The son of Indiana's sixth governor, Lew Wallace was a man of boundless ambition and restless spirit. Born April 10, 1827, in Brookville, Ind., Wallace was a lawyer, soldier, politician and author. A Mexican War veteran, he led the 11th Indiana Volunteers at the decisive Battle of Fort Donelson and brilliantly commanded the successful defense of Washington, D.C. at the Battle of Monocacy during the Civil War. But confusion at the Battle of Shiloh and the resulting clash with General Ulysses S. Grant ruined his military career.
The tragedy at Shiloh did not prevent Wallace from additional triumphs and positions of great responsibility. A former member of the Indiana Legislature, he served on the military tribunal that tied the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination and and later served as governor of New Mexico Territory and American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.
Wallace crowned a voluminous body of writings with the publication of American masterpiece Ben Hur in 1880. He died Feb. 15, 1905, at his Crawfordsville home.