Friday, February 3, 2017

An Interesting Character: Lew Wallace

Lew Wallace was an interesting character.  He was an author, soldier, lawyer, diplomat, politician, investigator, and inventor. He wrote the best-selling American novel of the 19th century, Ben-Hur, beating out Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and has remained in print ever since.

He served in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.  Commanding the vastly outnumbered Union forces at the Battle of Monocacy, he was defeated on the battlefield, but delayed the Confederates by a day, allowing Union reinforcements to arrive at Washington, D.C. before the Confederates.  At 71 years of age, he attempted to enlist for the Spanish-American War.

At different times in his life he was a Whig, a Free Soil man, a Democrat, and a Republican.  He was involved in a Free Soil newspaper for a time.  He was the appointed governor of the New Mexico Territory, in which position he had dealings with a notorious criminal known as Billy the Kid.  He then served as minister (ambassador) to the Ottoman Empire (i.e. Turkey) for several years.

Frankly, Lew Wallace had a long and varied career.  When the country was at war, he served it in a military capacity.  When it was at peace, a variety of private pursuits and public service occupied him for almost eighty years.  He was an outstanding American with an interesting life that seems vaguely improbable - until one considers even larger-than-life figures such as Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.  In comparison, Lew Wallace almost seems prosaic - but only almost.

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