Christ means everything to me in this life, and when I die I’ll have even more. If I continue to live in this life, my work will produce more results. Philippians 1:21, 22a God’s Word Translation
When the Civil War began Indiana Governor Oliver Morton asked Wallace to raise soldiery. He was responsible for 13 regiments put in at the initial call by Lincoln for troops. At 34 he was commissioned a Major General, one of the youngest in the Union Army at that time. He would lead troops at the battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Shiloh. Later he would defend Washington City (D. C.) from Confederate Jubal Early and be noted for this action by U. S. Grant.
Wallace served second-in-command of the court-martial of the Lincoln conspirators and president of the court that tried, convicted and hanged the notorious Henry Wirz, Commander of the Confederate Prison in Georgia, where men died at 100 per day the last summer it was open.
General Wallace served as territorial governor of New Mexico during the Lincoln County wars and one of his last acts there was signing the death warrant for Billy the Kid. He served as U. S. Minister to Turkey, then the Ottoman Empire, appointed by President James Garfield.
Governor Wallace painted and played the violin and sought to be an author. His first published work, The Fair God, a novel of the conquest of Mexico at the time of Montezuma, told from the Aztec point of view sold well for a first work.
On a train trip to Indianapolis Wallace conversed with Col. Robert Ingersoll, one of the best known agnostics of that day. By the time they arrived in the Indiana capitol, Lew said he was so ashamed of his ignorance of religion and his inability to answer the man’s statements that he must study the Bible. In trying to imagine how to make the task more compelling, he realized in a flash of inspiration that he could write a book detailing the religious and political situation of the world that “would demonstrate a necessity for a Saviour.”
He set to work writing the novel, Ben-Hur, A Story of the Christ, which would eventually be made into one the most successful Hollywood movies in the history of movie-making. On November 29, 1899, he attended the opening night performance of Ben-Hur on Broadway. An overnight, smash hit, it ran for twenty-one years, 2500 performances, with the race actually being run on stage with eight live horses and two chariots. It was taken on the road around North America, appeared in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Blessed by Pope Leo XIII, the novel was the first work of fiction to be so honored.
Concerning the writing of the book, Wallace said, “I am not a member of any church or denomination, nor have I ever been. Not that churches are objectionable to me, but simply because my freedom is enjoyable, and I do not think myself good enough to be a communicant. The Christian world would not tolerate a novel with Jesus Christ its hero, and I knew it … He should not be present as an actor in any scene of my creation. The giving a cup of water to Ben-Hur at the well near Nazareth is the only violation of this rule … I would be religiously careful that every word He uttered should be a literal quotation from one of His sainted biographers. […] When I had finished [the writing], I said to myself with Balthasar, “God only is so great.” I had become a believer.”
Prayer – Oh God, I am eternally grateful for your salvation in this life and the life to come. It is my earnest desire to live a full life that will produce works that, in the end, bring glory to your name and lead others to trust you as Savior.
Pioneering Thought – True innovators accepting their lives spent for Christ explore their inner world to discover and utilize all their talents and gifts for the Kingdom of God and the souls of men.
-Dennis L. Kutzner