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Life and Letters of Gen W. H. L. Wallace

Isabel Wallace. Foreword by John Y. Simon

Publication Year: 2000

Originally published in 1909, this biography by Isabel Wallace recounts the life of her adoptive father, the little-recognized William Hervy Lamme Wallace, the highest-ranking Union officer to fall at the battle of Shiloh.


Born in 1821 in Ohio, Wallace and his family moved to Illinois in 1834, where he was educated at Rock Springs Seminary in Mount Morris. On his way to study law with Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in 1844, Wallace was persuaded by local attorney T. Lyle Dickey, a close friend of Lincoln, to join his practice in Ottawa instead. Wallace eventually married Dickey’s daughter, Martha Ann, in 1851.


When the Civil War broke out, both Wallace and Dickey immediately volunteered for service with the Eleventh Illinois, which assembled in Springfield. Wallace was elected as the unit’s colonel; a successful lawyer, a friend of President Lincoln, a generation older than most privates, and an officer with Mexican War experience, he was entirely suited for such command. Wallace was appointed brigadier general for his performance at Fort Donelson, the first notable Union victory in the Civil War. Wallace’s troops had saved the day, although the Eleventh Illinois had lost nearly two-thirds of its men. He then moved with his troops to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, where Confederates launched a surprise attack on the forces of Major General Ulysses S. Grant at Shiloh Church on Sunday, April 6, 1862. Wallace, who held only temporary command of one of Grant’s six divisions, fought bravely but was mortally wounded as he began to withdraw his men on the afternoon of the battle. His wife, who had arrived at Pittsburg Landing by steamer on the day of the battle, was at his side when he died three days later. Grant praised Wallace in 1868 as “the equal of the best, if not the very best, of the Volunteer Generals with me at the date of his death.”


Isabel Wallace traces her father’s life from his upbringing in Ottawa through his education, his service in the Mexican War, his law practice, his courtship of and marriage to her mother, and his service in the Eleventh Illinois until his mortal injury at Shiloh. She also details his funeral and her and her mother’s life in the postwar years. Based on the copious letters and family papers of the general and his wife, the biography also provides historical information on federal politics of the period, including commentary on Lincoln’s campaign and election and on state politics, especially regarding T. Lyle Dickey, Wallace’s father-in-law and law partner, prominent Illinois politician, and associate of Lincoln. It is illustrated with fifteen black-and-white halftones.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v-xx

William Hervy Lamme Wallace, the highest-ranking Union officer who fell at Shiloh, is rarely commemorated. Many standard reference sources botch his two unfamiliar middle names, and his career, which lasted less than one year into the Civil War, is neglected even in his hometown. He deserves better, as his adopted daughter recognized when she wrote a biography first published in 1909 and now...


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pp. xxi-xxii


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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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pp. xxv-xxviii

In the days of chivalry men of action performed deeds which were heralded by tuneful bards, thus perpetuating noble lives to be admired and emulated by succeeding generations. All through the ages these heroic men appear on the pages of history as links in the great chain wrought by the eternal hand of God in His plans for the betterment and advancement of the...

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I. Parentage and Early Life.

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pp. 1-7

WILLIAM WALLACE of Illinois resembled William Wallace of Scotland in more respects than the name. They were alike in devotion to their country, for which each gave his life-~)De dying in a most inhuman manner by the hands of a foreign foe outside his own country; the other by the hands of a foe, 'tis true, his own countrymen, but in battle honored and admired by the...

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II. Goes to Ottawa, Illinois. Studies Law.

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pp. 8-12

PROFESSOR D. J. PINCKNEY, the principal of the Rock River Seminary for many years, was a "truly great man as a teacher and seemed to possess preeminent power to interest young men and attach them to him." As one of his students in after years said of him, "His life was a poem in itself." When young Wallace left school and home to make his own way in the world this...

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III. Mexican War. Journey to Mexico.

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pp. 13-20

THE war with Mexico was now actually a fact. Ever since Texas had gained her independence from Mexico and joined the United States as an integral part of the Union there had been friction over boundary lines. When the Mexican soldiery actually shed the blood of Americans on American soil, the war spirit was aroused....

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IV. Marching into Mexico.

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pp. 21-31

ON October 2d the First Regiment left San Antonio and crossed the Rio Grande at Presidio. There on the 13th Wallace writes in his journal of meeting General Shields and G. T. M. Davis, and hearing of the hard fighting at Monterey. They continued their march and on the 16th reached San Juan de Navo after twenty-five miles of hard marching with no water. They still continued, and...

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V. On the March to Buena Vista.

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pp. 32-39

CHRISTMAS day the regiment camped at La Encantado and William Osman, a member of the Ottawa company, writes: "After tents were up and in order, the impulse was to take a rest. Our mess had a few gallons of wine left, and having come in possession of a couple of jack rabbits, and our cook having in addition to roasting them concocted a delicious corn pone and a plum pudding...

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VI. Battle of Buena Vista.

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pp. 40-54

T HE battle occurred on February twenty-second. In a letter written a week afterwards to George Green, of Ottawa, Mr. Wallace gives a minute account of the battle:...

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VII. The Illinois Troops Return Home. Wallace Endeavors to Reenter the Army.

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pp. 55-61

SOON after the battle of Buena Vista new officers were elected to fill the places of those slain in the battle. On February twenty-seventh the command moved to Aqua Nueva by General Taylor's order, but returned to Buena Vista on the tenth of March from where the following letter was written:...

