Henry A. Wise
|33rd Governor of Virginia|
January 1, 1856 –January 1, 1860
|Lieutenant|| Elisha W. McComas |
William Lowther Jackson
|Preceded by||Joseph Johnson|
|Succeeded by||John Letcher|
|6th United States Minister to Brazil|
August 10, 1844 – August 28, 1847
|Appointed by||John Tyler|
|Preceded by||George H. Proffit|
|Succeeded by||David Tod|
|Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives |
from Virginia's 7th district
March 4, 1843 – February 12, 1844
|Preceded by||William L. Goggin|
|Succeeded by||Thomas H. Bayly|
|Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives |
from Virginia's 8th district
March 4, 1833 – March 3, 1843
|Preceded by||Richard Coke, Jr.|
|Succeeded by||Willoughby Newton|
Henry Alexander Wise
December 3, 1806
|Died||September 12, 1876 69) (aged|
|Political party||Jacksonian Democrat, Whig, Republican|
|Alma mater|| Washington College |
Winchester Law School
|Years of service||1861 – 1865|
|Unit||Army of Northern Virginia|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
Henry Alexander Wise (December 3, 1806 – September 12, 1876) was an American lawyer and politician from Virginia. He was a U.S. Representative and Governor of Virginia, and US Minister to Brazil. During the American Civil War, he was a general in the Confederate States Army. He was the father of Richard Alsop Wise and John Sergeant Wise, who both served as U.S. Representatives.
Wise was born in Drummondtown in Accomack County, Virginia, to Major John Wise and his second wife Sarah Corbin Cropper; their families had long been settled there. Wise was of English and Scottish descent.He was privately tutored until his twelfth year, when he entered Margaret Academy, near Pungoteague in Accomack County. He graduated from Washington College (now Washington & Jefferson College) in 1825. He was a member of the Union Literary Society at Washington College.
After attending Henry St. George Tucker's Winchester Law School, Wise was admitted to the bar in 1828.He settled in Nashville, Tennessee, in the same year to start a practice, but returned to Accomack County in 1830.
Wise was married three times. He was first married in 1828 to Anne Jennings, the daughter of Rev. Obadiah Jennings and Ann Wilson of Washington, Pennsylvania.In 1837, Anne and one of their children died in a fire, leaving Henry with four children: two sons and two daughters.
Wise married a second time in November 1840, to Sarah Sergeant, the daughter of U.S. Representative John Sergeant (Whig-Pennsylvania) and Margaretta Watmough of Philadelphia. Sarah gave birth to at least five children. She died of complications, along with her last child, soon after its birth on October 14, 1850.Sarah's sister Margaretta married George G. Meade, who was a major general for the Union in the American Civil War.
In the nineteen years of marriage to his first two wives, Wise fathered fourteen children; seven survived to adulthood.
Henry married a third time, to Mary Elizabeth Lyons in 1853. 884-acre (3.58 km2) plantation which he bought from his brother John Cropper Wise, who also continued to live there. It was located on the Eastern Branch Elizabeth River near Norfolk, Virginia. The property was first owned and developed by William and Susannah Moseley, English immigrants who settled there in 1649. Their descendants owned the property into the 19th century.After serving as governor, Wise settled with Mary and his younger children in 1860 at Rolleston, an
After Wise entered Confederate service, he and his family abandoned Rolleston in 1862 as Union troops were taking over Norfolk. Wise arranged for his family to reside in Rocky Mount, Franklin County, Virginia. After the Civil War, Henry and Mary Wise lived in Richmond, where he resumed his law career.
Henry A. Wise served as a U.S. Representative from 1833 to 1844. He was elected Representative in 1832 as a Jackson Democrat. After this election, Wise fought a duel with his defeated opponent.Wise was re-elected in 1834, but then broke with the Jackson administration over the rechartering of the Bank of the United States. He became a Whig, but was sustained by his constituents. Wise was re-elected as a Whig in 1836, 1838, and 1840.
While in Congress, Wise was the "faithful" opponent of John Quincy Adams. Adams described Wise in his diary as "loud, vociferous, declamatory, furibund, he raved about the hell-hound of abolition..."
On February 24, 1838, Wise served as the second to William J. Graves of Kentucky during the latter's duel with Jonathan Cilley of Maine at the Bladensburg Dueling Grounds, in which Cilley was mortally wounded.He later wrote an account of the event that was published by his son John in the Saturday Evening Post in 1906.
In 1840 Wise was active in securing the nomination and election of John Tyler as Vice President on the Whig ticket. Tyler succeeded to the presidency and then broke with the Whigs. Wise was one of a small group of Congress members, known derisively as the "Corporal's Guard," who supported Tyler during his struggles with the Whigs, and was re-elected as a Tyler Democrat in 1842. In 1843, Tyler nominated Wise as U.S. Minister to France, but he did not receive Senate confirmation.
In 1844, Tyler appointed Wise as U.S. Minister to Brazil. Wise resigned as Representative to take up this office. He served from 1844 to 1847.Two of his children were born in Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil, Wise worked on issues related to trade and tariffs, Brazilian concerns about the US annexation of Texas, and establishing diplomatic relations with Paraguay. (Wise supported the annexation of Texas by the United States and Wise County, Texas, was named in his honor.)
Wise returned to the United States in 1847, and resumed the practice of law. He identified with the Democratic Party, and was active in politics. A delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1850, Wise opposed any reforms, insisting on the protection of slavery came first.In the statewide election of 1855, Wise was elected Governor of Virginia, defeating Know-Nothing candidate Thomas S. Flournoy. He was the 33rd Governor of Virginia, serving from 1856 to 1860, and the last Eastern Shore Governor until Ralph Northam was elected in 2017. Wise County, Virginia, was named after him when it was established in 1856. One of his last official acts as Governor was to sign the death warrant of John Brown.
