Henry's Top Matches
About Henry Alexander Wise
Henry Alexander Wise (December 3, 1806 – September 12, 1876) was a United States Congressman and governor of Virginia, as well as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He served as US minister to Brazil from 1843–1847, during the administration of President John Tyler.
Wise was born in Drummondtown, Accomack County, Virginia, to Major John Wise and his second wife Sarah Corbin Cropper, whose 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.
Marriage and family
Wise was married three times, first in 1828 to Anne Jennings, the daughter of Rev. Obadiah Jennings and Ann Wilson of Washington, Pennsylvania. Anne died in 1837, leaving Henry with four children: two sons and two daughters. A fifth child died with her in a fire.
Wise married a second time in November 1840, to Sarah Sergeant, the daughter of Whig U.S. Congressman John Sergeant and Margaretta Watmough of Philadelphia. In nineteen years of marriage with two wives, Wise fathered fourteen children; seven survived to adulthood. 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.
Henry married a third time to Mary Elizabeth Lyons in 1853. After serving as governor, Wise settled with Mary and his younger children in 1860 at Rolleston, an 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 of the Elizabeth River near Norfolk, Virginia. It had first been developed by William and Susannah Moseley, English immigrants who settled there in 1649.
After Wise entered Confederate service, he and his family abandoned Rolleston in 1862 as Union troops were taking over Norfolk. Wise arranged for residence for his family 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 in the United States Congress from 1833 to 1844. He was elected to Congress in 1832 as a Jacksonian Democrat. On the question of the rechartering of the United States Bank he broke with the Jackson administration, and became a Whig, but was sustained by his constituents. After his first election in 1832, he fought a duel with his competitor for the seat in Congress. Wise was reelected to Congress as a Whig in 1837, serving till 1841, and was reelected as a Tyler Democrat in 1843.
In 1840 Wise was active in securing the election of John Tyler as Vice President. After succeeding to the presidency, Tyler appointed Wise as United States minister to Brazil 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, trying to ameliorate Brazilian concerns about the US annexation of Texas, and working toward establishing diplomatic relations with Paraguay.
After his return to the United States, Wise identified with the Democratic Party. In 1855, he was elected governor of Virginia over the Know Nothing candidate. Wise supported the annexation of Texas by the United States and Wise County, Texas, was named in his honor. In the statewide election of 1855, Wise defeated Thomas S. Flournoy and subsequently served as the 33rd Governor of Virginia from 1856 to 1860. 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.
As a member of the Virginia secession convention of 1861, Wise supported immediate secession. On April 17, with delegates debating secession, Wise declared that he had ordered Virginia militiamen to seize Harpers Ferry Arsenal and Norfolk’s Gosport Naval Yards. Wise had forced the issue and Virginia seceded from the Union. He joined the Confederate army and was commissioned as a brigadier general.
Gen. Wise during the American Civil War.
Wise served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He commanded the District of Roanoke Island during the Battle of Roanoke Island. His part in the decision to cede the island when faced with much greater Union forces drew the ire of some of the Confederate government leadership.
His forces were attached to the division of Maj. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes 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 promoted to the rank of major general after the Battle of Sayler's Creek. He was with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, where he fought bravely but urged Lee to surrender.
He was the brother-in-law of Union Maj. Gen. George G. Meade.
After the war Wise resumed his law practice in Richmond, and settled there for the rest of his life. In 1865 he was unable to reclaim Rolleston, his plantation outside Norfolk, before he received pardon from the president. He had abandoned the residence when he moved his family to another residence at Rocky Mount, Virginia.
As recounted in an exchange of letters published in the New York Times, Maj. Gen. Terry of the U.S. command in the Norfolk area did not permit Wise to reclaim the Rolleston property. Terry stated that under post-war conditions of parole for Confederate officers, Wise had claim only to the Rocky Mount property, where he and his family were living when he went to war. The Freedman's Bureau adapted Rolleston Hall and other plantations in the Norfolk area as schools for the newly emancipated slaves and their children. Two hundred freedmen were said to be taking classes at Rolleston.
Along with working at his law career, Wise wrote a book based on his public service, entitled Seven Decades of the Union (1872). His two surviving sons were both active in state and Federal politics.
His younger son John Sergeant Wise wrote a memoir entitled The End of an Era, (1899), reprinted in numerous editions since its first publication. John Wise was fourteen in the summer of 1860 and served in the Confederate Army late in the war. He wrote about his own memories of Rolleston, a childhood slave companion and friend, and the war years, as well as about his father's role and their family members. In addition, 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).
The older son, Richard A. Wise, was a student at the College of William and Mary when the war began in 1861. During the war, he served with J. E. B. Stuart and later as aide-de-camp to his father during the Battle of Roanoke Island. After the war, he earned his MD degree at the Medical College of Virginia in 1869. He served as a professor of chemistry at William and Mary (1869–1878). In 1871 he helped reorganize a volunteer militia for the city of Williamsburg and James City County, Virginia, which he commanded. Known as the Wise Light Infantry, the unit continued at least through 1885, when it appeared during the inaugural festivities of President Grover Cleveland in Washington.
Richard A. Wise later served in politics like his father: he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates (1885–1887); served as clerk of the court of Williamsburg and James City County, 1888–1894; and was elected as a member of the U. S. House of Representatives, serving April 26, 1898 to March 3, 1899 and again March 12, 1900 until his death on December 21, 1900.