A Note From Billy the Kid, and Other Artifacts From the Exceptionally Eventful Life of Lew Wallace

Then, again.
March 26 2013 5:29 AM

Lew Wallace, a Life in Artifacts

A letter from Billy the Kid, a portrait by Winslow Homer, a fan note from President Garfield, and more.

Lew Wallace lived an exceptional life: He was a Civil War general, a war crimes judge, a Wild West lawman, a diplomat, and one of the best-selling novelists in American history. He also fancied himself a painter. Below are a selection of artifacts from his life, including the drawing Winslow Homer made of him after his early Civil War success, a letter he received from Billy the Kid during his stint as governor of New Mexico, a painting he made of the Lincoln assassination conspirators (based on his own courtroom sketches), and a couple of pages from the original manuscript of Ben-Hur, which Wallace wrote in purple. The pages are taken from the novel’s famous chariot race.

Illustration of Lew Wallace by Winslow Homer.
Illustration of Lew Wallace by Winslow Homer.

Courtesy of Montgomery County Historical Society

Lew Wallace promotion paper, to major general, then the highest rank in the Union Army. The papers are signed by Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
Lew Wallace promotion paper, to major general, then the highest rank in the Union Army. The papers are signed by Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

Courtesy Indiana Historical Society, M0292

Wallace’s sketches (clockwise from L-R) of George A. Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Dr. Samuel Mudd, Lewis (Payne) Powell, Edman Spangler and David E. Herold.
Wallace’s sketches (clockwise from L-R) of George A. Atzerodt, Michael O'Laughlin, Dr. Samuel Mudd, Lewis (Payne) Powell, Edman Spangler and David E. Herold.

Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society, M0292

Lew Wallace’s painting of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, based on the sketches he made while sitting on the tribunal that tried them.
Lew Wallace’s painting of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, based on the sketches he made while sitting on the tribunal that tried them.

General of Lew Wallace Study and Museum

Letter from William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, to Lew Wallace, then the Governor of New Mexico. The letter confirms Bonney’s intention to surrender to Wallace, per a previous agreement he’d made with the governor, but expresses concern that he might be killed by his enemies after the arrest is made.
Letter from William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, to Lew Wallace, then the Governor of New Mexico. The letter confirms Bonney’s intention to surrender to Wallace, per a previous agreement he’d made with the governor, but expresses concern that he might be killed by his enemies after the arrest is made.

Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society, M0292

Lew Wallace on the cover of Harper’s Weekly, 1886, after Ben-Hur had become a best-seller.
Lew Wallace on the cover of Harper’s Weekly, 1886, after Ben-Hur had become a best-seller.

Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society, P0100

Letter from President James A. Garfield to Lew Wallace, praising Ben-Hur in April 1881. "With this beautiful and reverent book you have lightened the burden of my daily life,” Garfield wrote.
Letter from President James A. Garfield to Lew Wallace, praising Ben-Hur in April 1881. "With this beautiful and reverent book you have lightened the burden of my daily life,” Garfield wrote.

Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society, M0292

Wallace's handwritten Ben-Hur manuscript.
Wallace's handwritten Ben-Hur manuscript.

Courtesy of The Lilly Library/Indiana University

Ben-Hur souvenir album with photographs of scenes from the stage play adaptation.
Ben-Hur souvenir album with photographs of scenes from the stage play adaptation.

Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society, M0292

Appearance of the star to the Wise Men in the stage adaptation of Ben-Hur. Live camels are on stage with the actors.
Appearance of the star to the Wise Men in the stage adaptation of Ben-Hur. Live camels are on stage with the actors.

Courtesy of Indiana Historical Society, M0292

Chromolithograph depicting the chariot race in Lew Wallce's Ben-Hur, circa 1890.
Chromolithograph depicting the chariot race in Lew Wallce's Ben-Hur, circa 1890.

Courtesy of Library of Congress

Painting of Cupid, by Lew Wallace.
Painting of Cupid, by Lew Wallace.

Courtesy of General Lew Wallace Study and Museum

Statue of Lew Wallace in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in 1910. Wallace is the only novelist in the hall.
Statue of Lew Wallace in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in 1910. Wallace is the only novelist in the hall.

Courtesy of Harris & Ewing Collection/Library of Congress

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