Wallace - W. DeWitt - Montgomery InGenWeb Project

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Wallace - W. DeWitt

Source: Lafayette Journal and Courier Sun 5 Oct 1980 p 40

Interesting people fill Lafayette’ history and one of the more fascinating is 19th century lawyer W. DeWitt Wallace,  a man forgotten today. The student of Lafayette history encounters Wallace many times through 40 years as a soldier, lawyer, speaker, public servant and author. He was born in 1838 to cabinetmaker James Wallace and his wife Sarah – and with few exceptions lived in Tippecanoe County his whole life. He attended the city’s “common schools’ and in the fall of 1855, entered Waveland Academy in Montgomery County. But his father couldn’t afford the tuition so DeWitt dropped out after a year. In the fall of 1856, he taught in a private school in Tippecanoe County saving enough of his pay to reenroll at Waveland in 1857. Then in the fall of 1858 he enrolled as a sophomore at Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, being graduated in the spring of 1861. But that was the spring the Civil War broke out and Wallace left college to enlist for three months’ service in an Indiana regiment.  When he came home to Lafayette, he learned his two brothers had signed up and that the region had filled its quote of volunteers. So young Wallace began studying law, as was the custom then, in the office of two established Lafayette law partners, Samuel Huff and Mark Jones.  The war dragged on.  Eventually, Wallace enlisted probably in late summer 1861, as a private soldier in Company C of the 40th Regiment of Indiana volunteers. Finding that there were not more than 30 enlisted men in the company and that new recruits were attained with great difficulty he visited the vicinity of Waveland Academy and inaugurated a series of public meetings for the purpose of gaining volunteers for the service.  His eloquent appeals to the patriotism of his former schoolmates and associates met with success. Within a few days … he succeeded in obtainint the necessary quota of volunteers.  The members of Co C as was the custom in regiments of volunteers elected their officers and chose Wallace 2nd Lt.  On his 23rd birthday Nov 19, 1861 he was married in New Albany, Ind in full uniform Anna Margaret Shields of New Albany. A few days later the 40th left Hoosier soil, crossed the Ohio River and was discpatched into the SOut to fight for the Union. In about the summer of 1862, company’s Capt. Henry Learming of Tippecanoe County became regimental major and young Lt. Wallace was elected captin. Then on Jan 2, 1863, Capt. Wallace was wounded in the head and right arm during the three-day Battle of Stone River. He had led troops across the river and was struck down by a shell from the retreating Confederate Army. The shell burst above Wallace’s head. He suffered a severe concussion and lost his right elbow joint to fragments. With other wounded, Wallace was evacuated to Nashville, Tenn then back to New Albany where he recuperated under the care of his young wife. For several weeks, she thought he would die. And even when that danger had passed friends feared he’d lost his arm. But Lafayette surgeon Thomas W. Fry was post surgeon at New Albany and saved Capt. Wallace’s arm. Nevertheless the arm was fixed in a bent position for the rest of his life, forming a right angle at the elbow. Unable to fight, Wallace resigned his commission and came home to Lafayette in the summer of 1863 to resume the study of law with John A. Stein. By the fall of 1864, Wallace had learned enough law to be admitted to the Tippecanoe County bar. He began practicing law on his own and launched his career in public life by running as the Republican candidate for prosector of the common pleas court for a district that embraced Tippecanoe, White, Benton and Carroll counties. Next Week: Wallace the public servant – written by Kriebel…
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