John Sergeant Wise (CSA), US Rep.

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John Sergeant Wise

Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Death: May 12, 1913 (66)
Princess Anne, Maryland, United States
Place of Burial: Richmond, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Gov. Gen.(CSA), Henry Alexander Wise and Sarah Wise
Husband of Evelyn Byrd Beverly "Eva" Wise
Father of John Sergeant Wise; Colonel Hugh Douglas Wise; Henry Alexander Wise, II; John Sergeant Wise, Jr.; Hamilton Wise and 4 others
Brother of Hon. Richard A. Wise, MD and Margaretta "Ellen" Mayo
Half brother of Nancy Wise; George Washington Wise; Obadiah Jennings Wise; Anne Jennings Hobson; Henry Alexander Wise, Jr. and 1 other

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About John Sergeant Wise (CSA), US Rep.

John Sergeant Wise (1846-1913) was a Virginian who fought in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. He was an author, lawyer and politician who represented Virginia in the 48th United States Congress.

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John Sergeant Wise (December 27, 1846 – May 12, 1913) was an American author, lawyer, and politician in Virginia. He was the son of Henry Alexander Wise, a Governor of Virginia, and Sarah Sergeant.

Early life

John was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1846, while his father was U.S. Minister to Brazil. He lived as a youth with his father and others at Rolleston, their plantation on the Elizabeth River outside Norfolk, Virginia. His father served as a US Congressman before being elected as Governor of Virginia in 1856. After being privately tutored as a youth, Wise attended Virginia Military Institute.

Still a student when the American Civil War began, Wise served with the VMI Corps of Cadets at the Battle of New Market. He was posted in charge guard of the Cadets' baggage train. Defying orders to stay there, he took part in the Cadets' famous charge. After the battle, he was commissioned in the Confederate States Army.

Law and politics

After the war, Wise studied law at the University of Virginia, where he was initiated as a Brother of Beta Theta Pi fraternity in 1867. That same year he graduated and was admitted to the bar.

Wise practiced law in Richmond, Virginia for many years. In 1880, he was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Representative. In May 1882, he was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, serving until March 1883.

Later in 1882, Wise was elected U.S. Representative for Virginia's at-large seat as a "Readjuster" – a label used by a coalition of Republicans and dissident Virginia Democrats. He served in the 48th United States Congress, from 1883 to 1885.

Before the 1884 elections, Virginia's districts were redrawn, abolishing the at-large seat. Wise did not seek re-election from a district. Instead, in 1885 he ran for Governor of Virginia as a Republican, but lost to Democrat Fitzhugh Lee.

Last years

Wise later moved to New York City, and practiced law there till his retirement. He died in 1913, near Princess Anne, Maryland, and was buried in Richmond.

Literary career

John Wise wrote several books, most notably a memoir entitled The End of an Era (1899), which has been reprinted in numerous editions since its first publication. A full text edition is available online at the University of North Carolina's website, Documenting the American South. It describes his boyhood in the last days before the Civil War, while he was living on his father's plantation "Rolleston" in Virginia, with a childhood slave companion and friend. He also discusses the war years, his father's role in the war, and his family.

Principal literary works

Diomed: The Life, Travels, and Observations of a Dog (1897)

The End of an Era (1899)

The Lion's Skin: a Historical Novel and a Novel History (1905)

Recollections of Thirteen Presidents (1906)


On November 3, 1869, he married Evelyn Byrd Beverly Douglas, daughter of Hugh Douglas and Nancy Hamilton. John and Evelyn had nine children, seven sons and two daughters:

John Sergeant Wise (died young)

Hugh Douglas Wise

Henry Alexander Wise

John Sergeant Wise (as was custom, he was given the same name as an older brother who died young, in order to carry on his father's name)

Hamilton Wise

Eva Douglas Wise

Jennings Cropper Wise (recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross during the First World War, he became Commandant of Virginia Military Institute)

Margaretta Watnough Wise

Byrd Douglas Wise

New York State Senator Henry A. Wise (1906–1982) was his grandson.

In popular culture

Wise was portrayed by Luke Benward in the 2014 film Field of Lost Shoes, which depicted the Battle of New Market.


John Sergeant Wise (December 27, 1846 – May 12, 1913) was an American author and leader in Virginia. He was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Henry Alexander Wise and Sarah Sergeant. He fought in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and represented Virginia in the 48th United States Congress.

Principal literary works

   * Diomed the life, travels, and observations of a dog. 1897
   * The End of an Era. 1899
   * The lion's skin : a historical novel and a novel history. 1905
   * Recollections of Thirteen Presidents. 1906


On November 3, 1869 he married Evelyn Byrd Beverly Douglas daughter of Hugh Douglas and Nancy Hamilton. John and Evelyn had nine children, seven sons and two daughters:

  1. John Sergeant Wise
  2. Hugh Douglas Wise
  3. Henry Alexander Wise
  4. John Sergeant Wise
  5. Hamilton Wise
  6. Eva Douglas Wise
  7. Jennings Cropper Wise
  8. Margaretta Watnough Wise
  9. Byrd Douglas Wise

External links

   * WISE, John Sergeant at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

Source: Downloaded 2010 from Wikipedia.

