General Lewis Wallace
Lewis Wallace (1827-1905) was an American military leader and popular author, remembered especially for the novel Ben-Hur.

Lew Wallace was born in Brookville, Ind. He became a lawyer but left his practice to serve in the Mexican War in 1846. During the Civil War he served in the Union forces with such distinction that he was promoted to major general. He led the courts of inquiry investigating the conduct of Gen. D.C. Buell and of the commander of the Andersonville prison and was a member of the court trying those charged with conspiring against President Lincoln. In 1865 he resigned from the Army and for the rest of his life practiced law. He served as governor of the new Mexican Territory (1878-1881) and minister to Turkey (1881-1885) and wrote very popular novels and an excellent autobiography.

It is seldom accorded one man to attain eminence in such varying walks of life as has General Wallace. At the bar he has won distinction, and upon the battle-fields of the south he gained distinguished honors, while no name is more prominent as the representative of our American literature than that of the author of Ben Hur, Indiana, indeed, may well be proud to claim him as one of her gifted sons. He was born in Brookville, Franklin county, April 10, 1827, a son of David Wallace, who was a popular political speaker, a well-known congressman, and a laborious and impartial jurist. The son received a common-school education, and at the beginning of the Mexican war was a law student in Indiana. At the call for volunteers he entered the army as a first lieutenant in Company H, First Indiana Infantry. In 1848 he resumed his profession, which he practiced in Covington and subsequently in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and served four years in the state senate.

At the beginning of the civil war he was appointed adjutant general of Indiana, soon afterward becoming colonel of the Eleventh Indiana Volunteers, with which he served in West Virginia, participating in the capture of Romney and the ejection of the enemy from Harper's Ferry. He became brigadier general of volunteers, September 3, 1861, led a division and the center of the Union lines at the capture of Fort Donelson, and displayed such ability that his commission of major general of volunteers followed on March 21, 1862. The day before the battle of Shiloh his division was placed on the north side of Snake creek, on a road leading from Savannah, or Crump's landing, to Purdy. He was ordered by General Grant, on the morning of April 6 (the first day of the battle), to cross the creek and come up to Gen. William T. Sherman's right, which covered the bridge over that stream, that general depending on him for support; but he lost his way and did not arrive until the night. He rendered efficient service in the second day's fight, and in the subsequent advance on Corinth. In November, 1862, he was president of the court of inquiry on the military conduct of General Don Carlos Buell in the operations in Tennessee and Kentucky. In 1863 he prepared the defences of Cincinnati, which he saved from capture by General Edmund Kirby Smith, and was subsequently assigned to the command of the middle department and the Eighth Army Corps, with headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. With five thousand and eight hundred men he intercepted the march of General Jubal A. Early with twenty-eight thousand men, on Washington, D. C., and on July 9, 1864, fought the battle of Monocacy. Although he was defeated, he gained sufficient time to enable General Grant to send re-enforcements to the capital from City Point. By order of General Henry W. Halleck he was removed from his command and superseded by General Edward O. C. Ord; but when General Grant learned the particulars of the action he immediately reinstated Wallace, and in his official report in 1865 says: "On July 6 the enemy (Early) occupied Hagerstown, moving a strong column toward Frederick City. General Wallace, with Rickett's division and his own command, the latter new and mostly undisciplined troops, pushed out from Baltimore with great promptness and met the enemy in force on the Monocacy, near the crossing of the railroad bridge. His force was not sufficient to insure success, but he fought the enemy nevertheless, and, although it resulted in a defeat to our arms, yet he detained the enemy and thereby served to enable Wright to reach Washington before him." Returning to his command, General Wallace was the second member of the court that tried the assassins of President Lincoln, and president of that which tried and convicted Captain Henry Wirz, commandant of Andersonville prison. He was mustered out of the volunteer service in 1865.

Returning to Crawfordsville, he resumed the practice of law there and continued an active member of the bar until 1878, when he was appointed governor of New Mexico, serving until 1881. In that year he became United States minister to Turkey, serving until 1885, when he again resumed practice in Crawfordsville. His labors as a representative of the legal profession having been interwoven with that of the author and the lecturer, he has delivered many public addresses throughout the country and his writings have won for him world-wide fame.

Wallace's romantic novel The Fair God; or, The Last of the Tzins (1873) told about Hernán Cortés's invasion of the Aztec empire in Mexico and his eventual defeat by Prince Guatamozin. The considerable success of this book encouraged him to write Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880), a colorful story about a young Jewish patrician, Judah Ben-Hur, who as a result of false accusations by Messala is sent to the galleys for life. He escapes, returns as a Roman officer, wins a chariot race against Messala, and exposes him. Meanwhile Ben-Hur's mother and sister have been imprisoned and have contracted leprosy. The hero rescues them and goes with them to seek out Christ. When Christ cures the women, they and Ben-Hur become converts. Wallace's skill as a storyteller, his invention of exciting events, and his vivid representation of the late Roman Empire and the beginnings of Christianity made the novel one of the best-selling books of its period in the United States (more than 2 million copies) and in many foreign countries.

Wallace's stay in Turkey prompted him to write The Prince of India (1893), a lengthy novel based upon the legend concerning the Wandering Jew. Wallace also wrote the narrative The Boyhood of Christ (1888) and had almost finished Lew Wallace: An Autobiography at the time of his death. Completed by his wife, Susan Arnold Wallace, who also was a writer, it was published in 1906.

A dramatization of Ben-Hur (1899), featuring spectacular scenes--in which, onstage, the galley was wrecked, the chariot race was presented, and Christ wrought miraculous cures--was one of the most popular American plays for many years. Three motion picture versions, one made in the days of silent pictures, were extraordinarily successful.

Source: Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin Counties, Indiana, Volume 1;The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago 1899


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