None knew him but to love him,
None named him but to praise.
WILLIAM HENRY LAMB [sic] WALLACE was born at Urbana, Ohio, on the 8th of July, 1821. In the year 1833, his father's family removed to Illinois, and settled in La Salle county, on the south side of the Illinois river, about four miles south-east of the site of the present city of La Salle. In 1839, the family removed to Mt. Morris, Ogle county. In the winter of 1844-5, young Wallace went to Springfield, the State Capital, to commence the study of law, but concluded to go to Ottawa for that purpose, and accordingly early in 1845 commenced his studies with Judge (now Colonel) T. L. Dickey, in Ottawa. He was admitted to the bar early in 1846, but did not enter upon the practice of his profession until after his return from the Mexican campaign. In 1846, he enlisted as a private in Co. I, 1st Regiment Illinois Volunteers, Col. Hardin, Judge Dickey being the Captain of the company. At Alton, he was chosen Second Lieutenant. At San Antonia, Texas, Adjutant (now General) Ben. M. Prentiss was elected Captain of the company, vice Dickey, resigned on account of ill health, and Lieut. Wallace was appointed Adjutant of the regiment. Though engaged in several skirmishes, the only important battle in which the regiment took part was at Buena Vista, where they suffered a heavy loss. Adjutant Wallace rode near the gallant Colonel in the desperate charge in which the latter lost his life.
At the expiration of a year, when their term of enlistment ended, the regiment was discharged, and Lieut. Wallace returned to Ottawa, to resume his business. Here he formed a partnership with his late instructor, Capt. Dickey, which continued until the latter was elected Judge, in 1848. He at once entered upon a large practice, where he distinguished himself as an excellent lawyer, and won an enviable reputation throughout the State. In 1848, he formed a partnership with Judge John C. Champlin, which continued until 1851. In 1850, he was appointed Deputy Marshal to take the census of the county of La Salle, the duties of which office he executed promptly and accurately. On the 18th of February, 1851, he was married to Martha Ann Dickey, daughter of Judge Dickey. In 1853, he was elected State Attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, which he held for a single term of four years, executing the duties of the office with distinguished abilities, and in a manner to add greatly to his reputation as a lawyer.
When the rebellion broke out, Lieutenant Wallace did all in his power to aid the Government. In May of that year, he was chosen Colonel of the 11th Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, for the three months service, rendezvoused at Springfield. Leaving the latter place on the 5th of May, he went to Villa Ridge, twelve miles north of Cairo, where he remained until the 20th of June, when he took command of the post at Bird’s Point. This command he held, with occasional brief intermissions, until about the 1st of January, 1862. In the latter month, his regiment marched to Fort Jefferson. On the 1st and 2d of February, he was placed in command of the First Brigade of the Second Division (Gen. McClernand's) of Gen. Grant's army, and about the 12th of the month marched to Fort Donelson, in the taking of which he bore a conspicuous part, his regiment and brigade suffering severely. After remaining a short time at Fort Donelson, he returned to Fort Henry, whence his brigade embarked for Savannah Tenn. He arrived at this point early in March, and here received the confirmation of his appointment as Brigadier General.
At the memorable battle of Shiloh, on the 6th of April, he was in command of the First Division of Major General Grant's army, Major General C. F. Smith (since deceased) being sick at that time. On that day (Sunday), while leading his division, he was shot through the head, and fell from his horse. He was borne some distance by his aids, Capt. Hotchkiss and Lieut. Dickey, when they, supposing him dead, and being hard pressed by the enemy, laid him down upon the field, and continued the retreat, which had commenced just before Gen. Wallace received his death-wound. The next day, when the Federal troops regained possession of the ground, he was found covered with a blanket, his head being supported by another blanket rolled up for a pillow, and still alive. His watch and purse had been taken from him. He was immediately carried to Gen. Grant's headquarters, at Savannah, where he died on the following Thursday. His wife arrived at Pittsburg Landing on the morning of the battle, and ministered to his wants until his death. His body was borne to his former home at Ottawa, where he was buried with distinguished honors in the family burial ground, by the masonic fraternity, of which the General was an honored member. The only military present were his aids, Capt. Hotchkiss and Lieut. Dickey. A striking feature in the funeral cortege, was the flag of the 11th regiment, which bore the marks of the hotly contested fields of Donelson and Shiloh. In person, Gen. Wallace was very tall and erect. In manner, he was dignified and somewhat reserved, though cordial in his intercourse with his associates. He had, to a greater degree than usually falls to the lot of man, the respect, esteem and confidence of every one who knew him; and I knew of no one to whom Shakspere's lines could be more appropriate:
"In war was never lion raged more fierce.