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Among the writings of John Sergeant Wise (1846-1913), perhaps the most interesting to posterity is his Recollections of Thirteen Presidents (NY: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1906). The following excerpt is from his recollections of U. S. Grant, whom he knew during Grant's presidency:

   Although I had seen General Grant at a distance on numerous occasions, it was seven or eight years after the close of the Civil War before I met him face to face, and then it was in a most unusual way. Business called me to Long Branch, N.J., where I saw the President every day driving back and forth. Upon the way home I took a sleeper to Philadelphia. It was quite late, a hot night, and I was dirty. I went into the lavatory of the sleeping car, removed my coat and collar, and proceeded to give myself a good scrubbing. While so engaged, a quiet man slipped into the compartment and lit a cigar. No one else was present, for nearly everybody else on the car was asleep. Ours was the last sleeper, and next to it was an excursion car filled with one of the noisiest and jolliest of crowds. Men and women were singing.
   "My, what a noisy crowd," said I. "If they keep that up, we will not get much sleep." The remark was made in the free and easy manner in which one traveler addresses another upon a train, and without even looking closely at my companion. "They are not going far, I think. It is an excursion from Wilmington, I believe. I like to see them happy," was the prompt democratic reply. Something in the voice or manner of the speaker made me pause with the towel in my hands and turn towards him. I knew the face. There was no mistaking it. It was that of the President of the United States. He was sitting there alone, just as serene and devoid of self-consciousness as any Tom Jones in all America. I looked at him incredulously, and he returned my glance steadily.
   "I beg your pardon," I stammered forth. "But - is this - General - President Grant?" He nodded assent. "Again, I beg you pardon, Mr. President. When I addressed you so familiarly, I had no idea who you were. In fact, sir, one would not expect to meet -" "That's all right," said he. "Don't explain it. Glad to see you. I like a cigar before retiring and slipped in here to have a smoke." I introduced myself. He asked me who I was and, when I told him, said he knew all about my people. Then he was wide awake. He began to ask me all sorts of questions. Inquired if the Southerners were getting along all right now. Asked if we were satisfied with the results of the war and said he hoped the Southern people would accept the results.
   People have often said General Grant was a taciturn man. I never found him so. He always talked to me, and he always seemed to delight in putting questions as fast as he could ask them. I was immensely flattered, for I was not over 24 years of age. He said, among other things, "I like to hear what people like you think." Then he added, "Did you like army life?" "I loved it. My heart was broken when I lost my job, General," I replied, laughingly. The General said, "I wish we had a lot of young fellows in the service now. I believe it would be a great thing for restored fraternity." Then he added, "but public sentiment is not ready for it yet." He asked, "What do you do for a living?" "Practicing law." "Like it?" "Yes, sir, but it is not as good fun as fighting." And then the President laughed, although they say he was not much given to it.
   I think we had passed Havre de Grace [between Wilmington and Baltimore] when our real friendly private, almost intimate talk was ended. I would have remained all night with him if he had permitted me, for he fascinated me. But he had had enough of me and arose, saying, "Good night, I'm glad I met you. You must come to see me sometime when you visit Washington." He did not say "I like you," but I thought he did, and he showed it in many ways, on many occasions, afterward. And I liked him. He was one of the simplest, most genuine, direct and manly men I ever knew.
   In a rather free talk I once had with General Grant about the Confederate leaders, he expressed feelings of the greatest kindness, admiration and almost affection for General Lee. I remember his saying that if everybody had borne themselves after the war as General Lee did it would have saved the world a lot of trouble. I tried to draw him out into some expression of opinion regarding the relative merits of the Confederate commanders, but he gave no definite response. He did, however, express such a high opinion of General Joe E. Johnston and recurred to that opinion so often that, without his having said so, I have since entertained the notion that General Grant thought him the greatest Confederate commander. And other prominent Northern soldiers have said so to me presently. Without claiming to be a competent military critic or qualified judge, I must say that for the life of me I have never been able to understand the reasoning upon which such an opinion is based.
   General Grant also had a high opinion of Stonewall Jackson. Grant was deeply interested in the incidents of Jackson's private life and the story of his idiosyncrasies which I knew. Everybody knows, of course, how much he was attached to Longstreet. Grant always seemed to feel the liveliest interest in the Confederate soldiers. I remember telling him on one occasion that somehow, since General Lee's death, the orphaned Confederates seemed to feel that the duty of being kind to them and looking after their interests devolved on him. His eye brightened with gratification, and he said something to the effect that the feeling, curious as it might seem, was more or less reciprocated, and that they held a high place in his regard second only to that he felt for his own men. "Curious sort of feeling, isn't it?" he said musingly.
   No man could be thrown in for any length of time with Grant, without admiring him with all his abilities and respecting him. He was with all his abilities one of the simplest, most confirming and trustful of men. The greatest mistake the Southern people ever made was not realizing that if they had permitted him, he would have been the best friend they had after the war.

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John Sergeant Wise (CSA), US Rep.'s Timeline

December 27, 1846
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
October 25, 1870
October 10, 1871
April 6, 1874
Richmond, Virginia, United States
March 2, 1876
August 19, 1877
January 13, 1879
September 10, 1881
July 16, 1884