The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Wise, Henry A. (Henry Alexander), 1806-1876
Henry A. Wise (1806-1876)
0.25 linear feet (1 box)
The Henry A. Wise papers document the personal and
political life of this member of the United States Congress, governor of Virginia, and Confederate general.
Scope and Content Note
The Henry A. Wise papers document the personal and political life of this member of
the United States Congress, governor of Virginia, and Confederate general. Personal
papers contain accounts and correspondence written to Wise from friends and fellow
politicians. Of interest are letters discussing reaction to Wise's involvement in
1838 as a second in a duel between two congressmen. Political papers contain
correspondence written to Wise from fellow politicians and citizens. Of note are
citizens' suggestions concerning proslavery and a newspaper article and letter
discussing the war between the Floridians and Indians down South. There is no
correspondence from Wise. A court transcript (1852) describes the trial of the
Commonwealth vs. William Rolly. Witnesses' accounts regarding the murder of a free
Negro woman are presented. Miscellaneous papers include newspaper articles and a
poem about death by an unknown author.
Henry Alexander Wise was a member of the United States
Congress, governor of Virginia, and Confederate general. Born in Drummond town,
Virginia, in 1806, he was the son of Major John Wise and Sarah (Cropper) Wise.
Wise married his first wife Ann Jennings in October of 1828, his second wife
Sarah Sargent in November 1840, and his third wife Mary Lyons in 1853. He had six
children including John Sergeant and Richard Alsop, both of whom became members of
Congress. One son died during the Civil War.
Graduating from Washington College where he studied law, Wise was admitted to
the bar in Winchester, Virginia. In 1833, he was elected to Congress as a Jackson
Democrat, having engaged during the campaign in a duel with his competitor, Richard
Coke, who was slightly wounded. Later breaking his ties with Jackson over the bank
question, Wise went over to the Whig Party. In Congress, he took a strong stand in
favor of slavery. In 1843, Wise was appointed United States Minister to France, but
was rejected by the Senate. He resigned from Congress in 1844 upon his appointment
as United States Minister to Brazil, in which capacity he served from 1844 to 1847.
In 1848 and 1852 he supported the Democratic candidates for president. Wise was
elected governor of Virginia in 1855. Toward the end of his term, he dealt with the
uprising at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, by abolitionist John Brown, whose execution on
December 2, 1859 was one of t last acts of Wise's administration.
During the Civil War, Wise was appointed brigadier-general in the Confederate
army. After the war he resumed his law practice and also wrote a book Seven Decades of the Union in 1872.
Wise died in Richmond, Virginia, on September 12, 1876, and was buried in
Hollywood Cemetery, located in Richmond.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons,
or places should search the catalog using these headings.
United States. Congress. House
United States--Politics and government
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in
writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex
Henry A. Wise (1806-1876) Papers, MSS 107, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum,
The material was found in the collection.
Collection processed by Lisa M. Petrucci, January 1984. Updated by Catherine
Robertson, December 2014.
Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol.
VI (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1889). pp. 579-580
Who Was Who in America. Historical volume 107-1896
(rev. ed.: Chicago: the A.N. Marquis Company, 1967). pp. 663.
Dictionary of American Biography. Volume XX (New
York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936). pp. 423-425.