In peace was never gentle lamb more mild."
At a meeting of the members of the Bar of the State of Illinois, held in the Court House of the Supreme Court, at Ottawa, on the 23d day of April, A.D. 1862, for the purpose of testifying their respect for the memory of and regret at the untimely decease of their late friend and brother, General William H. L. Wallace, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That the recent death of our esteemed friend and brother, the late W. H. L. Wallace, from wounds received while gallantly leading a division at the battle of Pittsburg Landing, the Bar of Illinois, in common with the people of the whole State, deplore the loss of a soldier, who, as well in his life as by the manner of his death on the field, has sealed by his blood this new testimony to the ineradicable devotion which the people of Illinois are manifesting in heroic deeds and patriotic sacrifices to that form of free government on this continent which domestic traitors are so wickedly attempting to overthrow.
Resolved, That while, as citizens, the State may regret the loss of the experienced chief who could successfully inspire by his personal daring and valor the troops committed to his charge, and by his example and bravery command success in that desperate charge or assault of battle, and while to the grateful history of his country is now committed that fame which to remote ages will hereafter rank his name with the other heroic defenders of the Republic; yet the Bar of Illinois have a sadder tribute to now render his memory, by an expression of the profound grief which they feel at this parting and loss of a friend and brother.
Resolved, That they knew in the late W. H. L. Wallace one who, while possessing all the virtues which adorn a private life of exemplary excellence, in his professional character he was also a man without a blemish. Of a persevering industry, a very high order of legal attainments, and the very highest order of intellectual capacity — he seemed above all to shine in the very spirit of intellectual, moral and professional rectitude. This was “the daily beauty of his life,” which never ceased to distinguish him in that career of professional triumph which had placed him already in the very front rank of eminent professional men, in all his intercourse with his brethren of this Bar and the State. As brethren, therefore, of the profession which he honored in his life, as well as by his glorious death, we may well pause, as we now do, in the midst of our professional and other avocations, to drop a tear upon the tomb, and inscribe this brief tablet by recalling a few of the many virtues of his life.
Resolved, That we tender our deepest sympathies to the widow and family of our departed brother; in their bereavement we are impressed with the conviction that all mere words are inadequate to express that deep sense of affliction which the loss of such a husband must have caused to the bereaved and stricken one. We humbly commend her to the guardianship and care of Him from whom alone, at such a time, can come the only solace for hearts so afflicted. He only can “temper the wind to the shorn lamb.”
Resolved, That Hon. Norman H. Purple, the Chairman of this meeting, be appointed to present a copy of these resolutions to the Supreme Court of this State, at its present session, and request that they may be entered on record among the proceedings of said Court.
Resolved, That the Secretary of this meeting furnish a copy of the proceedings of the meeting, and they be presented to the family of deceased.
Judge Purple then said: As chairman of this meeting, I have been desired to present these resolutions to this Court, with the request that they may be entered upon the records thereof. In doing this, I cannot forbear to add my feeble personal testimony to the intellectual ability, unflinching integrity, exalted patriotism and sterling moral worth of our deceased friend. It has been my good fortune to know him long and well. We have often met, both here and in other courts of the State; as lawyers, we have often had contests, but collisions, never. His very countenance was to me a guaranty of honesty and truthfulness — an index to a heart that knew no guile. I trusted him ever, and neither professionally or otherwise did he ever deceive me.
