Lew Wallace, one of the most interesting people of the 19th century, was born in the U.S. state of Indiana on this day. He gained fame as the author of the famous novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. There were several film adaptations of the novel, but the most famous was the 1959 film adaptation. Charlton Heston played the title role, and film won even 11 Oscars. Wallace was a lawyer and had an interesting career. He was elected to the Senate of the State of Indiana in his youth. He became a General in the Army of the North (the Union) during the American Civil War. Indeed, it seems that he was the youngest man with the rank of the Major General in the U.S. Army.
He became a Governor of New Mexico Territory after the Civil War. That was the area of so-called Wild West. Wallace also negotiated with the outlaw known as Billy the Kid (his real name was William H. Bonney). Wallace offered him amnesty, but things got complicated and Billy the Kid was eventually killed. Wallace had been a general and a governor, but later became a diplomat. He was an American envoy in the Ottoman Empire from 1881 to 1885. Abdul Hamid II, who was addressed as “The Sanguinary Sultan”, was Sultan in Istanbul at the time. Many consider him responsible for the massacres of the Armenians.
It is interesting to note that Lew Wallace visited Jerusalem as an American envoy in the Ottoman Empire. The Holy Land was part of the former Ottoman Empire, and remained such until the First World War. Lew Wallace was 77 years old when he died in Indiana.