Union Major General Lew Wallace

Head and shoulder view of late middle-aged man with long beard and mustache wearing a Union army uniform.

Union Major General Lew Wallace: Commander of Federal forces at the Battle of Monocacy on July 9,1864

General Lew Wallace was born April 10, 1827 in Brookeville, Indiana. He served as a 1st Lieutenant of the 1st Indiana during the Mexican War. In 1849, shortly after the war, he was admitted to the bar association and by 1856 was elected to the Indiana State Senate.

A Rapid Rise

Wallace was appointed State Adjutant General upon the bombardment of Fort Sumter. On April 25, 1861 he became Colonel of the 11th Indiana, and five months later on September 3, 1861 he became Brigadier General of Volunteers. He joined General Ulysses S. Grant's army in the West and led a division in the capture of Fort Donelson. After the capture of the fort, Wallace was promoted to Major General on March 21, 1862, the youngest in the Union Army.

Removed from Field Command

In April he participated in the battle of Shiloh. When Confederate forces attacked Grant's army, Wallace was stationed several miles away from the main Union contingent. Grant ordered Wallace to march to Shiloh and attack the Confederate left, but due to confusion with his orders, Wallace arrived too late to aid Grant the first day. Grant was not forgiving of Wallace, and General Wallace was removed from field command, where he spent two years in a series of temporary assignments behind the lines.

The Middle Department

President Abraham Lincoln then assigned him to command the Middle Department and Eighth Army Corps in Baltimore, Maryland in March 1864, the post he held at the time of the Battle of Monocacy. In July 1864, when Wallace learned that a Confederate army was marching into the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, he moved forces to Monocacy Junction to delay the Confederate advance and ascertain their objective. His actions in delaying the Confederate advance allowed the Capital to be reinforced and prevented its capture.

After the War

After the war, Wallace was a member of the military commission which tried the Lincoln conspirators. He later became president of the court martial which tried and condemned Henry Wirz (commandant at Andersonville). Subsequently, Wallace served as the Territorial Governor of New Mexico from 1878-1881, during which time he wrote the novel Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ. In the spring of 1881 Lew Wallace was sent to the Turkey to be the United States Minister to the Ottoman Empire, he remained at this post until 1885. Retiring to Crawfordsville, Indiana Wallace continued to his writing career which included several novels, a narrative poem, a biography of Benjamin Harrison and an autobiography that was published posthumously. General Wallace died February 15, 1905 and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Last updated: August 26, 2021

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