I never inquired where he was born, or whence he came, nor knew aught of his parentage or ancestry. But I loved the man, because 1 knew that he had head, soul and intellect and honor; because he was in all respects a Man; and when I was first assured of his untimely fate, selfish as it may appear, I do believe that I felt more deeply and keenly the misfortune that I had lost a friend, than that the country had lost a gallant soldier and a brave, meritorious and most accomplished chieftain. I felt that one of the bright lights of the profession to which I had devoted my life was at once extinguished — that a link in the chain that had bound me to its arduous duties, and enlivened its dull routine, had been severed and forever broken.
I believe that these feelings and sentiments of the worth, character and virtue of the deceased are common to all, and find an echo in the hearts of all who have enjoyed the pleasure and honor of his acquaintance and friendship; and that the grief which, in the resolutions just read, we declared that we feel, is as real and profound as the language of the resolutions import.
But why speak of our sorrows or regrets while there is one, at least, who knew him far better than any one of us, to whom his loss is irreparable — one whose deep anguish and unmitigated grief approaches nearly the boundaries of despair? Yet, even she should draw consolation from the reflection that he died bravely fighting in defence of his country, and his country's Constitution — that during his whole life his honor has remained untarnished — that victory, though dearly bought, finally crowned his dying struggle, that posterity will bless, revere and honor his name forever. Valor and bravery in him was not a virtue; it was a necessity — an essential part of his moral and physical constitution. When his country's call to arms was sounded, he was compelled to go; and where the fight raged thickest and fiercest, the very impulses of his nature forced him to be foremost in the conflict.
But he sleeps now the sleep that knows no waking, until the trump of God shall call him. In the maturity of his strong intellect, in the full vigor of his manhood, he has sacrificed his life upon the altar of his country — and now reposes quietly and silently in his last resting place, without a blot upon his fair fame or a stain upon his memory.
"So sleep the brave who sink to rest
With all their country's honors blest."
Whereupon, Chief Justice Caton responded: The Court received the announcement of the death of Gen. Wallace with emotions for the expression of which we find no adequate words. In his death the Bar has lost one of its brightest ornaments, the Court one of its safest advisers, and our country one of its ablest defenders. His whole professional life has been passed among us, and we have known him well. All your words of encomium are but simple justice, and we know they proceed from the deepest convictions of their truth. All his instincts were those of a gentleman; all his impulses were of a noble and lofty character—his sensibilities refined and generous. He was certainly a man of a very high order of talent, and he was a very excellent lawyer. By his industry he studied the law closely, and by his clear judgment he applied it properly. He did honor to his profession: it is meet that his professional brethren should honor his memory.
Scarcely a year ago he was with us, engaged in a lucrative practice — the ornament and the delight of a large circle of friends, and enjoying the quiet endearments of domestic life, loving and beloved by a family worthy of him, now made desolate. At the very first call of his country for defenders, he abandoned his practice, he withdrew from his associates and friends at home, and tore himself from the domestic circle, and pledged his energies and his life to the vindication of his country's flag, which had been torn down and dishonored by rebel hands at Sumter — to the defence of that Constitution and those laws, the maintainance of which is indispensable to material greatness and happiness. For these he fought, for these he died.
For myself, I may say he was my near neighbor and my dear friend. He honored me with his confidence, and disclosed to me fully the patriotic impulses which led him to abandon all to defend his native land. If he was an able lawyer, so was he an able commander. If we mourn him as a departed friend and brother, so does the country mourn him as one of her ablest Generals gone.
With the glad news of victory, comes the sad lament of his death. Our gladness was turned to mourning. So it ever is, and so must it ever be in this sublunary world. With all our joys are mingled strains of sorrow. Happiness unalloyed is reserved for that brighter and better world promised to those who act well their part on earth, into the full fruition of which those who knew him best doubt not he is accepted.
The resolutions which have been adopted by the Bar will be entered upon the records of the Court, as a perpetual memorial of our appreciation of the worth of the late General Wallace, and the Clerk will furnish a copy of them and a copy of this order to the widow and family of the deceased, and out of respect to his memory the Court will now adjourn.
SOURCE: James Grant Wilson, Biographical Sketches Of Illinois Officers Engaged In The War Against The Rebellion Of 1861, p. 49-51