Lewis (Lew) Wallace was born in Brookville, Indiana, on April 10, 1827. An adventurous boy, he was often truant from school, but when his father was elected governor of Indiana in 1837 Wallace's interest in reading was stimulated by his new proximity to the state library. He became a reporter for the Indianapolis Daily Journal for one year, but when the Mexican War broke out he left to raise a company of soldiers. After the war Wallace served as a member of the Indiana state Senate from 1856 to 1860.
A general during the Civil War, he was distinguished as a leader and fighter, and he was credited with saving Cincinnati from the Confederate Army in September 1862. In July 1864, following his defeat at the battle of Monocacy in Maryland, he slowed the Confederate advance toward Washington, D.C., giving city time to ready its defenses; Ulysses S. Grant later praised this delaying action as "a greater benefit to the cause than often falls to the lot of a commander . . . to render by means of a victory." Wallace also served on the court-martial tribunal that tried the accomplices of John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assassin. He was later governor of New Mexico Territory from 1878 to 1881 and minister to Turkey from 1881 to 1885.
His book "Ben-Hur" made him one of the most noted authors in America. Over 300,000 copies were sold within 10 years of its publication, and it continues to be a favorite adventure story. During the last years of his life Wallace lectured extensively. He died on February 15, 1905, at Crawfordsville, Indiana.