Wayback Wednesday is a weekly series featuring historical figures with a record of military service and a connection to the arts.
This week features one of the most famous Hoosier’s to grace the literary scene, Lewis ‘Lew’ Wallace.
In 1880, Wallace published the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The book quickly became a bestseller, and ranked as the top all-time bestselling novel until the 1936 publication of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. The book is widely considered the ‘most influential Christian book of the 19th century and the 1959 film version netted 11 Academy Awards. Unless you’ve recently emerged from a cave (and if you have, ‘Congrats!’) you’ve probably heard of it because it was (and in many ways still is) kind of a big deal. The connection to Gone with the Wind is particularly interesting, though, given that Wallace also served in the Union Army during the Civil War helping to add the Antebellum to the heavily romanticized South of Mitchell’s novel.
As he was a prominent Republican, attorney, and newspaperman, who had served as a First Lieutenant in the Mexican War, the governor of Indiana asked Wallace to act as Adjutant General for the state at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1860, and that he take charge of filling the required recruiting quotas. Wallace agreed provided that he be allowed to take active military service once the levy was met, and received command of the 11th Indiana Volunteers after Indiana’s six regiments were filled in only a week. He quickly gained the attention of his superiors and rose through the ranks during the small engagements in the West at the start of the war. He gained distinction and a promotion to Major General (the youngest in the Union Army at 34) by fending off a Confederate breakout attempt during Grant’s siege of Fort Donelson, and leading the counterattack that ensured no breach remained to be exploited.
Wallace’s best-known Civil War exploit, however, was his unfortunate roundabout march bringing his division to the field at the Battle of Shiloh. In the confusion and recriminations after that battle, which would dog Wallace the remainder of his life, he was transferred to a non-combat post. Late in the war, however, Lew Wallace would find the opportunity to redeem himself as the commander of the defense of Washington DC during an 1864 attempt by Lieutenant General Jubal Early to seize the sparsely defended capitol. Recognizing that time was critical for reinforcements to reach Washington, Wallace gathered 6,800 largely untested troops at critical Monocacy Junction. Sparring with the advancing Confederates and forcing them to deploy for a full scale battle, Wallace’s troops held out for a full day; despite being outnumbered 3 to 1, withstanding five full assaults, and retreating in good order. When Early arrived before the fortifications outside Washington DC, it was to the sight of the Union VI Corps filing in opposite his army. Hearing of the defeat, and remembering Wallace from Shiloh, Grant removed him from command after Monocacy Junction. However, after reviewing the full reports of the battle, he returned Wallace to command. In his memoir, Grant wrote that, “If Early had been but one day earlier, he might have entered the capital before the arrival of the reinforcements I had sent …. General Wallace contributed on this occasion by the defeat of the troops under him, a greater benefit to the cause than often falls to the lot of a commander of an equal force to render by means of a victory.”
Lew Wallace would continue to have an interesting life post-war, serving as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Governor of the New Mexico Territory, and for a time as a general in the Mexican Army. He attempted to enlist for the Spanish American War when in his 70’s, but was turned down twice (as an officer and again when he tried to enlist as a Private). And he also found the time to write one of the bestselling novels of all time, of course. So, on our first #WaybackWednesday, we remember Lewis ‘Lew’ Wallace and the service, on and off the battlefield, that he provided to his country.
“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave.
The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time. “
-David M. Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
SPC Christopher A. Patterson
North Aurora, IL
Operation Enduring Freedom – January 6th, 2012
What better way to start our new series to highlight our fallen service members than with the story of Chris.
SPC Christopher Alexander Patterson was killed in action January 6, 2012 while proudly serving his country in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan, when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
A 2009 Graduate from West Aurora High School, Chris partook of everything the performing arts had to offer. From singing with the West High STUDy Hall and A Cappella choirs, to performing with the band and theatrical troupe. After graduation, Chris continued his studies at Valparaiso University in Indiana where he was majoring in vocal music education. While at Valparaiso, he was a member of the professional music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and toured with the school’s premier vocal ensemble, the Chorale; all while composing and arranging music for the A Capella group VuVox and the STUDy Hall choir.
Coming from a strong military family, Chris enlisted with the Indiana National Guard and served as a 12B Combat Engineer with the 713th Engineering Company (Sapper) based out of the Valparaiso Armory. When his unit was activated to leave for Afghanistan, as a ROTC cadet Chris had the option of not going with the unit. He told his father, ” Dad, that’s not what I joined the Guard for. I joined to serve my country. I’m going with my unit.”
“We pray for the other families in the Indiana National Guard that have lost their soldiers. They were a family,” his mother said.
Father, Robert, said of his young son, “He was a man of God, full of life, he was a really good friend.”
Patterson’s father retired from the Navy, his mother was a Navy reservist. His younger brother, Carl served in the Marine Corps.
“Chris embodied the spirit and thoughtful leadership that best represent the students who attend Valparaiso University,” said Scott Ochander, vice president for marketing communications. “This was especially apparent when considering his calling of service to his country.”
“As he progressed in his studies, his potential to become an excellent music educator was obvious. He will be sorely missed by his peers and his professors”, Ochander added.
“He was a fine young man and will be sorely missed by all of us at VU,” said Christopher Cock, a music professor and director of choral and vocal activities at the university.
You can read more about Chris, and our foundation on our About Us page.
Fallen Friday is a weekly series which highlights the story of a fallen service member,
so that their name and story continues to live on.