During the secession crisis of 1860-61, Wise was a vehement advocate of immediate secession by Virginia. He was a member of the Virginia secession convention of 1861. Frustrated with the convention's inaction through mid-April, Wise helped plan actions by Virginia state militia to seize the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry and the Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk. These actions were not authorized by incumbent Governor Letcher or the militia's commanders.
These plans were pre-empted by the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12–14 and Lincoln's call for troops to suppress rebellion on April 15. After a further day and half of debate, the convention voted for secession. During the latter stage of the debate on April 17, Wise revealed the plans which would have forced the issue.
After Virginia declared secession, Wise joined the Confederate States Army (CSA). Because of his political prominence and secessionist reputation, he was commissioned as a brigadier general, despite having no formal military training.He was assigned to the western Virginia region, where it was thought his political support would be helpful. Brigadier General John B. Floyd, another former Governor of Virginia, was also sent there. In summer 1861, Wise and Floyd were feuding over who was the superior officer. At the height of the feud General Floyd blamed Wise for the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry, stating that Wise refused to come to his aid. The feud was not resolved until Virginia Delegate Mason Mathews, whose son Alexander F. Mathews was Wise's aide-de-camp, spent several days in the camps of both Wise and Floyd. Afterward he wrote to President Jefferson Davis urging that both men be removed. Davis subsequently removed Wise from his command in western Virginia.
In early 1862, Wise was assigned to command the District of Roanoke Island, which was threatened by Union sea-borne forces. He fell ill with pleurisy and was not present for the Battle of Roanoke Island, when the island was stormed by the Union. He was blamed for the loss, but for his part complained bitterly about inadequate forces to defend the island.[ citation needed ]
He commanded a brigade in the division of Maj. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes on the New Market Road during the Seven Days Battles. For the rest of 1862 and 1863, he held various commands in North Carolina and Virginia.
In 1864 Wise commanded a brigade in the Department of North Carolina & Southern Virginia. His brigade defended Petersburg and was credited with saving the city at the First Battle of Petersburg and to an extent at the Second Battle of Petersburg. Wise commanded a brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia during the final stages of the Siege of Petersburg. He was with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, where he fought bravely but urged Lee to surrender.
After the war, Wise resumed his law practice in Richmond, and settled there for the rest of his life. In 1865 he tried to reclaim Rolleston, his plantation outside Norfolk but was unsuccessful. He was told that he had abandoned that residence when he moved his family to another plantation at Rocky Mount, Virginia. The U.S. commander in Norfolk, Maj. Gen. Terry appropriated it and other plantations for the Freedmen's Bureau, to establish schools for the newly emancipated slaves and their children. Two hundred freedmen were said to be taking classes at Rolleston.
Wise became a Republican and strong supporter of President Ulysses S. Grant. He did not emphasize his Confederate service as did many other politicians, nor did he ever seek a pardon.
Along with working at his law career, Wise wrote a book based on his public service, entitled Seven Decades of the Union (1872).
Wise died in 1876 and was buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
His son Capt. Obediah Jennings Wisedied in 1862 under his father's command at Roanoke Island. Another son, Richard, after service in the Confederate army, studied medicine and taught chemistry. He also became a Virginia legislator and US Representative. A third son, John, served in the Confederate army as a VMI cadet; he also later became an attorney and was elected as a US Representative. Both Richard Wise and John Wise were Republicans like their father. Another son, Henry A. Wise, Jr. (1834-1869) entered the ministry and served as an assistant to family friend Rev. Joshua Peterkin at St. James Episcopal Church in Richmond before resigning in 1859, a decade before his death.
Henry A. Wise's grandson Barton Haxall Wise wrote a biography of the former governor entitled The Life of Henry A. Wise of Virginia (New York, 1899).Another grandson, the lawyer and soldier Jennings Cropper Wise (1881-1968, son of John Sergeant Wise), wrote The Early History of the Eastern Shore of Virginia and dedicated it to his grandfather. He used Governor Wise's quote: "I have met the Black Knight with his visor down, and his shield and lance are broken."
Counties were named in his honor in Virginia (Wise County, Virginia) and Texas (Wise County, Texas).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Henry Alexander Wise .|
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John Minor Botts was a nineteenth-century politician, planter and lawyer from Virginia. He was a prominent Unionist in Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War.
George William Summers was an attorney, politician, and judge from Virginia.
George Douglas Wise was a U.S. Representative from Virginia, cousin of John Sergeant Wise and Richard Alsop Wise and nephew of Henry Alexander Wise.
Thomas Stanhope Flournoy was a U.S. Representative from Virginia and a cavalry officer in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.
James Lyons was a nineteenth century American politician from Virginia who also served in the Confederate Congress.
William Henry Harman was a brigadier general in the Virginia militia and colonel in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, who was killed in action during the Battle of Waynesboro, Virginia, on March 2, 1865.
Mason Mathews was an American merchant and politician in the U.S. state of Virginia. A Whig, he served seven terms in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing Greenbrier County from 1859-1861.
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Henry Alexander Wise was an American lawyer and politician from New York.
|Wikisource has the text of a 1905 New International Encyclopedia article about Henry A. Wise .|
|U.S. House of Representatives|
Richard Coke, Jr.
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives |
from Virginia's 8th congressional district
March 4, 1833 – March 4, 1843
William L. Goggin
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives |
from Virginia's 7th congressional district
March 4, 1843 – February 12, 1844
Thomas H. Bayly
| Governor of Virginia |
George H. Proffit
| United States Minister to Brazil |
August 10, 1844 – August 28, 1847