When Lew was five years old, the Wallace family moved to Covington, Indiana. Lew's father David was elected Governor of Indiana in 1837 and the Wallace family moved to Indianapolis.
At age 19, Lew Wallace was uninterested in studying. He had been reading law, but failed to pass the bar examination. He "ran away" to serve in the Texas Navy during the Mexican War. He attended Wabash College, and returned to Covington. He then was admitted to the bar, opened a law practice and was Prosecuting Attorney. He was also a newspaper editor and a reporter for an Indianapolis newspaper.
Moving back to Crawfordsville, twice he changed political parties. Lewis (Lew) Wallace served in the Indiana Senate representing Montgomery County. He later ran for the United States House of Representatives, but lost that election.
Popular in Crawfordsville, Indiana in the 1850's, he formed a local militia group which drilled in very colorful uniforms.
In 1861, he believed that the War between the States would be a long one. He became Adjutant General of Indiana, responsible for raising the state's quota of men for the Union cause. Twice the quota of men enlisted from Indiana. He became a colonel in one of these regiments.
Throughout his life he was to glorify his military career. There were often two versions of an event: His and the other generals. Lew Wallace was a brigadier general at age thirty one and at age thirty four was the youngest person to become a major general in the United States Army. The Wallaces were a military family. His father had been a West Point graduate who had later taught mathematics there. His father had been active in Franklin County militia units during the ten years he lived there.
Lew Wallace was a well-known attorney and jurist. He was a member of the court that tried the accomplices of John Wilkes Booth.
After the Civil War, he served in Mexico as a member of the United States Secret Service. He later became governor of the New Mexico Territory. For four years he was United States minister to Turkey.
When Wallace returned to Crawfordsville, he wrote *Ben Hur, poetry, three other books,
and of course, his autobiography. During the years
away from Crawfordsville, he had dreamed of building his own library where he could
write, draw, and paint, surrounded with memorabilia and books. He died in
Crawfordsville in 1905. Today his library is open to the public.
The above document was part of a speech given at the dedication of the DAR Plaque for the
Lew Wallace Auditorium at Franklin County High School, Brookville, Indiana
on February 13, 1994.
The above document was part of a speech given at the dedication of the DAR Plaque for the Lew Wallace Auditorium at Franklin County High School, Brookville, Indiana on February 13, 1994.