Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Pray let us raise our glasses in honor of Lew Wallace, born this day in 1827.  I bring this up for a felicitous reason I’ll get to in a moment.

Wallace had quite the life.  Starting out as a lawyer, he enrolled in the U.S. Army and served in the Mexican War.  In the Civil War, he served primarily in the Western Theater as a brigadier general.  He did well at the Battles of Forts Henry and Donelson, but owing to garbled communications, was out of position at a critical moment on the first day of Shiloh, thereby invoking the wrath of Grant, who thought it was Wallace’s fault.  (It wasn’t, and Grant rather grudgingly admitted the error later in his Memoirs.)

For this black mark, Wallace was banished to second line command positions, where he eventually wound up in charge of a small force along the Monocacy River outside Frederick, Murrland that, in 1864, suddenly found itself the only organized military unit between Washington D.C. and a flank move by Jubal Early out of the Shenandoah Valley.  Hopelessly out-gunned, Wallace nonetheless deployed his small force, which deployment delayed Early’s move by a day and bought enough time for re-enforcements to be rushed to the Washington defenses.

As Wiki notes, Wallace also served on the military commission for the trials of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, and presided over the trial of Henry Wirz, the Confederate commandant of the Andersonville prison camp (who I believe was the only Confederate war criminal ever hanged by the Union).

Later, Wallace became governor of the New Mexico territory and personally met Billy the Kid.

But what makes today’s birthday especially apropos are the facts a) that Wallace became a writer in later life and was the author of Ben-Hur, which was an insanely popular novel in its day, and b) that Netflix just delivered the 2-DVD set of the Heston movie version of the book, which I plan to watch over the weekend, as Mrs. R and Youngest Gel will be out of town visiting her parents and I’ll have Port Swiller Manor to myself.

I’ve never read the novel, although I am tempted to check it out.  However, reviews I’ve seen suggest it is somewhat overwrought and ponderous in style, and I’m a little hesitant to tackle it even for historickal purposes until I get some better feedback.

As for the movie, it’s been ages, and I think the last time I watched it I dozed off somewhere around Heston’s visit to the leper colony.  Fortunately, as I say, it came in two disks this time, so I have a natural way by which to split up my labors.

Anyhoo, with the coincidence of Wallace’s birthday and the arrival of the flick, why not celebrate?


**Obligatory, because that’s exactly what’s popped into your head, isn’t it.