Monday, July 30, 2012

Wallace & his Walking Stick

Among the extraordinary items in the Study, the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum has a collection of canes associated with the General. Throughout his life, Lew Wallace maintained a military bearing and erect posture that was frequently commented upon. He did, however, on occasion use canes. Beyond aids to walking, canes were also ceremonial gifts in the 19th century that were offered in recognition of significant events or to honor important people.

Lew Wallace with cane in hand exiting
the Study, ca. 1900.
According to museum records, one of the canes in the museum was made from a sapling that was growing where General Wallace pitched his tent prior to the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. In later years when the General travelled to the battlefield he visited his campsite and asked for wood from the maturing tree. Wallace was given the wood and he sent it off to Tiffany’s in New York where a cane was made and an ivory handle was affixed.

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Education the Lew Wallace Way

As a youth, Lew Wallace managed to develop a reputation as a truant and a rascal. He used any number of excuses to avoid the classroom and undertake adventure in the great outdoors. He was part of an informal group of Indianapolis boys, who established “The Red Eye and the Hay Press Club,” which met in a loft accessible only by a trap door. The boys were reputed to raid gardens, pull bell ropes, and generally create havoc as they ran through the countryside. In 1840, when Wallace was about 13 years old his truancy hit a new level. A huge rally was planned in Battleground, Indiana in support of William Henry Harrison’s bid for president. This promised to be far more interesting to Lew than any classroom studies.

Log Cabin & Hard Cider
Campaign of 1840 for
Wallace family friend
William Henry Harrison
Twenty thousand Whig supporters and delegates converged on the tiny community a few miles north of Lafayette. It’s said the procession coming up from Indianapolis formed a column twenty-five miles long. With his father away on business, Lew decided to join this parade—without letting his stepmother Zerelda or anyone else know—as it headed north. Fortunately, one of Lew’s uncles saw him on the road and got word back to the family. Lew stayed at this “Log Cabin and Hard Cider” rally for almost two weeks. As the rally concluded a church revival started up and Lew stayed to see part of that enterprise before finally wandering the seventy or so miles back to Indianapolis.

This was not his first, nor his last escapade. A few years later when Lew was about 16 years old he and a friend, Aquilla Cook, determined to create their own “Huckleberry Finn” adventure. Aquilla Cook was the son of John Cook, the first State House librarian, and disappeared from history a few years after his adventure with Lew Wallace. Aquilla married a dancer in Cincinnati and then killed a man who had reportedly made unwelcomed advances to his wife. He escaped arrest and was last heard from when he wrote a letter to a Cincinnati newspaper boasting of how he fooled the police and escaped arrest.
Lew Wallace ca. 1850
However, years before this drama played out, Wallace and Cook had been reading about the Alamo and the heroics of the freedom fighters in Texas. Together the teenagers decided that it was their duty to reinforce Commodore Moore of the Texan Navy. Although they were unsuccessful in recruiting others to join them, the two boys commandeered a skiff and began floating down the White River, intent on finding a flatboat headed to New Orleans. Their plan to reinforce the Texas Navy was thwarted when Zerelda Wallace’s father, Dr. John Sanders, and a local constable caught up with the boys.

This adventure was the one that finally led to Lew Wallace’s father to throw up his hands and throw in the towel. As Lew reported in his autobiography, his father approached the boy with his accustomed good address and graceful manner saying:

Were I to die tonight, your portion of my estate would not keep you a month. I have struggled to give you and your brothers what, in my opinion, is better than money—education. Since your sixth year, I have paid school-bills for you; but—one day you will regret the opportunities you have thrown away. I am sorry, disappointed, mortified; so, without shutting the door upon you, I am resolved that from today you must go out and earn your own livelihood. I shall watch your course hopefully.

David Wallace

It took a few more years and a few more adventures before David Wallace began to see his son settle down, grow in resolve, and focus on accomplishments that brought credit to the Wallace name. Throughout his life, Lew Wallace adored and respected his father and, just as David Wallace predicted, Lew grew to understand what had been lost when he squandered his education. He grew to be a man who learned by experience, read voraciously, challenged himself routinely, and became a devoted life-long learner. While Lew Wallace’s time in the classroom may have been a disappointment, perhaps his education was not truly squandered—he was just a boy who never let school get in the way of his learning.

“The Early Life of Lew Wallace,” Indiana Magazine of History, September 1941 by Irving McKee.

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Indianapolis National Bank Scandal

By all accounts, Lew Wallace’s older brother William was a capable, honorable, and trustworthy person. From 1855 until 1860, William Wallace and Benjamin Harrison were law partners. Their partnership was just one example of the friendships between the Harrison and Wallace families that crossed the generations. Harrison and Wallace also entered into other partnerships of various kinds including some with Theodore Haughey (pronounced Hoy).