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VIII. Courtship and Marriage.

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pp. 62-69

ON MR. WALLACE'S return from Mexico he found little Ann Dickey a charming girl of fifteen. He had been as an elder brother in the home of Judge Dickey, coming and going as an esteemed and trusted friend of the family. He always took much interest in the bright little girl, often guiding her in her choice of books and in many ways forming her tastes in conformity to his own. She was...

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IX. Dickey and Wallace Against Lovejoy in 1856 and 1858.

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pp. 70-86

THE year 1856 saw marked changes in political parties. Slavery was the great question that held all minds and the line that divided all parties. The Missouri Compromise bill of 1820, which admitted Missouri into the Union as a slave state with the proviso that all states formed of the territory west and northwest should be free, was thought at chat time to have quieted the slave question indefinitely, if not forever. But with the newly...

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X. Lincoln's Nomination and the Feeling in the Country before his Inauguration.

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pp. 87-97

THE slave question which had been rumbling for so many years was in the Presidential contest of 1860, the only issue between the parties, State's sovereignty, or each State's right to manage its own affairs with no responsibility to a central union, against the non-extension of slavery. Four parties with four candidates were in the field, each with varying shades of the central question-Slavery....

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XI. Lincoln's Inauguration. Firing on Sumter. The Country Prepares for Way. Mr. Wallace Made Colonel.

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pp. 98-114

IN February, 1861, Mr. Wallace, sharing with many others great fear for Mr. Lincoln's personal safety at the inauguration, went on to Washington to help in his protection if necessary. From there he writes his wife telling of his impressions on that memorable occasion:...


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pp. G1-G16

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XII. Colonel Wallace's Regiment Enlists for the War. His Command Moves to Bird's Point, Missouri.

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pp. 115-125

A LITTLE glance at the general plans of the North and the South will be necessary to understand the movements of Colonel Wallace and his regiment as spoken of in his letters.
The great aim of the contending armies was to protect their respective capitols, Washington and Richmond, from capture, each city building ample fortifications around itself. Each held its own in the four years' struggle, but...

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XIII. General Fremont Takes Command of Western Department. Large Rebel Force Near Bird's Point.

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pp. 126-136

THE South started the contest, having the advantage over the North in being better prepared in the beginning. They had secretly collected arms and ammunition at various strong points; then many of the officers in the United States Army were Southern men who left its ranks to join the cause of the Southern Confederacy,...

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XIV. Major-General Halleck in Command of Western Department. Battle of Belmont.

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pp. 137-149

WHEN General Halleck succeeded Generals Fremont and Hunter as commander of the Western Department, he organized his department into military districts, appointing General Grant as Commander of the "District of Cairo," which included "all the southern part of Illinois, that part of Kentucky west of the Cumberland river, and the southern part of Missouri south of Cape Girardeau."...

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XV. Capture of Fott Henry and Fort Donelson.

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pp. 150-167

NOW began the onward march of events that went steadily forward until culminating in the surrender of Lee at Appomatox in April, 1865. On February second the troops started for the capture of Fort Henry, a stronghold of the Confederates on the Tennessee River. Colonel Wallace writes his wife of the intended expedition:...

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XVI. Congratulatory Correspondence. The Troops Move up the Tennessee River to Savannah.

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pp. 168-178

THE fellow townsmen of Colonel Wallace and Colonel Dickey sent the following letter of congratulation to them over their achievements at Fort Donelson:...

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XVII. General Wallace's Command Moves to Pittsburg Landing. Mrs. Wallace's Journey to Pittsburg Landing.

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pp. 179-187

ON March twenty-fourth, General Wallace with his command left Savannah for Pittsburg Landing, ten miles above on the Tennessee river. From there he writes his wife of his new camp surroundings....

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XVIII. Battle of Shiloh.

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pp. 188-196

THERE was no battle of the Civil War over which there has been so much written, with more discussion, and perhaps more criticism, than the terrific battle of Shiloh at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, beginning early in the morning of April sixth, lasting the entire day and the greater part of the following day....

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XIX. Death and Burial of General Wallace. Pathetic Letter of Mrs. Wallace.

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pp. 197-210

T HE tide of battle turned on the sixth, the Confederates were driven back, and the Union forces recovered their lost ground of the day before. About nine o'clock in the morning General Wallace was found still alive. The enemy had covered him with a blanket, but it had rained in the night and he was wet and cold. He was taken down to the Landing, placed on a transport and taken to Savannah to the headquarters of General Grant in the...

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XX. Public Opinion of General Wallace. His Services as an Officer. His Character as a Man. Memorial Window.

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pp. 211-222

A STRONG friendship existed between General Wallace and General T. E. G. Ransom-they were kindred souls. Ransom went out as Major in Colonel Wallace's regiment, rising to Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel and Brigadier-General, the latter position before he was thirty years old. Dr. Eddy says of him: "Young, heroic and handsome, brave. enthusiastic and manly, courageous as...

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XXI. Mrs. Wallace.

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pp. 223-226

A FEW sketches are here added of Mrs. Wallace's life after the death of her husband, whose memory she cherished with devoted love. She did not retire from the world in selfish sorrow, but lived a brave, heroic and unselfish life, lightening the burden of others, thereby bringing joy into her own saddened life....


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pp. 227-231

Also in this Series

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p. 232-232

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809381050
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809323487

Publication Year: 2000