ship briefly blockaded the mouth of the Red River early in June.
Later, on 24 July, Captain Walke was ordered back to the east coast to prepare the sidewheeler Fort Jackson for service. He put her in commission on 18 August 1863 at New York, but his command of that steamer proved brief. On 22 September, he was transferred to the screw sloop Sacramento, which he commanded through the final two years of the Civil War, cruising the South American coast in search of Confederate commerce raiders. On 17 August 1865, he was detached from Sacramento and returned home to await orders.
On 31 July 1866, Walke was promoted to commodore. From 1 May 1868 until 30 April 1870, he commanded the naval station at Mound City, Illinois. While waiting orders to his next assignment, Walke was promoted to rear admiral on 20 July 1870. He was placed on the retired list on 26 April 1871. However, his service to the Navy did not end for, on that same day, he reported for some variety of special duty under the senior admiral of the Navy, Admiral David Dixon Porter. That tour lasted until 1 October at which time he was appointed to the Lighthouse Board. Detached on 1 April 1973, he retired to a life of writing and sketching until his death on 8 March 1896 at Brooklyn, New York.