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Tag: Lew Wallace

FHF: The Civil War story of Ben Hur

When you think of Ben Hur, your mind probably goes to Charlton Heston riding a chariot around (and around) an arena in the 1959 classic. But what you should be thinking of is Union General Lewis Wallace’s impressive goatee.

Lew not only fought in the Civil War, but authored the novel that is one of the best selling in American history. His work knocked Uncle Tom’s Cabin from its top spot, and surpassed Gone With the Wind when Charlton Heston brought it to the big screen.

But where did a Civil War general get the idea for a formative novel about ancient Rome and the story of Jesus? We might have Ulysses S. Grant to thank for that.

In the epic, a tile falls off the roof of the main character’s house when the new governor, Gratus, is passing by. The tile startles the governor’s horses and Gratus is nearly trampled. Because of this accident, Ben Hur’s childhood friend and now military officer, Messala, condemns Ben Hur to the galleys while his wife and sister are imprisoned. In short, an innocent accident destroys Ben Hur’s life and he is betrayed by an old friend.

Lew Wallace was a young general at the decisive Battle of Shiloh and served under General Ulysses S. Grant. During the battle, Grant ordered Wallace to support Sherman’s division. Wallace misinterpreted … [ Read all ]