Haughey was born in Delaware in 1826 and moved to Indianapolis in 1848. Theodore married Hannah Moore in 1853 and they had a daughter who died young and two sons, Louis Chauncey and Schuyler Colfax. Theodore worked first as a book keeper and accountant but moved up the ladder of success to become secretary and treasurer of one of the major railroads in Indianapolis. He dabbled in real estate and during the Civil War he was appointed collector of internal revenue for the Indianapolis by President Lincoln. During the war he also became president of the Indianapolis National Bank. Over the years he also became a trustee of Asbury University (now DePauw University) in Greencastle).
Williaml Wallace

The business relationship between William Wallace and Theodore Haughey turned personal when William’s daughter Zerelda married Theodore’s son, Louis Chauncey Haughey. Louis Chauncey and Zerelda had several children: Theodore P., William, Esther, Lawrence G., John D., and Louis C. Several members of the Haughey family followed Theodore in business at the Indianapolis National Bank—and that’s what eventually brought the family down.

Fortunately for William Wallace his friendship with Benjamin Harrison continued over the years. Although William had completed a successful career and had retired, at the age of 64 he was suddenly in need of a job. Many people felt he was working to keep his son-in-law Louis and daughter Zerelda afloat. In 1889, President Harrison, in an effort to help, appointed William the City Postmaster in Indianapolis. This was a difficult position for William Wallace to find himself in but he worked dutifully, enduring some criticism by those seeking Civil Service reform, until his death in 1891. Although William Wallace’s name was never associated with the looming financial debacle, with his passing, the house of cards that the Indianapolis National Bank had become came crashing down.

The Indianapolis National Bank had been organized in 1864 with Theodore Haughey as president and Ingram Fletcher as cashier. It counted among its depositors some of Indianapolis’ most esteemed citizens. Relationships with the rich and powerful were so close that Theodore P. and his wife, Hannah, named their youngest son Schuyler C. Haughey after close family friend Schuyler Colfax—Speaker of the United States House of Representatives during the Civil War, Vice President of the United States, and one of Indiana’s most influential men. The relationship with Schuyler Colfax would prove useful when the bank ran into some difficulties in 1884. Mr. Colfax personally added $27,500 to the bank reserves and encouraged others to do the same.

It’s believed that at this time, the swindles and embezzlement by Theodore P. Haughey started. He began to create fictitious companies, placing his sons Louis and Schuyler in charge of some of them. In ways, some simple and some complicated, Theodore embezzled great amounts of money for almost a decade.

In August of 1893, Theodore was arrested at his home and charged with embezzlement and misapplication of funds and credits of the Indianapolis National Bank. Arrested at the same time were his son, Schuyler Colfax Haughey, and other associates Francis A. Coffin Percival Coffin, and Albert T. Reed. Schuyler, the Coffins, and Reed were charged with aiding and abetting Theodore. Theodore was indicted for embezzling more than $700,000. At the time of the arrests, the bank had liabilities of $2,000,000 and assets of approximately $300,000. Among the 3,000 creditors who lost their savings were charitable aid societies, school teachers and members of Theodore’s church who had trusted him.

The arrest of Theodore sent shock waves through Indianapolis. A business and social leader he had been an esteemed member of the Meridian Street Methodist Episcopal Church, serving the Indiana conference as lay delegate to national conferences and serving for years as a Sunday school teacher. He served as treasurer of the Grand Lodge, Independent Order of Odd-fellows for over 25 years, was chairman of the finance committee for six years of the Second Ward in the Indianapolis City Council and supported numerous charities and worthy endeavors. Glowing tributes directed toward Theodore in the early 1880s were swept away in the early 1890s as his financial misdeeds became known.

As the complicated case wound its way through the court system and decisions were appealed, in some instances all the way to the Supreme Court, it ruined reputations and lives. Theodore pleaded guilty and at the age of 75 was sent to the penitentiary for six years. He was said to be broken in health and newspapers reported that they did not think he would survive the humiliation and disgrace. Theodore actually did survive the humiliation and lived until 1914. His wife Hannah predeceased him by two years, passing away in 1912. In the 1890 census Theodore, recently released from prison, Hannah, and their grandson William were living in a middle class neighborhood on North New Jersey Street. In 1900, they are still in Indianapolis, but they do not show up in 1910 records. Given their advancing ages, Theodore and Hannah may have moved in with family members.

Ultimately, his son Schuyler was acquitted when his case came to trial in 1895 and his other son, Louis (William Wallace’s son-in-law) was not arrested. Although Louis had been involved to some degree, he was not seen as a major player and there may have been some thought that with her husband and other son likely headed to prison, Hannah would have no one to care for her.

Although Theodore and Hannah remained in the city, in the aftermath of this financial collapse and social embarrassment, other members of the Haughey family left Indianapolis. By 1890, Louis C. Haughey and his wife Zerelda had moved to Chicago where census records indicate that their children were living with them and they were still able to have several house servants. By 1920, they had moved to Buffalo, New York and were living in a boarding house. Their children and grand children in turn moved on to places far and wide.

