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Cornell University Library 
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The life of Henry A. Wise of Virginia, 1 


3 1924 032 770 897 

Cornell University 

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tine Cornell University Library. 

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Barton Haxall Wise ix 


The Eastern Shore Peninsula. The Wise Family. Birth of 
Henry A. Wise and School Days at Margaret Academy and 
Washington College. Attends Law School of Judge Tucker 
in Winchester 1 


Marriage to Miss Jennings and Removal to Nashville. Visit 
to the " Hermitage " and Impressions of " Old Hickory." 
Practice of the Law and Retvirn to Virginia ... 25 


Political Views and Election to Congress. Personal Appear- 
ance. Duel with Richard Coke 34 


The Twenty-third Congress. The Debates over the Abolition 

Petitions. John Quincy Adams 42 


Advocates Building of an Ironclad. Opposes Van Buren's 
Election. A Reporter's Description of Wise. The Ex- 
punging Resolutions. Death of his Wife. Views on Tem- 
perance. Sargent S. Prentiss 63 

The Graves-Cilley Duel 80 




The Nomination of Harrison and Tyler. "The Union of the 
Whigs for the Sake of the Union." Campaign of 1840. 
Mr. Tyler's Administration. Annexation of Texas. Wise 
made Minister to Brazil. Parting Advice to his Constitu- 
ents. Second Marriage 87 


Trip to Brazil on Board the " Constitution." Life at Rio. The 
African Slave-trade. Visit of General Sherman. Events 
leading to Wise's Return 108 


Wise's Home on Onancock Creek. Resumes the Practice of 

Law. Anecdotes of his Career 120 


The Movement leading to the Virginia Constitutional Conven- 
tion of 1850-51. The Mixed and White Basis. Wise's 
Part in the Convention. The Struggle for Equality of 
Representation in Virginia 129 


Third Marriage. Opinion of Old Bachelors. Address before 
the Virginia Colonization Society. "Africa gave to Vir- 
ginia a Savage and a Slave, Virginia gives back to Africa a 
Citizen and a Christian ! " Views in Regard to the Negro 
and Slavery. Delegate to the National Democratic Con- 
vention of 1852 155 


The Virginia Campaign of 1855. The Overthrow of Know- 
nothingism in the South. " I have met the Black Knight 
with his Visor down and his Shield and Lance are broken " 165 




Urged to become a Presidential Candidate. Inaugtiration as 
Governor. Advocates Buchanan for President. Confer- 
ence at Raleigh. The Ceredo Colony in Virginia. Views 
as to Thanksgiving Day. Improvement and Material De- 
velopment of Virginia, and Causes that had retarded it 
stated. Views on Subject of an Oyster Tax and State 
Insurance. State Arms, Finances, etc. .... 206 


The John Brown Invasion. His Trial and Execution. Wise's 
Description of him and Message to the Legislature. The 
Report of the Legislative Committee. Unveiling of the 
Washington Monument at Richmond 240 


Purchases " RoUeston " near Norfolk. Declines to be a Candi- 
date before the Charleston Convention. Supports Brecken- 
ridge and Lane. Opposes Secession and favors " Fighting 
in the Union." The Virginia Convention of 1861 and 
Wise's Part in it 262 

War. The Campaign in Western Virginia .... 282 

Roanoke Island 305 


Writes to General Lee advocating the Construction of a Marine 
Battery by the Confederacy. Assignment to command a 
Brigade. Takes Part in Battle of Malvern Hill. Stationed 
at ChaflSn's Bluff. Anecdotes of Generals Lee and Wise. 
Williamsburg Expedition. Ordered to South Carolina. A 
War-time Aurora Borealis 316 




Ordered back to Virginia. Fight at Nottoway Bridge. The 
Battle of Drewry's Bluff. The First Day's Attacks on 
Petersburg 336 


The Battle of the Crater. Grant's Attacks on Lee's Right in 
March, 1865. The Retreat to Appomattox. Sailor's Creek. 
Surrender of Lee's Army. Wise paroled .... 357 


Scenes at the Surrender. Generals Meade and Custer. Wise 
visits his Son and Friends in South-side, Virginia. His 
Horse, Pair of Mules, and an Ambulance seized. Finds his 
Home in Possession of the Freedman's Bureau. Oil Paint- 
ings and Furniture stolen. Anecdote of General Butler. 
Correspondence with General Lee in regard to Proclamation 
of Amnesty. Indicted for Treason. Locates in Richmond 
and resumes Practice of Law. Correspondence with his 
Daughter and the Hon. Fernando Wood. Views of the 
Political Conditions in Virginia. Advice to the Young 
Men of the State 367 


Habit of Swearing. Love of Paradox. Temperament and Char- 
acteristics. Estimate of him as a Public Man, and his Posi- 
tion with regard to the Slavery Question. Views on the 
Civil War. His Oratory. Fondness for Whittling and 
Good Living. Religious Views. Love of the Country. 
Sickness and Death. Tributes of Judge Crump and Others 402 



Barton Haxall Wise, the author of this volume, 
departed this life February 6, 1899, at the early age of 
thirty-three. He was the youngest and last surviving 
child of the marriage of the Rev. Henry A. Wise and 
Harriet Haxall, and grandson of Henry A. Wise, whose 
life he has written. He came into the world in troublous 
times. He was born at the crisis of the great civil strife, 
which threatened the existence of the Union ; and the 
brief span of his earthly journey was punctuated with 
more than the ordinary niimber of landmarks of domestic 
bereavement. His father, a brilliant young Episcopa- 
lian divine, was classmate at college with PhiUips Brooks 
of Boston, Bishop Potter of New York, Bishop Randolph 
of Virginia, and many other distinguished graduates of 
the Virginia Theological Seminary. They counted him 
as their peer in learning, eloquence, manliness, and Chris- 
tian zeal. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was in 
charge of a church in Philadelphia. Although a non- 
combatant, his sympathies were with his family and 
friends, and he returned to his native State. During 
the war he filled sundry parishes in Virginia, and several 
children were bom to him. Soon after the restoration 
of peace, he was called to Christ Church in Baltimore, 
but fell a victim to disease, and died in 1868, just when 
his eloquence and piety were gaining rapid recognition. 


He left a widow and two little boys, the younger of whom 
is the subject of this sketch. 

The youth of the child was passed in Richmond, Vir- 
ginia, amid scenes of change and mourning, which could 
not fail to make a deep impression upon him. His grand- 
father Wise, at whose house he was a frequent visitor, was 
no longer the fiery and impetuous Harry of by-gone days, 
but the boy knew him as an old and broken man, who, 
after a stormy and dramatic career, in which he had gained 
prominence and honor, had been overtaken by disasters, 
political and domestic, which had nearly conquered his 
indomitable spirit. Yet one strong trait was as promi- 
nent in his grandfather's old age as it had been through- 
out his life, and it is somewhat surprising that the book 
dwells so lightly upon it, for no man ever more thoroughly 
enjoyed the companionship of children, or possessed for 
them a greater fascination. My earliest recollection of 
Barton Wise was when, as a little boy, he came, with a 
brother a year or two older than himself, in charge of 
their mother, or a black mammy, to visit their grand- 
father Wise. They were handsome, sturdy children, and 
their coming was a sure, if temporary, antidote to the 
gloomy broodings into which, at times, in those days, the 
grandfather was wont to relapse. 

The home of Governor Wise was not more attractive 
or happier than that of their grandfather Haxall, with 
whom they lived, but, on such occasions, it was a merrier 
and noisier spot. The hearty greetings which awaited 
them, the games and toys and romps provided for their 
diversion, made lifelong impressions upon the boy. Many 
a day their sports were ended by the tired little one 
clambering into his grandfather's lap and falling asleep 
encircled by his loving arms. Although the child had 
known both parents, and all his grandparents, he buried 


them and his only brother, one by one, before he was a 
man. To him there was beyond question a note of pathos 
in those sad lines of Praed reproduced near the end of the 
book, which his grandfather loved to repeat in his last days. 

He received an excellent education. When he was a 
small boy he was placed in the Pampatike School, at the 
home of Colonel Thos. H. Carter, one of the few establish- 
ments which retained the character of the olden times, and 
he fell under the influence of a lovely woman, Mrs. Carter, 
who has stamped upon every boy attending the school, 
the impress of her singular refinement and high character. 
He afterward attended the University of Virginia, where 
he graduated in law, and then devoted several years to 
travel in Europe and in all parts of the United States, 
lovingly ministering to the wants of an invalid mother. 
After her death he made a brief essay in business in New 
York, but soon abandoned it for a residence in the beloved 
State of his birth, and devoted himself to the practice 
of the profession of law, for which he was best fitted. 
Although he was still a very young man he secured 
reasonable employment, and grew steadily and strongly 
in the esteem of his fellow-citizens. His practice and 
private means enabled him to consummate a happy mar- 
riage about five years before his death, and for the first 
time life seemed opening up to him cheerfully, with suc- 
cess and happiness in sight. 

He was not a demonstrative or showy man, but one of 
deep affection, of clear perceptions, marked individuality, 
firm convictions, integrity, and high principles. Upon a 
recent occasion, and concerning a public issue, he proved 
his independence by refusing to cooperate with his party, 
denouncing its doctrines and arraying himself against 
its candidates, although well aware of the temporary un- 
popularity of such a course. He was a close analytical 


student, and was scrupulously cautious about committixig 
himself to any statement of fact until he had fully ex- 
amined into it and was prepared to establish its truth. 
As a speaker and as a writer he was lucid, if not eloquent ; 
and as a lawyer he was painstaking, studious, growing, and 
watchful to a marked degree of the interests committed to 
his charge. These qualities are sure to impress themselves 
upon the community in which their possessor lives, and 
that they did so in his case was evidenced by the general 
and deep expressions of sorrow which greeted his unex- 
pected death. Those who knew him best were foremost 
in attesting his moral and intellectual growth, since he 
renewed his residence in Richmond, and his death was 
mourned as the loss of a high-minded, valuable citizen. 

Mr. Wise had a decided taste for literary and antiqua- 
rian pursuits. These he indulged by active participation 
in the affairs of the Virginia Historical Society, and by 
several memoirs which he wrote, particularly one on the 
life and services of his ancestor. General John Cropper. 
During his last years he became more and more absorbed 
in preparing this life of his grandfather. He felt, and 
felt keenly, that the career of that remarkable man had 
not been preserved in any fitting and connected record. 
After infinite toil and research, he has produced a thorough, 
faithful, and loving narrative, which will survive. The 
book reveals the intense interest of the writer, and a par- 
donable pride and loyalty to its subject. But it is singu- 
larly free from fulsome praise, and displays discrimination, 
breadth of view, and general reading, beyond the average 
author of to-day. His friends knew the keen anxiety 
with which he looked forward to the appearance of his 
work, and the honest pride he felt and joyous expectation 
which he indulged at the prospect of seeing the results of 
his labors in print. Then came the end — suddenly — 


without much warning — contrary to his own expectations 
and those of his family and friends. The first proofs of 
his loved book were lying upon his desk at the moment 
when his earthly work was ended. 

His death was without dramatic incident, but it was 
sad, as is the death of the young. Sad, too, because 
he was loving and beloved, with much to live for ; and 
touching because, while he was prepared, he did not want 
to go. The past had been cheerless to him ; the present 
was bright and warm and hopeful ; and the future was 
opening up to him fair with every promise of what the 
past had lacked. The mournful task of placing the cap- 
stone upon his work is one bathed in tears. 

The perusal of the book has revealed him as an abler 
and stronger man than even his best friends had known 
him to be. It draws nearer to him, than ever before, by 
the intense loyalty and admiration he displays for our 
common ancestor, one who loved that ancestor before the 
author of this book was born, and who still venerates his 
memory above that of all others. 

The book itself fittingly embalms the grandfather's 
memory, and his fame wUl be henceforth linked with and 
preserve the name of his worthy descendant and biographer. 

Moving out to life's firing line past the graves of the 
generation which preceded and followed, one almost feels 
that he is at last heir to the solitude which is the refrain 
of Praed's lament. 

Yet there are those who still look upon them both as 
not dead. Those who love to fancy that, as of old, the 
boy, tired of life's toil, has only clambered up once more 
upon the old man's lap and lies there sweetly sleeping, 
enfolded in loving arms. 

Jno. S. Wise. 

New Yokk, March, 1899. 




The peninsula formed by the Chesapeake Bay, Atlan- 
tic Ocean, and Delaware Bay includes the greater part of 
the State of Delaware, about one-third of Maryland, and 
two counties of Virginia. That portion at present em- 
braced within the limits of the Old Dominion is about 
seventy miles in length, extending from the Pocomoke 
River to Cape Charles, and having a mean breadth of 
from eight to ten miles. 

It is a flat and sandy tract, largely covered with 
pines, and swept by the breezes of the Atlantic and Chesa- 
peake, whose waters lave it on either side. The Indians 
gave it the name of " Acchawmacke," or Accomack, which 
in our tongue signifies "land beyond the water," the 
meaning having reference to the location of the peniasula, 
separated as it is from the mainland of Virginia by the 
Chesapeake Bay. 

Captain John Smith in his voyage up the Chesapeake 
from Jamestown, in 1608, visited Kiptopeke, " the laugh- 
ing King of Accomack," and has left us some account of 
the eastern shore and the Indians who inhabited it; but 


no settlement was planted there until grim Sir Thomas 
Dale founded a colony in 1612, for the purpose of catch- 
ing iish and making salt, at a point a few miles above the 
cape, on the bay side, caUed "Dale's Gift." This settle- 
ment, although it languished for a while, on account of its 
remoteness from Jamestown, afterward became permanent 
and thrifty, and when, in the year 1634, Virginia came to 
be divided into shires, after the English manner, Accomack 
formed one of them. 

Owing to its isolated situation, the eastern shore of 
Virginia has undergone less change than any other part 
of Virginia, and its people preserve to-day many of the 
characteristics of the seventeenth-century Englishmen, in 
habits and modes of speech. During Bacon's rebellion 
they harbored Sir William Berkeley, with whom they 
sympathized, and when a century later the storms of the 
Revolution broke, they sent their quota of men to join 
the standards of Washington; but at home naught ever 
happened to disturb the quiet of the little sea-girt land, 
and the life of its simple folk flowed in an even channel, 
broken by scarce a ripple. 

The peaceful Indians, among whom the first inhabitants 
settled, had almost entirely disappeared by the end of the 
seventeenth century, and the dying out of the savage was 
followed by the coming of the negro. 

Simple frame dwellings, inhabited by a body of primi- 
tive country people, in a land affording every delicacy of 
food and drink, characterized the peninsula at an early 
day as at present. 

With their vessels coming from the West Indies, bring- 
ing goodly supplies of Jamaica rum, admirable for toddies, 
and with excellent peach brandy at home, and salt-water 
creeks about them abounding in the finest terrapin, crabs, 
and oysters in the world, the eastern shore men recked 


little of the outside world, and were a contented, happy 

Despite its mild climate and other conditions which 
conduced to laissez-faire, the eastern shore men were a 
more thrifty, shrewd people than were to be found else- 
where in tide-water Virginia, and the slaves were never 
so numerous as to deprive the peninsula of a class of 
hardy yeoman. 

Like the contiguous portion of Maryland, however, but 
little of the spirit of modern progress has been felt, and it 
was not until the year 1884, nearly three centuries after 
the first settlement, that the sound of a locomotive was 
heard in Accomack, — communication with the outside 
world having been entirely by water. 

John Wise, the progenitor of the Wise family in Vir- 
ginia, sailed, according to Hotten, from Gravesend in the 
ship Transport, bound for Virginia, July 4, 1635, and 
settled on the eastern shore. He was then but eighteen 
years of age, and as far as can be ascertained was a mem- 
ber of the Devonshire family of that name. Henry A. 
Wise used to say that he was descended from Sir William 
Wise, knighted by Henry VIII. for his wit, and who, 
when asked by the king what fleur-de-lis meant, replied, 
"It means French lice. Sire." This John Wise early 
figured in the records of Accomack and Northampton, 
which began as early as 1632. He married Hannah 
Scarburgh, daughter of Captain Edmund Searburgh (or 
Scarborough), who had emigrated from Norfolk, England, 
and whose son of the same name afterwards became the 
Speaker of the House of Burgesses and Surveyor-General 
of the colony. With Calvert he ran the boundary line 
between Maryland and Virginia. Colonel Edmund Scar- 
burgh was among the most picturesque of the colonial 
figures, and a haughty, domineering cavalier. He erected 


the first salt works in the colony, of which commodity he 
long enjoyed a monopoly, and on account of his influence 
over the Indians was given the name of "conjurer." In 
1662 he conducted an expedition against certain rebellious 
Quakers, residing near the Maryland boundary, whom he 
required to subscribe to the oath of loyalty to the king's 
government, but upon any refusing he "set ye broad 
arrowe " above their door-posts. 

John Wise purchased a tract of land on the Chescon- 
nessex and Onancock creeks, the deed to which made 
by "Ekeekes," the Indian king of Onancock and Ches- 
connessex, may still be seen, and the real considera- 
tion of which, according to tradition, was seven Dutch 

Sir William Berkeley, the governor, afterward in 
1668, made a grant of 1060 acres to Wise, part of which 
was confirmatory of that previously purchased of the 
Indian king. 

This John Wise was one of the justices of the Court 
and a man of consideration in his day and, it is said, noted 
for his piety. He died in 1695. He had an eldest son 
John Wise, but as if fearing this worthy might not sur- 
vive, he named a second one John, " called Johannes for 
distinction sake." This first-named John, however, did 
perpetuate the name ; and from the landing of the emi- 
grant in 1635, down to the subject of this biography, there 
were in all six generations of the family, the eldest son in 
every instance being named John Wise, and they con- 
tinued to reside, as planters, on the family estate lying on 
the Chesconnessex Creek. John Wise, the fourth of the 
name, was a man of prominence on the peninsula and 
justice of the peace. He married Margaret Douglas, the 
daughter of George Douglas, a native of Scotland, who 
was the leading lawyer of his day in Accomack ; and their 


son, John Wise, who was known as Major John Wise, from 
a commission held in the militia sevice, was the father of 
Henry A. Wise. 

Major John Wise owned large tracts of land and a 
numher of slaves and was a lawyer by profession, which 
he combined with planting. He was a man of high char- 
acter and intelligence, greatly beloved by the people of 
his native county, and seems to have been one of those 
men to whom the inhabitants of a community naturally 
turn for guidance and advice. A likeness of him is extant, 
a delicately executed miniature, on ivory, which represents 
a handsome man, with large intelligent brown eyes, gentle 
expression of countenance, and clear-cut features. He is 
dressed after the fashion of the period, with high-collared 
blue coat, stock and muslin shirt, and powdered hair, 
queued behind. He married, first, Mary (called Polly) 
Henry, a daughter of Judge James Henry, a native of 
Accomack and a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, 
who settled in Northumberland County, was a member of 
the Continental Congress, and a judge of the Ad^niralty 
Court, formerly in existence, and hence of the first Court 
of Appeals. Judge Henry was a man of learning, whose 
opinions were respected. By his marriage with the 
daughter of Judge Henry, Major Wise had two sons, John 
James and George Douglas, who attained to manhood 
and inherited the family estates, Fort George and Clifton, 
on the Chesconnessex. The last named of these sons died 
without issue, but the former married and left the estates 
to his two sons, John James Henry and George Douglas 
Wise, in whose possession they remained until the year 
1867, when they were sold to settle up the estate of the 
latter, who was the assistant inspector general in Wise's 
Brigade, Bushrod Johnson's Division, Anderson's Corps, 
Army of Northern Virginia, and who died from the effect 


of wounds received in June, 1864, in the trenches in front 
of Petersburg. 

Major John Wise was a Washingtonian Federalist in 
politics and represented the county of Accomack in the 
House of Delegates for about ten years, beginning in 

At the sessions of 1794-5-6 and 7 he was elected Speaker 
of that body, and the year following, at the noted session 
which passed the celebrated resolutions of 1798, which 
were so strongly anti-Federalist, he was chosen Speaker 
over Wilson Gary Nicholas, a Republican and favorite of 
Jefferson. This circumstance aroused the indignation of 
Mr. Jefferson, who roundly abused those of his followers 
who had forgotten their party allegiance at such a time 
and voted for a Federalist. 

The year following. Major Wise, on account of his 
opposition to these resolutions, was defeated for reelec- 
tion by Larkin Smith, of King and Queen County, John 
Stewart, the federal clerk being succeeded at the same 
time by, William Wirt, and shortly after Wise retired from 
public life. He was at this period a widower, and having 
abandoned the turmoil of politics, his thoughts naturally 
enough reverted to the choice of a second helpmate and 
were directed toward Miss Sallie Cropper, the daughter 
of General John Cropper, who resided with her father, at 
the ancestral seat. Bowman's Folly, on Folly Creek, a few 
miles from Accomack Court House; and the following 
correspondence, which has been preserved, will show with 
what result his addresses were received : — 

John Wise to General Cropper (without date). 

" Feeling myself irresistibly impelled by inclination, and 
prompted by a sense of propriety, I have presumed now to 
address you upon a subject of importance and delicacy. 


" Having conceived an affection for your daughter (Miss 
Sally) I beg leave to solicit your permission to make my 
addresses to her, and at the same time, let me express a 
hope that should I be so fortxmate as to succeed in obtain- 
ing her affections, my first wishes may not be frustrated 
by your disapprobation, I have thought proper to make 
the application to you on the subject in this manner, 
rather than in person, because my character, (if I have 
acquired any,) my condition and my situation in life are 
not altogether unknown to you, and if objections are to be 
made they can be more freely communicated in this than 
in any other way. I have hitherto proceeded no further 
with the lady than merely to obtain her permission to 
make this application, and Sir, I now pledge you the 
honor of a Gentleman, that in case you have objections, of 
an insuperable nature, to the proposed union, whatever 
may be the chagrin, regret and mortification which I may 
feel upon the occasion, I will not disturb the quiet of a 
parent anxiously solicitous, no doubt, for the happiness 
of a beloved daughter, by persisting any further with 

" Permit me to assure you that I am with much con- 
sideration and respect, your obedient servant, 

"John Wise." 

"Bowman's Folly, 11 of May. 1797. 
" SlE : — Although the application made by letter of 
this day was unexpected, yet my reflections heretofore on 
that subject have prepared me to answer : That however 
solicitous I may be for the temporal felicity of my 
daughter and future respectability of my daughter and 
future respectability of my child, she is the only proper 
Judge of the person best calculated to make her happy. 
Respect and impartiality ought to be shown by me to you 


or any gentleman that might make his address to my 
daughter, and I confide in your candor and justice. 
" I am, sir, with due respect, 

" Your obedient servant, 

"John Ckoppek." 

The reader, however he may smile, will not be surprised 
to learn that, in consequence of this formal exchange of 
epistles, Miss Sarah Corbin Cropper became, on the 18th 
day of April, 1799, the bride of Major John Wise. She is 
said to have been a handsome blonde, of a high-strung 
nervous temperament, and a temper of her own, and 
received her education at the celebrated school of Mrs. 
Valeria FuUerton, on Mulbuiy Street, Philadelphia, where 
she formed the friendship of Maria Jefferson, her school- 
mate; and where, also, she had a love-affair with Mr. 
Thomas Sergeant, a nephew of her schoolmistress, and 
brother of the distinguished lawyer John Sergeant. This 
match was broken off on account of some objection raised 
by her father, and singularly enough, as if by way of 
illustrating the old saying that a marriage interfered with 
between two families in one generation will occur in a 
succeeding one, many years afterward, the son of Major 
Wise, by his union with Miss Cropper, married a niece of 
her old sweetheart. 

Owing to its geographical position, the intercourse of 
the eastern shore, both commercial and social, was with the 
North almost entirely, and especially with Philadelphia, 
and in this already famed city Sallie Cropper had formed 
something of a taste for fashionable society, so that it 
could not have been remarked of her, as the English 
peasant said of Lady Canning, that " when fortune made 
her a fine lady, she spoiled the bonniest farmer's wife old 


England ever saw," for it is related that she was even 
better fitted for the city than a country life. 

Major Wise had changed his residence, prior to his sec- 
ond marriage, from his estate on the Chesconnessex, to 
the little village of Drummondtown, the county seat, 
where he was for some time Commonwealth's attorney, 
and later on for a number of years clerk of the Court, and 
an honored member of that representative body of old- 
time Virginians. 

His wife bore him six children, of whom three died 
young. Henry Alexander Wise, the fifth child of this 
marriage, was bom at Drummondtown, Accomack County, 
Virginia, December 3, 1806, and was called by his mother 
after a Mr. Alexander FuUerton of Philadelphia, the hus- 
band of her old schoolmistress, and the name of Henry 
was given in compliment to Judge James Henry, to whom 
Major Wise was much attached. The house in which he 
was bom, a large old-fashioned frame dwelling, with 
dormer windows, located opposite the Court green, in 
after years became and was, until a short time past, the 
village tavern; on the porch of which the bucolic sons of 
the peninsula would gather to talk over politics and county 
affairs, or to play "seven-up" and "back-gammon," from 
which pastimes they would adjourn from time to time, to 
regale the inner man with the cup which both cheers and 

Major John Wise died in 1812, and the year following 
his widow passed away, thus leaving the subject of this 
biography an orphan at the age of six years. It is related 
of the wife of Major Wise that as she lay upon her death- 
bed she turned to a woman attendant, seated by her, and 
looking her in the face, asked if she thought that she 
would ever rise from her bed again, to which query the 
servant, with tears in her eyes, answered "No," where- 


upon the invalid sprang from her bed calling out, "I'll 
show you, you hussy," and as a result of this exertion 
died soon after. 

After the death of his mother, young Wise was taken 
to the home of his maternal grandfather. General Cropper, 
who had been appointed his guardian, and under whose 
roof-tree at Bowman's FoUy he remained for the next 
two years. Bowman's Folly is located on what is there 
known as the sea side of the peninsula, the terms " sea side " 
and " bay side " on the eastern shore of Virginia and Mary- 
land being understood to designate localities, the waters 
of which flow into the Atlantic or Chesapeake respectively. 

The homestead of the Croppers is situated on Folly 
Creek, several miles distant from Drummondtown, and 
within full view it empties into Metompkin Bay, which 
in turn outlets into the ocean through the inlet of the 
same name. 

General Cropper, when but nineteen years of age, had 
raised the first company in Accomack, at the outbreak of 
the Revolution, as captain of which he had marched north- 
ward, to join Washington at Morristown. He had been 
married but a few months previously and left behind him, 
at Bowman's Folly, his young wife. Cropper served with 
conspicuous gallantry, as a major, at Brandywine and at 
Germantown, and throughout the Northern Campaign, 
wintered at Valley Forge, and at Monmouth commanded 
Morgan's regiment of Virginia riflemen. In the fall of 
1778 he returned home on furlough, where he saw, for the 
first time, his infant daughter, Sarah Cropper, who had 
been born after his march northward and was then about 
a year and a half old. He did not return north again, to 
join the army, but was allowed to remain at home on an 
indefinite leave of absence, where his duties as county lieu- 
tenant occupied him closely, in protecting the peninsula 


from the Tories and the British barges which were ravag- 
ing the coast; and his services rendered in this capacity 
were even more valuable than those of an officer of the 
continental line. 

Gathered around him in after years on the winter nights 
at Bowman's Folly, the children would never tire of hear- 
ing him relate the story of the bloody fight at Brandywine, 
when the 7th Virginia, the command of which had de- 
volved upon him, was almost cut to pieces, and he himself 
wounded by a bayonet thrust ; and how when the ensign 
had been killed and the colors captured, he drew a ramrod 
from a musket, tied his red bandanna handkerchief to the 
end, and hoisted it as a flag ; and upon meeting General 
Knox on Chester Bridge the latter alighted from his horse, 
and pressing him to his bosom, said, " The boy we thought 
lost is found." Their youthful imaginations were stirred, 
too, when they heard him tell of the night the British 
rowed up Folly Creek with muffled oars, and made an 
attack upon the house ; and of the bloody battle of the 
Accomack volunteers on board their barges, with the 
privateersman cruising in the bay. 

General Cropper was a whole-souled country squire, 
fond of a horse-race and cock-fight, and an ardent patriot 
and public-spirited man. He had much of the Irish heed- 
lessness of money affairs, characteristic of the old-time 
Virginia gentleman, and when he passed away left his 
property greatly encumbered. He was a stickler for eti- 
quette and jealous of his prerogatives as an officer of the 
militia. It happened upon one occasion that a young 
officer addressed a note to him, asking the loan of a brass 
cannon, to be used at a militia drill, which letter he con- 
cluded in the following terms, " permit me to sign myself, 
John G. Joynes." Cropper, much incensed, refused to 
deliver the cannon, on the ground that the " letter did not 


contain that respectful language which ought to have been 
used by an inferior officer when addressing the commander 
of the regiment." He said that the letter ought to have 
concluded with, " respectfully, I am, sir, your very obedi- 
ent servant," or " sir, your very obedient servant." 

When in January, 1821, the veteran answered his last 
roll-call, "William Wirt wrote to his daughter : " The 
account you gave me of the little incident about three 
weeks before his death, requesting you to trace with him 
the military map of New Jersey, and the old war songs 
with which he closed the ideal excursion, is very interest- 
ing. The soldier's heart beat in his bosom to the last, and 
those scenes were the freshest, as well as sweetest to his 
recollection, in which he had in the morning of life drawn 
his sword in his country's cause, under the banners, too, of 
the immortal Washington." 

His veneration for the character of Washington was 
such that in after years when a member of the legislature 
at Richmond, whenever he attended a banquet, or gather- 
ing where toasts were given, he would arise, as Mr. Curtis 
tells us in his " Recollections," and give the only senti- 
ment ever offered by him : " God Bless General 

It is related of him that upon the publication of Mar- 
shall's biography, he would frequently gather his children 
and grandchildren about him at night, and read to them 
the story of his great commander, the book almost taking 
place of the family Bible, and on the 4th of July he would 
make them listen to the Declaration of Independence, and 
on the 22d of February, the Farewell Address complete. 

Students of the laws of heredity lay it down as a gen- 
eral principle that a daughter inherits the disposition and 
temperament of her father, and a boy those of his mother. 
It would seem that in the case of Henry A. Wise, this la^i* 


was illustrated, as he doubtless received from his grand- 
father, through his mother, his excitable disposition, which 
made him wayward and impetuous. General Cropper 
used to say that most of his sons and grandsons would 
make gentlemen, but that Tom Bayly and Henry Wise 
would be hung. 

The following description of Wise, written by himself, 
gives us a likeness of him in his boyhood, much of which 
will apply to the full-grown man : — 

" He was a pale and puny boy in body, of large eyes 
and mouth and ugly, and so odd and oldish he wouldn't 
mate with the children, but sought the old folks and 
learned their sayings, and was fond of sweethearts older 
than himself, and spent his pocket money for red ribbons and 
climbed after nuts and fruit for their favors. He delighted 
in old stories, loved curious things ; caught up quaint say- 
ings, made something or much of what others threw away 
as nothing ; was called by hard nicknames, but especially 
by the name of Prince Hal, because of a high-strung ner- 
vous temperament; and, fondled by black nurses, he was 
wilful in his humors and sharp and quick and imperious 
in his temper; he loved fun and was fond of sport, pre- 
cocious in mischief, tough and wiry in his tissues, an 
active, daring bad boy who could learn whatever he tried, 
but wouldn't learn what he didn't love, and could fight 
hard or run fast. There was a strange admixture of 
hardy recklessness and extreme caution in his nature ; he 
was a great mimic and game maker, often offended by his 
broad humor, but was frank and genial, and so warm in 
his affections, and generous in his disposition, that he was 
generally popular, though he could when he tried make 
some hate him with a bitter hate." 

At the age of eight years, Henry A. Wise left Bowman's 
Folly to reside with the two sisters of his father, Eliza- 


beth Wise, an old maid, and Mrs. Mary Outten, a widow, 
at Clifton, on the Chesconnessex Creek, about six miles 
west of Drummondtown, on the bay side of the penin- 
sula. Mrs. Outten, having lost a son of her own, felt 
for her young nephew the anxiety and love of a par- 
ent. We are told that " she was one of the finest and 
most dignified ladies, of the most sweet yet austere man- 
ners and morals. . . . She curbed the wild and wayward 
boy and first taught him how to read. She instilled into 
his youthful mind lessons of virtue and religion, and 
taught him to feel the manly sentiment of gentlemen, the 
fear of God, the fear of nothing else — and self-respect. The 
writer has often heard him allude to this more than parent, 
in terms of the deepest filial gratitude and devotion."^ 
Wise's other aunt, Elizabeth Wise, a woman of unusu- 
ally good judgment, also looked after his welfare while 
at Clifton. Of this woman, Thomas R. Joynes, the clerk 
of the County Court, said that he would rather have her 
opinion upon a business matter than that of any man in 
the county. She and her sister attended to the conduct 
of the farm and illustrated the familiar saying that the 
greatest slave upon a Southern plantation was the mis- 
tress. Here at Clifton, young Wise's home continued in 
the main until his fourteenth year. 

The estate was situated about two miles from the mouth 
of the Chesconnessex, where it empties into the Chesa- 
peake. About ten miles distant is Tangier Island, which 
was occupied by the British fleet under Cockburn, in 
1814, and from which the morning and evening guns of 
the enemy greeted the ears of the household. The British 
made numerous raids upon the main, and once advanced 
up the creek to within a mile of Clifton, but retired after 

1 " Portrait Gallery of Distinguished American Statesmen," by William 
H. Brown. 


scattering a camp of the militia, into which they suddenly 
broke, under cover of darkness. 

Wise's country home afforded ample opportunity for the 
sports of rod and gun, of which he was over-fond at an 
early age, and he would fish for days at a time, from the 
Crammahack rocks off the Chesconnessex to Half Moon 
Island, and thus became not only a devoted but an expert 
disciple of Isaak Walton, and mingled freely with the fisher- 
men along the bay shore, who taught him to become as 
skilled in the handling of a sail-boat as any skipper. It 
was during these early years, too, that he formed that love 
of the ocean and its tributaries, the murmur of whose 
waters he was as accustomed to hear as of the soughing of 
the pines of the peninsula. 

