Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reading Lew Wallace

If you live in Montgomery County, you probably already know who Lew Wallace is--author, lawyer, Civil War general, and governor of Mexico, among other things. But if you haven’t read Lew’s Autobiography, you’re missing out on a fascinating look at the life of a complex character as well as a glimpse into the early history of Indiana. Lew’s childhood was spent enjoying the natural beauty of Indiana. Speaking of the Wabash River, Lew says, “ had a coaxing power. My fears were soothed, and I went and, as it were, laid my hand on its mane; and thence we were friends.” Lew followed his brother to Crawfordsville, evidence of the independent and adventurous streak that would eventually bring him to the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. Particularly interesting are Lew’s remembrances of Abraham Lincoln before he became president. In a bar room in Danville, Illinois, Lew saw Lincoln for the first time and called him the “most positively ugly man who had ever attracted me enough to call for study. Still, when he was in speech, my eyes did not quit his face.” Lew saw Lincoln again when he was debating Stephen A. Douglas in 1858, and despite Lew’s professed awe of Douglas, he was swayed once more by Lincoln’s words. Lew Wallace’s Autobiography is engaging, balancing the excitement of battle with the horror of its aftermath, while offering rare personal insight into the lives of political and military figures. Find Lew’s Autobiography at the library, and after you’ve read it, stop by the General Lew Wallace Study and Museum to learn more.

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