In 1890, Schuyler Colfax Haughey and his wife Gertrude were also living in Chicago in a comfortable residential hotel. Within a few years they left the Midwest and moved to Pasadena, California where they lived the rest of their lives.

Although William Wallace was never implicated in any wrong doing and, in fact, worked to help keep his daughter and her family together, the failure of the Indianapolis National Bank destroyed many lives surely affected the Wallace family personally and financially if not socially.

National Bank Frauds by Franck G. Carpenter
History of Indianapolis and Marion County by Berry Sulgrove
History of Greater Indianapolis
A Biographical History of Eminent & Self Made Men of the State of Indiana, 1880
Life of Benjamin Harrison by Lew Wallace
The New York Times, August 22, 1893; November 26, 1893; May 29, 1894

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lew Wallace & Boston Corbett

In 1865, Lew Wallace was involved in two important trials that served to conclude the Civil War. He was a judge on the tribunal that considered the case against the Lincoln Conspirators and he served as the lead judge in the trial of Commander Henry Wirz of Andersonville. As it turned out, Wallace was not the only person to be associated with both Andersonville and the Lincoln Conspirators. A fellow named Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett was also a player in both of these episodes of the Civil War—but in ways very different from Lew Wallace.

Born in England in 1832, Corbett immigrated to America with his family and took up the trade of hat making in Troy, New York. In the 19th century, two of the most dangerous occupations were the silvering of mirrors and hat making. These professions were dangerous because of the amount of mercury that was used in manufacturing the finished products. The life expectancy for men in these jobs was often not long and because of the effects of the mercury insanity was a common problem as was used to great effect by Lewis Carroll with the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.

Corbett’s young wife died in childbirth and he moved to Boston where he continued his work as a hatter. The effects of his profession may have been beginning to manifest themselves because after his move to Boston he changed his name from Thomas to “Boston,” grew his hair very long to better emulate Jesus Christ, and in 1858 took the drastic step of castrating himself with a pair of scissors in an effort to avoid the temptation of prostitutes. Before seeking medical treatment for his self inflicted surgery, he ate a meal and attended a prayer meeting.

Boston Corbett
In April 186, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Corbett joined the army as a private in the New York militia. When this enlistment expired he later reenlisted in September of 1863. He was captured in Culpeper, Virginia in June of 1864 and sent to the prisoner of war camp in Andersonville where he was kept for five months. He was exchanged in late 1864 and returned to his company where he was promoted to sergeant. As a result of his time in Andersonville he was called to testify in the trial of Henry Wirz and Lew Wallace would have certainly been aware of Corbett’s testimony.

Henry Wirz
In April of 1865, Corbett was a member of the 16th New York Cavalry Regiment and a part of the troops assembled for the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth. On April 26th, Corbett and his regiment surrounded Booth and Davy Herold in a barn on the farm of Richard Garrett. The barn was set on fire and Herold surrendered, but Booth did not. Corbett was stationed near a crack in the barn wall and in the confusion and excitement, he claimed he saw Booth begin to raise a carbine and so Corbett shot and mortally wounded Lincoln’s assassin.

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had instructed that Booth be taken alive so Corbett was arrested for violating orders. Stanton quickly dismissed the charges stating: “The rebel is dead. The patriot lives.” Stories surrounding the death of Booth circulated and Corbett ultimately told people that he fired the fatal shot because “Providence directed me.” Again, Wallace would certainly have been aware of Corbett because of the controversies surrounding the death of Booth.

Corbett collected his share of the reward money for the capture of Booth and after his discharge from the military resumed his career making hats; first in Boston, then in Connecticut and finally in New Jersey. His mental deterioration continued. In 1875, he threatened a group of men with a firearm at a soldier’s reunion. In 1878, he moved to Kansas and as a result of his fame he was asked to serve as door keeper for the House of Representatives in 1887. Within a few months he heard someone in the House make disparaging remarks about the prayer that had been offered and again threatened a group of men as he brandished a revolver in the chambers. He was arrested and sent to the Topeka Asylum for the Insane but he soon escaped. He told a friend that he was headed to Mexico, but many people believe that he headed to Concordia, Kansas where he lived in a dugout--or basically a hole in the ground--before heading north to Minnesota where he lived in a small cabin in the woods near Hinckley. His fate is unknown but it is widely thought that he died in the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894.

Lew Wallace and Boston Corbett lived decidedly different lives. It’s intriguing to note how their lives crossed at two particular moments in American legal history. While Lew Wallace is remembered for many accomplishments and experiences, Boston Corbett is generally remembered for just the two episodes in his life where his path crossed that of Lew Wallace.

Sam Andre for research assistance

The General Lew Wallace Study & Museum celebrates and renews belief in the power of the individual spirit to affect American history and culture.