The county of Accomack is too flat a country generally 
to correspond with our ideas of picturesqueness ; but along 
the creeks, where they wind in tortuous courses to mingle 
their waters with the bay or ocean, tall evergreen pines 
and scarlet maples border the shore, and in the distance 
may be seen the white caps, which add their charm to the 
scene. " The forests, though largely of pine," are, as Wise 
tells us, " interspersed with oak, sweet gum, ash, red-maple, 
spruce, tulip-poplars, and hollies, where redbreasts feed. 
Underneath and everywhere are the myrtle, periwinkle, 
honeysuckle, wild crab-apple with its perfume, the black- 
haw with its egg-form pearls of jet, the grape-vine, and the 
wild rose. The little water-craft sail to and fro out of the 
mouths of the creeks, into the bay or ocean, past the sands 
where the pipers skip, and the reeds where the marsh hen 
cackles to her nest full of eggs, and the heron and bittern 
stalk. The beaches and marshes have moUusca of all 
sorts, and along the shore the surf casts up myriads of 
shells, and all sorts of seaweeds, some scarlet from the 
coral reefs." 


Along the banks of the Chesconnessex, as elsewhere 
upon the creeks of the peninsula, there arose the merry- 
sound, when, — 

" there beats 
The throb of oars from basking oyster fleets, 
And clangorous music of the oyster tongs 
Plunged down in deep bivalvulous retreats. 
And sound of seine drawn home with negro songs." 

His youthful surroundings made an indelible impression 
upon the mind of the child, and throughout life Wise re- 
tained his fondness for the " milk of the ocean " and land 
of his birth. 

At the age of twelve years he was sent from home to 
attend school at Margaret Academy, about two miles from 
the hamlet of Pungoteague, in Accomack. This was the 
first high-grade classical school permanently established on 
the peninsula. Shortly after the Kevolution, the legisla- 
ture incorporated the academy, which was organized by the 
leading citizens of Accomack and Northampton, and among 
them Wise's father and maternal grandfather ; but it was 
not until the year 1807 that the buildings were erected 
and the academy opened, the legislature having given no 
assistance, and the money being raised by the contributions 
of the citizens, to which was added a sum from the sale of 
the glebe lands, and a gift of five acres from a prominent 
citizen. An old minute-book of the academy, kept during 
the early days, prescribed the following course of study in 
Latin and Greek, in which, from all accounts, the boys 
were not over-proficient, as they were an unruly set, and 
given to mischief. "The portion of each classick to be 
studied by each student shall be as follows : fifty collo- 
quies in Cordery, four coloq. in Erasmus, the whole of the 
first part of Selecta e veteri, and from fifteen to twenty 
pages of the second part, three books of Selecta e profanis. 


six books in Caesar, the first four and the thirteenth in 
Ovid. All Sallust, the Eclogues, the Georg. ; and the 
first six books of the En: in Virgil; all Horace; the 
orations of Cicero from the beginning to the end of those 
against Catiline ; the four Evangelists and the Acts of the 
Apostles in the testament." 

With how much of this formidable array of knowledge 
the ideas of young Wise were taught to shoot, the writer 
is not informed, but he was not studious, and a ringleader 
in most of the fun and frolic. The same minute-book 
contains many curious and amusing regulations, such as 
forbidding the playing of musical instruments during cer- 
tain hours, providing for the removal of students infected 
with the itch, and a warning against the use of English 
translations of the classics and of the drinking of spirituous 
liquors, all of which goes to confirm the tradition that at 
Margaret Academy a boy learned more mischief than 
Latin and Greek. 

In the summer of the year 1822, Wise not yet having 
reached his sixteenth birthday, it was determined to send 
him to college, at Washington, Pennsylvania, as Wise tells 
us, "for the improvement of his health as well as of his 
mind and morals." General Cropper, his grandfather, had 
died in 1821, and Wise, being old enough to make choice of 
a guardian, selected his uncle by marriage, John Custis, 
Esq., who had married his father's half-sister, Tabitha 
Gillett, and resided on his farm on Deep Creek, the next 
stream north of the Chesconnessex, and here Wise made 
his home until the time of his departure for college. 

It was more natural for a Virginia boy at that day to go 
to William and Mary, or Princeton, and Wise was induced 
to attend Washington College by a graduate of that insti- 
tution, who had been his instructor at Margaret Academy, 
as well as on account of the bracing climate. He elected 


for himself to attend, and was possessed of a barely more 
than sufficient income to obtain a collegiate education, as 
his father had left the bulk of his estate to his two eldest 
sons, and that portion left Henry had been largely over- 
valued. His patrimony consisted of a farm on Onancock 
Creek and several negroes, also an undivided moiety, 
along with his younger brother, in two more. His farm 
and slaves yielded an income of from $450 to $500, as the 
land rented fairly well, and a " likely " negro would hire 
for a good price. 

Washington College was one of the first founded west 
of the Alleghanies, and was established a few years after 
the Revolution by the Scotch-Irish who settled in that 
country. It is located in what has been termed the blue- 
grass region of the North, and abounds in " romantic scen- 
ery, beautifully rounded hills, park-like groves and fertile 
fields, variegated with the colors of ample harvests," and 
is in the midst of what is now the oil region of Pennsyl- 
vania. Such a landscape must have charmed the young 
eastern shore man, who for the first time in his life had 
left his native sea-girt peninsula, and gazed upon the pano- 
rama presented by a land of mountain ranges, undulating 
meadows and green pastures. 

The president of the college at this time was Dr. 
Andrew Wylie, a sturdy Scotch-Irish Presbyterian, of 
large frame, brusque manners, and sound learning, and 
who was pronounced the finest scholar west of the Alle- 
ghanies. In after years. Wise wrote to Wylie's biogra- 
pher : " From October, 1822, until the day of his death, 
I was a pupil of whom he was fond, and he lectured me to 
the last with partiality and loving kindness, with pride in 
me, and with all the pride of an honest, earnest, philo- 
sophical, heart-touching and head-reaching, brave, noble, 
good, gracious, and grave divine. I wish I could teU you of 


how he taught me, — a wild, reckless, and neglected orphan, 
a self-willed boy, — to love honor and truth and wisdom, and 
the standard of all these, and try to be virtuous for virtue's 
sake — never to imitate these or anything else but to be 
really what these alone can elevate one to be." Wise was 
far from being singular, in his apparently exaggerated esti- 
mate of Dr. Wylie, as many of his other pupils wrote of 
him in a similar strain. Dr. John W. Scott, the father-in- 
law of ex-President Harrison, and a pupil of the college at 
the time of Wise's matriculation, tells us that he was im- 
pressed with the manner and presence of the latter, who was 
the bearer of a letter to him ; and that he was instrumental 
in persuading Wise to join the Union Literary Society, one 
of the debating clubs of the college, in which he early ex- 
hibited a talent for extemporaneous speaking, and skill 
in debate. The following year Wise was chosen to repre- 
sent his society in a joint oratorical contest, in which the 
judges awarded him the victory, his subject being " The 
Existence of a God," and his opponent declared " that it 
was the beard upon my face that caused a child to strip 
me of my honors." 

Wise was thrice selected as the orator of his society, 
winning the victory twice, and tying the judges the third 

But he had by no means outgrown as yet the period of 
his boyish pranks. In 1824 Lafayette, who was on a visit 
to this country, in the course of his triumphal tour, visited 
the little town of Washington. On the day of his ex- 
pected arrival, the people of the surrounding country had 
flocked into the village from miles around, and lined the 
street, awaiting the arrival of the distinguished guest, 
whose coming was to be announced by a herald on horse- 
back, proclaiming his approach. While excitement and 
expectation were at a high pitch. Wise stole out of town. 


by way of a back road, and first disguising himself, rode 
down the main street of the town, arrayed in a gorgeous 
sash, shouting the approach of the Revolutionary hero, 
which was received with great applause, but upon the non- 
arrival of the General, for some hours, the people realized 
that they had been made the victims of a hoax, and had not 
the perpetrator kept well out of sight, he would have fared 
badly on the occasion. In time, however, the wayward 
youth became more sensible of his duties and studious in 
his habits, which he tells us was brought about by his fall- 
ing in love while yet a student with one " whose heavenly 
piety touched his heart and changed his ways." 

The Rev. Obadiah Jennings, a man distinguished in 
early life at the bar, and. later on in the ministry, was the 
pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Washington, at that 
time. It was in this way that Wise became acquainted and 
fell in love with his daughter Ann, and that " his love for 
her made him struggle for honors, and though her piety 
was after one of the strictest sects of Holy Faith, he made 
successful ambition serve his love and won her." 

While Wise was a student at Washington College, in 
the fall of 1824, General Jackson was on his way to attend 
Congress, where the House of Representatives was to de- 
cide his success or defeat as a presidential candidate, and 
travelled on horseback from Wheeling, via the Cumberland 
road, passing the little town of Washington, en route to 
the capital of the same name. Wise tells us in his book, 
the " Seven Decades of the Union," " the populace flocked 
to see the hero, and among the hero-worshippers who 
crowded around him was the eminent and excellent 
Andrew Wylie, D.D., president of the college. He knew 
Dr. Wylie and had the highest respect for his character 
and reverence for his religious profession of the Presby- 
terian faith. We were not awed by his presence but in- 


tently studied him, and we argued his greatness from his 
looks and words, which drew us close to him. Dr. Wylie 
made the remark to him that he had no apprehension about 
the certainty of his being chosen by the House of Kepre- 
sentatives, unless Congress was corrupted, or beguiled by 
factious intrigues. Immediately General Jackson replied 
with flashing spirit, ' Sir, no people ever lost their liberties 
unless they themselves first became corrupt. Our people 
are not yet, if they ever will be, corrupt; and the Congress 
does not decide this obligation by the intrigues of corrup- 
tion, for the fear of their sovereigns, the people. The 
people are the safeguard of their own liberties, and I rely 
wholly on them to guard themselves. They will correct 
any outrage upon the political purity by Congress ; and if 
they do not, now or ever, then they will become the slaves 
of Congress, and its political corruption.' The remark 
struck us then as indicating that he was fit to govern a 
republic, and it has come to us a thousand times since, 
with all the weight of truth and prophecy. He was our 
choice from that moment for the presidency. 

" The next morning a select corps of students obtained 
leave to join his escort for miles on his way. He rode a 
splendid chestnut sorrel, the stock of hie old racer Pacolet, 
which he bought from William R. Johnson, in Virginia, 
and we can see him now, a model of grace in the saddle, 
whilst he chatted at ease as his horse kept the pace of a 
quick travelling walk. He saluted us with marked vale- 
diction when the students in escort drew up to return, and 
bade us accept his acknowledgment of our courtesy and 
the advice from him ' to study hard to fit ourselves for 
the service of our country.' We thus first knew Andrew 
Jackson, the greatest man, take him all in all, we have ever 
known among men." 

After graduating at Washington College, where he 


divided first honors with another student, in September, 
1825, Wise made a tour through Canada, before returning 
home, but between his being in love and on the other hand 
his anxiety to place foot upon his native peninsula once 
more, the trip was neither as enjoyable nor instructive as 
it might have been. 

The winter of 1825-26 Wise spent at Clifton in Acco- 
mack, and having determined to study law, he set out, 
during the following June, for Winchester, Virginia, to 
attend the law school of Judge Henry St. George Tucker. 

Judge Tucker had been elected chancellor of the Fourth 
District of Virginia, in 1824, and shortly afterward estab- 
lished a law school at Winchester, which flourished with 
great success, until he abandoned it to become president 
of the Court of Appeals. Although his school was located 
in an out-of-the-way town, and not connected with any 
college, and at a period when travel was by stage, it was 
nevertheless largely attended, and among the pupils were 
many men afterward distinguished at the bar. George Hay 
Lee and Green B. Samuels, both of whom were afterward 
members of the Appellate Court, and men like R. M. T. 
Hunter, Robert Y. Conrad, John W. Brockenbrough, 
and Charles J. Faulkner received their legal instruction 
from Judge Tucker. In addition to the pupils of the 
school, Wise enjoyed the acquaintance of the lawyers of 
the town, of whom he wrote in a sketch of his friend the 
Hon. James M. Mason : "The bench and bar of Winchester 
and surrounding circuits then, even more than now, were 
distinguished for eminent lawyers, such as Henry St. 
George Tucker, Alfred H. Powell, and John R. Cooke, and 
a younger tier of professional devotees, such as the two 
Marshalls, the Conrads, and Moses Hunter, the best wit of 
them all." 

Winchester was moreover noted for its excellent society 


and beautiful location in the lower valley of the Shenan- 
doah. Judge Tucker was accustomed to indulge in versi- 
fication during his leisure hours, and among his productions 
was the following satire on the politics of the day. 

" Hence if you have a son, I would •advise, 
Lest his fair prospects you perchance may spoil; 
' If you would have him in the state to rise. 
Instead of Grotius let him study Hoyle, 
And if his native genius should betray 
A turn for petty tricks, indulge the bent; 
It may do service at some future day. 
A dexterous cut may rule a great event ; 
And a stocked pack may make a President ! ' " 

An anecdote of Wise's stay at Winchester, and how 
Mrs. Tucker, of whom he was very fond, cured him of 
gambling, is as follows: One Saturday night a circus 
was in town and he had just received his half-year's allow- 
ance. While nearly every one else had gone to the circus, 
he went to a faro bank, which was run by a disreputable 
fellow, and there alone played with the gambler until a 
late hour, finally losing every dollar he had received from 
home. Just about this time, the circus having closed, he 

heard footsteps on the stairs, and in came Major , the 

sergeant of the town, a bluff old chap, weighing about two 
hundred and fifty pounds, who was a regular gambler but 
who was very fond of Wise, and had his good points. The 
old fellow evidenced great surprise at finding him there 
alone and took in the situation at a glance. Wise told 
him the story in a few words and asked him to lend him a 
" Ben Hatcher " (that being the name given to ten-dollar 
bills of the old bank of Virginia) to try his luck once 
more. "Yes," said the Major, "I'll lend you a Ben 
Hatcher and as many as you need." Then addressing the 
gambler, " You scoundrel ! You have been robbing this 


boy up here all alone. Open the game afresh, and under- 
stand you are to play an honest game, and if I catch 
you cheating, I'll cut your ears off." Under these cheer- 
ful influences the game was resumed, and just before day- 
break Wise rose from the table, having won back exactly 
what he had lost.' In the chUl of daylight, he made his 
way back to the tavern where he had his rooms, thinking 
he would slip in unobserved. On the same floor were the 
rooms of Judge and Mrs. Tucker, and as he stealthily 
reached the head of the stairway Mrs. Tucker's door 
opened. He started to pass her by with some word of 
kindly greeting and expression of surprise at her being up 
at that hour, but advancing toward and walking with 
him she said, without any trace of reproach in her voice, 
" Yes, my dear child, I could not sleep. I have had you on 
my mind very much of late. I have something here I want 
you to read," and with that she handed him two tracts, 
and laying her hand gently on his shoulder said, " Will 
you read them?" and retired. He took them to his room, 
and read them by the early morning light. They were 
simple, truthful narratives of the wreck of useful, honor- 
able lives, through yielding to the passion of gambling. 
The lesson had its effect, not only from what it taught, 
but from the manner in which the rebuke was given. 

From that day until the day of his death. Wise never 
entered a gambling-house as a player and always men- 
tioned the name of Mrs. Tucker with reverence and love. 



OF "old hiokobt." peactice of the law, and 


Whilb Wise was a student at Washington College, in 
1823, the Rev. Obadiah Jennings accepted the pastorate 
of the Presbyterian Church in that town ; and not long 
after the former found himself deep in love with the 
latter's daughter Ann. Although Wise remained at col- 
lege until the fall of 1825, he had never had the courage 
to address her, as he acknowledged in a letter to a friend, 
nor did he realize that his affection was returned. Later 
on, he had begun the study of law at Winchester, had aban- 
doned all thought of courting her, and had devoted him- 
self assiduously to his legal studies. While a pupil at 
Judge Tucker's law school, in the spring of 1827, he had 
learned from a friend in Philadelphia that his old sweet- 
heart, who had been spending the winter in that city, was 
to pass within about forty miles of Winchester, on her way 
to Washington, Pennsylvania. His former ardor was forth- 
with awakened, for he set out to join her, and pressed his 
suit with such success that the young couple became 

The Rev. Obadiah Jennings, the father of his betrothed, 
received a call to become the pastor of the First Presby- 
terian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, whither he moved 



during the summer of 1828, and the family persuaded 
Wise to locate there for the practice of his profession, as 
the pair were to be married that fall. After two years 
spent under the instruction of Judge Tucker, Wise grad- 
uated from his school, and returned to Accomack, where 
he cast his maiden vote for Andrew Jackson in 1828. 
Tidewater Virginia, even at that date, had long before 
seen its best days and afforded but a poor opportunity to a 
young man beginning the practice of law ; moreover Wise 
wrote of it : "I have actually found the place, dear as it 
is to me, after having left it and returned, to be paraly- 
tick to my energy. I will not attempt to account for the 
phenomenon of always being in a state of mental lethargy 
and corporeal torpidity when there. I know not whether 
it was owing to the atmosphere or to better eating than I 
ever got anywhere else, but so it was ; and Captain Smith, 
in his history of the settlement of the Virginia colony, 
describes the climate of Accomack, named after the 
Indian ^ chief, who was patriarch of the tribe on the East- 
ern Shore, as salubrious, the soil as fertile, the place 
altogether adapted to a settlement that he established at 
Onancock, but noticed that the aborigines were inactive 
and lazy." Thus, Wise was induced to leave his native 
peninsula and cast his lot in the new and flourishing 
town of Nashville. 

During the month of August, 1828, having procured 
his license to practise, he set out via the Chesapeake for 
Baltimore on his way to Tennessee. Of this trip he wrote in 
his old age : ^ « We stopped at Tangier Island in the Chesa- 
peake Bay, there to part with kindred and friends who 
accompanied us to the island, where was held the annual 

1 This is probably an error, as Accomack was not called after a chief, 
but on account of its location, as stated in the opening chapter. 
* " Seven Decades of the Union." 


camp-meeting of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Love 
and plighted troth urged us to fly with swift wings west- 
ward and the ' amor loci ' drew us back to ' Home in old 
Virginia.' . . . The camp of 1828 was most numer- 
ously attended. We had started in a sail-vessel from a 
beautiful creek late in the evening and when within about 
two miles of the beach the breeze died away and we were 
helplessly becalmed. The sun set clear o'er the bay, smooth 
and rippleless like a mirror of the Almighty ; in a few mo- 
ments the island was not to be seen until the moon efful- 
gent rose o'er the eastern land and lighted up the glassy 
waters, and she had not risen high when suddenly the light- 
wood flambeaux of the camp shot forth their beams, and 
the rows and avenues of hundreds of broad and high blazes 
were like supernatural lamps of the heavens; and soon 
the hymns of the multitude came softly stealing by moon- 
light o'er the mirrored bay, mellowed by distance, as if 
angel voices were in choirs of melody coming from an 
island cloud ! Oh it was sweet beyond fancy's dreams ! 
We could not but exclaim ' that is the anthem of farewell 
to home and friends, and that is the cloud-music giving 
welcome to the West and to active life ! Here is a start 
with good omen ! ' Tears both of joy and grief were 
wept ! " 

From Baltimore he drove in a one-horse gig, with a 
little hair trunk tied up behind by way of baggage ; and 
his money, consisting of about $800 was carried in a belt 
around his waist, which caused him to arrive in Nashville, 
considerably chafed at the end of the month's trip. 

On the 8th of October, 1828, the marriage took place, 
and the day following, the wedding party repaired to the 
" Hermitage " as the guest of General Jackson, who was a 
warm friend as well as parishioner of the Rev. Dr. Jen- 
nings. The bridesmaids and groomsmen went on horse- 


back and the bride and groom in the gig. " We arrived 
at the 'Hermitage' to dinner," says Wise, "and were 
shown to a bridal chamber magnificently furnished with 
articles which were the rich and costly presents of the 
city of New Orleans to its noble defender. 

"Had we not seen General Jackson before, we would 
have taken him for a visitor, not the host of the mansion. 
He greeted us cordially and bade us feel at home, but 
gave us to distinctly understand that he took no trouble to 
look after any but his lady guests ; as for the gentlemen, 
there were the parlors, dining room, the library, the side- 
board and its refreshments — there were the servants, and 
if anything was wanting all that was necessary was to ring. 
He was as good as his word. He did not sit at the head 
of his table, but mingled with his guests, and always pre- 
ferred a seat between two ladies, obviously seeking a chair 
between different ones at various times. He was very 
easy and graceful in his attentions ; free and often play- 
ful, but always dignified and earnest in his conversa- 
tion. . . . The cost of the coming presidency was even 
then very great and burdensome ; but the General showed 
no signs of impatience and was alive and active in his 
attentions to all comers and goers. He affected no style 
and put on no airs of greatness, but was plain and simple, 
though impulsively polite to all." Among the household at 
the "Hermitage" were several of Mrs. Jackson's family. 
Judge Overton, an intimate friend of the General's, and 
Henry Lee, half-brother of General Robert E. Lee, who 
resided there for the time and was engaged in preparing 
Jackson's campaign papers. After a delightful visit of a 
few days, the young couple returned to Nashville, where 
they made their home with Dr. Jennings, and Wise began 
the practice of law. Shortly after coming to the bar, he 
formed a partnership with Thomas Duncan, Esq., a brother 


of Governor Duncan of Illinois, which, however, did not 
long continue. Later on Duncan became involved in a 
duel which was fought on the Mississippi above New 
Orleans, in which he was run through the body and 

Among those with whom Wise was brought in contact 
in the practice of his profession, were Felix Grundy, 
Francis B. Fogg, Baillie Peyton, Ephraim H. Foster, An- 
drew Hays, O. B. Hays, Thomas Fletcher, and others, 
then prominent at the bar of Nashville. His letters of 
that period relate the usual tedious experience of most 
young lawyers before and since, in waiting for practice, 
and although he was not inclined to hide his light under a 
bushel, he wrote that his clients were few and far between. 
During this period of waiting he frequently amused him- 
self by writing articles for the press, as he began early to 
take an interest in public affairs. 

Nashville was at that date a flourishing town of between 
four and five thousand inhabitants, and the centre of a con- 
siderable cotton trade. Cavalier manners and customs 
prevailed, and all the vices and characteristics of a new 
southwestern town existed ; and there was a full share of 
paper-shavers and adventurers, along with a highly intelli- 
gent, refined society, and a class of resolute men who had 
left the older States along the seaboard to seek their for- 
tunes in the western country. Of Wise's life in Nashville 
there is not much to tell, but it is interesting to note, as 
indicative of his views about slavery at that time, also 
as to his habits of life, that he was the secretary of the 
Tennessee Colonization Society, and an active member in 
a temperance organization. The following spring after 
his location in Nashville he made a trip westward through 
Tennessee, with a view to purchasing a plantation, for the 
reason, as he wrote in a letter to one of his college mates, 


" I may say, without a particular detail of circumstances, 
that I find it absolutely necessary to bring my slaves to 
this cotton country, and most advisable to settle them, 
immediately, on a plantation of my own, in order to assist 
my quota of fees in the profession in defraying the exorbi- 
tant expenses of this very fashionably extravagant city." 
He visited the country bordering on the Mississippi, in the 
neighborhood of what he describes as " a very flourishing 
town called Memphis," and was on the eve of purchasing 
a rich tract of land, consisting of six hundred and fifty 
acres, for 12000. It was his intention to bring his slaves 
from " the old worn-out sand banks of the Mother of the 
Union " and settle them here, to plant cotton, and he ex- 
pected to induce his brother-in-law and relative, TuUy R. 
Wise, to come out and take charge of the plantation for 
him while he remained in Nashville. The profits arising 
from cotton planting in a new country, and the natural 
increase in a body of slaves, were very large, and Wise 
had high expectations; but his project was abandoned, 
doubtless on account of the determination of his brother- 
in-law to remain in Virginia. Despite the fact that for 
a while he was a briefless barrister, Wise gradually 
acquired a good share of practice for a young attorney, 
and a little more than a year after coming to the bar, he 
was called upon to argue a case in the Supreme Court 
of the State, where he maintained his client's cause 
with credit to himself, though he was unsuccessful. Ham- 
bleton tells us : " But despite all that he could do, he 
was unhappy outside his native State. There is something 
peculiar about Virginians in this respect. We rarely if 
ever find one, no matter how well he may be doing, satis- 
fied for any length of time in any State but his own. Why 
it is, remains to be solved. Finally, to gratify the wish 
of his heart, he determined, with the consent of his wife, 


to return to Accomack, which he did in the fall of 1830. 
When he arrived at home, the scenes of his boyhood ex- 
hilarated and enlivened a feeble frame, which had almost 
fallen a prey to melancholy." 

In the spring of 1831 Wise wrote from Accomack : " I 
never declared my intention to remain among this people 
until about first of January last, and from that time until 
this my business has been constantly increasing. So far 
my practice has been worth for the first three months 
$325. I am as popular as I could wish, but have no dis- 
position to dabble in politics so long as my profession 
thrives." His intention, however, not to embark in a 
political career, was not destined to be fulfilled; for al- 
though he soon acquired a lucrative practice, yet he 
possessed in a more than ordinary degree a Virginian's 
weakness for politics. 

At the bar of Accomack and Northampton, he crossed 
lances with George P. Scarburgh, Carter M. Braxton, 
P. P. Mayo, M. W. Fisher, and Vespasian Ellis — men 
who were types of the old county court lawyer, and some 
of whom could hold their own with the best anywhere. 

For the first year or more, after his return from Tennes- 
see, Wise made his home in the village of Onancock, on 
the bay side of the peninsula. Later on he moved to a 
farm near the county seat, Drummondtown, where his life 
was that of the lawyer and planter combined, so common 
in the country at that time. " Such a lawyer," as said a 
distinguished jurist of our day,^ "lived upon his farm, 
which he cultivated, and attended the courts, without any 
strict devotion to business in his office. His library was 
not measured by the number but the weight of his books. 
He read and mastered Bracton, Coke, Hale, and Blackstone. 

1 John Randolph Tucker's address on the character of Beverly B. 


His reports were few — My Lord Coke's, Salkeld, Saun- 
ders, Atkyns' Equity Cases, and the like. He read history 
much and studied the human heart profoundly. Amid 
the mountains, hills, valleys, forests, and fields about his 
country home, he meditated much upon natural law. The 
principle of right and justice, implanted in the instincts of 
our nature and deducible from observation and experience, 
he evolved from his own native intuitions and reasons. 
" He wrought out by original thought what law ought to be, 
without learning much from the decisions of the judges, 
and thus in ninety-nine cases in a hundred he found what 
was the law in any special controversy. He was less 
technical than the city lawyer, skilled by ample practice 
and fuU libraries in the infinitely varied phases of social 
contacts and contracts. He was less scientific, but more 
philosophic ; his views were less astute, probably, but more 
broad and fundamental, and his generalizations less accu- 
rate, because deduced from a less number of particulars. 
The law he learned was that whose ' seat is the bosom of 
God, and whose voice is the harmony of the world ' : Nee 
enim alia lex Romae, alia Athenis, alia nunc, alia posthac, 
sed et omnes gentes, et omni tempore, una lex et sempi- 
tema et immutabilis continebit." 

Wise's skill in extemporaneous speaking gave him great 
power before a jury, especially in criminal cases, and his 
ready knowledge of human nature, coupled with a faculty 
of making acquaintances, caused him to rise rapidly at 
the bar, and a successful career lay before him in that 
direction. At the period when he began the practice in 
Accomack, it was the custom of the lawyers to attend 
the warrant tryings every month, in the various magis- 
terial districts, and here the legal fledglings tried their 
wings, as well as on County Court day, that " folk moot " 
of the Virginians, when the sovereigns gathered from 


afar to hear the lawyers argue their cases, or the public 
speakers discuss the issues of the day upon the Court 
green, where the crowd could also amuse themselves 
swapping horses, examining the wares of the pedler, or 
in witnessing the fights of the local bullies. On these 
occasions intercourse was had with the people from every 
portion of the shore, and Wise formed acquaintances which 
were to prove of great value in the political career which 
lay before him. His ready faculty of making friends and 
his kinship with many of the leading families of the county 
caused him to attain a high degree of popularity while 
yet a very young man. 



Although a member of a family which was Federalist 
on both sides, Wise from boyhood was an ardent Democrat, 
and concerning his political views at that time, wrote: 
" My master in the study of municipal and constitutional 
law was a Republican after the ' straightest sect ' of strict 
constructionists, — the learned and now lamented Henry 
St. George Tucker of Winchester, — than whom no man 
in the day of his health was of more subtle intellect, no 
man more a gentleman and a scholar, and no man more 
beloved by his pupils, upon whom he failed not to impress 
the stamp of his great authority. He led me to the pure 
fountain of the Madisonian philosophy of politics. The 
first of leaders whom I preferred for the presidency was 
Mr. Crawford of Georgia, though I was too young to give 
him a vote, even if the state of his health had allowed 
him to be nominated. My next preference was for Gen- 
eral Jackson, who was my first choice in 1828, and for 
whom I voted then and in 1832." Upon his return from 
Judge Tucker's law school in 1828, before his departure 
for Nashville, Wise, then not twenty years of age, deliv- 
ered an eloquent speech from the hustings in advocacy 
of the election of " Old Hickory." Four years later — in 
1832 — he was sent as a delegate from his district to the 
Baltimore convention, where he voted for the renomina- 



tion of Jackson for President, but declined to acquiesce 
in the nomination of Van Buren for Vice-President, and, 
like many others in Virginia and Alabama, cast his vote 
for Philip P. Barbour of Virginia for that office. After 
the adjournment of the convention, he was appointed 
one of the " Jackson Corresponding Committee " for his 
county, and wrote an address urging Jackson's reelection 
and condemning the policy of Clay, especially upon the 
subject of the tariff and internal improvements. 

In December, 1832, the issue of nullification had arisen 
in South Carolina, and Jackson issued his celebrated Proc- 
lamation. Many of the Virginia democracy sympathized 
with the nullification doctrine and took sides with South 
Carolina, and it was largely through the influence of the 
Richmond Enquirer and prominent Democrats like Drom- 
goole, John Y. Mason, Andrew Stevenson, and Philip P. 
Barbour, that Virginia was saved from embracing the 
South Carolina heresy. The district in which Wise lived, 
generally known as the " York " district, was composed of 
the counties of York, Gloucester, Matthews, Warwick, 
James City and the city of Williamsburg, on the western 
side of the Chesapeake, and the counties of Accomack and 
Northampton on the eastern shore. It was the oldest 
section of the State, in which were located not only the 
old Colonial Capitol and historic Yorktown, but James- 
town Island, where the earliest colonists had made their 
home. In an address, delivered at the last-named spot, 
upon the two hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of the 
English settlement. Wise said : " Here the Old World first 
met the New. Here the white man first met the red, for 
settlement and colonization. Here the white man first 
wielded the axe to cut the first tree, for the first log cabin. 
Here the first log cabin was built for the first village. 
Here ^e first village rose to be the first State Capitol. Here 


was the first capitol of our empire of States, — here was the 
very foundation of a nation of freemen which has stretched 
its dominion and its millions across the continent to the 
shores of another ocean. Go to the Pacific now, to meas- 
ure the progression and power of a great people ! " 

As late as 1833, despite the decline of the tidewater 
section, generally, from the long cultivation of tobacco in 
previous years and the effects of slavery, as well as the 
removal of many of its leading families to other portions 
of the country, the district still continued to be the home 
of a refined, intelligent agricultural population of English 
descent, among whom the best traditions of the Common- 
wealth still survived. 

Along the banks of the lower James, known among the 
strictly orthodox as the Jeems River, there dwelt in glazed 
brick houses a few of that class, who, from their aristocratic 
pretentions, arrogated to themselves a sort of superiority 
over the common clay of humanity, yet the great mass and 
controlling element were marked by that democratic spirit 
and simplicity of dress and manners which have always 
characterized the Virginia people, as a whole. Wise's 
brother-in-law, a Pennsylvanian, wrote him of a visit to 
the former's home in Accomack, in which he gives his im- 
pression of the people as follows : " The winter was passed 
very pleasantly, and if you had been here, my dear brother, 
I would have classed it among one of the very pleasantest 
of my life, for the frank manners of the Virginians are 
more congenial to my feelings than those of the city of 
aristocracy, where before sociability can be established you 
must either possess the mines of Mexico or trace your 
■descent from ' Tara's Halls.' Yet do not understand me 
as not being pleased with the PhUadelphians ; I was only 
contrasting their manners with those of the Old Dominion." 

In the spring of 1833 Richard Coke of Williamsburg, 


who represented the district at that time, was a candidate 
for reelection and openly espoused the nullification cause. 
An appeal was made to the Jackson party on the eastern 
shore, to put forward a candidate, and several gentlemen 
were solicited to announce themselves, among them Wise, 
and upon the others declining to run, he declared himself 
in the race, in January, 1833. He forthwith published an 
address to the voters of the district, defining his position 
upon the questions then before the people, which Mr. 
Ritchie in the Mnquirer characterized as " a masterly ref- 
utation of many of the errors of the day, the doctrines of 
Consolidation as well as of Nullification" 

In it he planted himself upon the principle enunciated 
in the Virginia resolutions of 1798-99, drawn by Madison, 
" that each State for itself is the judge of the infraction 
and of the mode and manner of redress," which, however, 
Mr. Madison " applied in cases of last resort for the con- 
servation of inalienable rights, and Mr. Calhoun applied it 
in cases of governmental policy and expediency. But as 
applicable to any class of cases, Mr. Calhoun, in fact, 
changed, and, as we think, essentially perverted the true 
doctrine, and thus caused it to be misunderstood and mis- 
applied until it was brought into disrepute and was finally 
overthrown, if not forever destroyed." Wise believed that 
milder means should have been used by Jackson and that 
the tariff bill could have been " compromised before the 
ordinance of South Carolina was passed, as it was after- 
ward." An exceedingly warm and bitter campaign en- 
sued, between Coke and Wise, both speaking from the 
hustings and holding joint debates, at times, in accordance 
with the Virginia custom; and the latter delivered, as 
he afterward declared, " as many as twenty-seven stump 
speeches, besides having one hundred and fifty cross-road 


A resident of Northampton County, James B. Dalby, 
Esq., thus gives his recollections of Wise during the cam- 
paign: "I was only a boy, but his eloquence, his frank 
cordial manners, his honesty of purpose, that seemed to 
speak out from his looks and countenance, possessed a 
charm for me that time has not dimmed, nor circumstances 
changed. There were still other powers of attraction. My 
father, besides being a strong Jackson man, was an old- 
fashioned Methodist and a zealous advocate of temperance. 
Mr. Wise was what was called a teetotaler, — he did not 
drink nor treat to ardent spirits, which was an unusual thing 
for a candidate for office, — therefore my father thought him 
not only a great but a good man, and so educated me to 
believe." Wise at this period was a stranger to the people 
of the York district, outside of Accomack and Northampton 
Counties, and they beheld for the first time, on the hust- 
ings, a tall young man, about five feet eleven inches in 
height, and thin as a rail, of fair complexion, Avith light 
auburn hair, almost flaxen, worn long behind the ears, and 
deep-set, piercing hazel eyes, which at times appeared gray- 
ish in color. His forehead, though low, was broad, with 
great depth between the temples ; nose, Roman, and large 
firmly set mouth, above a square chin, furrowed down the 
centre. His general appearance was exceedingly youthful, 
and his pronounced features and clean-shaven face added 
to the Indian look about him. 

