Wise, Henry Alexander

Wise, Henry Alexander,

1806–76, American political leader and Confederate general in the Civil War, b. Accomac, Va. A lawyer, he was successively a Jackson Democrat, a Whig, and a Tyler Democrat in Congress (1833–44). He was minister to Brazil from 1844 to 1847. An outspoken defender of slavery, Wise defeated (1855) the Know-Nothing candidate for governor of Virginia by accusing that party of abolitionism, thereby breaking the Know-Nothing movement in the South. One of his last official acts as governor (1856–60) was to sign the death warrant of John BrownBrown, John,
1800–1859, American abolitionist, b. Torrington, Conn. He spent his boyhood in Ohio. Before he became prominent in the 1850s, his life had been a succession of business failures in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York.
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. Although he opposed secession, when war broke out he became a Confederate brigadier general, distinguishing himself in the defense of Petersburg against General Grant's first assault (1864) and in the retreat to Appomattox.
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Wise, Henry Alexander

(1806–76) U.S. representative; born in Drummondtown, Va. A Virginia lawyer, he served as a Jacksonian, Whig, and Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1833–44), resigning to become ambassador to Brazil (1844–47) and governor of Virginia (1856–60).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.