Here are some April birthdays for Lincoln’s friends and foes. And perhaps a few who lived before, during or just after his time.

250px-lew_wallace_-_brady-handy1  Lew Wallace, member of the military commission that tried the Lincoln conspirators. Later wrote the novel “Ben Hur”. Born April 10, 1827. Age 185.

surratt210phot  John H. Surratt (Mary Surratt’s son), Lincoln conspirator who escaped to Canada and then Europe. Caught and returned for trial in June 1867 but was acquitted due to a hung jury. Like Powell, he was also just age 21 at the time of Lincoln’s assassination. Born April 13, 1844. Age 168.

225px-lucretia_garfield_-_brady-handy1  Lucretia Rudolph Garfield, 1st lady (1881) and wife of President James A. Garfield. Born April 19, 1832. Age 180.

lewis-powell-csp11  Lewis Powell (aka Lewis Paine or Payne), convicted Lincoln conspirator executed at the Washington Arsenal Penitentiary on July 7, 1865 at age 21. Born April 22, 1844. Age 168.

200px-stephen_arnold_douglas  Stephen A. Douglas, Illinois politician nicknamed “Little Giant” (5′-4″ tall) famed for his seven public debates with Abraham Lincoln for the Senate seat often referred to as the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Born April 23, 1813. Age 199.

450px-ulysses_grant_1870-18801  Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States (1869 – 77). Born April 27, 1822. Age 190.

Happy birthday lady and gentlemen.




NOTE: If you notice any errors (or mistakes in the age calculations) blame me, laugh, and then feel free to comment with the correct information.


June 5, 2009: Barry Cauchon

Instant Replay is a feature which posts previously run articles for those who may not have read them in the past. Please enjoy this Instant Replay of The Fame of Major General Lew Wallace originally posted on September 1, 2008. It was one of my favorites.

Best. Barry



Civil War Union army officer, Major General Lewis “Lew’ Wallace is well known to historians for his involvement in many high profile events. But the one that he is most famous for will come as a surprise to you.

Brigadier General Lew Wallace

For much of the Civil War, Wallace acted as division commander under Ulysses S. Grant. He commanded troops in several battles, the most high profile being the Battle of Shiloh. Regrettably, due to a communication mix up between Grant and Wallace, he led his troops away from the fighting and did not get back until the battle was almost over. Grant blamed Wallace for the mix up. For the rest of his life, Wallace would try to clear his name with the Union military commanders (including Grant) but with little success. 

UPDATE: February 11, 2009: I received a comment from Bernie O’Bryan who professionally portrays General Wallace at events and he advises me that Wallace and his troops only missed part of the battle rather than when it was almost over. Bernie stated the following, “Well, actually almost over for the first day, but the Battle of Shiloh was a two day battle, Wallace’s troops arrived in the later part of the first day, but opened the battle the next day and saw more than their share of fighting on that day”. Thank you Bernie for the clarification. I really appreciate it.

But by the end of the war, Lew Wallace began to become a visible public figure in other arenas.

Event #1: In 1865, after President Lincoln had been assassinated, eight conspirators were arrested and put on trial in a military court. Wallace was chosen as one of twelve men to sit on the military commission responsible for trying the one female and seven male defendants.

After a two month trial, they would find all eight conspirators guilty of various offenses. Four would be sentenced to hang, three would be given life sentences and one would receive a 6-year sentence.


Four conspirators in the Lincoln assassination are prepared for hanging on July 7, 1865.

Four conspirators in the Lincoln assassination are prepared for hanging on July 7, 1865.


Event #2:Then in late July, 1865, Wallace would again sit on another military commission. This one for the war crimes trial and court-martial of Confederate Henry Wirz, the commandant of the notorious Andersonville Prison Camp.

With over 12,000 prisoners dying while under his watch in 1864, Wirz was held responsible for the deaths and put on trial for war crimes. Although Wirz’s culpability was highly controversial, he was still found guilty and sentenced to hang in Washington DC on November 10, 1865.


Wallace resigned from the army on November 30, 1865 and entered politics, holding several positions over the next 20 years.

Event #3:From 1878 to 1881, Wallace served as governor of the New Mexico Territories. On March 17, 1879, Governor Wallace met with, and attempted to offer amnesty to, the notorious outlaw, Henry McCarty a.k.a. William H. Bonney a.k.a. Billy the Kid for his involvement in the Lincoln County War. Unfortunately, Billy the Kid did not follow through with his part of the deal, and Wallace withdrew his offer. Billy the Kid would be shot and killed on July 14, 1881 by Sheriff Pat Garrett. 

Event #4: In contrast to his military and political careers, Lew Wallace was also a gifted writer. He would write and publish three novels during his lifetime. However, it was his second novel that would bring him untold fame. On November 12, 1880, Wallace released Ben-Hur, A Tale of the Christ”.

The novel became a tremendous best-seller. It soon out sold Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the best selling American novel. It would remain the top selling American novel for over fifty years until 1936 when it was finally overtaken by Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

One stage play and two films were made of Ben-Hur. The most memorable film being the academy award winning movie from 1959 starring Charlton Heston.

Many believe that much of Ben-Hur was a semi-autobiographical account of Lew Wallace’s life.

Lew Wallace died February 15, 1905 at age 77.