Although embarked upon his first campaign, he showed 
himself not only an eloquent but ready speaker, possess- 
ing a clear, resonant voice, and capable of holding his own 
upon the hustings, among a people accustomed to hear 
the political issues discussed by orators of more than or- 
dinary powers. It is related that upon one occasion, while 
speaking on a court green during a canvass he was con- 
stantly interrupted by a man, who injected his remarks 


and attempted witticisms at the end of almost every sen- 
tence. Assuming a look of injured innocence, Wise said, 
addressing the crowd, "My fellow-citizens, when this 
Solomon has finished I will proceed with my speech." The 
eyes of the audience were immediately fastened upon the 
noisy individual, who, much incensed, demanded a retrac- 
tion of the remark. " Yes, my fellow-citizens," continued 
Wise, who assumed an air of mock humility, " I will cheer- 
fully retract it, for he is no Solomon." 

The nullification doctrine was espoused by Abel P. 
Upsher, Severn E. Parker, and other leading men of the 
district, and was widely believed in, as the vote polled at 
the election indicated. Coke carried all the counties on 
the western side of the Chesapeake, by large majorities. 
Wise receiving but one vote in James City ; but if the 
western shore was loyal to its candidate, the eastern shore 
was even more so to Wise, and he received there an over- 
whelming majority, which more than offset the vote cast 
on the western shore, and elected him by 401 votes. From 
this it may be accurately inferred, however, that the politi- 
cal issues did not enter as largely into the canvass, as the 
rivalry between the different sections of the district on 
either side of the bay. 

It is interesting to recall an abstract from a speech deliv- 
ered by Wise, some years afterward, in 1841, upon the 
floor of Congress, which may be said to convey a truthful 
impression of the feelings among the Union Democrats of 
Virginia, upon the subject of Jackson's intended coercion 
of South Carolina. Said he : "I was no nullifier. I op- 
posed the doctrine. I opposed the theory upon which the 
resistance was founded. I defeated its advocate in an 
election for a seat on this floor ; I was a Union man and 
for peace. But let me tell, gentlemen, that if war had 
begun, every Union man of Virginia would have been a 


Southern man. No standing army would ever have 
crossed her ancient lines to do battle against a sovereign 
State, without first fighting her sons of every faith at every 
pass where volunteers could have made a stand. Why? 
Because, sir, when the torch of civil war between this 
government and a State had once been lighted, the Union 
would have been dissolved. Once a war, never more a 
Union — a Union as a Union has existed and should exist. 
After a war of that kind, it would have been a Union 
of consolidation cemented by blood ! — such a Union as no 
Union man of my acquaintance would have been willing 
to see exist." The bitter contest between Coke and Wise, 
aggravated by the intemperate zeal of the friends of both 
parties, resulted in a correspondence between them, in 
which Coke sought to hold Wise responsible for certain 
criticisms of his character and political views. The matter 
blew over at the time, but the animosity had not subsided, 
and in January, 1835, nearly two years afterward. Wise 
wrote from Washington, to a friend at home, alluding to 
a correspondence between his second and that of Coke. 
" Wray writes Coke has been seen some time at Hampton 
' Barking trees.' I am ready and have learned in quick 
time to be so by boring holes in chalk lines." The duel 
was fought about the hour of noon, on the 22d of Jan- 
uary, over the eastern branch of the Potomac, just across 
the district lines. The distance stepped off was ten paces. 
Wise wrote of the affair to a friend at home. Captain 
Stephen Hopkins, as follows : " It will give no one more 
relief from anxiety and concern on my account than your- 
self, to be informed that I have fought Coke, and escaped 
unhurt. I wounded him through the right elbow joint, 
the ball passing to the centre of his side, but not quite 
through his coat. It raised a contusion, however, and cut 
the skin on a rib opposite his heart. He will soon recover. 


and I thank God sincerely I did not kill him." The effect 
of Wise's shot had been to destroy Coke's aim, and the 
ball from the latter's pistol struck the ground a few paces 
in front of the former. After this exchange of shots, the 
parties shook hands and the affair ended. Coke opposed 
Wise during the succeeding congressional campaign, but 
during the canvass announced his withdrawal, and ever 
afterward voted for Wise and also visited him at his home 
in Accomack. 

Wise was never before or afterward the principal in a 
duel, though prior to the meeting with Coke, he had chal- 
lenged his cousin Thomas H. Bayly, who had declined 
to accept. Several years later he became involved in a 
difficulty with Mr. Gholson of Mississippi, to whom he 
addressed a challenge, but Sargent S. Prentiss, who 
acted as Wise's second, declined to deliver it and the 
affair was amicably adjusted. 



DuKiNG the month of December, 1833, Wise took his 
seat as a member of the Twenty-third Congress, a body 
which, as Parton observes, owing to the number of distin- 
guished men it contained, has been called the star Con- 
gress. In the Senate sat Webster, Clay, and Calhoun the 
great triumvirate, besides a number of other lights of 
scarcely less magnitude ; while among the members of the 
House were John Quincy Adams, the " old man eloquent," 
Pierce, Choate, Cambreleng, Fillmore, McDuffie, Polk, 
Corwin, and Ewing. " Of the members of this Congress," 
says Parton, " five have been President ; five Vice-President ; 
eight Secretary of State ; twenty-five governor of a State." 

Wise was just twenty-seven years of age when he quali- 
fied as a member of the House, and his clean-shaven face 
and slender frame gave him an exceedingly boyish appear- 
ance, and Hambleton relates that when John Y. Mason 
introduced him to the Speaker, Andrew Stevenson, to take 
the oath, the latter inquired, " Where is Mr. Wise ? " 
Mr. Wise then standing before him, whom he took to be one 
of the pages of the House. Mr. Mason whispered to the 
Speaker and told him that was the gentleman to whom he 
had just been introduced. " The Speaker," continues 
Hambleton, " smiled and presented the Bible with a pleas- 
ant remark about his youthful appearance." ^ 

1 A similar story is related of John Bandolph of Roanoke. 


At this period of American history, the generation of 
statesmen belonging to the Revolutionary era had for the 
most part passed away, and the effect of the new frontier 
States upon our national life had begun to be felt ; railway 
construction had commenced, sectional irritation over the 
tariff had arisen, and the slavery agitation begun by peti- 
tions presented to Congress, and, in short, those questions 
were coming to the front which led up to the war between 
the States. " The inauguration of Jackson " as a distin- 
guished author, Professor Woodrow Wilson, has observed, 
" brought a new class of men into leadership, and marks 
the beginning, for good or for ill, of a distinctly American 
order of politics, begotten of the crude forces of a new 
nationality. The new generation which asserted itself in 
Jackson was not in the least regardful of conservative tra- 
dition. It had no taint of antiquity about it. It was dis- 
tinctively new, and buoyantly expectant." 

Prior to the assembling of the Twenty-third Congress, 
and just after his second election, Jackson, in pursuance of 
his declared hostility to the Bank of the United States, — 
the charter of which was to expire in 1836, — had ordered 
the removal of the deposits, amounting to something like 
$10,000,000, which were transferred to the "pet" banks 
as they were called. The withdrawal of this large sum 
necessarily compelled the Bank to curtail its loans, in 
like proportions, and caused a stringency, almost amount- 
ing to a panic, in the money market. This act of execu- 
tive usurpation, as many considered it, alienated from 
Jackson the support of seventeen Democrats in the House, 
besides several in the Senate, who, on account of their 
peculiar situation, — acting neither with the administration 
nor the Federal opposition, — were designated the "Awk- 
ward Squad." Among this number was Wise, whose maiden 
effort upon the floor of the House was an argument in 


favor of the restoration of the deposits and of a national 
bank, which last he considered as the best agency to se- 
cure to the country a safe and uniform currency. During 
the course of his speech, in alluding incidentally to John 
Randolph, he commented upon the fact that his death had 
never been announced to the House of Representatives. 
A few days afterward, Judge Bouldin of Virginia, who 
had been elected as Randolph's successor, rose to explain 
the reasons why the House had never been informed of 
Mr. Randolph's death; when suddenly, just after com- 
mencing his remarks, he swooned, fell, and expired in a 
few minutes. 

Foremost, at least in its far-reaching effects, among the 
questions that were forced upon the attention of the coun- 
try during the Twenty-second and Twenty-third Congresses, 
was that of the presentation of abolition petitions. As far 
back as the year 1790, a petition on this subject, signed by 
Benjamin Franklin among others, had been presented, and 
in response thereto it had been resolved " That Congress 
have no authority to interfere in the emancipation of 
slaves, or in the treatment of them in any of the States." 
During the first forty years of the government, very few 
antislavery petitions were presented, but about the years 
1831-32 the question began to assume a serious aspect, 
from the appearance of numerous petitions praying for 
the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, over 
which it was claimed Congress had entire jurisdiction, and 
by the time of the assembling of the Twenty-fourth Con- 
gress in December, 1835, the question of the reception and 
disposition of these memorials caused wide divisions of 
opinion and aroused acrimonious controversies. 

It was in the discussion of this question that old John 
Quincy Adams was to employ all his energy of mind and 
character, as a member of the House of Representatives, 


bo which he had been elected, after having served his coun- 
try as minister at foreign courts, as Secretary of State, and 
as President. On January 10, 1832, Adams wrote in his 
diary : " Mr. Lewis came to have some conversation with 
me upon the subject of slavery in the District of Colum- 
bia. . . . He said he wished to know my sentiments upon 
slavery. I told him I thought they were not materially 
different from his own, that in presenting the petition I 
had explained the wish that the subject might not be dis- 
cussed in the House, because I believed a discussion would 
lead to ill-will, to heartburnings, to mutual hatreds, where 
the first of all wants was harmony, and without accomplish- 
ing anything else. I asked what he should think of the 
inhabitants of the District of Columbia if they should pe- 
tition the legislature of Pennsylvania to enact a law to 
compel the citizens of that State to bear arms in defence of 
their country. He said he should think they were med- 
dling with what did not concern them. I said the people 
of the District might say the same of citizens of Pennsyl- 
vania petitioning for abolition, not in the State itself, but 
in the District of Columbia." 

The agitation of this question was naturally peculiarly 
disturbing to the people of the Southern States, and, 
viewed in connection with other events of the period, was 
calculated to irritate and alarm them in a high degree. 
In 1831 William Lloyd Garrison founded the Liberator, 
and in 1833 the American Antislavery Society was formed. 
The people of the Southern States awoke to a realization 
of the fact that their section was being flooded with aboli- 
tion pamphlets and literature, and that they had been 
slumbering in false security. 

The inhabitants of Virginia, by nature conservative and 
hard to arouse, became alarmingly aware of the fact, by 
the Nat Turner insurrection which broke out in the year 


1831. Prior to 1830, a large proportion, if not a majority, 
of the abolition societies were at the South, and as late 
as 1827 there were eight such organizations in the State 
of Virginia, besides the African Colonization Society. 
The subject of gradual emancipation had long been 
thought of in that State, and received a large share of 
attention in the legislature during the session of 1831-32. 
A similar sentiment existed about the same period, in the 
States of Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. In 
Virginia, at least, the opinions of her foremost public men, 
in the earlier days, had always been in favor of gradual 
emancipation, which was strengthened by the fact that the 
institution was not profitable there, as it was in the cotton- 
growing section. They had never regarded slavery as " a 
good, a positive good," such as Calhoun declared it to be, 
but looked upon it as an inherited wen, grafted upon their 
civilization, which ought to be removed as soon as prac- 
ticable. It was agitation of a far different character, 
and conducted in an entirely different spirit, by people 
having nothing in common with their situation and sur- 
roundings, which caused a revulsion in the sentiments of 
the Virginia people, at the period mentioned, and made 
peaceful emancipation thereafter impossible. 

The discussion of historical "might-have-beens" is 
always useless, but there seems no good reason to doubt 
that had not the fanatical agitation of the question of aboli- 
tion arisen in the North during the thirties, the four States 
of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina 
would have themselves undertaken to do away with 
slavery in their limits, and the effect of such action upon 
their part would have been inevitable upon the States 
further south. Thus the consummation, so much to be 
wished, could have been accomplished by the peaceful 
power of public opinion, and not, as it afterward was, by 
fire and sword. 


On the 16th of February, 1885, a petition from certain 
citizens of Rochester, New York, prajring for the abolition 
of slavery in the District of Columbia having been pre- 
sented, a lively discussion ensued, during the course of 
which Wise arose and said : — 

" Mr. Speaker, although I have my feelings, my pas- 
sions, and my fixed principles and determinations, as a 
Southern man, on this subject, yet I hope I can discuss it 
without excitement. I rise not, sir, to throw, as some 
others have thrown, a firebrand amongst us. I rise 
simply to state to my constituents and the country at 
large, the true state of feeling and of the case as it exists 
here, in the North and in the South. I trust I am well 
assured that the representatives on this floor from the 
North do not wish or design to interfere with our rights. 
That they merely feel bound in their representative duty 
to present these memorials, so dangerous in their tendency 
and incendiary in their character, from a respect to a, few, 
a very few only, of their constituents comparatively, and 
that they do not act from their own impulses. Sir, on 
this delicate and vitally important subject, the moderate, 
considerate, and patriotic men of the South, as well as of 
the North, have enemies to contend with. In the North 
we have a few misguided fanatics, whose zeal prompts 
them to rush blindly into the most absurd extremes, and 
in the South — I am sorry to say it — there are not wanting 
those who seize upon every pretext to inflame the public 
mind on the subject of slavery. In this delicate situation, 
what should be the course of the friends of the country 
and our institutions? Why, sir, the friends of good order, 
of the Constitution, and of the existence of this republic, in 
this House, or out of it, in the North, or in the South, 
must use their influence to moderate and quench these 
spirits of both extremes of fanaticism and disorganization. 


" When memorials of the character of this now asked to 
be printed are presented, it is respectful enough, I should 
think, to the memorialists, to receive them ; if printed, they 
will be circulated throughout the country, to fan the flame 
of the zealots on one side, and to serve as food for the 
disorganizers on the other. We, who would be safe and 
secure in the blessings we now enjoy, will, therefore, 
smother these memorials on their first presentation. I am 
willing, sir, to treat all memorials, no matter how ex- 
travagant or preposterous, or of what character, with 
respect, provided they are from a respectable body of 
citizens, decorous and not dangerous in their tendencies. 
But, sir, I cannot tolerate, much less give consequence and 
^clat to, memorials and petitions which strike at the very 
foundations of the social compact and of our civil institu- 
tions. I will not hear them ; I desire not to see them, and 
I would reject them at once. With what sort of respect — 
I put it to the gentleman from New York [Mr. Fillmore] — 
would he treat an incendiary who should respectfully ask 
him to permit him to apply a torch to his dwelling? 
Would he regard him as a sober-minded neighbor or mad- 
man, as a friend or fiend ? Sir, I was sorry to hear some 
of the remarks from the gentleman from New York. He 
says that the people of the North are continually shocked 
by advertisements of slave dealers in the papers of the 
District. I am sorry, sir, that their nerves are so delicate, 
when their fathers did more than any other people of the 
Colonies to establish slavery amongst us. And I appeal 
to Southern gentlemen for the truth of the remarkable 
fact that the immigrants from the North to the South, 
some from the gentleman's own district, perhaps, are as 
ready to become masters as any who are hereditary 
masters. To strengthen their nerves and change their 
whole principles and opinions on the subject, they have 


but to change their climes, their heavens. And if they 
choose to remain at home, they may cease to take these 
odious papers. If slavery was abolished in the District, I 
know not what would restrain the press from still publish- 
ing advertisements. And if the papers here ceased to 
publish for runaways and purchasers of slaves, still the 
gentleman would have to cease taking the papers of the 
South, or to silence them, too. Sir, slavery is interwoven 
with our very political existence, is guaranteed by our 
Constitution, and its consequences must be borne with by 
our Northern brethren, as resulting from our system of 
government; and they cannot attack the institution of 
slavery without attacking the institutions of the country, 
our safety and welfare. The gentleman says he will ever 
respect the property of the States, but he claims to legis- 
late away the property of this District. Sir, a slave is as 
much property here as in Virginia ; property by the law 
and the Constitution. And, in addition to the remark of 
the gentleman from Alabama [Mr. McKinley] that you 
surely will not take private property without just compen- 
sation, and that you cannot compensate without taking in 
part of the taxes of the South to pay for slaves, I will 
repeat the idea, that, although you have exclusive jurisdic- 
tion over this ' ten miles square,' yet it is common ground, 
for the good of the whole, and for the use of the whole 
people of every State in the Union. And I would ask of 
the gentleman, if he can come upon this ground with his 
carriage and horses, why cannot I come with my slaves to 
remain here, to live here, as long as I please ? Sir, I say 
it not in passion, but calmly and dispassionately, that 
Congress has no right to abolish slavery even here, against 
the consent of the slaveholders, who are not represented ; 
and I warn gentlemen, that the South — I speak for all 
as strongly as one man can speak for many, for millions — 


that the South will fight to the hilt against the abolition 
of slavery in this District, unless the inhabitants owning 
slaves themselves petition for it, as they would against 
any interference with the right of slave property in Vir- 
ginia. The gentleman calls this a great ^National ques- 
tion.' I protest, sir, against it being so considered. The 
nation has nothing to do with slave property. It is simply 
a delicate question of private individual right, wholly and 
solely under the control of the States where slavery exists. 
It is a reserved State right, with which the General Gov- 
ernment has no right of interference even, and from inter- 
meddling with which the free States and their inhabitants 
should scrupulously abstain. The pseudo-philanthropists 
of the North do but defeat their own objects, when they 
rudely attempt to touch or handle a subject which does 
not immediately concern them ; and true Christians and 
philanthropists will always find their principles and the 
cause of humanity best subserved by being the friends of 
slaveholders, instead of being the friends of slaves, and by 
cooperating with intelligent, humane, and patriotic slave- 
owners of the South, by ways and means which the lights 
of the age have already shown. If violence or intrusion 
upon our rights be persisted in and pursued, gentlemen 
will find Union men and nuUifiers of the South all united on 
the subject, — ready ripe for revolution, if the worst must 
come to the worst ! I hope, sir, that this House will not 
shock the South more by the printing of this memorial than 
the constituents of the gentleman from New York were 
ever shocked by slave advertisements, and that it and all 
others like it will now, and for all time to come, be 
smothered and suppressed." 

A warm discussion followed, participated in by a num- 
ber of its members, which caused William S. Archer, of 
Virginia, to remark that he considered it almost as indis- 


creet in gentlemen from the South, or slaveholding States, 
to discuss the question, as it was for the representatives 
from the North to introduce it ; and upon his motion the 
whole subject was laid upon the table. But from that 
time until December, 1844, the question continued a thorn 
in the side of members of Congress, and arose upon in- 
numerable occasions. February 8, 1838, Henry L. Pinck- 
ney, of South Carolina, moved a set of resolutions on the 
subject, viz. (1) That all the petitions should be referred to 
a select committee ; (2) With instructions to report that 
Congress could not constitutionally interfere with slavery 
in the States ; and (3) Ought not to do so in the District 
of Columbia. These resolutions were passed by the House, 
and shortly after an additional one reported by the com- 
mittee, viz. that thereafter all petitions relating in any 
way to slavery, or its abolition, should be laid on the table, 
without action and without being printed, or referred. 
Prior to the introduction of the Pinckney resolutions, 
when a motion was made by Jarvis, of Maine, to lay a 
petition on the table, Wise moved as an amendment: 
"That there is no power of legislation granted by the 
Constitution, to the Congress of the United States, to 
abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and that any 
attempt by Congress to legislate upon the subject of 
slavery will not only be unauthorized, but dangerous to 
the union of the States. The war," he said, " is now com- 
menced between evasive and direct propositions upon this 
subject, for he regarded the proposition of the gentleman 
from Maine as entirely evasive. ... He wished the 
whole South to mark it if the previous question to this 
amendment should be put to them. Let them toe it and 
let the South be undeceived, or let the South be guar- 
anteed in her rights." And in the discussion of Pinckney's 
resolutions, he again objected to them, as not meeting the 


issue, and called attention to the fact that it was not the 
people of the South, or their representatives, who intro- 
duced the subject in Congress, and that the responsibility- 
rested upon the representatives from the North and their 
constituents. The reception of the petitions and legislat- 
ing upon them, he regarded as yielding the point in issue, 
for the reason that if the House could legislate against, 
they could likewise legislate in favor of the objects peti- 
tioned for. 

In a letter to Governor Tazewell of Virginia, dated 
March 29, 1836, to be laid before the legislature, Wise 
wrote his views in regard to the abolition petitions, which 
we reproduce in part : " The problem then was reduced to 
this : that from the course of events and the tendency of 
causes, good policy required us to act and act speedily 
whilst it was yet day; and that being protected by the 
adventitious state of political parties, we had everything 
to gain and nothing to lose by acting boldly, provided the 
representatives of the slaveholding States were united, 
and true to themselves and their constituents. Accord- 
ingly, my course was taken with those whom I considered 
the true advocates of slaveholding rights, of Southern 
safety, and of the national welfare, in resisting the recep- 
tion, not the hearing, of abolition petitions. This resist- 
ance was in vindication of the true right of petition, and 
founded upon the true construction of the Constitution in 
relation to the power in Congress of abolishing slavery. 
The right of petition, it was contended, belonged only to 
petitioners praying to a government having the power of 
legislating over themselves, in cases where they had a 
direct interest themselves in the subject of their prayer 
for legislation ; where they petitioned in a peaceable man- 
ner, not subversive of the rights of the legislative body, to 
whom they prayed; for no object hostile to the public 


safety, and where the government to which they had peti- 
tioned had the power to grant their prayers. In these 
cases the petitioners were not citizens of the District of 
Columbia, and they prayed to the government of the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, distinct from the government of the 
United States, and from any, or either of the State govern- 
ments. It was contended that the people of Maine had as 
much right to petition the legislature of Virginia to abol- 
ish slavery in Virginia, which would not be claimed or 
conceded by any, as they or the people of any State had to 
petition the local legislature of the District of Columbia to 
abolish slavery in the District. That the right to petition 
carried with it the right to have the petition considered 
and granted, if reasonable and just, and it would be un- 
reasonable and unjust that petitions of people whose own 
rights and interests could not be affected, either for good 
or for evil, by the grant of their prayers, should be re- 
ceived, considered, or granted, to affect the rights and 
interests of others, which might be injured, or destroyed, 
against their own consent. . . . 

" It was further contended, that to refuse to receive peti- 
tions after hearing their contents stated or read was not a 
denial in any sense of the right of petition. That the Con- 
stitution restrained Congress from making any ' law pro- 
hibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble and 
to petition the government for a redress of grievances ' ; 
that a refusal to receive these petitions was the making 
of ' no law ' ; that it prohibited not the right ' to assem- 
ble ' ; that it prevented not and hindered not the right 
' to petition ' ; or even the right to have the petition 
heard; that these petitions for abolition were not for 
' redress ' of their own ' grievances,' but of the griev- 
ances of others, who did not and could not themselves 
petition or complain; and that the right of Congress, 


as a legislative body, to receive or reject these petitions, 
commenced only where the right of petition ended. That 
if petitioners had the absolute right to have their peti- 
tions received, by the same course of reasoning they 
had the right absolutely to have them considered and 

In the light of the present, the ground on which Wise 
and his associates based their course of action was clearly 
untenable, as "the right to offer a petition implies the 
duty of Congress to receive it"; but in either case, the 
Southern members pursued a short-sighted policy in allow- 
ing Adams and the abolitionists to assume the attitude of 
champions of a right as ancient as Magna Charta. Due 
credit, however, should be accorded to the motives of the 
former, which were doubtless largely controlled, not only 
by the desire to protect their property, but to prevent the 
agitation of a subject dangerous to the welfare and safety 
of the Union. But from the vantage-ground thus gained 
the abolitionists enlisted the sympathies of thousands of 
conservative citizens, who, in other respects, were but 
little inclined to regard their fanatical agitation of the 
subject of slavery with any degree of approval. As long 
as the right to petition seemed in any wise abridged, or 
denied, the antislavery party not only awakened the 
sympathies of many on that score, but were also constantly 
able to provoke discussion upon the abstract question of 
slavery ; and thus through its existence in the District of 
Columbia, were furnished, as Adams said, with a " fulcrum 
for their lever," so much so that he declared he would not 
abolish slavery there, even if it were in his own power to 
do so. 

Perhaps no figure has ever stood out in bolder relief, or 
occupied a position more striking upon the floor of the 
House of Representatives, than that of old John Quincy 


Adams during the period of these debates. He came to 
be, as has been remarked, "the funnel" through which 
these petitions were poured, by the thousand, into Con- 
gress, and dealt hard blows upon the heads of his political 
opponents, who joined issue with him, on the right to 
present these memorials. 

Rarely have scenes more stormy been enacted in Con- 
gress, and the debates from first to last were marked by 
great acerbity. 

February 8, 1837, Wise wrote in a letter to his wife : " On 
Monday we were all called up from the committee room 
to witness one of the most serious and, at the same time, 
most ludicrous occurrences I ever witnessed, and one 
which has not ended yet. Mr. Adams rose and said he 
had a paper which purported to be signed by twenty-two 
slaves and asked the Speaker if that came within the reso- 
lution of the House which lays all abolition memorials 
upon the table. He didn't say what the petition prayed 
for. The members took it for granted it was for the aboli- 
tion of slavery in the District of Columbia and several 
offered resolutions and amendments immediately, some to 
censure and others to reprimand, and some even threatened 
to move his expulsion. He sat and enjoyed the scene ex- 
quisitely, for an hour or so, and at last rose and said that 
the paper would be found, if read, to pray against abolition 
and for his expulsion ! The hoax was grand, and put those 
who offered resolutions in a grander passion still — then, 
sure enough, they were for expelling him. The subject 
occupied Monday and Tuesday." 

The contrast between Adams and his political antago- 
nists, Thomas F. Marshall, Gilmer, Dromgoole, Wise, 
and others, was in many respects striking, particularly 
between him and Wise. Adams was a New Englander, 
far past the meridian of life, whose presence and mode of 


speech were not those of an orator, but he was thoroughly 
informed on public questions, and his words attracted 
his hearers because of the weight his statements carried. 
Despite the fact that he lacked the element of personal 
magnetism to attract men to him, and the support of 
the wealthier classes in his own district, he was never- 
theless able, by the force of his mind and character, to 
command the foremost position in the halls of legislation. 
Possessed of vast stores of information, a natural fighter 
and master of invective, intensely narrow, notwithstanding 
his learning and travel, and rarely thinking good of any 
one politically opposed to him, he stood upon the floor 
of the House, in many respects the incarnation of the 
cause he championed, and the prophet of things to come. 
As early as May, 1836, he declared tbat, should the 
Southern States become the theatre of war, the govern- 
ment had the right, by virtue of its war powers, to abolish 

Wise, the young " Harry Percy of the House," barely 
twenty-seven at the time of his election to Congress, 
and a mere boy in comparison, also foresaw the future 
strife ; but singularly enough, the old, and not the young 
man illustrated best the drift of thought of the epoch 
in which they lived. And yet, it could hardly have 
been different, in view of the environment of each. 
Wise, despite his youth and inexperience with public 
affairs, had won a place in Congress second only to that 
of Mr. Adams, and his impassioned eloquence, his frank, 
manly nature and personal magnetism made him respected 
and admired. Unlike Adams, he drew men to him, and 
there was that in his genial and lovable nature which 
endeared him to his friends. Both were alike in the 
bitterness which characterized their arguments in de- 
bate, in their turn for invective, and irritability of tern- 


per. The use of invective, however, did not sound 
strange to the ears of a generation which had been ac- 
customed to hear the speeches of Tristram Burgess and 
John Randolph. 

At each succeeding session of Congress, after the adop- 
tion of the Pinckney resolutions for the tabling of abolition 
petitions, similar rules were adopted by the House, such 
as the Patton resolutions in 1837, and those of Atherton 
the year following, and in January, 1840, the one of like 
purport, which came to be known as the "twenty-first 
rule." In December, 1837, while Slade of Vermont was 
discussing the reference of two abolition petitions to a 
select committee, he was interrupted by Dawson of 
Georgia, Rhett of South Carolina, and other members, who 
called him to order and moved an adjournment, against 
which the Speaker ruled; and Wise arose and declared 
that, "He [Slade] has discussed the whole abstract sub- 
ject of slavery — of slavery in Virginia — of slavery in my 
own district, and I now ask all of my colleagues to retire 
with me from this hall." A scene of indescribable con- 
fusion and excitement followed, and the Southern members 
finally withdrew from the House. 

At another time, Wise declared that if the discussion 
of the petitions were continued, he would advocate a retro- 
cession of the District of Columbia, which the abolitionists 
sought to control, and that if that failed, he would vote 
with the Western members to move the seat of govern- 

The exciting debates on the subject of abolition peti- 
tions were renewed at each session of Congress, until the 
final triumph of Adams and his followers in December, 
1844, when the twenty-first rule was abolished. When 
Adams presented a petition from citizens of Haverhill, 
Massachusetts, prajdng for the dissolution of the Union, 


some of the Southern members advocated his expulsion, 
and the character of the debate grew even more acri- 
monious than ever. Then it was that he turned fiercely 
upon his antagonists and charged Wise, who had declined 
to vote on the question of his (Adams's) expulsion, with 
being responsible for the Graves-Cilley duel. 

S. G. Goodrich in his "Recollections" quotes a spectator 
of this debate as saying: "I remember one day to have 
been on the floor of the House when he [Adams] attacked 
Mr. Wise with great personality and bitterness. In allu- 
sion to the Cilley duel, with which he was connected, he 
spoke of him as coming into that assembly, 'his hands 
dripping with blood.' There was a terrible jarring tone 
in his voice, which gave added effect to the denunciation. 
Every person present seemed to be thrilled with a sort of 
horror, rather toward Mr. Adams than the object of his 
reproaches. In speaking of this scene to me afterward, 
an eminent member of Congress said that, ' Mr. Adams's 
greatest delight was to be the hero of a row. There is no 
doubt that the rude personal passages, which often occur 
in the House of Representatives, derive countenance from 
Mr. Adams's example.' " 

An amusing remonstrance to the abolition petitions 
occurred when Wise presented a petition from a number 
of men and women of Halifax County, Virginia, praying 
Congress to furnish husbands at public expense to all 
female petitioners upon subjects relating to slavery, thereby 
giving a direction to their minds calculated to make them 
good matrons and to avert the evils with which the fanati- 
cism of the Eastern States threatened the people of the 

But if Adams delighted in being " the hero of a row," 
it must be confessed that in that particular Wise did not 
altogether differ from him; and his fiery, excitable tem- 


per and disposition to run into extremes too often marred 
and destroyed his influence for good. In his calmer mo- 
ments, he would have been the last to approve many of 
the extravagant declarations into which his intemperance 
of feeling and speech too often led him. He was not un- 
willing to acknowledge his faults, however ; and in a letter 
to an author who proposed writing a biographical sketch 
of him, he expressed his thanks to the former, for not pub- 
lishing a letter which he (Wise) had written, containing 
unpleasant allusions. In adverting to his habit of intem- 
perate speaking, he wrote : " I never have deliberately and 
wantonly wounded a fellow-being, though I have often 
done so, sometimes from a sense of duty, and sometimes 
impetuously. Even if I were inclined to ' lash ' any one for 
' lashing's sake,' I do not think that your intended volume 
would be the proper place for it. I do not prize my fame 
for the faculty of saying severe things very highly, and he 
who is gifted with the power and constrained by the neces- 
sity of saying harsh things, or even of speaking out his 
mind and feelings strongly, however honestly, in this 
world, is not apt to be blessed with mild judgments of 
men himself." 

After the debate over the Haverhill petition, previously 
alluded to, Arnold of Tennessee, in commenting on the 
spectacle presented by the House, remarked that scenes 
had been enacted during the previous seven years which 
suggested the French Revolution. A hearty laugh went 
the round, when he proceeded to address some good-na- 
tured remarks to Adams and Wise, between whom, he said, 
some very extraordinary points of coincidence existed, and 
who ought to make up and meet as friends. "Indeed," 
said he, " they seemed made for each other, they were so 
nearly alike in their tempers and passions. Both were of 
the genuine Federal stock — both were opposed to limit- 


ing the veto — both professed to be opposed to abolition — 
and they were, pro tempore at least, both supporters of 
the present resolution. Clearly, then, they ought to shake 
hands. They were both ruling spirits of disorganization 
and confusion in this House, and they were, in this respect, 
such a complete match, that he had more than once re- 
marked that if they were put into a bag together and well 
shaken, he did not know which would fall out first." 

Wise's attitude, on the question of abolition petitions, 
was in accordance with the views of his constituents, and 
Thomas R. Joynes of Accomack, in a letter to him in 1837, 
had written as follows : — 

" Your course on the abolition question meets, I believe, 
the approbation of every one here — and I hope you will 
continue to act in such manner as to entitle you to a con- 
tinuance of the approbation of your constituents. I have 
always been afraid of the abolition question, as one which 
would ultimately lead to a dissolution of the Union with 
all its deplorable consequences. The subject of the aboli- 
tion of slavery in the States is one which must not he de- 
hated in Congress, let the consequences be what they may. 
I am very much afraid that ' President making ' will be 
suffered to enter so much into the consideration of this 
subject that it will prevent the united action of the slave- 
holding States on this important subject. This matter is 
one of the greatest importance and one which requires that 
every step should be taken with the utmost caution and 
prudence. We are much pleased at the prominent posi- 
tion you occupied in this business." This may be regarded 
as a very fair expression of the views of Virginians at that 
time, as also the following toast offered at a public dinner 
given to Wise at Williamsburg, during his congressional 
career: "Slavery — Whatever differences of opinion may 
exist among us Virginians upon this vexed subject, we are 


unanimous on one point, a positive determination that no 
one shall think or act for us." 

Upon the one hand, however, Adams and the abolitionists 
continued the agitation of the question, and on the other, 
unfortunately, the Southern Hotspurs kept up the " agita- 
tion for the suppression of agitation." From the outset 
the latter had failed to observe a "masterly inactivity," 
and had not shown themselves possessed of the ability to 
" let alone." In December, 1843, when Adams moved to 
refer an abolition petition to a select committee. Wise 
arose and stated that, though he had long opposed the 
reception of these petitions, the war which had been com- 
menced was likely to be carried on unceasingly against 
the South, and that thereafter he would vote for the com- 
mittees, that the designs of the abolitionists might be dis- 
closed and the Southern people informed of how they 
stood on the question. Just one year later, and after 
Wise's resignation as a member of Congress, Adams 
achieved a signal triumph in securing the abolition of 
the twenty-first rule, against which he had waged a pro- 
longed warfare. 

When a candidate for governor of Virginia, in 1855, 
Wise declared from the hustings: "I have had a very 
severe training in collision with the acutest, the astutest, 
the archest enemy of Southern slavery that ever existed. 
I mean the ' Old Man Eloquent,' John Quincy Adams. 
I must have been a dull boy indeed if I had not learned 
my lessons thoroughly on that subject. And let me tell 
you that again and again I had reason to know and to 
feel the wisdom and sagacity of that departed man. Again 
and again, in the lobby, on the floor, he told me vauntingly 
that the pulpit would preach, and the school would teach, 
and the press would print, among the people who had no 
tie and no association with slavery, until, would not only 


be reached the slave-trade between the States, the slaves 
trade in the District of Columbia, slavery in the District, 
slavery in the Territories, but slavery in the States. Again 
and again he said that he would not abolish slavery in the 
District of Columbia if he could ; for he would retain it 
as a bone of contention, — a fulcrum of the lever for agitar 
tion, agitation, agitation, until slavery in the States was 
shaken from its base. And his prophecies have been ful- 
filled — fulfilled far faster and more fearfully, certainly, 
than ever he anticipated, before he died." 



DuKiNG his first session in Congress, Wise was appointed 
a member of the committee on naval affairs, of which he 
became chairman later on. His efforts for the improve- 
ment of the condition of the navy were untiring, and he 
zealously advocated an increase in the size of the naval 
force and the pay of officers and men, the establishment of 
a naval academy, the revision of the code of naval signals, 
and a variety of matter, designed to promote the efficiency 
of the service. 

On the 8th of April, 1842, Wise addressed the House on 
the need of proper coast and harbor defences, and reported 
a bUl for the construction of an iron-clad vessel, with sub- 
merged propellers. According to the report of his speech 
contained in the Crlobe: "She was to be constructed of 
sheet iron plates and riveted together in such a manner as 
to be impregnable to either the Paixhans or round shot. 
Indeed, the experiments of the board of officers had demon- 
strated that the plates, put together in the manner intended 
for the ship, resisted sixty-four pound shot, fired at a dis- 
tance of thirty feet. She would also have all the light- 
ness and buoyancy of wooden ships and a velocity equal to 
that of any other steam vessel either for escape or attack. 



These were not her only merits ; all her machinery would 
be below water and out of the reach of an enemy's shot. 
Her means of annoyance would be a shot invented by 
this same Mr. Stevens, of which the government had been 
in possession these twenty years, and which was as much 
superior to the Paixhans shot, as that was superior to all 
others ; a shot that would explode immediately on strik- 
ing the object, that had no fuse, and was perfectly safe in 
every respect. He would mention one fact to show its 
great superiority. Out of twenty of these shot that had 
been kept on hand for ten years, nineteen of them ex- 
ploded on striking the object fired at. The whole ship 
with her armament and means of propulsion came from 
one of the ablest engineers of the country. He proposed 
a new plan of propelling vessels, similar to that of Mr. 
Ericsson's — and, by the bye, Ericsson's plan was his — by 
which the wheel would be below the water, and out of the 
way of the enemy's shot as well as the roughness of the 
sea." Mr. Wise concluded by saying that "everything 
relating to the ship had been proved by actual experiment, 
and that it was the best mode of defending our coasts 
and harbors, now eminently threatened by the English 

The bill passed by a vote of 129 to 31, and a contract 
was entered into with Robert L. Stevens, brother of Ed- 
ward A., the inventor of the plan, for the construction of 
the vessel, which he shortly commenced at the dry dock 
excavated by him in Hoboken. Owing to the various 
improvements in cannon about this time, which enabled 
them to throw round shot that would pierce armor plate, 
repeated interruptions and delays ensued in the building 
of the vessel, which lay in the basin at Hoboken and was 
never launched. This is claimed by Stevens's biographer 
to have been the first ironclad ever attempted, and pre- 


cedes by more than ten years the vessels used by the 
French at Kinburn in 1854. 

It was before the naval committee over which Wise 
presided, that Morse exhibited his battery and wire, to 
demonstrate his discovery, and Commodore James Barron, 
after his return from exile at Copenhagen, urged the 
adoption of his invention of an ironclad, consisting of an 
"impregnable steam propeller, armed with a pyramidal 
beak on the water-line. From stem to stern, from side to 
side above water would be a terrapin back, at a very acute 
angle of incidence to a shot fired from a ship's deck." 
This plan of construction was thought impracticable, and 
Barron could never induce Congress to adopt it. He pre- 
sented Wise with his model of the Catapulta, and upon 
the breaking out of the Civil War in 1861, the latter wrote 
to General Robert E. Lee, urging the construction by the 
Southern Confederacy of a floating battery after this 

Throughout his career in Congress Wise continued his 
efforts for the improvement of the navy, and in 1841, upon 
the retirement of President Tyler's cabinet, was tendered 
by him, the position of Secretary of the Navy, which, how- 
ever, he declined, preferring to retain his seat on the floor 
of the House of Representatives. 

In the spring of 1835, Wise was a candidate for re- 
election, in opposition to his former rival, Mr. Coke; 
but during the canvass the latter withdrew, and there- 
after supported Wise. Although the district had pre- 
viously indorsed the Jackson administration, to which 
Wise at the time of his second candidacy was opposed, 
yet he was returned by a handsome vote, and reelected 
successively in 1837-39-41 and 43. 

Throughout the remainder of Jackson's administration, 
Wise earnestly opposed the executive control of the public 


moneys and the " pet bank " system, and waged a contin- 
ual warfare on the abuses connected with the public 
finances. He was the author of the resolution for the 
appointment of a select committee to inquire into the mode 
of selecting the banks of deposit, the contracts with the 
treasury, and the relations between the notorious Reuben 
M. Whitney and that department. But the power of the 
Jackson party in control effectually blocked the way to 
success in any of these measures, and General Jackson 
was able to nominate his successor for the presidency in 
1836. The national Republicans put forward Harrison 
and Granger, as their candidates, in that year, and the 
Jackson Democrats, Van Buren and Johnson, while a third 
party was formed by those who had become alienated from 
Jackson, by the questions of nullification, the removal of 
the deposits, the expunging of the resolutions of censure, 
the sub-treasury, etc., and that third party selected as its 
standard bearers Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee and 
John Tyler of Virginia. This latter ticket was supported 
by the disaffected wing of the Democracy, among whom 
were Calhoun, McDuffie, Poindexter, Wise, and others, 
who distrusted Van Buren on the subjects of abolition and 
the annexation of Texas. The power of the dominant 
party and its compact organization caused the election of 
Van Buren, whose administration witnessed the culmina- 
tion of the financial panic which had long been brewing. 
Throughout Van Buren's term, Wise continued his advo- 
cacy of a revenue tariff and his opposition to the sub- 
treasury, believing a United States Bank, the best means of 
furnishing a safe and uniform currency, the great need of 
the country, and made unceasing protest against the recep- 
tion and reference of abolition petitions and distribution 
of the proceeds of the sale of public lands among the 
States. His speeches on the floor of Congress were 

A bepokteb's description of wise 67 

scathing invectives against the abuses of the Treasury De- 
partment, and he was chosen one of the committee to investi- 
gate the Swartwout defalcations. John Quincy Adams, who 
rarely had anything good to say of a political opponent, 
and especially of Wise, wrote in his diary December 21, 
1838, in alluding to a six hours' speech of the latter : " The 
speech was the most powerful and unanswerable attack 
upon the administration, and especially upon the Secretary 
of the Treasury, that has ever been made in Congress ; 
and as he passed from charge to charge, he supported 
every imputation by the documents from the Treasury 
Department itself." 

Although but thirty years of age. Wise had won a 
reputation among the foremost members of Congress, 
and he had come to be regarded as one of the leading 
political orators of the country. A reporter, in an article 
entitled "Glances at Congress," thus describes his per- 
sonal appearance and manner of speaking: "He is pale 
and thin, about thirty years of age, perhaps not so much. 
He dresses like an old man, though his general appearance 
is very youthful. He is very slovenly in his apparel, his 
coat hanging like a miller's bag on his shoulders. His 
face I said is pale, and his white cravat adds to its 
appearance of livid pallor ; but he has a dark and brilliant 
eye, a powerful feature in Mr. Wise, which seems some- 
times to flash almost unearthly rays of light over his 
whole countenance. His forehead is projecting and mas- 
sive, and his mouth large, but firmly set. Without being 
handsome, his face has a general pleasing character. . . . 
To see him sauntering about the haU, with his long Indian 
strides, you would at once be tempted to ask who he was ; 
to hear him speak your attention would be riveted upon 
him. You no longer see the loose garment on the ungainly 
figure, the outrS neckerchief vanishes, and your eyes are 


fixed on the excited and earnest orator. All his prominent 
characteristics are brought out with great rapidity — firm- 
ness, impetuosity, a disdain for honeyed words, fierce sar- 
casm and invective, all gather into a hurricane and startle 
the drowsy members from the lounges and wake up those 
victims of dull hours, the reporters. . . . Mr. Wise may 
not always say anything remarkable or striking, but there 
is an intensity about his manner that fastens on the atten- 
tion and clutches it until he has finished. He is remarka- 
bly quick in arriving at conclusions, and generally, too, 
in a way that would not have been struck upon by any 
one else. He is very independent in his disposition, fear- 
less, and, to use a common expression, above board. . . . 
He has undoubtedly very high talents, and I have heard 
him, upon more than one occasion, soar into the regions 
of commanding eloquence. His forte lies in invective ; 
then he becomes, to those whose party sympathies follow 
his own excited train of feeling, thrilling ; his pale and 
excited face, his firm and compact head thrown back, 
his small bony hand clenched in the air, or with the 
forefinger quivering there, his eyes brilliant and fixed, 
his voice high yet sonorous, impress a picture too vivid 
to be easily erased from the mind. A stranger, a few 
days ago, of his own party, on coming into the hall for 
the first time, at such a moment, compared his appearance 
to that of a corpse galvanized! Mr. Wise, as is well 
known, is a prominent member of the opposition. He 
cannot be ranked as a leader; certain it is, however, he 
is not led. He is much beloved by those who know 
him in private life, being jovial, free-hearted, and full of 

On the 17th of January, 1837, Wise wrote to his wife 
as follows, describing the celebrated " expunging " scene 
which he had witnessed in the Senate Chamber : — 


" • • • Last night I witnessed one of tlie most distressing 
scenes I ever beheld, or ever will voluntarily behold again. 
The Senate sat late. I went up to the Capitol after I got 
my supper. I found Strange, the senator in Mangum's 
place, addressing the Senate on the resolution to expunge. 
He was weak and disgusting. Ewing of Ohio followed 
him in a strong and manly speech. After Ewing, Mr. 
Webster rose and stated that, if there was a constitutional 
provision allowing them to do so, he and his colleague 
(Mr. Davis) would file their protest on the journal. But 
there was no such provision, and if there was, he knew 
that it would not avail them if the journal could be 
expunged. He then, in the only way left them, read 
one of the most able, conclusive, and eloquent papers I 
ever listened to, with deep pathos and solemnity. He said 
if he and his colleagues were not compelled to regard the 
act as a ruthless violation of a sacred instrument, they 
would look upon it as but little elevated above a con- 
temptible farce. He said they had ' collected ' themselves 
to witness it, etc., etc., etc., said it was dictated by the 
executive to do homage and penance to the Press through 
State legislatures, made a beautiful allusion to Massa- 
chusetts, proud she was unconquered, whose soil was 
mired with the best blood of the Revolution. I never 
heard anything better as it was delivered. I looked at 
Rives and thought of Virginia and wept. Webster fin- 
ished ; the hour had come — a blank only was to be filled. 
Benton rose and named the day — the 16th of January, 
1837 — that date was entered. He called for a division 
of preamble and resolution. It was entire, it could not be 
divided. It had to be passed entire, all had to be swal- 
lowed at once. The vote was put and stood 24 to 19 for 
the desecration of a record which the Constitution solemnly 
declared should be kept sacred so long as its creature, the 


Senate, should exist! When should the resolution be 
carried into effect ? Benton said, ' At once, better done 
at once.' He seemed to fear the minds of men would, 
upon a night's reflection, revolt at the deed and recon- 
sider its enactment. ' Now ? ' was repeated. ' Now.' The 
clerk went for the book, brought it in, laid it open — he 
took the pen, wrote on it across the lines, ' Expunged by 
order of the Senate, January 18, 1837,' and then took 
up his rule to draw the black lines. Patriotic indignation 
could brook the sacrilege no longer ! ' Hiss, hiss,' whizzed 
from the galleries, and groans of actual agony were heard 
from spirits grieved with the unutterable oppression of 
the deed. ' Ruffians ! ' exclaimed Benton. ' Clear the 
galleries.' ' No, sir, arrest the offenders ! ' exclaimed he 
again. The scene required a victim — an American citizen 
was ready — a fit victim. He was seized, dragged before the 
Senate, the act imputed, the intention imputed, the guilt 
presumed without proof or hearing, and he was without 
proof or hearing condemned and punished by Benton alone. 
' Cannot I be heard ? ' exclaimed the citizen. ' Take him 
out of the House,' exclaimed the president pro tern. The 
cause : ' I am a Roman citizen.' ' Bind him, lictor.' The 
Chair announced the work of expunging was done. Ben- 
ton asked if it was done; the clerk replied it was done, 
and the fiend god of the scene pronounced it ' Very good.' 
The Senate adjourned, and I looked at the page expunged 
as I would at the corpse of a murdered being." 

During the year 1837, Wise met with a severe mis- 
fortune, in the destruction by fire of his home — Edge 
Hill — in Accomack, which was followed not long after, 
by a great bereavement, namely, the death of his wife, for 
whom he cherished the fondest attachment. While absent 
in Washington on February 1, of that year, his dwelling 


and papers were consumed ; his wife and children, however, 
escaping safely from the house, were kindly cared for by 
the neighbors. A few months later, the house occupied by 
himself and family, in the village of Drummondtown, was 
set on fire by an incendiary, and although the fire was 
arrested and the building saved, the dread and nervous 
anxiety inspired in the mind of his wife caused her to give 
birth prematurely to a child, and brought on an illness from 
which she died. She was one of the loveliest of women, in 
both person and character, and Wise had been in love with 
her from early boyhood. From her household duties, she 
would turn to her favorite poet Burns, whom she was 
fond of repeating ; and her letters prove her to have been 
a highly intelligent, pious, and devoted wife. She did not 
share her husband's political ambition, and begged him to 
retire from public life, the glamour of which had no charms 
for her. Although devoted to him, she knew his excitable 
temper, and dreaded the turmoil of polities and its many 
pitfalls, to one of his fiery nature ; and a quiet, domestic 
life was more to her taste. She was, moreover, horrified 
at the practice of duelling, then in vogue in the South, the 
dangers of which his public position constantly exposed 
him. In one of her letters to him, not long before her 
death, she had written, " I wish that, as we have ' clomb 
the hill together,' we may be spared to a good old age, be 
found in the way of righteousness, and sleep together at 
the foot." This was not to be, however, and when but 
twenty-eight years of age she passed away, leaving four 
children, two sons and two daughters. A few months after 
her death, Wise wrote as follows to a friend and college 
mate. Dr. Robert R. Reed, of Washington, Pennsylvania : 

" Oh ! my friend, my friend, you touched the chords of 
a heart snapping with bitter, bitter sorrow too tenderly. 


too affectionately for that touch to have been forgotten. 
Your letter has not been neglected by me. I would have 
answered it ere now, but since that harrowing moment 
which took her from me, I have been more dead than 
alive. I could not answer a letter which, above all others, 
has revived so many recollections to make my tears flow 
afresh. Yes, you know how our love began, — were wit- 
ness with us of its early scenes, — you know its purity and 
its power. She was one of the purest and brightest spirits 
of this earth — she was unaffectedly all goodness, sweetness, 
and intelligence — she was my wife for more than eight 
years, bore me five children, and daily, hourly, did that 
love such as you knew it in childhood, increase and in- 
crease untU in the sight of God, I fear, it became the wor- 
ship of idolatry. Was this the sin for which she was taken 
from me ? If she had a besetting sin it was this — that she 
loved me too well. Is such a sin in the eyes of Him who 
made us and commanded us for one another? Oh, God, 
thou hast stricken me severely! She lived as she died, 
and she died in the Lord. Oh! that I may die in the 
straight path to her in heaven. There is my sin, Robert. 
I am a rebellious, stubborn sinner, I have fully experienced 
that I love not God — I wish to go to Heaven, not to meet 
Him there but her. She was the star of my life and she 
was my comfort, I have known no other. No, I never 
did. Ambition itself was never so strong as my love for 
her; she made my ambition what it was — it is nothing 
now. My temples have often throbbed with the hot con- 
tests of the world; I have lived an age since I saw you. 
My brow has burned with all the misery of public life — 
want has never overtaken me, success to satisfy ambition's 
self has ever attended my footsteps and exceeded all my 
merits, but in nothing did I ever find happiness, peace, 
pleasure, comfort, but in my dear devoted wife, and she is 


taken from me ! Is it selfish, to grieve as a husband thus 
bereaved should grieve ? There is some joy in my grief — 
it may make me a better man, I hope I am so; I believe 
intellectually all, I have no faith in my heart at all. ' I 
would believe,' and I have desire strong enough for Heaven 
now to pray. ' Oh, help my unbelief ! ' " 

At the Congressional election of 1837, Wise was returned 
without opposition, his course meeting with the cordial 
approval of the great majority of his constituents. In 
that and the following year, he was the guest of citizens 
of Norfolk, Williamsburg, Richmond, and other places in 
eastern Virginia, where dinners were given in his honor, 
he being everywhere enthusiastically greeted by the ad- 
mirers of his course in Congress. 

Though naturally inclined to conviviality he was re- 
markably abstemious in the use of liquor, for a man in 
public life at that period, and his intemperance was con- 
fined to the habit of chewing tobacco, to which he was 
always addicted. After his return from Tennessee in 
1830, he had been active in organizing temperance socie- 
ties on the eastern shore. In May, 1837, he wrote to B. 
Hopper, Esq., president of the Maryland State Temperance 
Society, in answer to an invitation to be present at their 
convention, in which letter he warmly advocated the cause 
of temperance, and, in defining his views on the subject, 
wrote : " I am but thirty years old, and for the last eight 
years and some months of my life, I have not tasted a 
tablespoonful of ardent spirits nor drunk one half of a 
gallon of wine. I have paid in part the expenses of messes 
of gentlemen, who at the boarding-houses provide them- 
selves with wine for the table, and for the customs of 
hospitality to visitors; I have never bought nor used 
ardent spirits at all, and but touched wine at times in 


observance merely of the forms of society at the metropo- 
lis. ... It has fortunately, or unfortunately, I know not 
which, fallen to my lot in public life to be the instrument 
of exposing abuses in public affairs and offences in the 
men who conduct them. Such as I think worthy of ex- 
posure, I shall not shrink from castigating by speaking of 
them in my place and out of my place at will, without any 
regard whatever to personal consequence. I state the fact, 
then, to the nation, that some of the higher executive offi- 
cers at Washington are, and have been, notorious drunk- 
ards — drunkards in my sense of the term — habitually 
affected by ardent spirits, drunk at least once a week, 
impaired in constitution by the use of strong drink; and 
I further state that I have often heard the reason assigned 
and believe it was a valid one, for the House of Represen- 
tatives of the Congress of the United States not sitting in 
the evening after dinner, when the public business required 
it, that many of the members were so much in the habit of 
intoxication, that they were not only unfit, themselves, for 
public duty, after a certain hour in the day, but were 
likely to prevent others from discharging their duty by 
interrupting the order of proceeding. During the latter 
part of the session of Congress, when the two houses were 
compelled to sit late, members too drunk for the decency of 
a tavern bar-room were not uncommon sights in the Senate 
Chamber and in the hall of the House of Representatives, 
of a republic whose fathers handed down to it the hallowed 
and immutable truth, ' that no free government or the bless- 
ing of liberty can be preserved to any people, but by a 
firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, fru- 
gality, and virtue!' These are facts, sir, which in my 
name, if you choose, you may bring to the attention of 
the people of the United States. I am utterly opposed to 
making the temperance cause a political engine in any 


way whatever, but if the friends of temperance will aid in 
ridding Congress of sots, no matter to what political party 
they may belong — for they are a disgrace and an actual 
injury to any party — they will be subserving their own 
work of good morals and do the country some service. In- 
deed, the facts which I have stated apply with equal force 
and truth to both Whigs and Tories, in about the exact 
ratio of their numbers in the list of public men, and let me 
not be misunderstood as reproaching the administration, 
except so far as high and responsible executive offices 
are intrusted to intemperate incumbents, whose habits are 
known by the boys on the streets of Washington. I have 
been a candidate three times for the suffrages of the people 
in the oldest district of ' Old Virginia,' proverbial for 
honey drams, mint juleps, hail storms, slings, dew drops, 
and every description of nectared drink, and have never 
found it necessary, or requisite, to obtain a single vote, to 
resort to the vulgar graces of the familiar cup." 

Wise's abstemious habits in regard to drink doubtless 
saved him from running into the excesses then common at 
Washington and elsewhere, as he was by nature convivial 
and socially inclined. His means, furthermore, did not 
admit of any but a plain, simple life, as his circumstances 
were very moderate, the pay of a member of Congress be- 
ing very small, and he had to meet the expenses of a grow- 
ing family. He was, however, a participant in many of 
the social affairs of the Capitol, and in a letter giving 
his reminiscences of Sargent Prentiss, describes a dinner 
given to the latter and his colleague Word, at which all 
the notables were present ; and when, in the midst of an 
after-dinner speech by Webster, a member of Congress in 
a frenzy of excitement seized an empty champagne bottle 
and threw it at the head of the " godlike Daniel," he was 
prevented from striking him by Wise catching his arm. 


While a member of the House, Wise boarded at Mrs. 
Queen's near the Capitol, or at one of the Congressional 
messes, as was the custom at that day among public men. 
Among his most intimate friends while in Congress were 
Hugh Lawson White and Baillie Peyton of Tennessee, 
Caleb Cushing of Massachusetts and Sargent S. Prentiss 
of Mississippi ; and the brother, as well as biographer of 
the last named, has happily preseryed entire in his memoir, 
Wise's reminiscences of the great Mississippi orator, justly 
observing that such " an effusion of true-hearted friendship 
is too rare a gem to be broken." Still another biographer 
of Prentiss, Joseph D. Shields, has written that " in genius, 
in intellectual power, in fiery eloquence, in lofty scorn of 
all that was low and mean, in unflinching valor, in un- 
swerving integrity, and in tender-heartedness, Prentiss and 
Wise were not unlike, and hence the sympathy between 
them. There is a secret intellectual magnetism which 
draws kindred spirits toward each other, and so it was in 
this case ; spirit responded to spirit at first sight, without a 

In his reminiscences of Prentiss, Wise relates the follow- 
ing among other episodes. " One evening he and a friend 
of his were invited with me to take a terrapin supper at 
Colonel John McCarty's rooms. We spent the evening 
jovially, and at a moment when I least expected any mani- 
festation of affection from Prentiss, he came to me unob- 
served by the others, took a small stud from my 
shirt-bosom — an urn in gold enamel (I wonder if it be 
among his relics) — and put in its place a pin of great price, 
set in diamonds. He demanded the exchange and said it 
was for something he had heard and seen, he did not men- 
tion what — to be a memorial. I tried to get at his mean- 
ing but he would never tell me. I always took it to 
signify his approval of my advice to bury the morbid sen- 


sibility about his lameness, and to brighten his existence 
by taking a wife. . . . Soon after this conversation a scene 
occurred between us which I shall never forget. It was 
at the entrance of a faro-bank ; I declined to accompany him 
and said : ' That is one of your high rocks and it has no 
foothold. Remember the fathers and the comely daugh- 
ters, too, have a right to forbid your walking there ; it is 
a monstrous height of extravagance, from which you even 
must fall and be crushed, and you have no right to set 
such an example.' He said he would go alone, went on, 
and I followed him to the head of the stairs and stopped 
him. Looking him true in the face, I said: 'You are rich 
in everything. You have a mother and sisters — are they 
provided for by you ? ' He turned black in the face ; the 
veins in his temples curdled ; I expected he would strike 
me with his cane. It was the only moment in our acquaint- 
ance when I had reason to suppose we would no longer be 
friends. ' Do you take me for a dog ? ' said he. ' Yes,' 
said I, 'baser than a dog if you have the heart to give 
your abundance to the Cerberi of faro-bank hells instead of 
giving it to a mother ! ' He dropped tears, took me by 
the arm, went in, bet a few moments, and came out with 
me completely subdued. He would, ever after that, per- 
mit me to chide him like a little child. He, too, had done 
his part in saving me from sin. Severe conflicts had 
passed in the House between myself and one of his oppo- 
nents (Mr. Gholson). I drew a challenge, and offered to 
put it in the hands of your brother. He declined alto- 
gether to take it, unless I would submit implicitly my 
honor to his discretion. I did so, not imagining his object 
in obtaining the pledge — a pledge I would not have made 
but for the conviction that in all such cases it is proper to 
be exacted of the principal by one called on to act as a 
second. As soon as he got the pledge, he took the chal- 


lenge, slept upon it a night, and brought it back to me, 
saying that he had reflected upon it well, and concluded 
definitely that I was neither called upon, nor authorized to 
send a challenge at all in the case ; that he had witnessed 
the whole scene and I was bound to forbear the call, upon 
every consideration of necessity, justice, or honor; and 
that no one could fairly bear it as a second. In case I was 
challenged he would act, but not otherwise. On another 
occasion, at my request, he saved a young friend of mine 
from a duel; and his influence in such matters was always 
potential for peace." 

Of Wise's religious views, we have thus far omitted any 
mention. Although not a communicant of the church, his 
temperament was an essentially religious one, and he had 
been from early manhood a believer in the teachings of the 
Christian faith. When a motion was made in the House 
of Representatives, on the assembling of that body in 1837, 
not to appoint a chaplain. Wise arose and said : " This was 
the first time since he had been in public life that the 
propriety of appointing a man of God had been questioned. 
Sir, I can with truth say that I am among the vilest sin- 
ners in this body ; I can with truth say that I have more 
personal reasons, if personal reasons were to govern me, 
for opposing the election of a chaplain than any other 
gentleman on this floor ; but, sir, there is no consideration 
that would make me, a representative of the people on this 
floor, a member of a House of Commons in a representative 
republic, divorce a republic from the God of nations. 
Let me tell those who are now desirous of divorcing the 
State from the Church, that they cannot divorce a nation 
from the God of heaven. He has more power than you 
have to dispense with nations as with individuals; and 
who will pretend to say that no good may be done by 
making our acknowledgments here, as it were, with the 


uplifted hands of a nation, that there is a good Providence 
who presides over the destinies of nations. If there be 
any one thing more opposed than another to the existence 
of a republic, it is infidelity. Infidelity was the hand- 
maid of anarchy in France, and we trusted that we would 
not encourage it by departing from the example of our 



On the twenty-fourth day of February, 1838, occurred 
a duel between two members of Congress, which, owing 
to the prominence of the parties engaged and the sad 
termination of the affair, created more excitement, per- 
haps, than has ever been aroused in consequence of a 
similar catastrophe, in this country, with the single excep- 
tion of the notable meeting between Burr and Hamilton. 
Matthew L. Davis, a newspaper correspondent at Washing- 
ton, wrote a letter to the New York Courier and Enquirer, 
in which he charged that it was in his power to convict a 
member of the House of Representatives, whose name he 
did not give, of having accepted a bribe. A motion by 
Wise to investigate the charge gave rise to a discussion 
on the floor of the House, in the course of which Hon. 
Jonathan Cilley, a prominent member of the Democratic 
side and representative from Maine, urged that it was ill- 
advised for the House to go into an investigation of the 
matter on a mere newspaper assertion, and alluded in 
severe terms to James Watson Webb, the editor of the 
paper. The result was a communication from Mr. Webb 
to Cilley, which he placed in the hands of the Hon. Will- 
iam J. Graves, a member of the House from Kentucky. 
Mr. Cilley declined to receive Webb's note, on the ground 
that he would not be held responsible for words spoken in 
his representative capacity, as a member of Congress, but 



at the same time stated that he meant no disrespect to 
Mr. Graves and did not decline on account of any per- 
sonal objection to Mr. Webb as a gentleman. Graves sub- 
sequently called upon Wise to consult him in the matter, 
and was informed by the latter, in response to a question 
from Graves, that he considered Cilley's answer entirely 
satisfactory. Graves, however, determined that it was 
proper to secure a written answer from Cilley, and accord- 
ingly addressed him a note calling upon him to put in 
writing what he had previously stated in the interviews 
between them. Cilley replied by saying that he declined 
to receive Webb's note because he did not choose to be 
drawn into any controversy with him, and went on to state 
that he had neither affirmed nor denied anything in regard 
to. his character, and that he intended by the refusal no 
disrespect to him, Mr. Graves. Graves was not satisfied 
with his answer, and addressed a second note to Cilley 
requesting a categorical answer as to whether he had 
declined to receive Webb's note on the ground of any 
personal exception to him as a gentleman or man of honor. 
To this Cilley replied by denying Graves's right to pro- 
pound the question contained in his note. Thereupon 
Graves, who considered that Mr. Cilley had refused in 
writing a satisfactory answer which he had made verbally, 
and furthermore that he had impeached the honor of Mr. 
Webb, for whom as a gentleman Mr. Graves had by bear- 
ing his note undertaken to vouch, sent a challenge to 
Cilley, which the latter accepted. Graves had never been 
intimate with Wise, and when he first called upon Wise to 
bear the challenge. Wise declined, but yielded when Graves 
reminded him that on a certain occasion he (Graves) had 
defended him when he was attacked on the floor of the 
House during his absence. The preliminary note of en- 
quiry which was so framed that it forced a duel, and the 


challenge itself, were drafted by Henry Clay, an intimate 
friend of Graves, though he did not accompany him to the 
field. Wise, with the assistance of John J. Crittenden, 
Senator, and Richard H. Menefee, M.C., from Kentucky, 
arranged the preliminaries, as seconds to Graves, with 
George W. Jones, M.C., from Wisconsin, for Cilley, associ- 
ated with Messrs. Bynum of North Carolina and Duncan 
of Illinois. Rifles were named as the weapons with 
which the duel was to be fought, at a distance of eighty 
yards, to which Wise objected, as unusual and necessarily 
fatal ; but Mr. Clay, upon being consulted, remarked, " He 
[Graves] is a Kentuckian and can never back from a rifle." 
Various pretexts were resorted to by Wise, designed to 
delay and prevent the meeting which he considered un- 
necessary, as the affair turned upon a mere punctilio, and 
the real quarrel, if any, was between Cilley and Webb. 
These, however, proved futile, and on the afternoon of 
February 24 the parties met in a field on the Benning's 
road, near Washington, about a quarter of a mile north of 
where it intersects with the Marlboro turnpike. A coin 
was tossed up for the choice of positions, which Wise 
won, and Jones gave the word. Three shots were fired 
on each side, and at the third exchange Cilley fell mortally 
wounded, Graves's bullet having passed through the groin 
and severed the femoral artery. 

Wise in a letter concerning the duel, written to Jones, 
Cilley's second, correcting some newspaper accounts, gives 
the following description of what occurred on the field, 
which, though written years afterward, is remarkably 
accurate as to details and confirmed by contemporary 
reports, as well as by General Jones, to the author in 
person. " All fairness and every courtesy were observed. 
The preliminaries were settled without a jar ; you won the 
word, and the choice of position fell to me. You fronted 


me half way the line of fire, held yourself in position to be 
equally heard, and delivered the word aloud, distinctly 
and fairly, as prescribed. My eyes were turned upon Mr. 
Cilley to see that he observed the terms and he fired first, 
nearly about the count ' one,' Graves last, about the 
word ' two.' Mr. Cilley's ball struck the ground between 
your position and mine, forty steps from his stand. Graves 
missed him the first shot. Mr. Cilley was evidently dis- 
turbed by losing his shot and firing too quickly. You ran 
to him, and something passed which showed Mr. Cilley was 
excited, and I knew would make no concession without 
another fire. Then in turn Mr. Graves lost his shot at the 
second exchange. He had a large coarse hand, no sense 
of touch fine enough for a hair-trigger, and no experience 
with firearms. My orders to him, therefore, were to hold 
his rifle cocked, hair-trigger set, according to terms, hori- 
zontal ; at the word ' fire ' to push his gun forward, so as 
to bring the breech firmly to his shoulder, and then level 
the sight on the vertical, covering his antagonist's person, 
and to fire when he raised as high as the hip of his antag- 
onist ; and to insure deliberation and to prevent losing his 
shot, to keep his finger out of the spanner until the instant 
of pulling the trigger. This he did the first time, and he 
fired plenty quick enough. But before the second shot, 
whilst I was forty yards off at my position, Mr. Menefee (he 
and Crittenden stood on either side of Graves, as Duncan 
and Bynum did on either side of Cilley), when he put the 
rifle in Graves's hands, told him he fired too slow the first 
time, and upon Graves's telling him of my orders, he, Mene- 
fee, objected to them and prevailed on him to put his finger 
in the spanner. The consequences were as I had expected. 
At the word ' fire,' and as he pushed his gun forward, and 
raised the breech to his shoulder, his gun was discharged 
not three feet from his toes. With his gun fixed on Cilley, 


seeing no smoke and feeling no recoil, he was unconscious 
that his gun was fired, and raised and stood pulling at his 
trigger, when he received Cilley's fire again about the 
count 'two.' He still stood pulling at his trigger until 
the count was out. Thinking he was writhing from a 
wound, I ran to him and he dropped the breech of his rifle 
to the ground, blew in the muzzle and exclaimed, ' Why, 
this gun is discharged ! ' He and Menefee at once ex- 
plained the cause. But he was very much mystified and 
nothing could have prevented him from demanding an- 
other exchange of shots. When you came up, as you did 
every time to inquire whether Graves was satisfied, you 
could receive but one answer, not without some dis- 
claimer; and Graves's awkwardness caused me to give you 
the notice I did, so much denounced, that after the third 
fire I would demand a shortening of the distance. By the 
time of the third exchange of shots, both were well trained, 
were deliberate, and Graves strictly obeyed my orders. At 
the count 'two,' a moment before, Mr. Cilley fired, and 
about an instant after ' two ' Graves fired, and made the 
vertical line shot just above the hip. Thus ended the 
fight. Both of Cilley's last two shots were very fine ; 
they passed through the fence logs just behind Graves, 
one at the elevation of the breast, the other a space below, 
perpendicular to the upper, and at the elevation of the 
hip. If his coat had been unbuttoned, both balls would 
have perforated its lapels. His life was saved by his 
position. The wind blew steadily fresh obliquely against 
Mr. Cilley's ball. I was sure the aim would be at the 
centre of Graves's body, and allowing about from four to 
six inches for the deflection to the left of Cilley and right 
of Graves, I selected the position I did, though disadvan- 
tageous in other respects." 

It is well-nigh impossible to conceive at this day the 


storm of indignation that broke out, at news of the duel 
and its fatal result. Cilley was not only a prominent, but 
a popular, man in his section, and the further fact that the 
duel was fought over what was regarded as a mere punc- 
tilio, rather than a real cause of difference between the 
two combatants, tended greatly to aggravate the popular 
odium which was visited upon the participants. Although 
Henry Clay had been Graves's chief adviser, and Messrs. 
Crittenden and Menefee had acted as seconds on the field 
with Wise, as Messrs. Bynum and Duncan had with Jones 
as Cilley's seconds, yet Wise and Jones, who had had the 
arrangement of the details, were looked upon as the main 
actors in that capacity ; and the former especially, as the 
bearer of the challenge, which, however, he had neither 
written nor approved, was fiercely assailed in the press at 
the time as the instigator of the duel. Colonel Webb, the 
editor of the Courier and Enquirer, also coming in for a 
full share of censure, as being the proper party to have 
fought Cilley, assuming there was ground for a difficulty. 

An investigation was ordered by the House of Repre- 
sentatives upon the announcement of the duel, two days 
after its occurrence, to inquire into the circumstances of 
Mr. Cilley's death, and as to whether there had been any 
breach of the privileges of the House. A committee of 
seven members was appointed who, after an investiga- 
tion, declared in their report : " It is a breach of the 
highest constitutional privilege of the House, and of the 
most sacred rights of the people in the person of their 
representative, to demand in a hostile manner an explana- 
tion of words in debate." They also submitted resolutions 
for the expulsion of Graves, and censure of Wise and Jones, 
but after a long debate the whole subject was laid on the 
table. Popular feeling, however, found vent in the enact- 
ment by Congress of the Anti-duelling Act not long after. 


Cordial political relations existed at the time between 
Clay and Wise, and the friends of the former were very 
anxious lest his part in the affair should be disclosed in 
the public prints, and mar his chances for the presidency. 
Several years afterward Wise wrote : " Mr. Clay's friends 
particularly were very anxious, for obvious reasons, not to 
involve his name in the affair. Thus, many confidential 
facts remained unknown on both sides. Mr. Clay himself, 
it is true, whilst all his friends were trembling lest the 
part he took in it should be disclosed, boldly came to me 
and said : ' Sir, it is a nine days' bubble ! If they want to 
know what I did in the matter, tell them to call me before 
them, and I will tell them ! ' This excited my admiration at 
the time, and was effectual to prevent me from unneces- 
sarily bringing his name before the committee." 

For several years succeeding the duel, Wise continued 
to bear the opprobrium visited upon him, — until early in 
1842, during the debate in the House of Representatives, 
upon the resolution to censure John Quincy Adams, which 
arose from the presentation by the latter of the Haverhill 
petition. Adams attacked Wise with great bitterness in 
regard to his connection with the duel, and declared that 
he had come into that hall " with his hands dripping with 
human gore, and a blotch of human blood upon his face," 
which provoked the latter into replying that " the charge 
was as base and black a lie as the traitor was base and black 
who uttered it." Wise, whose relations with Clay were no 
longer friendly, published the circumstances of the duel 
in the Madisonian and Intelligencer, and called on Clay to 
declare the part which he had taken in it. This the latter 
admitted, in a letter over his signature, of which full use 
was made by the New England Democratic press in the 
ensuing presidential campaign, and it was instrumental in 
defeating him for that office. 


PAIGN OF 1840. ME. Tyler's administration, annex- 

In December, 1839, the national convention of the Whig 
party assembled at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There had 
been a strange alignment and readjustment of party divi- 
sions, and never had the maxim that "politics makes 
strange bedfellows " been more strikingly illustrated. 
The many prominent Democrats who had become alien- 
ated from the administrations of Jackson and Van Buren 
on various issues had united with the Nationals in oppo- 
sition to Van Buren, under the Republican name of 
Whig. Throughout the country, numbers of leading 
Jackson men were prominent in the new party group, 
especially in the South. At one time, the supporters 
of Hugh Lawson White were undecided concerning the 
course they should pursue in the election of 1840, 
and it became a matter of general interest whether he 
would again become a candidate, or would leave the field 
open for Mr. Clay, who from all appearances was the 
most available candidate within the Whig ranks. Wise, 
who was on intimate terms with Judge White, was 
requested by mutual friends to elicit from him an ex- 
pression of his views, with the result that the latter 



announced that it was not his purpose to again become 
a candidate, or block the way to Mr. Clay's success ; but 
at the same time he urged upon Wise the necessity of 
obtaining from Clay certain avowals concerning his posi- 
tion upon public questions, so that there could be no 
misunderstanding, and that the Democratic wing of the 
Whig organization might not be placed in a false posi- 
tion. Wise, in a letter to a friend, thus describes his 
personal relations with Clay and the result of the inter- 
view upon the subject suggested by Judge White : " I 
was two years in Congress, from 1833 to 1835, before I 
would be introduced even to Mr. Clay. But opposition 
makes 'strange bedfellows.' After making his acquaint- 
ance, his many high points attracted me. About 1838 I 
became intimate with him, and personally so fond of the 
man, that, though I differed from him on almost every 
political issue but one, — the Bank, — I was desirous with 
others to enter into any fair compromise, without sacrifice 
of principles, to support him for the presidency. And at 
the time of my interview with Judge White, there 
appeared to the common view no other man in sight for a 
nomination by the Whigs. Judge White was the first to 
warn me of a danger of his nomination being defeated. I 
laid before him the willingness of Judge White and his 
friends to support him, but the necessity which they felt 
of some fair understanding or compromise in respect to 
the principles on which his administration would be con- 
ducted. He was clear and perfectly satisfactory on every 
cardinal point named and discussed by Judge White. 
The issue of Bank, or no Bank, he agreed ought not to 
be involved in the presidential election, but it ought to 
be postponed and submitted after the election to what he 
afterward called (in his Taylorsville speech) 'the 
enlightened judgment of the people.' Upon distribution 


he referred to his report in 1832 as evidence that he never 
thought of applying that measure except when there was 
a considerable Surplus in the Treasury and only for such 
limited time as to consume any surplus. He would not, 
by any means, resort to it when there was a deiiciency, 
and a debt, and when the Treasury would in the least be 
embarrassed by it. As to Internal Improvements, he had 
never thought they could be so well carried on by the 
general government as by the States themselves or by 
private companies. His only object at first had long been 
attained, — to give an impulse to great works and to 
State enterprises. The latter had already received too 
great an impulse, and the States had been run into debt 
two hundred millions, almost beyond the means of redemp- 
tion. As to the tariff, he was emphatic and eloquent in 
his pledges to abide by the Compromise Act of 1832. It 
was the chief pride of his life that he was the author him- 
self of that great measure of pacification. He would, of 
course, be the last to disturb its provisions, and would be 
the first to resist any infraction of its good faith. And as 
to the question of abolition of slavery in the District 
of Columbia or in the Territories, or of the slave-trade 
between the States, he hardly supposed that he could make 
stronger pledges than he had made. True, he had 
admitted the naked power by Congress, and he had 
deemed it policy to keep the true issues apart from false 
issues about the right of petition, by always advocating 
the reception merely of abolition petitions ; but he was a 
slaveholder himself, identified with the South in that 
interest ; and so inexpedient and bad in faith did he deem 
the exercise of the power of abolition by Congress, that he 
would justify its resistance by force of arms. Thus, then, 
practically he would be with the most ultra of strict construc- 
tionists, though he might fundamentally differ with them 


as to the principles at the bottom of all these questions. 
These pledges and compromises he, in general, actually 
embodied afterward in a speech which he prepared before- 
hand for the Taylorsville dinner. He informed me, from 
his notes, of its leading points. Said it was a programme 
of principles upon which, if nominated and elected, he 
would desire to see the government administered." Com- 
paring now these admissions of Mr. Clay and similar 
admissions of other Whigs (formerly National Republi- 
cans) with the measures and tendencies of the Democratic 
party of Van Buren, there can be no doubt that the Whigs 
as a party assumed in the canvass the position before the 
public as the States-rights party of the Union. The prin- 
ciples of its Democratic wing as manifested in the careers 
of Tyler, Wise, Duff Green, Preston, McLean, Berrien, 
and others were really the platform on which they solicited 
the suffrages of the country. From every hustings the 
Whigs in every part of the country denounced the Demo- 
crats as Federalists and latitudinarians. 

With the understanding above related, the friends of 
Judge White adhered to the fortunes of Mr. Clay, but 
the defeat of the latter was brought about at Harrisburg 
by the followers of General Winfield Scott, who, though 
unable to nominate their candidate, were yet able to pre- 
vent Mr. Clay from securing the coveted prize, which 
went to William Henry Harrison. 

John Tyler of Virginia was put forward for the vice- 
presidency, his name having been agreed upon among the 
Whig leaders beforehand, largely through the influence of 
Wise. His nomination was a proof of the States-rights 
character of the party, Tyler having been from the com- 
mencement of his political career a consistent advocate 
of strict construction and Democratic principles. 

The candidates of the Whig party did not enter the 


canvass with a hopeful outlook before them, and the para- 
phernalia of log cabins, coonskins, and hard cider would 
seem to have indicated an absence of true issues or prin- 
ciples in the campaign. But underneath the claptrap 
and ad eaptandum arguments of the orators, a healthy- 
moral tone prevailed in opposition to the abuses of the 
Van Buren administration. 

The convention of the Whig young men of the coun- 
try, held at Baltimore the spring following the one at 
Harrisburg, aroused the enthusiasm of the masses, and 
started the tidal wave which bore Harrison and Tyler 
into the White House. Such an assemblage had never 
been witnessed before, and the leading Whigs of the 
Union — among them Clay, Webster, Sergeant, Preston, 
Southard, Botts, and Wise — were there to help kindle 
with their eloquence the popular flame. 

On the Fourth of July previous, at a gathering of 
Whigs, on an island in the Delaware opposite Philadel- 
phia, Wise had uttered the sentiment, " The union of the 
Whigs for the sake of the Union," which was caught up 
as a party watchword and inscribed on the transparen- 
cies during the campaign. A galaxy of Whig orators 
everywhere spoke from the hustings and made the cam- 
paign of 1840 memorable for its enthusiasm. Wise was 
untiring in his support of the nominees, and from York- 
town in Virginia, where he presided over the Whig con- 
vention of his district, as far north as Poughkeepsie in 
New York, lent the weight of his voice and eloquence 
to the cause of Harrison and Tyler. The triumphant 
election of the Whig ticket was not, however, in reality 
a triumph, but the coming into power of a mere opposi- 
tion party, composed of heterogeneous elements, destined 
soon to divide policy and action. This was hastened 
rather than caused by the death of General Harrison, 


one month after his inauguration, which placed Mr. Tyler 
in the presidential chair, and upset the calculations of the 
followers of Mr. Clay. Immediately upon General Har- 
rison's election, Clay had assumed a dictatorial atti- 
tude towards the incoming administration, which was 
bitterly resented by General Harrison, who clearly indi- 
cated that he would never assent to the revival of the 
old National Republican measures ; and at the called ses- 
sion of Congress in May, after Harrison's death. Clay 
undertook the championship of those policies which, prior 
to the Harrisburg convention, he had agreed to surren- 
der. Henry W. Hilliard, a spectator of what tran- 
spired at this time, records in his " Politics and Pen 
Pictures " : — 

"Visiting Washington in June, I found Congress in 
session ; the signs of anarchy in the Whig party were 
clearly visible. Mr. Clay, the real leader of the party, 
disclosed his purpose to compel the President to accept 
the measures which, as a senator, he dictated without 
the slightest regard to Mr. Tyler's antecedents as a states- 
man. Imperious, unsparing in his denunciation of any 
one who faltered in support of his plans for the gov- 
ernment of the country, he presented a grand spectacle. 
But Mr. Tyler, with equal firmness, declined to submit 
to the dictation of the illustrious senator." 

The charge of "traitor" was quickly applied to Mr. 
Tyler upon his vetoing the bill to recharter the United 
States Bank; but to any one at all familiar with the 
political career and personal character of the man, the 
word was not justified, even coming from baffled poli- 
ticians whose designs he had thwarted. Mr. Tyler, 
throughout his public life, had not only been an avowed 
strict constructionist, but time and again had declared 
that in his opinion it was unconstitutional to charter a 

ME. Tyler's administration 93 

United States Bank. During the campaign of 1840, in 
response to inquiries from various citizens, he had pub- 
lished letters in which he declared that his opinion upon 
this point remained unchanged ; but, in the face of these 
declarations. Clay and his followers believed that they 
could force him to yield his life-long convictions and 
sign a charter. Mr. Tyler held various interviews with 
the Whig leaders, with a view to arrive at an under- 
standing with them, but never for one instant aban- 
doned his well-known position in regard to the Bank 

It was not long before the President, and his party in 
Congress, found themselves at war with each other, and 
the small group in the House who championed his admin- 
istration were dubbed by Clay the "corporal's guard." 
Among these, however, were Wise, Caleb Cushing, and 
Thomas W. Gilmer, men capable of withstanding the on- 
slaught of their opponents. From the first. Wise opposed 
the Bank agitation, the policy of protection, and the vari- 
ous measures revived by the National Whigs. 

The administration of Mr. Tyler, despite the violent 
opposition which it met, was signalized by exceptional 
purity of conduct : the spoils system of politics was done 
away with, the credit of the country restored, and a bal- 
ance substituted for a deficit in the Treasury. 

The exchequer biU, which he drafted himself, antici- 
pated by a number of years the present national bank sys- 
tem founded upon the same idea ; and the foreign policy 
of the administration was conducted in a highly successful 
manner. Fremont was sent westward to explore the un- 
known passes of the Rockies, and Whitman aided in trans- 
porting bodies of emigrants to the Western country. In 
all the measures of Mr. Tyler's administration he enjoyed 
the hearty concurrence of Wise, who remained throughout 


his close personal and political friend and leading champion 
on the floor of the House. 

Shortly after the election of the Whig candidate in No- 
vember, 1840, Mr. Tyler had written Wise : " In desiring 
your views I wish to prepare myself for playing my part 
as may best become me should it be required of me to play 
any part. Let me also say, I scorn to flatter, that I regard 
you as having been as much instrumental in bringing about 
the present state of things as any man who lives, and your 
views of the future should be as much sought after as your 
opinions in the past." Although Wise had differed with 
Mr. Tyler as to the constitutionality and expediency of a 
government bank, he subsequently abandoned this position 
not only because he realized that the time had passed for 
chartering a United States Bank, but that issue had become 
merged into questions which he considered of far greater 
magnitude. His position on the Bank question up to the 
time of Harrison's election was identical with that of Mr. 
Clay. After that time their position was unlike in this, — 
that Wise stood by his abandonment of the Bank, while 
Clay who had also abandoned it, insisted upon reviving it. 

In his attitude toward the spoils system of appointments 
to office, few members of the House have taken bolder and 
stronger ground than Wise, and during Van Buren's ad- 
ministration he had declared "if government officers are 
allowed to interfere in elections, yea required to save their 
salaries by their party services, the Treasury must suffer for 
it ; for electioneering requires funds, and officers will not 
take their own money when they can reach Uncle Sam's. 
The dearest purchase ever made by any people is the pur- 
chase of themselves with their own taxes which they have 
paid into the public Treasury. I would put down at every 
hazard the tyranny of proscription, the most extravagant 
of all tyrannies, which is always sure to turn out of office 


some honest and many knowing officers and to put many 
dishonest and ignorant ones in their places. I could give 
many instances under the present and last administra- 
tions from this cause alone. Appoint the virtue and intel- 
ligence of the country to office without regard to party services 
and you will find thousands of dollars gained as well as 
thousands saved by that simple operation of finance." 

Few men have ever been more bitterly assailed than 
Mr. Tyler by his political opponents, but despite that fact 
many of the most important offices at his disposal were 
filled by those opposed to him politically. 

The most important act of Mr. Tyler's administration 
must be held to be the annexation of Texas to the Union. 
It is a circumstance worthy of note that all the great 
acquisitions of territory to our country up to this time 
were secured under the leadership of Virginians, and 
the addition of Texas to the sisterhood of States was 
destined to form no exception to this rule. In 1837 
Texas had unsuccessfully applied for membership in the 
Union, and Wise had strongly advocated the measure. 
This question was taken up by Tyler shortly after he 
became President, in accordance with the urgent advice 
of Wise, who warmly supported him as did Thomas W. 
Gilmer and Caleb Gushing. Texas was already look- 
ing to England for aid, being deeply in debt to British 
capitalists, and the latter country was anxious to build 
up a rival to the United States along its southern bor- 
der; while the abolitionists abroad were striving to have 
slavery done away with in Texas so that the institution 
might be attacked from the South. The negotiations for 
annexation which had not culminated at the time of 
Upshur's death in February, 1844, just after Tyler had 
tendered him the position of Secretary, rendered it highly 
important that a man in sympathy with the measure 


should be appointed to succeed him as Secretary of State. 
This fact alone can serve as an excuse for Wise's con- 
duct upon the occasion. The morning following Upshur's 
death, caused by the explosion of a cannon on board the 
Princeton, and without authority from any one, Wise 
hastened to Senator McDuffie's rooms, and requested him 
to tender the position to John C. Calhoun. Having done 
this, he then proceeded to the White House, where he 
breakfasted with the President and informed him of what 
he had done. The latter, naturally indignant at the time, 
nevertheless acquiesced in the act as one which could not 
easily be remedied. The President had, through Upshur, 
secured pledges of support from over two-thirds of the 
senators in favor of the Texas treaty, and his fear was 
that Calhoun's appointment might drive off Benton and 
other senator of the Van Buren wing of the Democratic 
party. And this fear appears to have been not wholly 
unfounded, as the vote finally given in favor of the treaty 
was only one-third instead of two-thirds, as required by 
the Constitution. 

Wise thus describes the part taken by him immediately 
upon hearing of Upshur's death.^ " We came at once to 
our conclusions. Mr. Webster remained in the Cabinet 
until the Northeastern question was settled, and as long 
as Upshur or Legare was alive, the Southwestern question 
was safe in Southern hands ; but now that they both were 
taken away, there was one man left who was necessary 
above all others to the South in settling and obtaining the 
annexation of Texas. We need hardly say that man was 
John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. But we knew that, 
for some reason of which we were never informed, the 
President was opposed to calling him to his Cabinet. It 
is vain to conjecture the reason, and we are utterly unable 

1 " Seven Decades," p. 221. 


to account for the fact, but the fact was known, and that 
caused us to be guilty of assuming an authority and tak- 
ing a liberty with the President which few men would 
have excused and few would have taken. We thought 
of Mr. McDuffie, then in the Senate, and determined to 
act through him. The President, in 1843, at the instance 
of the Hon. Baillie Peyton, had sent our name to the 
Senate for the mission to France, and the nomination was 
rejected at a moment when it was the rule of party not 
to allow him to have any of his own friends in appoint- 
ments when the Opposition could prevent. Thus, Mr. 
Gushing, for the Treasury, Mr. Porter of Pennsylvania, 
for the War, and Mr. Henshaw of Massachusetts, for the 
Navy, were all rejected ; and when our name for France 
was before the Senate, and the doctrine was openly avowed 
that the President should not be allowed to have his own 
friends in place, Mr. McDufBe had met the dogma as it 
deserved, and denounced it with great cogency and spirit. 
Our nomination hardly deserved the defence he made, but 
its natural effect was to draw us to him in personal grati- 
tude for the vindication which it caused in 1843-44 by 
the confirmation of our mission to Brazil. We determined, 
through him, to act on Mr. Calhoun, whilst we took un- 
precedented license with Mr. Tyler. Before breakfast, 
by sunrise the next morning, the 29th of February, 1844, 
we visited Mr. McDuffie's parlor. He was not dressed, 
but came down in his slippers and robe-de-chambre. We 
excused our calling so early by the exigency arising from 
the catastrophe on board the Princeton, and immediately 
inquired whether Mr. Calhoun, in his opinion, could be 
prevailed on to accept the State Department with a view 
to the vital question of annexation. He admitted the 
magnitude of the interest involved, and how desirable it 
was to have it negotiated by Mr. Calhoun, but feared he 


would not accept. We then urged him to write to Mr. 
Calhoun immediately, saying that his name would, in all 
probability, be sent to the Senate at once, and begging 
him not to decline the office if his nomination should be 
made and confirmed. Mr. McDuffie's delicacy toward 
us doubtless prevented him from inquiring whether we 
spoke by Mr. Tyler's authority or not, and we made no 
statement to him pro or con on that point, but presume 
he must have supposed that we were authorized to make 
the request, for he promised to write to Mr. Calhoun at 

" On parting from him we went directly to the presi- 
dential mansion to breakfast. At the gate of the White 
House grounds we met Judge John B. Christian of Vir- 
ginia, the brother-in-law of Mr. Tyler, and, when we 
reached the house, found Mr. Tyler and Dr. Miller, 
another brother-in-law of his, in the breakfast room. Mr. 
Tyler was standing with his right elbow resting on the 
mantel of the fireplace, and held a morning paper in his 
left hand, containing an account of the awful catastrophe 
of the day before. As soon as he saw us he accosted us 
with tremulous emotion, saying how humbled he was by 
his providential escape whilst such invaluable friends had 
fallen from around him, and he turned his face to the 
wall in a flood of tears. We came to his relief at once 
by saying that it was no time for mourning or wasting 
himself in grief, — that the moment called for prompt 
action and attention to duty, and that his work was press- 
ing and heavy. It was an auspicious time, at least, to 
nominate for the vacancies in his Cabinet, when the dig- 
nity and solemnity of public grief for so great a calamity 
would shame and hush all factious opposition, and human 
sympathy alone at such a moment would confirm the 
nominations he would then make to the Senate. There 


were too many important affairs to be disposed of in this 
last year of his term of ofiSce to admit of delay. He must 
subdue his grief and find relief, the best relief, in turning 
to his tasks. He asked at once, ' What is to be done ? ' 
The answer "was ready : ' Your most important work is 
the annexation of Texas, and the man for that work is 
Mr. Calhoun. Send for him at once.' 

" His air changed at once, and he quickly and firmly 
said, ' No : Texas is important, but Mr. Calhoun is not the 
man of my choice.' 

" Aided by Judge Christian and Dr. Miller, we reasoned 
with him, though in vain, until the bell rang for breakfast. 
At the table the conversation turned on the calamity of 
the previous day; and the President gave a minute de- 
scription of the manner in which, by the most trivial cir- 
cumstance, he had been detained in the cabin at the table 
with the ladies, whilst Stockton, Upshur, Kennon, Marcy, 
Gardner, and Benton all went up on deck to witness the 
trial of the Peacemaker ! During the whole breakfast we 
were exceedingly uneasy, thinking how we should prevail 
upon him to nominate Mr. Calhoun and justify us to 
Mr. McDufSe. Of this we were assured, that if Mr. Mc- 
Duffie's letter reached Mr. Calhoun before a nomination 
was made, he, Mr. Calhoun, would decline the nomination, 
and thus waive our committal to Mr. McDufiSe; but if 
Mr. Tyler should nominate before Mr. Calhoun replied, 
declining, then we would be in an awkward position, as 
having made an implied committal to his nomination. But 
' the policy of rashness ' saved us, as it had often done be- 
fore and has often done since, and sent in Mr. Calhoun's 
nomination. As soon as breakfast was over, we rose, hat 
in hand, to depart, went with some impressiveness of man- 
ner directly up to Mr. Tyler, and said : ' Sir, in saying good 
morning to you now, I may be taking a lasting farewell. 


I have unselfishly tried to be your friend and to aid your 
administration of public affairs, and have, doubtless, your 
kind feelings and confidence ; but I fear I have done that 
which will forfeit your confidence and cause us to be 
friends no longer. You say that you will not nominate 
Mr. Calhoun as your Secretary of State. If so, then I 
have done both you and him a great wrong, and must go 
immediately to Mr. McDuffie to apologize for causing him 
to commit himself, and you too, by an unauthorized act of 

" ' What do you mean ? ' exclaimed the President, evi- 
dently disturbed. 

" ' I mean that this morning, before coming here, unin- 
vited, to breakfast, I went to Mr. McDuffie and prevailed 
on him to write to Mr. Calhoun and ask him to accept the 
place of Secretary of State at your hands.' 

" ' Did you say you went at my instance to make that 
request ? ' 

" ' No, I did not in words, but my act, as your known 
friend, implied as much, and Mr. McDuffie was too much 
of a gentleman to ask me whether I had authority express 
from you. I went to him without your authority, for the 
very reason that I knew I could not obtain it ; and I did 
not tell Mr. McDuffie that I had not your authority, for I 
knew he would not in that case have written to Mr. Cal- 
houn as I had requested. And now, if you do not sanc- 
tion what I have done, you will place me where you would 
be loath to place a foe, much less a friend. I can hardly 
be your friend any longer unless you sanction my unauthor- 
ized act for your own sake, not my own.' 

" He looked at us in utter surprise for some minutes, and 
then lifting both hands, said : ' Well, you are the most 
extraordinary man I ever saw ! — the most wilful and way- 
ward, the most incorrigible ! and therefore there is no help 


for it. No one else would have done it in this way but you, 
and you are the only man who could have done it with me. 
Take the office and tender it to Mr. Calhoun; I doubtless 
am wrong in refusing the services of such a man. You 
may write to him yourself at once.' 

" We answered that we would do no such thing, for if 
Mr. Calhoun was given time to do so he would decline ; 
and we therefore asked that his name should be sent to 
the Senate at once, when it would be confirmed, and then 
he could not decline. This was done; Mr. Calhoun's 
nomination was sent in and confirmed even before Mr. 
McDuffie's letter reached him." 

Although the treaty which was concluded through Cal- 
houn's negotiations April 12, 1844, was rejected by the 
Senate, the issue of annexation caused the defeat of both 
Clay and Van Buren and the election of Polk that year, 
which was regarded as an indorsement of the measure. 
At the following session, a joint resolution providing for 
annexation passed both branches of Congress, and on the 
last day of his term Tyler despatched a special messenger 
to secure the assent of the Texan Congress, which was 
unanimously given. 

Despite the unpopularity of Tyler's administration at the 
time, and the small minority in which his supporters in 
Congress found themselves, Wise wrote afterward from 
Kio to his friend Caleb Cushing: "If I live a thousand 
years I shall look back to our lone position and single- 
handed fights for truth and fair play from '41 to '44 with 
the greatest pride and pleasure. The administration of 
Tyler, with all its domestic and internal follies and weak- 
nesses, — you and I know all, — was great in all its leading 
public measures. Its glorious successes in foreign policy, 
its peace of Florida, its regulation of finance without aid 
in spite of opposition, its general integrity of administra- 


tion, will be perpetual mementos of great wisdom and 
virtue, whilst all the small things will be forgotten. 
Twenty-five years hence it will be brighter and brighter 
praise to have been a member of the corps of ' Corporal's 
Guard.' " 

During the session of 1842-43, Wise's health became 
much enfeebled, partly from a long spell of fever, and 
President Tyler urged him to resign his seat and to accept 
any foreign mission at his disposal. This he declined, 
but early in 1843 Mr. Tyler nominated him as minister 
to France. Owing to the influence of Clay and other 
Whigs whom Wise had antagonized, the Senate refused 
to confirm him ; although prior to the death of Harrison, 
Clay had urged Wise to accept any foreign appointment 
at the President's disposal. 

In the spring of 1843, Wise was a candidate for reelec- 
tion and every effort was put forward by the Whigs to 
bring about his defeat, and Mr. Hill Carter of Shirley 
was selected as the candidate to oppose him. Mr. Carter, 
who had served in his earlier years with distinction as a 
naval officer under Commodore Warrington, resided at his 
estate, "Shirley," on James River, and was a great favor- 
ite with the Whigs. Many thought that the design in 
nominating Mr. Carter was to produce a personal conflict 
between him and Wise, but their relations were very 
friendly, and Mr. Carter became so attached to Wise that 
during the campaign he insisted that Wise should accom- 
pany him in his private vehicle, and ever afterward they 
were warm personal friends. 

As the home of the President and of Judge Upshur, the 
result in Wise's district was anxiously watched, and the 
Whigs were more than ever eager to redeem the district. 
The district at the time included the two eastern shore 
counties, Accomack and Northampton, and on the west- 


em shore the counties of Northumberland, Lancaster, Mid- 
dlesex, Gloucester, York, Warwick, Charles City, James 
City, New Kent, and Elizabeth City, thus extending from 
the Maryland line to Cape Charles on the eastern side of 
the Chesapeake, and from the mouth of the Potomac to 
that of the James on the western shore. 

The Richmond Whig, the leading organ of the party in 
the South, alluded, during the campaign, to the fact that the 
district had in 1840 given the largest Whig majority in the 
State — nearly fifteen hundred — and hoped for the defeat 
of Wise as Tyler's representative. Few representatives, 
however, have ever possessed in a more marked degree the 
esteem and affection of their constituents than did Wise, 
and his eloquent voice was heard during the canvass at 
every county seat and hamlet rallying his followers. For- 
tunately for him 'he knew his district — at least the older 
portion of it — from end to end, and in after years in testi- 
fjdng on the subject of the Maryland boundary line he said : 
" I represented the Accomack district of Virginia eleven 
years in Congress. I dare say that from January, 1833, to 
February, 1844, when I resigned my seat in the House of 
Representatives, no Congressional district in Virginia was 
ever more thoroughly canvassed by its representative or 
better known by him than my district was by me. I visited 
every county on both shores of the Chesapeake every year, 
and then without the facility of steam, had to travel by 
sail vessels and in canoes quite as much as by carriages. 
The mode of traversing a district so cut up by bays, rivers, 
and creeks was very dilatory and difficult, and compelled 
me to be better informed of localities than I could ever 
have been if travelling by steam, or with more facility or 
rapidity. I have passed up and down the Chesapeake 
innumerable times to and from Baltimore and Norfolk, 
had to cross and recross to and from the eastern and west- 


em shores, and I became familiar with, every main, creek, 
island, and headland, so that I could pilot myself very well 
in emergency, by my knowledge generally of courses, dis- 
tances, and bearings. I have been twice stranded on the 
shoals of the eastern shore, once had to take command of 
the vessel on which I was a passenger, and thrice was in 
peril of my life. ... I was somewhat practised in sailing, 
and, I may say, as well informed about the shores as any 
one not a skipper and pilot by profession. The first time 
I took my seat in the House of Representatives I had to 
sail up the Potomac to Washington, which I had done 
several times before when a law student, passing to and 
from Winchester and my home in Accomack." 

But his knowledge of the localities in his district was 
not exceeded by his acquaintance with the people of every 
class, and though many were disposed to censure him for 
his severe denunciation of Clay and the Whigs, yet at the 
election which took place. Wise achieved a signal victory 
and was returned by a good majority. 

A gentleman^ of Gloucester County, now living, has 
given the writer a description of Wise's appearance on the 
hustings at Matthews Courthouse during the campaign, 
and how a party of excited Whigs endeavored to prevent 
him from addressing the people, by breaking up the meet- 
ing, but before he had finished his speech, many of the 
same men were throwing up their hats in the air, and 
cheering for him. 

After his return to Congress, Wise's health continued 
much impaired, and Mr. Tyler sent in his name to the 
Senate as minister to Brazil. The same group of sena- 
tors who had several times refused to confirm his nomina- 
tion for the mission to France, were inclined to defeat his 
appointment to Brazil, especially on account of his con- 
1 General William B. Taliaferro who died since the above was written. 


tinued opposition and denunciation of Clay during his 
campaign for Congress, but William S. Archer, senator 
from Virginia, although a Whig, demanded his confir- 
mation by the Senate, which was accordingly done ; and 
on February 8, 1844, Wise resigned his seat in Con- 

Before leaving home for Brazil he issued an address to his 
former constituents, in which he wrote, " At the earliest 
eligible period of life you took me up a poor boy, without 
adequate merit, and you have ever since upheld me by 
your gracious confidence, though my faults and infirmities 
have been many and great." His parting advice to them 
was to tax themselves, for the purpose of paying the State 
debt, and of promoting public free schools among them. 
The urgent need of the last named was evidenced by the 
statistics which he cited, which showed that in the coun- 
ties of his district, of the whole number of free white 
persons, who numbered 37,230, nearly one-eighth could not 
read and write, while of the whole number of free whites 
above the age of twenty years more than one-fourth could 
not read and write. In commenting on these and other 
facts connected with the subject. Wise wrote : " This is 
a lamentable condition of education among us. I would 
never have exposed it to the scoff or the pity of the world, 
but our own census takers have already made report 
thereof to the Department of State of the United States, 
and Congress has printed these facts at public expense. 
I know that a very large body of our people is among the 
most intelligent, and some of them among the most learned 
of the country; I know how much credit and honor are due 
to some of our parents, who have not only rubbed nature's 
rust off their sons at common schools, but have polished 
their minds bright, not only at our own colleges and uni- 
versities, but at the universities of Europe. I know what 


a body of well-instructed gentlemen we have, who would 
do honor to any society of any Athens in the land ; how 
gracefully they live in all the means of the light of learn- 
ing ; what a venerable alma mater of great men we have 
in old "William and Mary College ; what a select corps of 
professors and teachers become our seminaries; what a 
fine body of young graduates yearly come out from our 
own and the Northern schools ; what an eminent profes- 
sional corps, both in law and in medicine, minister to our 
minds as well as to our physical and pecuniary cases ; 
what active industry, enterprise, and intelligence there are 
among the great body of our farmers and planters and 
mechanics ; I know how to account for much of the want 
of learning among our people from their geographical 
location — living as many of them do, on islands and long 
peninsulas, inconvenient to schools ; and how much igno- 
rance is to be attributed to the valuable labor of poor chil- 
dren, whose poor parents cannot spare their time at schools, 
precious as it is, to procure their daily bread. I know 
all these consoling excuses, but still the fact stares us in 
the face, that more than four thousand poor children in 
our district are growing up in the night of ignorance. 
Most of these, doubtless, are female children, and the 
touching fact is presented that many mothers of the gen- 
eration to follow will not be able to teach their sons and 
daughters to read and write." 

His urgent advice to his constituents was to organize 
and tax themselves in their several counties, and not to 
wait for State aid to public schools. Despite the large 
percentage of illiteracy, however, then prevalent, many of 
the children were educated at the " old field " schools, 
where they received oftentimes more thorough instruction 
than at the public schools to-day ; and although but few 
newspapers circulated among the country people in that 


part of Virginia, yet they were generally, through means 
of the intercourse held with the sea-captains, and with each 
other at the warrant tryings and County Court, kept well 
informed as to public affairs. 

In November, 1840, Wise was married to Miss Sarah 
Sergeant, the daughter of Hon. John Sergeant of Phila- 
delphia, a woman of attractive person and polished mind. 
After resigning his seat in Congress, he repaired to his 
home in Accomack to arrange his household and private 
affairs, preparatory to setting sail for Brazil. 



Having completed arrangements for his departure from 
home and received his instructions at Washington, Wise 
embarked on the frigate Constitution, with Captain Per- 
cival, and on the twenty-ninth day of May, 1844, sailed 
from New York. He was received aboard ship with a 
salute of cannon, and the old antagonist of the Chuerriere 
" set every threadbare sail " for the voyage that lay before 
her. Accompanying him were his wife and five children 
— one an infant in arms — and several domestics. After 
a pleasant, though protracted voyage of sixty-two days, 
during which they touched at Orto in Fayal, at Funchal 
in Madeira, and at Santa Cruz in Teneriffe, having lain 
by in all seventeen days, they entered on the 2d of 
August the beautiful harbor of Rio. 

A few days later Wise was granted a cordial reception 
at the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and by the 
Emperor Dom Pedro II. at his palace at Boavista, where 
mutual expressions of good-will and wishes for the pros- 
perity of Brazil and the United States were exchanged. 

The then Emperor of Brazil was but eighteen years of 
age, although the government had declared his majority 
some four years previously, to prevent his sister, the 
Princess Donna Januaria, from occupying the throne. 



Wise, in one of his letters at the time, describes the 
youthful ruler as "rather grave, studious, and monastic 
in his habits." 

Within a few weeks after his landing at Rio, Wise 
had installed himself and family in a residence located 
in the Engenho Velho, and had assumed the work of his 
mission at the office of the legation. The etiquette of the 
Court and social observances appear to have had little 
charm for his republican heart, and he wrote that "the 
only reward for going and waiting for hours on a hot 
day, in a hot uniform, is to make three bows forward and 
three bows backward and then bob out of Imperial Pres- 
ence." His duties, for the most part, were of the usual 
ministerial character, and he doubtless found life at Rio 
dull, after the political excitement of Washington. Though 
he did not speak Portuguese, he found no trouble in conduct- 
ing the business of his office, with the aid of an interpreter, 
and was, moreover, greatly assisted in his correspondence 
by his wife, who was an accomplished linguist. 

The claims of American citizens, prize causes, questions 
arising in connection with the construction of treaties, the 
arrangement of tariff schedules, and troubles growing out 
of the arrest of American seamen occupied a large portion 
of the time of the minister at the Court of Brazil. In 
connection with these, there is little or nothing of interest, 
or that deserves to be noted here. 

There was one subject, however, to which he devoted 
his best energies while at Rio, worthy of being recalled 
and of more than passing interest. 

At that time the slave-trade between Africa and Brazil 
was actively carried on, and although a treaty had been 
entered into between England and Brazil, as far back as 
the year 1826, for the abolition of this traffic, it had by no 
means been suppressed. While Sir Robert Peel, the Earl 


of Aberdeen, and other British statesmen inveighed against 
the slave-trade, many English merchants were still largely 
interested in it, and among the Brazilians the practice was 
not only common, but the mining and planting interests 
were anxious for the continued importation of slaves. By 
virtue of what was known as the Aberdeen Act, passed 
in 1845, England asserted the right of seizing suspected 
vessels in Brazilian waters, and public sentiment had been 
aroused to some extent toward the suppression of the 

The subject of the slave-trade had an important bearing 
on the relations existing between the United States and 
Brazil, as numerous American bottoms were converted 
into slave-ships, and the slave-dealers eagerly availed 
themselves of immunity from search gained by the use 
of the American flag. From the time of his landing 
at Rio, in August, 1844, until his return home three 
years later. Wise was unremitting in his efforts to have 
those engaged in the traffic arrested and to bring the 
matter to the attention of the Department at Washington, 
and indirectly to that of the British Parliament, and prob- 
ably did more than any one at the Court of Brazil to arouse 
public sentiment in this particular. 

In a letter to Messrs. Maxwell, Wright & Co., mer- 
chants at Rio, dated December 9, 1844, he gave his views 
of the subject as follows: "It cannot be denied and is 
no longer to be concealed, and the sooner all parties at 
home and abroad are informed of it the better, that there 
is no trade whatever between the coast of Africa and 
Brazil, but what partakes directly or indirectly of the 
nature and of the profits or losses of the slave-trade. The 
slave-trade is the main, the staple business, and all other 
trade, with the slightest exception, is accessory, or aux- 
iliary to it, between that coast, particularly the parts 


about Congo and Cabinda and Brazil. And no vessels 
of the United States are chartered for that coast in this 
country, but to export goods, provisions, and munitions of 
war, to make funds for the slave-trade ; or they are 
chartered to carry and bring news of vessels employed 
in the slave-trade, and to be tenders of those vessels in 
other respects ; or they are chartered to cover their sales 
and to obtain the protection of their flag until they come 
to be delivered on the coast and ship their cargoes of 
slaves. And they are chartered by and sold to none, or 
scarcely ever to any one, except notorious slave-dealers, 
and are consigned in almost every instance to their known 
agents in Africa. And extraordinary prices are given for 
the vessels and the charters of vessels of the United States, 
because their national flag alone protects them from visit 
and search. And all this is so notorious here, and the 
ways and means of doing this are so well known here, the 
charter parties being almost stereotyped, that there is 
not an intelligent, observing, or inquiring citizen of the 
United States in Rio Janeiro, who has resided here three 
months, but what may be said to know and could, with 
the legal means, easily verify the objects, purposes, and 
interests for which such charters and sales of vessels de- 
liverable on the coast of Africa are made. And the gen- 
eral knowledge and the general intent could in almost 
every instance be proved, if there was full power to com- 
pel the attendance of witnesses, and to make them answer 
under oath. The vessel is apparently chartered by the 
month, at so much per month, for the coast to cover her 
on the voyage to Africa with the United States flag. The 
charter party binds her to take over passengers, meaning a 
Brazilian or Portuguese master and crew, who are in fact 
to navigate her back with a cargo of slaves, without either 
flag, papers, or nationality, running all risks of capture. 


But she has, in fact, been actually sold deliverable on the 
coasts ; the whole or greater part of her purchase-money 
has been advanced here as security for the sale : her 
charter and sale have been negotiated by an English 
broker, directly with the slave-dealer, and he gets two and 
a half per cent commission. The advance of the purchase- 
money here is security, and the guarantee of the payment 
of the whole charter and sale is made, and two and a half 
per cent commission is charged for that, besides two and 
a half for doing the business, and two and a half per cent 
for remittance to the United States, making ten per cent, 
at least, on the whole transaction of charter and sale. The 
master of the vessel is ordered and authorized to take, in 
case it be offered, the sum already bargained and guar- 
anteed to begin here ; and the agent of the slave-trading 
purchaser in Africa is written to, and ordered by him to 
offer and give the sum already agreed upon and partly 
paid here ; the vessel is loaded with English goods, ' fit 
for the coast,' i.e. with goods which are the medium of 
exchange there for slaves, money not being used or known 
there, and with Brazilian provisions of jerked beef, black 
beans, farina, and cachaca, and sometimes with bar and 
hoop iron and with powder and muskets; and there is 
another vessel chartered in like manner already there, or 
going, or gone, or soon to go, with a like cargo to make 
slave-trade funds, and to supply the slave-trade employees, 
and, according to her charter party and a private under- 
standing with the first vessel, to bring back as -passen- 
gers,' the American crew of the first vessel at the cost of 
the charterer ; and the first is sold and delivered ; and the 
American master and crew have very particular written in- 
structions by some business friend here how far to go 
exactly in order to evade the laws of the United States ; 
to take off the flag, the name on the stern and the vessel's 


papers, and to exercise no act of ownership, and to give no 
aid or assistance after sale and delivery, and neither before 
nor after to aid or abet the slave-trade in any way. In 
most cases these instructions are very scrupulously fol- 
lowed ; and in from two to seven hours after the vessel is 
sold and delivered, she is loaded to suffocation with hun- 
dreds of miserable captives already on the beach in 
shackles, who are berthed on water-pipes, laid level fore 
and aft, covered with rush mats ; and instantly she sails 
for the first port she can reach in safety on the coast of 
Brazil ; and her American master and crew are transferred 
to the second vessel, which, during the time of waiting, is 
employed, perhaps, in transporting and carrjring supplies 
along the coast from slave factory to factory, from Cabinda 
to Congo, and Congo to Cabinda, and which, as soon as 
she gets her returning passengers who have carried a vessel 
over directly to the slaves and carried the slaves them- 
selves over, returns, perhaps, with a lawful cargo of wax, 
ivory, etc., which has been brought from the interior to 
the coast of Africa on the heads of the very captives which 
her consort has just sailed with to the first port in Brazil. 
. . . And, in conclusion, if the question be repeated, as 
it has been asked, why I, an American slaveholder, mani- 
fest such extraordinary zeal on this subject, the only an- 
swer I shall deign to give is, that the fact of my being a 
slaveholder is itself a pledge and guarantee that I am no 
fanatic, foolishly and wickedly bent upon running amuck 
against any lawful property or trade ; and that I find the 
same old interest at work here and now, to fasten African 
slavery upon Brazil, which in our early history fastened 
the condition of a slave state on Virginia. Vessels and 
capital from precisely the same quarters bring the slaves 
to this country in this age, which carried them to that 
coimtry in times past. The very lands in the Old and in 


the New World, where world's conventions are held, and 
where abolition petitions flow, are the lands where there 
are manufacturers of ' goods fit for the coast,' and where 
there are owners of vessels to be 'chartered and sold 
deliverable on the coast of Africa, who will not eat slave 
sugar!' ... Our whole country, with a few exceptions 
in every part alike, perhaps, would have me, I am confident, 
exert every energy, in my station, to suppress the African 
slave-trade carried on by our citizens. The courts and 
the whole country of the United States, I am sure, slave- 
holding and non-slaveholding, will incline in favor of the 
law and against the evils of this trade. No officer need to 
fear, therefore, that he will not be sustained by both pub- 
lic law and public opinion at home, in the faithful and 
zealous discharge of his duty in this behalf. Without 
making any superfluous professions of proper motives, 
there is one sentiment alone which is sufficient to inspire 
me with ardor in the course I have pursued and will pur- 
sue. I love the flag, under which my country has won its 
national independence and its national respectability, and 
with which it protects our persons and property, too well 
to sit still, or to sit silent, and see its ' blessed bunting ' 
openly or secretly chartered or sold for the uses of an 
infamous trade, as fine linen is bought and sold for the 
uses of prostitution. No ! Gentlemen, I had often looked 
at it when waving ' over the land of the free and the home 
of the brave,' or when floating over the decks of the ' old 
Constitution,' with feelings too near akin to adoration, but 
until I left the shores of my native land, until I saw it 
when far off from home and country, in the ' dim dis- 
tance ' at sea, or waving a welcome from the flag-staff of 
a United States Consulate in the Western Islands of the 
Atlantic, I never understood, or fully comprehended its 
symbol — the essence of which it is the type — until then 


I never realized the substance and the value that there is 
in it. . . . Is that flag to be struck not to an enemy, but 
to the slave-trade ? Is it ever placed where it dare not be 
seen ? Has it to be hauled down for the foreigner ? Has 
it to hide its ' stars and stripes ' in order to evade the 
laws of its country, of itself ? Is it bought and sold for a 
price of infamy, which should turn it the true color of the 
pirate's flag, blood-red all over with the blushes of shame ? 
Gentlemen, I could never look at it again hoisted over a 
man-of-war, without having tried my uttermost to rescue 
it from this degradation. I could never again hear the 
anecdote, with patriotic pride, that when one Brazilian 
slave asks another, ' which of all the national ships lying 
here the English are most afraid of ? ' they reply invari- 
ably, ' Americanos,' and that they never think of matching 
a United States frigate, in their comparison, against less 
than an English seventy-four, without feeling that this 
impression upon the very slaves of Brazil is derived from 
the safe protection which our flag gives to the African 
trade against British cruisers." 

In another letter, dated March, 1846, in describing the 
connection of the navigation interest of the Northern sea- 
board cities with the slave-trade, he wrote : " Out of 
twenty-two vessels of our merchant marine engaged in 
the African trade between the coast and Brazil since 
June, 1845, but four hailed south of Philadelphia, and 
they were from Baltimore." 

Hon. Hamilton Hamilton, the British minister to the 
Court of Brazil during the time of Wise's residence there, 
was also active in bringing the facts connected vnth the 
slave-trade to the attention of Parliament, and hearty co- 
operation existed between the two ministers on this sub- 
ject. In March, 1845, Hamilton wrote Wise as follows : 
"The zeal and activity you employ so unremittingly to 


detect and frustrate the nefarious practices of the slave 
merchants cannot fail to produce good fruit hereafter; 
and in the meantime to obtain for you, as you richly 
merit, not only the approval of your own government, 
but the gratitude of England, and of all other nations 
embarked in the great cause of humanity." The doom 
of the traffic was then fast approaching, and in 1853 it 
was discontinued. 

During his residence at Rio Wise familiarized himself 
with the fauna and flora of the country, and was greatly 
impressed with the physioal possibilities of Brazil, though 
he found the climate enervating, and evidently was not 
imbued with the idea that the natural advantages of that 
country are superior to our own. 

In a letter to a friend at home, in regard to the ship- 
ment of plants and fruits for transplanting here, he wrote : 
" I must say that I think our temperate zone already far 
surpasses, in vegetable luxuries, any tropical climes which 
I have yet seen. Much, for commerce and luxury both, 
might be introduced into our extreme Southern country 
from Brazil. Why not coffee, tapioca, mandioca, the 
great varieties of fruits, and particularly the dyewoods, 
the cabinet-woods, and the innumerable silk and manila 
grasses for bagging and ropes? A Brazilian friend has 
promised to furnish me with the seeds of the jacaranda 
tree — that beautiful, black, ebony-like wood which so far 
surpasses, in my taste, the mahogany. The nuga tree, 
also of this country, might be introduced. It is a beauti- 
ful shade tree, grows as large as our hickory, and bears a 
nut very similar, but larger, which is used to make, it is 
said, the best painter's oils. It resembles the hickory in 
the bark, and the sycamore in the leaf. The truth is, one 
is confounded by the question what plants to send home, 
such are their numbers, varieties, uses, and beauties, and 


the doubts respecting their standing our climate. I send 
you a small parcel of some species of acacia. The small 
pods are a beautiful flower, and the large red seeds are 
of a tree like the locust." 

Apropos of Wise's life at Rio, we may be pardoned the 
introduction of an anecdote in relation to it. While resid- 
ing there, his family received two new additions, a son 
and a daughter. The former, John S. Wise, now a lawyer 
in New York City, a few years since met General Sherman 
at an entertainment in New York, and the two soon en- 
gaged in conversation. The talk turned upon the subject 
of the latter's visit to Rio, when a young officer, and his 
meeting with the American minister. " Yes," said the 
General, " I met your father upon one occasion, and that 
was in December of 1846 ; Halleck and I were lieutenants, 
and had been ordered around to California by way of the 
Horn. We had a splendid trip of it; made a stop in 
Brazil, at Rio Janeiro. Your father was minister at that 
time. Halleck and I climbed Sugar Loaf Mountain, near 
there, and on our way up we met two gentlemen coming 
down. They were attired as Americans, and we heard 
that they spoke English. One of them wore the shoulder- 
straps of a surgeon in the United States navy. He proved 
to be young Dr. Garnett, who afterward married your 
sister. Halleck and I introduced ourselves, and were cor- 
dially welcomed ; the other gentleman was your father, 
the United States minister to Brazil. I remember that 
both gentlemen were exceedingly courteous; that they 
showed us every attention. I recall all as clearly as if it 
had happened yesterday, yet this was in 1846. It was the 
day after Christmas. We dined with your father and 
Dr. Garnett, and spent the evening with them, and met 
your sister. When we bade them good-by at ten o'clock 
that night, and went back to the boat, Halleck and I 


agreed that we had never met more charming friends." 
"Did you meet my mother?" asked Mr. "Wise. "No," 
answered General Sherman ; " we did not have that pleas- 
ure ; we were told she was indisposed." " You didn't see 
me either ? " asked Mr. Wise. " No, not that I recall," 
replied the General. " Well, mother was slightly indis- 
posed that evening," said Mr. Wise. " If you had not left 
the house at ten o'clock that night, if you had stayed four 
hours later, you would have seen me. I was born at two 
o'clock in the morning of December 27, 1846." 

It is related by John Quincy Adams in his diary that, 
when James Monroe asked Jefferson as to the advisability 
of the former's appointing Andrew Jackson minister to 
Russia, Jefferson replied, "Why, good God, he would 
breed you a quarrel before he had been there a month ! " 
Fortunately, Wise did not involve his government in 
serious complications with Brazil, but his impulsive 
nature and disregard of diplomatic methods rendered 
him somewhat dangerous in the capacity of a foreign 
minister, as it was by no means certain what hasty ac- 
tion he might take at any time. 

During the month of October, 1846, a party of Ameri- 
can sailors, belonging to the warship Columbia, became 
engaged in a fisticuff alongshore, and they were arrested 
by the local police, along with Lieutenant Davis of the 
United States navy, who was endeavoring to separate 
them. They were roughly handled and incarcerated in 
the Imperial prison. Wise, as the representative of the 
United States government, promptly demanded their 
release, which was finally acceded to, although at first the 
Brazilian authorities were only disposed to grant it on 
terms humiliating to Lieutenant Davis, and which were 
declined by him. The affair led to strained relations be- 
tween Wise and the Court, and while he was awaiting 


further instructions from Washington, the Emperor's 
birthday was celebrated. Upon this occasion, through 
some oversight, Commodore Rousseau of the American 
navy, who was aboard the Columbia Ijdng in the harbor, 
failed to salute with his guns, which neglect, or breach of 
etiquette, was erroneously attributed by the Court to 
Wise's influence. When a short while after, the Depart- 
ment of State at Washington transmitted through Wise a 
letter tendering congratulations, upon the birth of the 
Princess Isabel, the Emperor declined to grant an audience 
for that purpose, to such an extent had the breach widened. 
Wise's conduct in the affair of Lieutenant Davis, though 
somewhat intemperate perhaps, received the indorsement 
of President Polk and Secretary Buchanan, and they posi- 
tively refused to recall him, in response to a request from 
Lisbon, the Brazilian minister at Washington, which was 
made at the instance of his government. It was obvious, 
however, that Wise's stay at Rio could no longer be fruit- 
ful of good results, under the circumstances, he believing 
that the interest of those high at Court in the slave-trade 
was at the bottom of the feeling manifested toward him. 
In the spring of 1847, he wrote to Washington, requesting 
his recall, which was granted, and David Tod of Ohio, 
was appointed to succeed him. Upon the arrival of the 
latter at Rio, about August 1, 1847, Wise took passage 
on the Columbia for the United States, where he landed 
safe during the month of October. A few days later he 
reported at Washington ; and then returned to his home 
in Accomack, where a cordial greeting awaited him by his 
neighbors, who received him at the wharf, with cannon 
booming, followed by a welcome from a spokesman chosen 
from their number. 



Shortly after his return to his native country, Wise 
made his residence at a farm which he had purchased on 
Onancock Creek, near the village of that name. Here he 
erected a plain but substantial frame dwelling and gave 
to the place the name of " Only," after a former owner 
of the land. The location of the house is singularly 
beautiful. Onancock Creek, which at this point is very 
wide, comes down from its source, and, in a bend of 
the stream, is situated a grove of sturdy oaks, in a yard 
largely surrounded by water. Embowered among these 
trees and but a few miles distant from the Chesapeake, 
into which the creek empties, was the " Only" mansion. 

Wise again resumed the practice of his profession, which 
he had long neglected, and in a short while was in the 
enjoyment of a fairly lucrative income from that source, as 
such things were measured in the country in Virginia. 
He declared it to be his intention to abandon politics, but 
in 1848, the year after his return from Brazil, he was nomi- 
nated as an elector from his district, on the Cass and 
Butler Democratic ticket, and was on the hustings advocat- 
ing the election of the party nominees. 

But for the next few years, he devoted his best ener- 
gies to the law, and his readiness in speech and gifts of 
oratory gave him great power before the jury, especially 



in criminal trials. An instance of his keen knowledge of 
human nature and fertility of resource was furnished in 
the case of a slave who was tried for robbery in the 
county of Accomack. A Mrs. Bagwell, while alone at 
home on her plantation, after nightfall, was approached, 
while seated in her chamber, by several negro men, who 
stealthily crept into the house, and seizing her from be- 
hind, choked her and threatened her life, in order to 
extort money and other valuables. She told them where 
her money was kept, and in addition to this they took 
some meat which they hurriedly wrapped in sheets. In 
taking out the linen from a chest of drawers, where they 
thought more money was concealed, a paper containing 
vermilion was accidentally torn open and its contents scat- 
tered through the sheets. While making their way from 
the house, through the woods, the men heard footsteps, and 
in their flight dropped the bundle near the cabin of a negro 
named Jacob. The news of the robbery rapidly spread 
throughout the neighborhood, and searching parties were 
quickly organized. Jacob in the meantime had found the 
bundle of linen near his cabin, and in a moment of fear 
lest he should be suspected, dug a hole in the ground, 
buried part of the linen and meat, and sewed the remainder 
up in his bedtiek. His cabin was shortly after visited 
and a search begun, with the result that the articles were 
found, hidden as described. The sheets upon being com- 
pared with those at Mrs. Bagwell's house were found to 
exactly correspond in texture, and the marks of the scat- 
tered vermilion powder left no doubt as to their identity. 
The case was to all appearances a very strong one against 
Jacob, and the circumstantial evidence seemed to furnish 
irresistible proof of his guilt. Wise was employed to 
defend him, which was apparently a hopeless undertaking, 
as in addition to the circumstances previously narrated, a 


negro testified that he had seen him, in company with sev- 
eral other men, enter Mrs. Bagwell's house at the time of 
the robbery. Mrs. Bagwell, though she had been blind- 
folded, was partially able to identify two of the men, by 
the sound of their voices, but could give no clew to the 
identity of the third. These two, as well as Jacob, were 
convicted, and the former sentenced to be hung. During 
the progress of the trial. Wise had become convinced of 
the innocence of his client, and his attention had been 
attracted by the peculiar demeanor of a negro seen about 
the court-house, who excited his suspicions to such a 
degree, that he believed him to be the guilty party. 
Before the sentence was passed upon his client, he arose 
to make a motion to set aside the verdict, and, after a brief 
address, astonished the court by asserting that not only 
was his client innocent, but that the guilty man was in 
the court room. During the delivery of his speech, he had 
watched the effect on the negro, shown by his horror- 
stricken countenance, as the details of the crime were 
vividly described. In his wonderfully dramatic way, with 
his piercing eye fastened upon him, Wise with uplifted 
arm pointed out the culprit, seated in the gallery, who, 
wild with fear, arose and fled. On being apprehended, 
he confessed his guilt and testified to the innocence of 
Jacob, whose life was thus saved. 

Many stories are related on the eastern shore, even at 
the present day, telling of Wise's remarkable triumphs 
before juries and on the hustings ; and numbers of anec- 
dotes illustrating his ready wit and love of fun. Among 
the latter is the following, which was related to the au- 
thor by a resident of the peninsula. Just off the coast of 
Accomack on the Atlantic side of the peninsula, near the 
Maryland boundary line, lies Chincoteague Island, which 
was formerly inhabited by a primitive, but shrewd class of 


fishermen and cattle and pony breeders. The annual 
pony pennings on the island, during the month of August 
in each year, when the wild animals were caught and 
branded, attracted hundreds of people, while sportsmen 
sought the island at all seasons, for the hunting and fish- 
ing. Upon one occasion, a Baptist revival meeting had 
been in progress for several weeks, and religious excite- 
ment ran high. One evening Wise and a half dozen con- 
vivial spirits, who had just reached the island for a few 
days' relaxation, came up. Several of the party, as the 
story goes, had been imbibing freely. No sooner were 
the group seated on the rough, improvised benches, than 
the preacher, a " hard-shell " of the most severe type, dis- 
covered their presence and, as Wise wore a serious coun- 
tenance and was of a somewhat clerical appearance, called 
upon the unknown brother to exhort. Without a mo- 
ment's hesitation, to the astonishment and infinite amuse- 
ment of his comrades, who were not so far gone as to be 
oblivious of the humorous situation. Wise proceeded to 
the front of the large assembly. Taking for his text 
" wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and he that is 
deceived thereby is not Wise " — he talked eloquently and 
to such purpose, that a number of conversions followed 
the exhortation, while the guilty young men from the 
mainland, to whom the talk was really addressed, were 
almost choking with suppressed merriment. Ascertaining 
Wise's identity afterward, the "hard-shell" divine was 
ever wont to mention him as a worker in the vineyard and 
a good Baptist. 

For the following anecdotes of Wise, which were re- 
cently published in the Richmond Times, we are indebted 
to the pen of the Rev. J. R. Sturgis. "One summer, 
during the progress of a camp-meeting on the famous 
Tangier beach, a Mr. , from the ' Mainland,' disturbed 


the worshippers and almost broke up the meeting. The 
managers determined to prosecute the offender. His con- 
viction was a certainty and everybody predicted that it 
would be exceedingly hard with him ; that the law would 
and ought to bear heavily upon him. 

"In due time the case was called and the trial pro- 
ceeded. Joint testimony of credible witnesses established 
the prisoner's guilt. ' What can Wise say ? What can he 
do ? ' men were asking. 

" When Mr. Wise arose in defence of his client, he as- 
tonished many by admitting the fact of his client's guilt, 
as claimed by the prosecution. He even lectured the pris- 
oner, incidentally, on his bad behavior in drinking and 
then disturbing the worship of Almighty God. Then 
turning from the prisoner to the church, as represented by 
the prosecuting ministers and managers, he denounced the 
spirit and fact of the prosecution, as being opposed to the 
spirit and teachings of the Christ they professed to rep- 
resent. Calling for a Bible and turning its pages, he 
paused, and then read Matthew xxii: 'Render therefore 
unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's ; and unto God 
the things which are God's.' 

" Taking this as his text, he preached his sermon. Be- 
fore he concluded it — long before — the jury was con- 
vinced that the prosecution was a persecution and the 
church the real sinner instead of the poor persecuted pris- 
oner at the bar. Without going out of the room to delib- 
erate, the jury acquitted the man, and the heavy costs 
thrown upon the church amounted to hundreds of dollars. 

" It is plain that these jurymen deliberated upon ques- 
tions of sin, which they had no right to consider, and 
ignored totally the question of crime, the very and only 
question they were empanelled to consider. But do not 
make the mistake of supposing that this was owing to the 


ignorance or obtuseness of these jurors. The witchery of 
"Wise's words often blinded, not only a jury, but also all 
who heard him, to everything in the case, except what he 
wished them to see. 

" One side of his nature was rarely, if ever, revealed to 
the public, but glimpses of a spirit delightfully chivalrous 
were occasionally caught by a few beholders. Two in- 
stances will illustrate this : Mr. Thomas Crockett, of Tan- 
gier Island, is now growing gray. During Mr. Crockett's 
boyhood, one bright Sabbath morning, Mr. Wise unex- 
pectedly appeared at the home of this Crockett family. 
All its members were at church with the exception of the 
boy ' Tom.' Mr. Wise refused him the exciting privilege 
of running to the church to inform his parents of the dis- 
tinguished guest awaiting their coming, remarking, 'If 
your folks knew I were here they would either leave 
the meeting or could not enjoy it.' In due time, however, 
his mother returned, and appeared considerably 'frus- 
trated ' at the sight of her guest, so much so that when 
they sat down to dinner it required several attempts 
before her trembling hands could pour the coffee. As for 
speech, at the sight of Mr. Wise her voice had fled, and 
every attempt to speak had only increased her embar- 
rassment. Suddenly to the amazement of the observant 
and sympathetic Tom, the cloud of fear and anxiety 
passed from his mother's face, and she became her natural 
self. In smiling, complacent manner, she even addressed 
some remark to the visitor, whose presence hitherto had 
upset her. Tom registered two resolves : To ask his 
mother for an explanation of this wonderful change in 
her, and to ask Mr. Wise concerning a breach of ' table 
manners,' that their guest was guilty of, according to the 
island standard. Strolling out with Mr. Wise, he put his 
burning question. 'Mr. Wise, why did you take that 


piece of biled chicken in your fingers and bite mouthfuls 
off in that way, instead of using your knife and fork? 
My mar makes me use a knife and fork when I eat biled 
chicken, and she says that's the right way to eat it. You 
ought to know what is the right way, Mr. Wise, and you 
eat it with your fingers. Now, is mar wrong and you 

" ' No, my boy, your mother's right and I was wrong ; I 
never ate chicken that way before,' said Mr. Wise. ' I 
had a reason for eating it that way. Did you notice how 
embarrassed your mother seemed to be ? ' 

" ' I knew she was skeered nighly to death,' said Tom. 

" ' And did you see that her fear left her all at once ? ' 
said Mr. Wise. 

" ' Yes, sir,' responded Tom. 

" ' Well, it was the way I ate the chicken, my boy, that 
made your mother feel at ease in my presence. She felt 
that she could teach me one thing if she was an islander, 
for I evidently didn't know how to eat decently ; and the 
moment she first felt that she was above me in this respect, 
that moment her fear left her.' 

" Perhaps it was the friendly interest shown Tom Crock- 
ett by Mr. Wise, then and afterward, that made him, with 
perhaps one exception, the best educated and most intelli- 
gent man of his island generation. 

" On his way to or from a Maryland court, Mr. Wise 
was once spending the day with a friend, not far from 
what afterward became Crisfield, although the town and 
a railroad were not then even dreamed of. While there 
he accompanied his host to the sale of a deceased man's 
personal estate. Among the effects was a large bowl — 
the old-time punch or egg-nog bowl. It was full of sugar 
belonging to the widow. Not thinking that the bowl 
would be 'put up' so soon, she left the room to get a 


bucket in whicli to empty the sugar. A friend soon ran 
after her to tell her that they were selling the bowl, with 
her sugar in it. The widow hastened back to stop the 
sale of the bowl until she could empty it. It was ' knocked 
down ' to a party just as she entered the room. It was in 
vain that she explained to the purchaser. He refused to 
give up the sugar and allow the bowl to be resold. Stung 
by the indignant looks and remarks of the crowd, he 
openly appealed to Mr. Wise, whom he knew by sight: 

" ' Mr. Wise, you are a lawyer and know whether I am 
right or not. I ask you in the presence of these people, 
am I entitled to the sugar in this bowl, or not ? If you 
say I am not, I will give it back to her. If you say I am 
entitled to it, then I shall keep it.' 

" ' My friend,' said Mr. Wise, in his gentlest tone, and 
with a deprecating manner, 'you put a delicate and an 
unpleasant responsibility upon me. Hadn't you better 
decide this yourself ? ' 

"'No,' said the buyer, 'I know what your opinion is 
going to be, and I want you to give it so this whole crowd 
can hear it.' 

" ' Then,' said Mr. Wise, ' I advise you that the sugar 
is yours. The widow cannot take it from you. She has 
no redress in the matter.' 

" At this point the man cried out, ' What did I tell 

" ' Stop ! ' thundered Mr. Wise. ' I've given you my 
opinion ; I've advised you, at your persistent request, as 
I can prove by all these people. It remains for me to 
tell you that I charge you five dollars for the advice and 
my service in the matter, and I demand immediate pay- 
ment. If you trifle with me a moment in the matter of 
payment, it will be the dearest bargain of your life.' 

" As Mr. Wise concluded, he walked to the crestfallen 


individual and extended his hand for the money, while 
the crowd yelled its approval. But the crowd became 
suddenly silent, as Mr. Wise walked over to the widow, 
and placing the five dollars in her hand, said : ' Madam, 
this money is honestly mine. I have a perfect right to 
dispose of it as I please. Take it and with it buy more 
sugar for yourself and your fatherless children.' " 

The Times, in adverting to the subject of the legal 
advice above related, said: "Is it certain that Governor 
Wise decided the point of law correctly ? Portia's judg- 
ment, in which she decided that the pound of flesh carried 
no blood, may be cited to the contrary, though the late 
William Green of Richmond, one of the most learned law- 
yers the world ever saw, always questioned the correctness 
of that, upon the ground that a grant necessarily carries 
with it all of its incidents. 

" No legal reasoning, however, can impair the effect of 
the admirable story of Governor Wise and the skinflint." 


the movement leading to the virginia constitutional 
convention op 1850-51. the mixed and white basis, 
wise's part in the convention, the struggle for 
equality of representation in virginia 

The year 1850 witnessed a political upheaval in Vir- 
ginia, which had long been brewing. Probably no more 
radical revolution, of a peaceable character, has ever oc- 
curred in this country than that which culminated in the 
Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1850-51. 

The accession of Jefferson and his followers to political 
power, in 1776, marked a great democratic triumph, for 
the abolition of the laws of primogeniture and entails 
and the disestablishment of the Church quickly followed. 
Simplicity in manners and in dress were the order of the 
day, and the democratic spirit everywhere prevailed. As 
the French wines were substituted for English ale, so the 
dress of the colonial period gradually gave way for the 
pantaloons of our own day. But though the democratic 
leaven was at work, the institution of negro slavery yet 
remained, and with it, of necessity, certain survivals of a 
feudal character. 

There appears to be, for some reason, a species of con- 
flict and antagonism in every country between highland 
and lowland peoples. The sharp points of contrast be- 
tween the inhabitants of tidewater Virginia and those 
residing west of the Appalachian range recalled to the 
K 129 


Rev. Alexander Campbell, in the convention of 1829, the 
words of the poet : — 

" Lands intersected by a narrow frith 

Abhor each other. Mountains interposed 
Make enemies of nations, who had else, 
Like kindred drops, been mingled into one." 

From the time of the Revolution down to the year 1850, 
the breach between eastern Virginia and the transmontane 
section had steadily widened and deepened. In soil, 
climate, system of labor, and habits of the people, there 
were wide divergences between the two divisions of the 
State. Slavery existed in all the eastern counties, and 
the slaveholding interest was everywhere dominant in 
that locality. On the other hand, comparatively few 
planters had carried their slaves with them west of the 
AUeghanies, and in the transmontane section slavery had 
gained but little foothold. 

The constitution of Virginia, adopted in 1776, was char- 
acterized by an inequality of apportionment with respect 
to representation, it being based on counties or districts 
and not population. Jefferson in his " Notes on Virginia " 
had pointed out the great advantage thus gained by the 
tidewater section. From time to time the popular dis- 
content manifested itself, through measures introduced in 
the legislature, providing for a new convention to revise 
the constitution, and in 1784 Madison strenuously advo- 
cated such action. At each recurring session of the legis- 
lature the question was debated, until finally in 1816 the 
western people clamored for a new apportionment, and 
met in convention at Staunton, to consider what steps to 
take. At that time, one white man in eastern Virginia 
"had the same representation in the Senate as three men 
in the west." In 1824, Jefferson published a letter on the 


subject in the Richmond Enquirer, in which he said: 
" The exclusion of a majority of our freemen from the 
right of representation is merely arbitrary, and an assump- 
tion of the minority over the majority. ... In the repre- 
sentative privilege the equality of political rights is entirely 
prostrated by our constitution. Upon what principle of 
right or reason can any one justify the giving to every 
citizen of Warwick as much weight in the government as 
to twenty-two citizens in Loudoun ? " 

Tidewater Virginia was at that time an unprogressive 
community, with little influx of new population, while the 
steady growth of the mountain region further increased 
the inequality in representation. 

It was not until October, 1829, that the State Constitu- 
tional Convention, which had been petitioned and fought 
for over a period of fifty years, at last assembled in ses- 
sion in Richmond. As has often been remarked, perhaps 
no State convention ever assembled in America contain- 
ing a like group of able men, such as were gathered 
then. Monroe, Madison, Marshall, Upshur, Barbour, Dod- 
dridge, Benjamin Watkins, Leigh, Chapman, Johnson, 
Giles, Dromgoole, Tyler, Baldwin, Stanard, Randolph of 
Roanoke, Mercer, Cooke, Powell, Summers, Tazewell, Gor- 
don, and Alexander Campbell were among its ninety-six 
members. The question most debated was the basis of 
representation — the east stoutly contending for represen- 
tation founded on property as well as numbers, which was 
known as the " mixed basis," while the western members 
were practically a unit for the " white basis," or representa- 
tion founded on white manhood suffrage alone. But one 
man from tidewater. General Robert B. Taylor of Norfolk, 
favored the latter system, and his views were so antago- 
nistic to those of the people whom he represented, that he 
resigned his seat during the sitting of the convention. In 


the opinion of tke eastern members the attitude of the 
west was radical in the extreme, in seeking to deny prop- 
erty representation, while, on the other hand, the west 
could see no justice in a system which gave the slave- 
holders a voice in the government, all out of proportion to 
their numerical strength, and the white men of the trans- 
montane country who owned no property were denied the 
ballot. Although the argument was ably urged that 
property demanded protection, which it could not obtain 
under the rule of King Numbers alone, yet there can be 
no doubt that the institution of slavery was the real 
stumbling-block in preventing the two sections from 
arriving at a solution of the problem, satisfactory to both 
sides. In his address to the convention, James Monroe, 
the president of the body, said, " I am satisfied, if no such 
thing as slavery existed, that the people of the Atlantic 
border would meet their brethren of the west upon the 
basis of a majority of the free white population." 

The people residing beyond the mountains had as their 
immediate object in view, in struggling for an increase of 
representation, the gain of a sufficient number of votes in 
the legislature to insure them appropriations for public 
works, of which they stood in sore need. They, time and 
again, disclaimed any intention of interfering with slavery 
in the east, but they never succeeded in dispelling from 
the minds of the slaveholders of tidewater their doubts 
as to the security of slave property, should the trans- 
montane section gain control. Nor was this distrust on 
the part of the low country altogether without good reason, 
for though the west was sincere in its declaration not to 
interfere with the slave interest, yet there was probably no 
time between 1829 and 1860 when, under a system of white 
manhood suffrage, the majority of the voters of the State 
would not have voted for any reasonable scheme of emanci- 


pation. But while the west sought not to disturb the 
east in its possessions, it had viewed with almost as much 
alarm the removal of slave-owners to the mountain country, 
as the east had ever regarded any diminution of its power 
to control legislation. It was in answer to the argument 
of an eastern member, that there would soon be no diver- 
sity of interest between the different sections of the State, 
that Charles J. Faulkner of Berkeley County declared, in 
January, 1832, during the debates in the legislature grow- 
ing out of the Nat Turner insurrection : " Sir, it is to avert 
any such possible consequence to my country, that I, one 
of the humblest, but not the least determined, of the 
western delegation, have raised my voice for emancipation. 
Sir, tax our lands, — vilify our country, — carry the sword 
of extermination through our now defenceless villages, 
but spare us, I implore you, spare us the curse of slavery — 
that bitterest drop from the chalice of the destroying 
angel." Though it is not probable that the west, from 
the physical character of the country, and the fact that its 
people were farmers and graziers, and not planters, as in 
the tidewater, would have received any great influx of 
slave population; yet the representatives of that section 
noted that some of the Southern States at this time were 
enacting laws against the importation of slaves, and it 
seemed but reasonable that the black tide, which would be 
denied outlet to the southward, would pour itself west- 
ward across the Blue Ridge and Alleghanies, to whose 
base it had already come. The mountaineers, too, had 
contrasted their rude, but well-tilled country, where free 
white labor worked the soil, with the eastern section, of 
which Philip A. Boiling of Buckingham said, in the legis- 
lature in 1832 : " If we turn our eyes to that part of the 
country which lies below the mountains, and particularly 
below the falls of the rivers, it seems as if some judgment 


from Heaven had poured over it and seared it ; fields once 
cultivated are now waste and desolate — the eye is no 
longer cheered by the rich verdure that decked it in other 
days ; no, sir, but fatigued by an interminable wilderness 
of worn-out, gullied, piny old fields." 

The outcome of the convention of 1829 was a virtual 
victory for the east, although representation was more 
nearly equalized, and the west had gained forty-one per 
cent of the members of the legislature where previously 
they had but thirty-three. Under the white basis, how- 
ever, they would have received forty-six per cent; and 
the final settlement of the question was thus merely post- 
poned to a future day, as disaffection still existed. 

At the risk of wearying the reader, the author has felt 
himself under the necessity of pointing out the conditions 
which led up to the convention of 1850, as a proper knowl- 
edge of them is necessary to an understanding of Wise's 
political career. The like may be said of the subject of 
internal improvements, to which we will advert as briefly 
as possible. This question was closely allied with that 
of representation, so much so, indeed, that in a certain 
sense they may be treated as having been almost identical. 
If the reader will cast his eye upon the map of Virginia, 
he will observe, between the mouth of the James and the 
Chesapeake, the magnificent harbor known as Hampton 
Roads, capable of floating the navies of the world. And 
if he will reflect at the same time that along the banks 
of the James the Englishman made his first permanent 
home on this continent, the thought must come to him 
with unusual force, that it is strange indeed that nowhere 
along this great roadstead, or on any of the streams empty- 
ing into the lower Chesapeake, is there to-day a city of 
any considerable size. When he further considers the 
magnificent back country, lying but a few hundred miles 


to the westward, and the additional fact that Chicago, 
St. Louis, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Kansas City are but 
the growth of yesterday, historically speaking, it is the 
more remarkable that in Virginia, the oldest colony of 
the American Union, there is to-day no city of one hun- 
dred thousand inhabitants, or of seventy thousand white 
population. Yet the reason for this fact is not difficult 
to discover, for from the settlement at Jamestown down 
to the outbreak of the war between the States, this section 
was dominated by the plantation interest, which was anti- 
commercial in character, and little disposed to encourage 
manufactures and internal improvements. 

In 1831 a convention was held at Lewisburg, Green- 
brier County, by the people of the surrounding country, 
for the purpose of urging the necessity of connection with 
the seaboard, in order to furnish an outlet for western 
produce. The Richmond Enquirer, the leading paper of 
the State, strongly seconded these efforts, despite the fact 
that it was published in an eastern city, and in one of its 
editorials declared : " Our western citizens want a market 
and will have it. If they do not find it in Richmond, they 
will seek it and they will obtain it in Baltimore." At 
that time, long lines of wagon trains passed down the 
Shenandoah Valley, en route for Baltimore, and a few far- 
seeing men urged upon Richmond and Norfolk the neces- 
sity of acting promptly, if they would prevent this trade 
from being permanently diverted in another direction. 

There is something very pitiable in the contemplation 
of Virginia at this time; for not only was her material 
condition far from being prosperous, but her people were 
divided in sentiment and failed to grasp the opportunities 
which would have brought about her revival from the 
slough into which she had fallen. A contributor to the 
Enquirer of February 8, 1831, thus describes the general 


appearance of the country : " Wretched highways, scarcely 
passable ; noble, majestic streams, either wholly neglected, 
or encumbered by ill-digested and expensive attempts at 
improvements; dangerous bridges, badly constructed by 
heavy county taxation, or owned by individuals who keep 
them in bad order, and oppressive tolls ; and that, under 
laws which give them exclusive rights to do so forever: 
deserted fields, covered with broom sedge and intersected 
by gullies; decayed, patched-up, and worthless fences; 
half-cultivated farms and plantations, without adequate 
farm buildings and conveniences, or even comfortable 
quarters for laborers ; miserable hovels scattered in every 
direction, and relieved, but occasionally, by the appearance 
of dwellings which promise comfort and independence; 
a population, restless, dissatisfied, in debt and dependent 
on other States for many of the necessities and comforts of 
life, without the means to buy. These and many other 
degrading spectacles present themselves to our daUy 

While, of course, there were localities which did not 
answer to this description, it was, however, generally true 
of the country east of the Piedmont section.^ 

Yet it should be said that there were many Virginians, 
even at that day, who lamented the decadence of their 

1 It should be stated in this connection that the condition of Virginia 
was greatly improved between 1845-60. Not only had agricultural prod- 
ucts risen in price during the decade prior to the Civil War, but the 
methods of farming were probably better, and more attention was 
directed to the rotation of crops, and the "five-field" system was 
adopted in many instances. Tidewater Virginia, with the exception of 
the river and bottom lands, was, generally speaking, a poor country, and 
although the soil is easily worked and responsive to kindly cultivation 
yet it does not hold improvements ; and an old farm that has been care- 
fully tilled for years, if left to itself will soon grow up in broom straw 
and scrub pines. Prior to the war Edmund Buffin had written at great 
length on the subject of the use of green sand marl, and other manures, 
and they were more generally used than was the case in 1830. 


State, and who longed to see her reap the benefit of the 
improvements and inventions of the age and assume the 
foremost position in the work of industrial development. 
Though the great majority were most interested, as an old 
gentleman once remarked, in the question "of the price 
of tobacco and whom they should elect President," there 
were those who anxiously strove to turn the faces of 
their people from the dead past to the living present — 
from memories and bygone glories to the duties of the 
future. Men like Joseph C. Cabell, Wyndham Robertson, 
Claudius Crozet, Moncure Robinson, and Charles Ellet 
were equal to the pioneers in any State in the ability, 
energy, and zeal which they displayed in keeping Vir- 
ginians apace with the industrial activity of the age in 
the construction of railways and other lines of communi- 

On February 10, 1830, the first railway charter ever 
obtained in Virginia was granted to the Petersburg and 
Weldon Railroad, and between that date and the year 
1840 the construction of about three hundred miles of 
road was undertaken on various lines. These included 
the Winchester and Potomac Roads, designed to connect 
the valley with the Baltimore and Ohio at Harper's Ferry, 
and carry the trade of that section to Baltimore ; the 
Seaboard and Roanoke, running from Portsmouth to a 
point on the Roanoke River ; the Richmond, Fredericks- 
burg and Potomac, intended to give a route due north 
from Richmond; the Louisa Road, connecting Hanover 
Junction on the former line with Louisa County, and 
the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, uniting the two 
cities of those names. All these lines, however, except 
the Winchester and Potomac, were in eastern Virginia, and 
communication between the eastern and western portions 
of the State was as roundabout and difficult as ever, as 


there was no railroad across the Blue Ridge and Alle- 
ghanies, which stood as barriers, shutting off the people of 
one section from those of another. Frequently travellers 
coming from beyond the mountains to eastern Virginia 
would go around by way of Baltimore, so difficult were 
the modes of travel across the mountains. 

In 1850 the James River and Kanawha Canal was in 
operation between Richmond and Lynchburg, and the 
western members of the legislature would come in stage- 
coaches across the mountains to the last-named city, where 
they would take the boat, in which, packed to the point of 
suffocation, they would be drawn by mules to the capital, 
about one hundred and fifty miles distant. 

Perhaps no country on earth possesses a greater number 
of magnificent navigable streams than tidewater Virginia, 
yet this fact, strange to say, was destined to greatly hinder, 
rather than advance, the growth and development of the 
State. By way of the Potomac, the Rappahannock, the 
York, the James, and the numerous estuaries, creeks, and 
arms of the Chesapeake and Atlantic which exist in that 
region, vessels could come up almost to the barn-doors of 
the planters, thus affording them cheap and convenient 
transportation facilities. On this account, even more than 
owing to the sloth of the slaveholding community, the 
population of the eastern counties were singularly in- 
different in regard to works of internal improvement; 
and when bills in furtherance of those ends were before 
the legislature, through their representatives opposed 
them regularly. This opposition on their part gave rise 
to an abominable system of " log-rolling," and it was only 
by this means that an appropriation of public improve- 
ment could ever be obtained. It was largely for this 
reason that great dissatisfaction continued to prevail 
among the transmontane people with the constitution 


adopted in 1830, as the power and attitude of the tidewater 
section in the legislature blocked the way to effectual State 
aid in the construction of railways, turnpikes, and canals. 

Threats of separation from the State were freely indulged 
in throughout the western country, for though the people 
there were loyal Virginians, they felt that there was no 
disposition on the part of the east to accede to their de- 
mands. But one man in the legislature from the lowland 
counties advocated appropriations for public works. This 
was Joseph Segar, who represented first Northampton 
County, on the eastern shore, and later Elizabeth City 
County. His speeches in this behalf, still preserved in 
the newspapers of that period, prove him to have been 
a liberal-minded and far-seeing statesman, with a full 
appreciation of the needs of his State; but unfortunately 
he was ahead of the people of his time in the section from 
which he hailed. 

Wise's opinions, on the great questions of suffrage and 
internal improvements, had been, from the earliest period 
of his public life, heartily in favor of unrestricted suffrage 
and liberal encouragement to railways and improvements 
of all sorts. By nature a thorough Democrat, he believed 
in the right of every man to vote, and he looked too far 
ahead not to appreciate the urgent necessity of the union 
of the west and east, which, in his opinion, could only be 
accomplished by bonds of steel rails. There was too little 
individual wealth at the time beyond the mountains, and 
railway construction in that country too expensive, for the 
people of the west to do this unaided, and he consequently 
favored their demands for State aid. This, however, he 
considered would redound to the great benefit of the tide- 
water section, as well as the west, and was of equal 
importance to both. 

During the month of April, in the year 1837, Wise was 


tendered a dinner by prominent citizens of the city of 
Norfolk, and in the course of a speech delivered upon 
that occasion said : " Never did any people under the sun 
make as gross a mistake as did the people of the Chesa- 
peake counties, the counties of tidewater Virginia, in the 
year 1829, when the convention sat. Sir, we warred with 
our natural allies. The counties of the valley and the 
transmontane counties are the hack country of Virginia — 
we have the seaport. The seaport conflicted and con- 
tended with the only source of its trade and commerce. 
Richmond and Petersburg can never be any other than 
manufacturing cities — that is enough for them. Instead 
of clubbing interests with the western people, we united 
with the people between us and the mountains, who are 
interested to cut us off from the west. Laboring under 
this grand and grievous mistake our host of good and 
great men — Virginia never had more of such — our 
Leighs and Randolphs and Tazewells and Taylors — no, 
I beg pardon of the memory of that honored and lamented 
and clear-sighted man. General Robert B. Taylor — he 
made no mistake, and was ostracized for it — our Upshurs 
and Joynes — and all our talents and greatness were exerted 
to their utmost to prove a monstrous proposition: That 
a Majority have not the Right to govern a Free Republic 
— merely to strip our own natural allies of their just 
portion of power in the State. With a fortuitous majority 
we conquered a majority and conquered ourselves. What 
have been the consequences? Norfolk and Portsmouth 
have dwindled, the inland towns are an incubus upon 
their unequalled harbor for a port — and every leading 
man almost in lowland Virginia who was in that un- 
fortunate convention, except Messrs. Barbour and Nicho- 
las, and a few others who have taken the bounty and sold 
out to the Dutch, have been prostrated and damned in the 


esteem of all western Virginians. Any political cause 
which has the name of a Leigh, a Tazewell, or an Upshur 
identified with it, no matter what may be its intrinsic 
merits, no matter how it may involve the honor and 
interests of the State and the Union, and all upon which 
it depends, is doomed in western Virginia. A demagogue 
who was not in the convention, who lives midland on the 
western borders, has only to seize upon this sectional 
grudge against a name, and no issue whatever can be 
fairly tried before the people. What is the remedy ? Sir, 
we must heal and repair these internal dissensions which 
distract and divide us; we must restore State harmony, 
atone for past wrongs, become socially, politically, and 
commercially united with the west, and all will be well. 
Norfolk and Portsmouth must be made to reach out their 
Briarean arms of internal improvement. Our works must 
radiate from this centre to every point of the compass. 
You must reach south to Charleston — North Carolina's 
trade is yours, her coast is sand-bound and she can have 
no port — nature forbids it. You must reach north, by 
the Eastern Shore Railroad, to Philadelphia. You will 
thus become the great central emporium, and, above all, 
you must reach out due west, to the Big Bend of the 
Ohio River ! Behold Norfolk and Portsmouth, with these 
lines of improvement — they then will have capital, because 
they will have trade; trade, because they will have the 
great carriers of trade. Unite with the west, say I, to all 
the tidewater country — give them what they want, outlets 
without stint or number ; make Norfolk and Portsmouth a 
New York, and every tongue of land by the Chesapeake 
will be a Long Island. God speed the day when thus 
Virginia will become united, will progress more rapidly 
than ever any new State did, to her wonted and certain 
Dominion — when she will become herself again ! " 


No man within the limits of the Commonwealth believed 
more strongly than did Wise in the great industrial fu- 
ture that awaited Virginia when her resources should be 
developed along commercial and other lines, instead of 
agriculturally alone; but he realized keenly the laissez- 
faire spirit of the people and their indifference regarding 
the improvements of the age, which had caused Virginia 
to become a laggard in the race for supremacy in the 
Union. In a letter to his friend, Caleb Gushing, he spoke 
of his own district as " old, moss-grown, and slipshod " ; 
and in his speeches to the people, he pleaded with them to 
wake up. In an address delivered upon the floor of Con- 
gress in 1837, in replying to the argument of a Southern 
member, that a national bank was injurious to the South, 
Wise said : " In many respects, sir, but in none so much 
as in relation to the improvements of commerce and of the 
mechanic arts, are the Southern people a half-century 
behind the times in which they live. Noble, generous, 
liberal-minded, brave, independent, intelligent, and saga- 
cious, yet are many of them too metaphysical and Kkely — 
as Mr. Letcher used to say of old Virginia, to die of an ab- 
straction ! They admire and cherish old things and ways, 
and despise, without much reason, improvements in the 
credit system just as they do a new lapel or button ! They 
do not enlarge, as I said on a former occasion, their capaci- 
ties to receive the benefits of any institutions of trade; 
they do not calculate their losses in the destruction of 
them when created and existing, but look alone with dis- 
satisfaction to the greater benefits which others received 
from improved capacities and enlarged advantages. They 
claim justly that nature has done the most for them ; are 
content with what nature has done for them, and are only 
discontented when they behold the art of others outstrip- 
ping their friend nature. They are only wrong, sir, in not 


improving and assisting their own natural advantages, and 
in wishing to prevent others from exerting their enterprise 
and wits to make up for natural deficiencies, whilst they 
are unwilling to exert their own wits and enterprise at all." 
The agitation for a new constitutional convention in 
Virginia was not allowed to abate by the western mem- 
bers, but was kept up with renewed vigor during the 
period from 1830 to 1850. The trans-Alleghany people 
continued at times to talk freely of separation, and com- 
plained of a system under which they received scant assist- 
ance from the State for any purpose, while they are, at the 
same time, largely denied participation in the political 
offices of the Commonwealth. The long-continued efforts 
of the west for reform were at last crowned with success, 
during the winter of 1849-50, when, owing to a sentiment 
that had arisen in the east as well, in favor of needed 
changes in the organic law, the legislature passed an act 
providing that a vote of the people should be taken to de- 
termine the question of calling a constitutional conven- 
tion. The passage of this act was, however, at the time 
regarded as an eastern victory, as it provided for an elec- 
tion of delegates apportioned upon the mixed basis of 
representation, which would insure a majority in the con- 
vention in sympathy with the country lying nearest the 
Atlantic. " The supposed white population in 1849 was 
887,717, and the revenue tax was $472,516,31 ; and since 
this apportionment for the convention was to be on the 
mixed basis (taxation and white population combined) 
every $7,000.24 elected one delegate, and every 13,151 
white persons one delegate. This meant that in the con- 
vention every white person was to have just a little more 
than half as much weight as a dollar in taxes." ^ The section 

1 " Representation in Virginia," by Julian A. C. Chandler, pages 56, 57, 
Johns Hopkins University Studies. 


of the State east of the mountains thus secured 76 of the 
135 delegates. For this reason most of the counties be- 
yond the AUeghanies voted against the convention, but the 
bill passed by a good majority. 

On the 6th of May, 1850, Wise issued an address to the 
people of his district, which was composed of the two 
counties of Accomack and Northampton, announcing him- 
self a candidate to represent them in the convention, to 
revise the constitution. After declaring himself in favor 
of a liberal public school system, he continued : " I hold 
that the only true element of representation in the legisla- 
ture is the will of the people. That property, whether it 
consists of horses and lands, or carriages, or cash, or an ox, 
or a maid-servant, or a man-servant, or of anything that is 
a man's, having no will has no right as such to be repre- 
sented ; morally, the owner of it has the right only to have 
it protected by the constitution and the law. That repre- 
sentation ought to be fairly and equally as possible appor- 
tioned among the legal voters of the State, those who are 
endowed by the Creator with reason, free-will, and con- 
science, and by the constitution with political entity and 
the franchise of suffrage. That the will of the majority of 
legal voters, subject only to the constitutional guarantees 
of protection to minorities of persons and to property, ought 
to give the law to the State. That minorities of persons 
represented, and property unrepresented, are entitled to 
constitutional guarantees of protection, and the majority in 
convention is bound to provide them. That they can be 
easily provided and can be made ample and certain securi- 
ties against all unequal burdens and oppressions upon a 
minority, or upon property. That our present representa- 
tion in the legislature — based as in part it is practically 
on slaves, who have no political voice or entity, on car- 
riages, which are in many instances but extravagant luxu- 


ries, and on licenses to sell whiskey, which are human 
curses — is not only fundamentally aristocratic and anti- 
republican, but it has proven utterly futile and fallacious in 
protecting the State from an onerous debt of fifteen mill- 
ions of dollars for local works of minor importance or 
values to any, and of no profit to the tidewater region, 
whilst it degrades our brethren in the western portion of 
the State by its individious inequality." 

Among other reforms Wise declared himself in favor 
of biennial, instead of annual, sittings of the legislature, 
the abolition of imprisonment for debt, and the extension 
of the right of suffrage to every white male citizen, above 
twenty years of age, who had resided six months in the 
Commonwealth. He furthermore advocated a law that a 
man should vote but once in the State at any one election, 
and that no man should be allowed to vote upon his property 
of any description, and favored the election of the gov- 
ernor, judges, and executive and municipal officers by the 
people, and the abolition of the County Court system. To 
us at the close of the nineteenth century there seems noth- 
ing peculiarly radical and revolutionary in these views, 
nor were they so considered in many States of the Union 
in the year 1850, even prior to that time; for ours is a 
levelling age and distinctions of class have been rapidly 
broken down. It is hence difficult to realize the attitude 
of the people of Virginia on these questions, as late as the 
middle of this century ; but, with their habitual dislike of 
innovations and their devotion to conservative tradition, 
many of the leading citizens of the State regarded the 
views of a man like Wise as worthy of the French Revo- 
lution. Alone and single-handed he stood, in tidewater 
Virginia in 1850, as an advocate of the suffrage or white 
basis of representation, and that, too, in a district that had 
sent Upshur and Joynes, two of the strongest champions of 


the mixed basis, to the convention of 1829. The counties 
of Accomack and Northampton were composed of a rural 
population, were traversed by no line of railroad, no news- 
paper was published in their limits, and the people re- 
mained unchanged in their condition and habits of thought, 
and the spirit of modern change and innovation bad gained 
no entrance in their midst. Their views on the question 
of representation, the main subject at issue, were diamet- 
rically opposed to those enunciated by Wise, and the con- 
servative land and slave-owners of the peninsula were little 
disposed to embark upon a system of government where 
mere numbers were to be given absolute dominion, and 
property was to be left, in their opinion, without adequate 
protection. Wise went before the people and addressed 
them at length upon the questions at issue, and despite 
his isolated position was chosen one of the two delegates 
from his district, his colleague, Louis C. H. Finney, being 
elected at the same time as a mixed basis man. Thus the 
people of the eastern shore chose two delegates of radi- 
cally different views, the one, because he truly represented 
their ideas, and the other, because of their personal admi- 
ration and devotion to him. Wise always considered this 
election, as in many respects it was, the greatest victory 
of his political life. 

The convention that assembled in the Capitol building 
at Richmond, on the 14th of August, 1850, unlike the one 
which gathered in 1829, was not particularly remarkable 
for the group of distinguished men it contained, and many 
persons commented upon the number of comparatively 
unknown and youthful delegates. Those disposed to 
criticise alleged that this arose mainly from the fact that 
party service and prejudice had entered largely into the 
choice of delegates, which frequently resulted in the ablest 
men being left at home. Another subject of adverse com- 


ment was the fact, that of the 135 delegates, 97 of them 
were lawyers, who were compared by a writer of the 
time to the plagues of the Egyptians. It might be re- 
marked, however, that from this profession have arisen 
most of the leaders in nearly every struggle for liberty, 
and that, moreover, the convention of 1850 had about it 
an appearance of freshness and vigor which the earlier 
gathering of Virginia statesmen had not possessed. John 
Y. Mason, a man weU versed in public affairs, and a mem- 
ber of the previous convention, was chosen as the presiding 
officer. Among the list of delegates were George W. 
Summers of Kanawha, a son of the able Lewis Summers 
who figured in the convention of 1829, an orator of persuasive 
eloquence ; Robert E. Scott of Fauquier, a master of logi- 
cal argument ; James H. Ferguson of Logan, a man of but 
limited education, but powerful intellect; John Minor 
Botts of Henrico; Muscoe R. H. Garnett of Essex; 
Beverley B. Douglas of King William; R. L. T. Beale 
of Westmoreland ; Thomas J. Randolph of Albemarle ; 
Walter D. Leake of Goochland; James Barbour of Cul- 
peper; John Janney of Loudoun; John T. Anderson of 
Botetourt; John Letcher of Rockbridge, afterward gov- 
ernor; Hugh W. Sheffey of Augusta; Green B. Samuels 
of Shenandoah ; Charles J. Faulkner of Berkeley ; Joseph 
Johnson of Harrison, afterward governor; John S. Car- 
lisle of Barbour; AUen T. Caperton of Monroe; Robert 
C. Stanard, James Lyons, and John A. Meredith of Rich- 
mond ; Benjamin R. Floyd of Wythe ; George W. Hopkins 
of Washington ; Waitman T. Willey of Monongalia, and 
others, who proved that, though the older generation of 
Virginia statesmen had passed away, she still had within 
her borders many men of a high order of intellect. After 
remaining in session several weeks, the convention ad- 
journed November the 4th in order to receive the bene- 


fit of the new census, but reassembled during the month 
of January following, and remained in continuous session 
till August. 

The great question of representation transcended all 
others in importance ; and in the long argument which 
ensued, each delegate apparently felt it his bounden 
duty to give utterance to his views upon the various 
schemes of apportionment presented to the convention. 
Comparatively little new light, however, was brought 
to bear upon the subject, it having been thoroughly 
gone over and exhausted by Upshur, Doddridge, and 
others, in the convention of 1829. Messrs. Scott, Stan- 
ard, Barbour, and the other eastern champions contended 
that by the adoption of the white or suffrage basis, 
the west, which paid but about one-third of the taxes, 
would be given the control; that property would fail to 
receive adequate protection, that a mere numerical major- 
ity would rule, instead of a majority in interest ; and that 
the west would impose heavy taxes for the purpose of 
improvements, and would, furthermore, overtax or abolish 
slavery, and extend the railroad between Winchester and 
Baltimore, thus carrying the trade of the valley and 
mountain region to the latter city. 

On Wednesday, April 23, Wise began his speech in 
favor of the white basis in these words : " Mr. President, 
for myself, personally, on this subject, I have not one 
word to say. All personal considerations are overshad- 
owed by the Coliseum of the State ! What man — what 
mere man, now living, is worthy to be considered — to be 
weighed in the balance at this moment, when the ' crisis 
of our fate has come,' and Virginia — Virginia is in the 
scale ? . . . What are local considerations, what is trans- 
Alleghany, what is the valley, what is Piedmont, what is 
tidewater, what are these mere sectional conflicts com- 

A FIVE days' speech 149 

pared with the entire, immeasurable interests of the State, 
as a whole State — a State measured by herself in the 
past, a State that cannot be measured for the future? 
Now, the question is, whether in this moment of general 
rivalry among States, Virginia shall remain supine and 
dormant, or whether Virginia shall not reach out her 
hands to take an empire more magnificent than that of 
the Csesars." 

The idea of a division of the State, he declared that 
he would not allow himself to contemplate or discuss. 
Throughout Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and 
the Monday following, he consumed the whole of the 
day and night sessions of the convention. But though he 
spoke for five days, he never flagged for an instant, nor 
did his audience weary of hearing him, for during his 
entire speech the aisles and galleries were crowded with 
eager listeners. A comparative stranger in Richmond, 
the people were anxious to see the man, to whom not 
only an unusual degree of interest attached on account 
of his marked personality and fervid eloquence, but be- 
cause he alone among the members from tidewater cham- 
pioned the cause of the west. In adverting to the great 
speech of Upshur, delivered twenty years before. Wise 
denied that there were no a priori rules of government, 
and that men did not stand upon a status in the State, 
above property; or that government was instituted pri- 
marily for the protection of the latter. He pointed out 
the injustice of the system, by which a majority of ninety- 
four thousand white voters west of the mountains were 
denied an equal voice with the east, merely because the 
east paid an excess of $132,000.00 of taxes and on three 
hundred and forty-eight thousand slaves, and declared that 
these men west of the mountains were their brother Vir- 
ginians, and that it was wrong thus to distrust and humili- 


ate them. He founded his argument for the suffrage 
basis, not only on the bill of rights, but the further fact 
that man was given dominion over the earth, and alone 
possessed will power and volition. He dwelt at length 
upon the need of railways and material development in 
Virginia, and pointed out the great future that lay before 
the people, when they should make use of their advan- 
tages. The idea of the west abolishing slavery he com- 
bated as a slaveholder himself, and maintained that the 
east could not more surely cause the people beyond the 
mountains to hate slavery than by permitting them to 
realize that that institution was the cause of full repre- 
sentation being withheld from them, and of their fail- 
ure to secure internal improvements. When, he argued, 
the people of the mountains discuss among themselves 
why they are cut off from the world and denied communi- 
cation with the eastern markets, and when they further 
ask themselves the question why Virginia was lacking in 
the public improvements and advantages of other States, 
the answer would come to them that it was " because black 
slaves make white slaves ! " In closing his long speech he 
said: "Give us an united people with one affection, one 
interest, one feeUng, and one impulse. If any people upon 
the face of God's earth ought to be inspired by the recol- 
lection and glories of the past, it is Virginia ; for she has 
more than Greece or Rome to inspire her. With the 
glory of the past to inspire her, what might she not 
achieve? Give me for the people of Virginia free and 
universal education, give me free and equal suffrage, 
give me free and universal representation for our people, 
and who can foretell our destiny? " Although his address 
to the convention was marred at intervals by intemperance 
of language, yet his effort was undoubtedly a great one, 
and produced a strong effect. If he did not possess to the 


same degree the winning eloquence of George W. Sum- 
mers, nor yet the logical power of Robert E. Scott, he 
did have in a greater measure than either of them the 
power of riveting the attention of an assemblage and 
impressing his views upon them. The Whig had pro- 
nounced him " a modern Jack Cade " and said that his 
speech was made up largely of abuse of the rich and 
aristocrats; but any man holding Wise's views at that 
time, in eastern Virginia, would have been regarded as a 
radical, if not a revolutionist. 

After long, weary months of debate, during which 
proposition after proposition in regard to the apportion- 
ment was voted down, a compromise measure was at 
last adopted. By this plan the apportionment for the 
House of Delegates was on the suffrage basis, and that 
of the Senate on a purely arbitrary one; but the west 
had gained the victory, for it secured a majority of 
four on joint ballot. Many men in the tidewater sec- 
tion regarded the new constitution as violative of the 
rights of the east, and some talked of a division of the 
State — among whom was Littleton Waller Tazewell — 
before surrendering the mixed basis. The new constitu- 
tion was adopted by an overwhelming vote of the people, 
and Virginia had at last become democratic in fact, as 
she had long been in theory. It must not be forgotten, 
too, that a tremendous forward stride had been made in 
other respects than the new representation, for after the 
adoption of the constitution there was to be an abolition 
of the law allowing freeholders only to vote; the gov- 
ernor, judges, and other ofQcers were to be elected by 
the people, and many relics of feudalism had disappeared, 
and for once it seemed that the people of Virginia were 
thoroughly permeated by the spirit of the age in which 
they lived. In the bringing about of these reforms, no 


man had been more instrumental than Wise, and from the 
beginning to the end of the sessions of the convention he 
had occupied the position of a leader. A writer of the 
time, in the Southern Literary Messenger, in describing the 
members of the convention, thus speaks of him : — 

"In appearance he was one of the most remarkable- 
looking men in the Assembly, and would attract attention 
wherever seen. His face seemed full of cavities, — hollow 
cheeks, large, hollow eye-sockets, and the most cavernous 
mouth; when he spoke, the eyebrow seemed thrown up 
toward the top of his head, and his mouth immensely 
opened, like a gate on its hinges, so that he appeared to 
be all eyes and all mouth — two very good features in 
an orator. His face is full of flexibility and, by the easy 
play of its muscles, expresses every emotion and passion of 
the mind. In fact, the whole face speaks in every mus- 
cle and fibre of it. When at rest, his relaxed features, 
tall, loose-jointed figure, and slight, spare form give no 
promise of physical power ; yet the length and frequency 
of his speech and his earnest, violent gesticulation show 
that he possesses great power of endurance. From out 
this cavernous mouth flow streams of eloquence ; these 
hollow eye-sockets are filled up with the blaze of the 
eye; and the very flexibility of his features adds force 
and emphasis to his words. His hazel eye, even when 
quiet, has a daring outlook that well expresses the char- 
acter of the man; and in his excited moments it blazed 
and burned in the fire of his own vehemence, as if it 
would consume all opposition and intimidate all resist- 
ance. His action is always abundant and is of the most 
vehement and excited character. Totally devoid of grace, 
which his loose, angular figure forbids, it yet possesses 
much power and eccentric force ; his use of the long 
forefinger reminds us of Randolph, and, like him, he 


excels in denunciation. His voice is the most perfect 
and beautiful feature that, as an orator, he possesses; 
it is at once powerful and sweet, as flexible as the mus- 
cles and features of his face, and as perfectly under con- 
trol; it has compass, variety, depth, and clearness, and, 
besides this, it has that peculiarity of sound or accent 
which constitutes the winning spell of the orator and 
which so effectually charms an audience. . . . Mr. Wise 
spoke on every question that came up, and, in fact, 
scarcely a day passed that he did not have something 
to say. His greatest speech was made upon the Basis 
Question, toward the close of the debate upon that sub- 
ject ; he was five days in delivering it, and the best proof 
of his power as an orator was shown in the intense interest 
with which his long speech was listened to by the people 
of Eichmond. The galleries and the aisles were crowded 
with an interested audience; the members of the conven- 
tion gave up their chairs to the ladies, so that it was really 
a mixed assembly of citizens, delegates, and ladies before 
whom he spoke. The effect of his speech was strikingly 
evident ; and if the true test of an orator is in his power 
to convince a mixed audience of the truth of his own 
opinions and to carry with him their attention and their 
sympathies, then Henry A. Wise is one of the most elo- 
quent men in Virginia. . . . He led the van of the 
western party, and perhaps contributed more than any 
other man to the success which that party obtained. It 
is but due, however, to him to say that he esteemed this 
Basis advantageous to the east as well as to the west, 
and hoped that, by giving power into the hands of 
western men, they would construct lines of railroad con- 
necting east and west, and thus increase the population 
and build up the cities of tidewater Virginia." 

During the long, weary months through which the con- 


vention sat, Wise had never despaired of the success of 
the principles contended for by him; and even when 
many of the western members had abandoned all hope 
of victory and talked of going home, he had stimulated 
their drooping spirits and urged a continuance of the 
struggle. After securing the passage of the clause pro- 
viding for manhood suffrage and a new apportionment 
of representation, Wise, in justice to his own constitu- 
ents and the eastern party generally, led the struggle for 
equality in taxation, in order to protect the residents of 
eastern Virginia from excessive taxes levied on slave 
property. The new constitution provided that taxation 
should be equal and uniform, and all other property than 
slaves should be taxed in proportion to its value; also 
that every slave who had attained the age of twelve years 
should be assessed with a tax equal to and not exceeding 
that assessed on land of the value of three hundred dol- 
lars. This provision, save as regards the amendment 
excepting slaves under twelve years of age, was drawn 
by Wise and passed largely through his influence, in 
order to prevent any misuse of their newly gained power 
by the west. 



During the sessions of the Constitutional Convention 
in the autumn of 1850, Wise had lost his second wife, who 
died suddenly, at home, whUe he was in Richmond, in 
attendance upon the Convention. 

In November, 1853, he was married a third time to Miss 
Mary Elizabeth Lyons of Richmond, a sister of James 
Lyons, Esq., a prominent lawyer of that city. From the 
frequency of his matrimonial ventures it may be rightfully 
inferred that he was an advocate of the married state; 
and in one of his speeches on the floor of Congress he had 
said : " Mr. Speaker, there is a certain class of men who, 
put them where you will, in any situation in life, will pid- 
dle — I mean old bachelors ! I never will henceforth sup- 
port any man for the presidency who will appoint a 
bachelor to any office of honor or profit, and especially 
of responsibility. An old bachelor, sir, is a ' withered fig 
tree,' he is a ' vis inertise.' Old bachelors are too near akin 
to old maids ! " 

For the next two years, after his service in the Consti- 
tutional Convention, Wise remained quietly at home in 



Accomack, not participating in, but an interested observer 
of, public affairs. At that time he was filled with gloomy 
forebodings in regard to the antislavery agitation, which 
he believed would end in bloodshed, and a disruption of 
the Union. During the month of January, 1850, he de- 
livered an address before the members of the legislature 
in Richmond, in which he said, " Our only safety now 
lies in bold, manly, united resistance, firm, concentrated, 
dignified, and determined action." He urged the necessity 
of preparation on the part of the South, for events which 
were casting their shadows before. Of Wise's views on 
the general subject of negro slavery, a fairly correct idea 
can be formed from an impromptu address delivered by 
him before the Virginia Colonization Society, at Rich- 
mond, January 10, 1838, as these views were substan- 
tially those entertained by him, up to the time of the 

In the course of his speech he said : — 

" The abolition society denounces slavery as a sin; sum- 
mons the abstract principles of right and justice, and an 
imaginary law of Heaven, to destroy the most holy obliga- 
tions of political right and justice, founded upon consti- 
tutional compact among men; appeals to prejudices and 
passions the most dangerous, because most fanatical, to 
release a portion of mankind from an alleged cruel and 
oppressive bondage ; inflames and agitates the public mind, 
by threatening to demolish all established social relations ; 
arouses a religious zeal in a crusade against the peace and 
order and union of a nation ; teaches and preaches insur- 
rection to the slave; encourages lynch-law, and hallows 
the victims of its penalties with the glory of martyrdom ; 
calumniates and curses the slaveholder; hurls its incen- 
diarism against his life ; attacks and attempts to render 
unsafe the institution of slavery, and thereby tightens the 


fetters of the slave and makes his chains more galling; 
opposes the colonization of the freeman of color in a land 
where the black man may be the fellow of man, and ad- 
vances the horrible amalgamation here in the land of 
his degradation, with those to whom his mere associa- 
tion is contamination the most abhorrent and revolting! 
The Colonization Society sacredly regards slavery as a 
civil institution of the country, which, upon the principle 
of the lesser yielding to the greater good, cannot be 
attacked by the law of humanity, and must necessarily be 
tolerated and sustained from motives and reasons of policy ; 
defends all the eternal and immutable principles of right, 
and religiously promotes the obvious decrees of Heaven, 
whilst it faithfully obeys the paramount laws of the State ; 
appeals to the reason and enlightened consciences of men, 
and to that calm and peaceful religion which ever right- 
eously interposes to ameliorate the various conditions of 
all men, and which wisely wins the powerful to assist the 
weak — the unbound, the bound; hushes the din of dis- 
cord, and by a charm preserves our peace by reconciling 
our moral duties with our social and political rights and 
interests ; invokes the love of union ; teaches and preaches 
obedience to servants; supports the majesty of the laws 
by respecting public sentiment, and classes all the dis- 
turbers of the public peace together, inspires the slave- 
holder with confidence, and addresses itself alone to his 
affections ; removes the enemies of his peace and safety ; 
guards and renders safe the title of his property and its 
enjoyment, and thereby obtains for the slave the indul- 
gences which the slackened cord of confidence yields 
without cause or fear; incidentally facilitates volun- 
tary emancipation, by sloughing off the free colored 
population always in the way of freedom to the slave ; 
strengthens and upholds the friends of the slaveholder 


where he needs friends most, where there are no ties and 
associations of slavery to plead for the institution, and 
where in the North it is a sword to pierce abolition; 
and, above all these special benefits, its great aim is that 
which makes the grandeur of this cause rise to sublimity — 
to make light shine out of darkness, to colonize a nation of 
freemen in their fatherland out of our kitchens of slaves. 

"Yes, sir, the existence and operation of abolition but 
add to the special benefits of colonization. It not only 
renders the institution of slavery secure at home among 
ourselves, but it grants the only ground on which our 
friends can stand in the non-slaveholding States among 
our enemies who are daily multiplying in numbers and 
increasing in power. But, sir, I repeat that the special 
benefits of this cause to this nation are nothing compared 
with its general benefits to aU mankind, to all posterity, to 
Africa, to the world. In contemplating the vast, ultimate 
design and effects of this great scheme of lighting up a 
whole land now shrouded in the blackness of darkness, I 
have often been struck with the thought which justifies 
slavery itself in the abstract, and which has made me 
wonder and adore a gracious special Providence. Ay, 
sir, a special Providence — bad a man as some may have 
been taught to believe me to be — I, sir, even I do firmly 
if not faithfully, intellectually if not religiously, believe in 
a great and good overruling special Providence. And, sir, 
I as firmly believe that slavery on this continent is the gift 
of Heaven to Africa. Is it unworthy of the divine purpose 
or impious to suppose that it was by God intended to be 
the sun of the illumination of that land of night ? Cannot 
one well see the hand of the everlasting Almighty who 
worketh not in a day or generation, in making one gener- 
ation serve for another of the same people ? Is there aught 
religiously wrong in making an idolatrous pagan sire work 


out the civilization and Christianity of a son ? What mortal 
can say that the slavery of the sire was not divinely in- 
tended to be the consideration — and is it anything more 
than a fair equivalent — for the arts of life and the lights 
of truth to his posterity? Africa gave to Virginia a savage 
and a slave ; Virginia gives back to Africa a citizen and a 
Christian. Against which does the balance lie? If this 
was not the divine will, let those who object tell me, how 
came African slavery here? Sir, it is a mystery if not 
thus explained. When our fathers landed on the shores 
of my venerable district, did they find a population fair as 
the forests of the land? Who roamed those forests? Were 
they too not savages, ignorant, rude, barbarous, and un- 
civilized as the negro of Guinea's coast? Were they not 
as fit for slavery ? Did not the war of massacre, of toma- 
hawk and scalping-knife, give the fairest pretext for slavery 
by the right of capture and subjugation? Boast as we may 
of the royal race of aborigines who lorded it over this 
domain, — of the kingly Powhatan, the peerless Poca- 
hontas, — the common Indians of North America were just 
as fit for slavery, and ready here at hand, as the savages 
of Africa's desert strands, — they were enslaved by the 
Yankees. Why, then, were slaves brought three thou- 
sand miles across the ocean, leaving our neighboring tribes 
of savages untouched by yoke or chain ? Why but to re- 
turn civilization for slavery? Who so fit to be the pioneer 
of civilization in Africa as the hlaek man? Its light ex- 
pires, has always gone out in the hand of the white man. 
And what will the civilization of Africa not do in the end 
for mankind, for the world, its arts, its science, its com- 
merce, its peace, and happiness, and for freedom ? What 
new fields will it not explore? The subject is vast and 
unbounded. I say then, sir, send forth your missionaries 
with light and love to the land of night, until that ' dry 


nurse of lions' shall become the nursery of arts, and 
science, and civilization, and law, and order, and religion." 
During the year 1854 the Rev. Nehemiah Adams of Boston, 
who was then engaged in the preparation of his interesting 
book entitled " A South Side View of Slavery," wrote to 
Wise requesting his opinions on this subject. In his reply 
he stated that he did not consider emancipation desirable 
for either the negroes or the whites, as long as the blacks 
were to remain here, and that the amalgamation of the 
races was against the law of nature. He wrote further 
that he had emancipated one slave, but would never free 
another; and that he considered the race fit only for the 
patriarchal state of a Southern plantation. In his native 
county of Accomack, from which he wrote, the free colored 
population at that time numbered 3295, while there were 
4987 slaves ; from which figures it will be seen that emanci- 
pation was no rare thing among the slave-owners. Indeed, 
among the Methodists especially, which denomination was 
quite numerous on the peninsula, the habit of freeing their 
slaves was often practised. But it cannot be said that the 
conduct and progress of the free negroes afforded much 
encouragement to the advocates of this plan ; for the former 
were as a rule a shiftless class, and regarded as a nuisance 
in the communities where they resided. In Wise's opinion, 
the Virginia negro was only adapted to a condition of 
pupilage, and he wrote, "I have seen the negro from my 
youth upward in all circumstances and I know that his 
tendency, if left to himself, is constantly back toward 
barbarism." Like the overwhelming majority of Virginia 
planters, he was a kind and humane master, who was fond 
of his slaves and they of him. There was little in the 
institution, as it existed in Virginia, to excite horror or 
pity for the condition of the slaves ; for peculiar as was the 
institution in its relation to the century in which it had 


survived, as has been truly said, it was even more so in 
regard to the people among whom it existed, who were an 
eminently humane and gentle race, among whom the en- 
nobling influences of Christianity had been felt in a high 
degree. As regards the physical condition of the slaves, it 
is no exaggeration to say that a better housed, clothed, 
and fed peasant class probably did not exist. If proof 
were needed of the truth of this statement, it could be 
found in the rapid increase of insanity (formerly un- 
known), and the enormous growth in the death rate, 
among the negro population in our day. But while he 
regarded the negro as totally unfit for the responsibilities 
of freedom and citizenship, he was not blind to the many 
good qualities of the race. 

" With white officers," he wrote Adams, " I would fight 
a regiment of them against any foreign troops who could 
land on our shores. They are faithful, and they are brave, 
and more disinterested than the white man. They are 
joyous in their temperament, and patient, as their nerves 
are coarse and strong. The owners love their race and its 
qualities better than their pseudo-friends the abolitionists 
do. Every adult slave around me has half a pound of cured 
bacon per day, corn meal without stint or measure of allow- 
ance, scale fish in season, and an abundance of such vege- 
tables as they prefer planted and sown for them. Besides 
this, they have crops of their own which they sell for their 
own use. Not one of them who is industrious can fail to 
have two or three dollars a month to spend. They have 
no occasion to buy anything but fine clothes. They have 
their rations weekly of molasses, coffee, and tobacco. They 
are not allowed to work, and are carefully nursed, when 
sick, and when well don't average ten hours of labor per 
day. They have their feast-days and holidays and enjoy 
them more than the whites do. Here they have Easter 


and Whitsuntide, two days, a week after harvest, a day at 
August Court, three or four days each during the camp- 
meeting seasons of the Methodist Church, to which they 
mostly belong, and a week at Christmas, besides the half- 
days of Saturday in going to see their wives." 

Wise, like many other Southern men, regretted that 
slave labor had not been introduced into California, where 
it could have been profitably employed ; and which would 
have had the effect of diffusing the slave population, and 
thereby encouraging gradual emancipation. It is strange 
how completely this latter view of the subject was ignored 
by the abolition party, for though it was true that slavery 
needed an " outlet," and that to prevent its spread meant 
ultimate extinction in the older slave States, yet the con- 
verse of this proposition was equally true, and perhaps the 
greatest obstacle to peaceable emancipation was the fact 
that the slave population was concentrated in one section 
of the Union only. 

In the spring of 1850 Wise was chosen as the delegate 
from his district to the convention called that year at 
Nashville, Tennessee, to consider the affairs of the South. 
In the course of a letter, dated May 18, 1850, and ad- 
dressed to William H. Roy, Esq., the president of the con- 
vention to select delegates, he explained his inability to 
go to Nashville, but in discussing the question then at 
issue wrote : " I never weighed and never will weigh — no 
man can weigh the value of the Union, nor count the cost 
of its dissolution. I abhor the man who would deliber- 
ately impair it even in the affection of the people. He is 
a traitor to the best bond and security of civil liberty who 
would betray its safety by any devised snare whatever. 
He is an enemy to his country and to mankind who is not 
sincere in these times upon this subject. But if the Con- 
stitution of the United States shall be nullified by a major- 


ity doctrine and become frittered away, by the awfuil 
pacification of compromises upon compromises, the Union 
will no longer exist as it was formed by the Adamses and 
Shermans and Franklins and Hamiltons and Lees and 
Randolphs and Madisons and Rutledges of the Revolu- 
tion; it will cease itself to be a compromise, the conv- 
promise of compromises as it was in 1789; it wiU become 
the absolutism of a many-headed monster of oppression, 
inequality, and dishonor to us, and we will be obliged to 
resist it as our fathers did 'taxation without representa- 
tion,' or lose our self-respect and the respect of the rest of 
mankind and cease to be a free people. We will have 
then to exclaim in anguish to King Majority instead of 
King George the Third : not that the Union shall be dis- 
solved, no, never ! But : ' Give us lack the Union as it was 
formed, in its compromise of the Constitution, in its domes- 
tic tranquillity, in its equality of rights, in its equality of 
burthens, in its fraternity and freedom; or, give us peaceful 
separation, or take the consequences of revolution ! ' " 

During the period following the Constitutional Conven- 
tion of 1850-51, Wise had withdrawn from public life, 
although he at one time thought of becoming a candidate 
for the legislature, with a view to advocating public schools 
and internal improvements ; and he was also urged in 1853 
to allow his name to be brought forward as a candidate for 
the United States Senate, but declined for the reason that 
he would not oppose his friend R. M. T. Hunter. The 
subject of public education had always been a topic in 
which he had been deeply interested, and some of his 
addresses to the people of the eastern shore on this topic 
are still preserved. In the spring of 1852 he attended the 
State Democratic Convention at Richmond, and his elo- 
quent address before that body made him the central 
figure, among the many able party leaders there assem- 


bled. He was also chosen a delegate to the National Con- 
vention of his party, which met at Baltimore in June, and 
along with the remainder of the Virginia delegation voted 
for Buchanan thirty-five successive times, despite his opin- 
ion of old bachelors previously given. After the thirty- 
fifth ballot the delegation withdrew for consultation, and 
on the next ballot cast their vote as a unit for Franklin 
Pierce, whose name was presented by them, for the first 
time to the Convention. He was largely instrumental in 
determining the Virginians upon this course of action. 
For a while Pierce received no new accessions of strength 
worthy of note, but was finally nominated on the forty- 
ninth ballot. Wise, for the second time, was made an 
elector, for his district, and did his part in promoting the 
success of the ticket. The political conditions which 
existed in Virginia, in the year 1854, and the position 
which he came to occupy, with regard to the question 
which then divided political parties, we shall relate in the 
chapter following. 




Almost from the birth of the American Union, the 
nativist feeling has from time to time cropped out, as was 
shown by the enactment of a law by the Federalists in 
1798, making fourteen years' residence on the part of a 
foreigner necessary to entitle him to naturalization, which 
length of residence was again shortened upon the triumph 
of the Democratic party several years later. Following 
periods of great immigration the sentiment against for- 
eigners has been invariably aroused. Closely allied to it, 
though distinct from it, was the anti-Romanist feeling 
which had always been entertained by a considerable num- 
ber, who believed the teaching of the Church of Rome to 
be inimical to the safety and welfare of republican institu- 
tions. Lafayette, himself a Romanist, and who had fought 
for the independence of the American Colonies, did not 
give utterance to an opinion peculiar to himself alone, 
when he declared that, " if the liberties of the American 
people are ever destroyed, they will fall by the hands of 
the Romish clergy." The fact that the great majority of 
immigrants hailed from papist countries and professed the 
Romanist faith, resulted in a fusing, as it were, of the 
nativists and anti-papal sentiment, so that, after the decade 



of the thirties at least, the two ideas may be treated as 
practically inseparable. The new immigrants settled for 
the most part in the cities, and hence in New York, Phil- 
adelphia, and the various towns occurred the riots, dur- 
ing the period of the thirties and forties, growing out 
of the animosities which a variety of causes had con- 
tributed to engender between native and foreign-born 

Though efforts had been made to found an " American," 
or nativist party, yet its appearance in political affairs had 
been short-lived, and the movement may be said to have 
languished, until the fresh impetus to immigration fur- 
nished by the European political troubles in 1848-50 once 
more revived with renewed vigor the nativist sentiment, 
and rioting and anti-Catholic demonstrations were again 
resumed in different parts of the country. 

Some time during the year 1852, a secret oath-bound 
fraternity was organized, the name of which was "The 
Sons of '76 or The Order of the Star-Spangled Banner." 
In consequence of the fact that its real name and purpose 
were only disclosed to those of its members who had taken 
the higher degrees, the members ordinarily, when ques- 
tioned about the order, replied, " I don't know," from 
which circumstance they soon came to be dubbed " Know- 
nothings," which has continued to be the popular designa- 
tion by which they have been known ever since. The 
new order declared as its leading principle that " Ameri- 
cans must rule America," and the rapid spread of its or- 
ganization throughout many States set at naught the 
calculations of the politicians, who found themselves con- 
fronted by a new and powerful element, hard to deal with. 
As a distinguished historian. Professor McMaster, has 
written of it : " Highly organized, thoroughly in ear- 
nest, it did its work with a precision of movement and a 


concert of action hitherto unknown in American politics." 
The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill in 1854 resulted 
in the disruption of the old Whig party and the going over 
of a large body of Whigs to the new organization, which 
that year carried Massachusetts and Delaware and poUed 
a considerable vote in New York. The spread of the new 
faith throughout the Northern States was most rapid, and 
there was much in its creed to commend it to the good 
favor of the people of the South. In the latter section 
the foreign element was insignificant, and the old-time 
Whigs, who could not be induced to act with either the 
Democratic or Republican parties, readily availed them- 
selves of the opportunity to identify themselves with the 
new party group. During the summer of 1854 the order 
is said to have been first introduced into Virginia, and the 
first council instituted in the town of Charlottesville, 
strange to say, almost under the very shadow of Monti- 
ceUo. Though the Whigs at first stoutly denied any 
abandonment of their organization, yet in a short while the 
new movement had practically absorbed the main body of 
them, who, unwilling to embrace the antislavery views of 
the Republican party, at the same time hated the very 
name of Jefferson, and would have voted for the devil 
himself, if necessary to defeat the principles and aims of 
Democracy. The American, or Know-nothing, organiza- 
tion had still another feature, calculated to win popular 
approval in the South, as it laid claim to being strictly 
national in sentiment and opposed to the agitation of the 
slavery question ; and with the accession of the disbanded 
Whigs and a body of ambitious young men, who were 
brought into prominence by the new adjustment of party 
lines, the movement had assumed formidable proportions 
throughout the South before the end of 1854. 

During the summer of that year a committee of citizens 


of Norfolk County, Virginia, in view of the approaching 
gubernatorial campaign in that State, addressed a number 
of letters to various men prominent in political affairs, 
calling upon them to give their views concerning the new 
party and its principles. Among these were William Smith, 
Shelton F. Leake, James A. Seddon, John Letcher, and 
Wise.^ The latter replied in a letter of considerable length, 
giving expression to his views with no uncertain sound, 
and in a tone calculated to win the approval of the De- 
mocracy of the State. The following extract from the 
letter, which is dated " Only, near Onancock, Virginia, 
September 18, 1854," may be said to furnish the keynote 
of his views: "In this country, at this time, does any 
man think anything ? Would he speak anything ? Would 
he write anything? His mind is free, his person is safe, 
his property is secure, his house is his castle, the spirit of 
the law is his bodyguard and his house-guard ; the fate of 
one is the fate of all, measured by the same common rule 
of right ; his voice is heard and felt in the general suffrage 
of freemen ; his trial is in open court, confronted by wit- 
nesses and accusers ; his prison-house has no secrets, and 
he has the judgment of his peers ; and there is naught to 
make him afraid, so long as he respects the rights of his 
equals in the eye of the law. Would he propagate Truth ? 
Truth is free to combat Error. Would he propagate Error ? 
Error itself may stalk abroad and do her mischief and 
make night itself grow darker, provided Truth is left free 
to follow, however slowly, with her torches to light up 
the wreck ! Why, then, should any portion of the people 
desire to retire in secret, and by secret means to propagate 
a political thought, or word, or deed by stealth? Why 
band together, exclusive of others, to do something which 
all may not know of toward some political end ? If it be 

1 See Hambleton's "Virginia Politics in 1855," page 7. 


good, why not make the good known ? Why not think it, 
speak it, write it, act it out openly and aloud ? Or, is it 
evil, which loveth darkness, rather than light? When 
there is no necessity to justify a secret association for 
political ends, what else can justify it? A caucus may 
sit in secret to consult on the general policy of a great 
public party. That may be necessary or convenient; but 
that even is reprehensible, if carried too far. But here is 
proposed a great primary, national organization, in its in- 
ception — What ? Nohody knows. How organized ? No' 
hody knows. Governed by whom ? Nohody knows. How 
bound ? By what rites ? By what test oaths ? With what 
limitations and restrictions ? Nobody, nobody knows ! ! ! ! 
All we know is that persons of foreign birth and of Cath- 
olic faith are proscribed, and so are all others who don't 
proscribe them at the polls. This is certainly against the 
spirit of Magna Charta." In conclusion he declared: 
" I belong to a secret society, but for no political purpose. 
I am a native Virginian; intus et in cute, a Virginian; my 
ancestors on both sides for two hundred years were citizens 
of this country and this State — half English, half Scotch. 
I am a Protestant by birth, by baptism, by intellectual be- 
lief, by education, and by adoption. I am an American in 
every fibre, and in every feeling an American; yet in 
every character, in every relation, in every sense, with all 
my head and all my heart, and all my might, I protest 
against this secret organization of native Americans, and 
of Protestants to proscribe Roman Catholics and natural- 
ized citizens ! " 

On the 30th of November, 1854, the delegates repre- 
senting the Democracy of the State assembled in conven- 
tion in the Methodist Church, in the town of Staunton, 
for the purpose of nominating candidates for the offices 
of governor, lieutenant-governor, and attorney-general, to 


be voted for at the following spring election. The names 
of "Wise and Shelton F. Leake were the two most promi- 
nently discussed for the position of governor, and the 
choice had narrowed down between them. Mr. Leake had 
served as a member of the State legislature and of Con- 
gress, and as lieutenant-governor of the State, and was 
an unfaltering Democrat, much beloved by the people of 
the Piedmont section, where he resided. He was a man 
of acute powers of mind, a speaker of unusual adroitness 
and force, as well as possessed of those moral character- 
istics which command admiration and respect. He may 
be said to have been the choice of the Democrats of Pied- 
mont and middle Virginia, while Wise's followers hailed 
from the tidewater country, on the one hand, and the sec- 
tion west of the mountains, on the other — the two ex- 
tremes of the State. The latter's record on the questions 
of the basis of representation and internal improvements, 
in the Constitutional Convention of 1850-51, had gained 
for him a host of political friends in the transmontane 
section, who were largely instrumental in securing for him 
the nomination for governor. When the Convention first 
met, their choice of a candidate seemed involved in some 
doubt, but as the stage-coaches rolled in from the moun- 
tain counties the followers of Wise were reenforced by 
large delegations, who insured his nomination. Mr. W. R. C. 
Douglas, of New Kent County, presented his name to 
the Convention and among those who seconded the 
nomination was Dr. Thomas Dunn English of Logan, the 
author of "Ben Bolt," who, fro.m the zeal displayed in 
behalf of his candidate during the exciting debates of the 
body, showed himself to be unlike his own " sweet Alice," 

' Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile 
And trembled with fear at your frown ! " 


Wise received the nomination on the second ballot, 
Elisha W. McComas of Kanawha was named for lieuten- 
ant-governor, and Willis P. Bocock of Richmond for 
attorney-general. Hambleton, in his history of the cam- 
paign of 1855, remarks truly that " no candidate ever went 
before the people for any office under more discouraging 
circumstances than Mr. Henry A. Wise." Although Vir- 
ginia was ordinarily a safe Democratic State, and in the 
preceding gubernatorial election had chosen Joseph John- 
son, the candidate of that party, over George W. Summers, 
the Whig nominee, yet at the outset of the campaign of 
1855 the prospects for Democratic success were far from 
encouraging. The politicians, as a rule, had been un- 
friendly to Wise and many of them looked with favor 
upon his nomination as an easy means of getting rid of a 
troublesome man, who would " take the bit in his teeth " 
and rush on to certain defeat. Moreover, not only had 
the American party given evidence that it was thoroughly 
organized and making rapid headway throughout the State, 
but Wise's nomination was far from pleasing to hundreds 
of Democrats who preferred Leake as the more " regular " 
party man. The fact that Wise had opposed Jackson in 
Congress and had been prominently identified with the 
Whigs was not forgotten, and many criticised his political 
course and what they regarded as his inconsistencies. The 
friends of Mr. Leake, however, were loyal in their sup- 
port of Wise, and the Richmond Examiner, which had 
earnestly remonstrated against the nomination of the lat- 
ter, contained the following extract in one of its issues of 
December, 1854 : — 

" He is a man to whom we have never felt but one ob- 
jection personally, and that was that though as sound in 
politics now as the strictest Republican of the Virginia 
school, his course had been inconsistent and his record 


contradictory, in a manner and to a degree which rendered 
it difficult for the party speakers and writers in this can- 
vass to defend him, according to the old mode of party 
reasoning. We have said this frequently and we do not 
mean to unsay it in the canvass at hand. But of all the 
claims to office, those of the mere party men are the flim- 
siest and most wretched. . . . Honesty, fidelity, capacity 
— the Jefferson tests — these, at last, are the true qualifi- 
cations for office. Consistency, in the vulgar acceptation, 
belongs of tener to the demagogue and ignoramus than to 
the honest politician and the capable statesman. Those 
high personal qualities which make us love, admire, and 
trust in men belong of tener to the rash, impulsive, and 
brave than to the cautious, calculating, and consistent. 
If you judge Mr. Wise by the acts of his life, we admit 
that, in our opinion, he has few claims to consistency. 
But if you judge him by the impulses of his nature and 
the fidelity and chivalric bravery of his adherence to them, 
the verdict in his favor is emphatic and beyond question. 
The political horizon is filled with admonitions of trouble. 
The recent elections at the North reveal a state of feeling 
very portentous to the South. We are upon the eve of 
times which will try men's souls. Let us have a tried, 
brave, true Southern man in the executive office of Vir- 
ginia. At a time like this, let us look to the metal of our 
men rather than to their 'records.' The Democracy of 
Virginia have declared at Staunton that they care not for 
political antecedents or partisan animosities, twenty years 
gone by, in the presence of the danger now threatening 
the South. They have resolved that old and obsolete dif- 
ferences, such as used to divide them from their political 
opponents at home, are not to be remembered against the 
tme Southern man in a contest upon that issue — North- 
ern aggression against Southern rights. 


" There is significance in the nomination of Mr. Wise. 
The Democracy of Virginia have resolved, in disregard of 
past domestic animosities and old differences of opinion, 
to manifest their stern, uncompromising temper on the 
sectional issue by the man they mean to place at the head 
of affairs. When we make Henry A. Wise governor of 
Virginia, the North will know what we mean." 

Shortly after the Staunton Convention, Wise arranged 
his private affairs preparatory to entering upon the cam- 
paign, and on the 5th of January, 1855, opened in Norfolk 
the most brilliant and aggressive canvass that has ever 
occurred in the history of the State. The newspapers, in 
describing his opening speech, tell us that frequent bursts 
of applause followed his "sabre-like flashes of eloquence," 
and that his words " were as fire that ran and thrilled the 
whole audience." An admirer of Wise, ex-Governor Will- 
iam E. Cameron, thus describes him at this period : — 

" He was then in the prime of life, and in person, manner, 
voice, and mental equipment the ideal leader of a forlorn 
hope. Elected to Congress in 1833, he had, by lengthy 
service in that body and by intimate association with the 
ruling intellects of the age, acquired knowledge of public 
affairs and a readiness in debate which gave the fullest 
play to his natural powers of oratory. Tall, lithe, yet 
muscular, a frame of steel, knit with nerves; his face, 
clean shaven, had the rigid lines of a classic cameo, but 
his expression varied to suit his rapid moods so that the 
auditor could almost anticipate his words. His gesture 
was eloquence itself, powerful, yet restrained. His com- 
mand of language was unequalled in my experience, 
though from Stephen Douglas to Blaine, I have heard all 
the famous speakers of this country. . . . His voice, too, 
had the compass of an organ pipe, and ranged from the 
persuasive softness of a lute to the metallic ring of the 


bugle note. