Wise, Henry A.

Born: 1806-12-03 Drummondtown, Virginia

Died: 1876-09-12 Richmond, Virginia

Henry A. Wise was a lawyer, U.S. representative, diplomat, governor, and Confederate general. Orphaned at a young age, Wise grew up in the care of relatives. He received private instruction until he entered Margaret Academy at the age of twelve. In 1822, he entered Washington and Jefferson College, graduating with honors in 1825. He studied law with Henry St. George Tucker in Winchester, Virginia, earning admission to the bar in 1828. That same year, he commenced the practice of law in Nashville, Tennessee, returning to Virginia in 1830. In 1832, he won election as a Jacksonian Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives, and won reelection in 1834. In 1836, he switched his allegiance to Whig Party, and won reelection to Congress in 1836, 1838, 1840, and 1842. He continued to serve in the House until his resignation in February 1844. From 1844 to 1847, he was U.S. minister to Brazil. Returning to the United States, he resumed the practice of law. In 1848, Wise rejoined the Democratic Party. In 1850-51, he was a delegate to the Virginia constitutional convention. In 1855, Wise won election as governor of Virginia, serving in that office from 1856 to 1860. He supported John C. Breckinridge for president in 1860, and during the secession crisis served as a member of the Virginia secession convention. After Fort Sumter and Virginia’s secession, Wise joined the Confederate Army as a brigadier general. He held commands in Virginia and North Carolina for the duration of the conflict. At war’s end, Wise resumed his law practice.

Michael B. Chesson, “Wise, Henry Alexander,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 23:683-84; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1949 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1950), 2034-35; Gravestone, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA.