Portrait of Lew Wallace.

In May and June 1865, Lew Wallace served as a judge at the military trial of the conspirators involved in President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. [Wikimedia Commons]

Lewis Wallace - Facts

April 10, 1827 - February 15, 1905

Key facts about Lew Wallace, a general officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and author of the highly-acclaimed novel, Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ.

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Full Name:

  • Lewis Wallace

Birth Date:

  • April 10, 1827

Birth Location:

  • Brookville, Indiana

Parents:

  • David and Esther French (Test) Wallace

Education:

  • Self-educated

Occupation:

  • Lawyer
  • Military officer
  • Politician

Career Summary:

  • Major General (USVA)
  • Governor of the New Mexico Territory
  • United States Minister to Turkey

Spouse:

  • Susan Arnold Elston (1852)

Nickname(s):

  • Lew
  • Savior of Cincinnati

Place of Death:

  • Crawfordsville, Indiana

Date of Death:

  • February 15, 1905

Place of Burial:

  • Oak Hill Cemetery, Crawfordsville, Indiana

Significance:

  • Lew Wallace was the second of four sons of David and Esther French (Test) Wallace.
  • Lew Wallace’s father was a graduate of the United States Military Academy, the sixth Governor of Indiana, and a U.S. Congressman.
  • Lew Wallace’s mother died when he was seven years old.
  • Lew Wallace was largely self-educated, though he attended the common schools in Indiana.
  • Lew Wallace served as an officer of the 1st Indiana Volunteers during the Mexican-American War.
  • Lew Wallace passed the Indian bar exam in 1849 and established a law practice in Covington, Indiana.
  • On May 6, 1852, Lew Wallace married Susan Arnold Elston, a talented writer and musician. The couple produced one child during their marriage of over fifty years.
  • In 1856, voters elected Wallace to the Indiana senate where he served four years.
  • When the Civil War began, Governor Oliver P. Morton appointed Lew Wallace as Adjutant General of Indiana in April 1861. Wallace served in that position long enough to raise Indiana’s quota of troops established by the federal government’s first call for volunteers.
  • On April 12, 1861, Lew Wallace received a field appointment as a colonel in the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, with a three-month enlistment period.
  • In August 1861, Lew Wallace reenlisted when his unit reorganized as a three-year regiment and was assigned to duty in the West.
  • Lew Wallace was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on September 3, 1861.
  • Lew Wallace participated in the Union victories at the Battle of Fort Henry (February 6, 1862) and the Battle of Fort Donelson (February 11 to February 16).
  • On March 21, 1862 Wallace was promoted to major general of volunteers commanding the 3rd Division of the Army of the Tennessee.
  • The meteoric rise in Wallace’s military career came to an abrupt halt following his permormance at the Battle of Shiloh.
  • In 1862, Lew Wallace’s defensive preparations precluded an anticipated Confederate assault on Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • On March 22, 1864, Lew Wallace was assigned command of the Middle Department, which included Maryland west to the Monocacy River.
  • Despite suffering heavier losses and being forced to retreat, Lew Wallace enjoyed a strategic victory by stalling Confederate General Jubal Early’s advance on Washington, D.C. long enough for federal reinforcement to prevent the Rebels from occupying the nation’s capital.
  • In May and June 1865, Lew Wallace served as a judge at the military trial of the conspirators involved in President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
  • In August 1865, Lew Wallace presided over the court-martial of Confederate Captain Henry Wirz, commandant of the infamous Andersonville Prison.
  • Lew Wallace resigned from the army on November 30, 1865.
  • In 1873 Lew Wallace published his first book The Fair God, a work he had been writing on-and-off since the 1840s.
  • In 1876 Lew Wallace made an unsuccessful run for Congress on the Republican ticket.
  • Lew Wallace served as legal counsel for the Republican Party during the disputed Hayes-Tilden presidential election.
  • In September 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Lew Wallace as governor of the New Mexico territory.
  • On November 12, 1880 by Harper & Brothers published Lew Wallace’s second and most successful book, Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ. The novel became one of the best-selling books of all time, and has been dramatized on film three times.
  • Lew Wallace resigned his position as governor of the New Mexico territory in March 1881.
  • In 1881, President James A. Garfield appointed Lew Wallace as United States Minister to Turkey. Wallace held that position until 1885.
  • Lew Wallace authored seven more major works during his lifetime, including his autobiography which was uncompleted at the time of his death.
  • Lew Wallace died in Crawfordsville, Indiana on February 15, 1905.
  • Lew Wallace’s wife, Susan, completed her husband’s unfinished biography and published it in 1906.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Lewis Wallace - Facts
  • Coverage April 10, 1827 - February 15, 1905
  • Author
  • Keywords Lew Wallace
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date December 5, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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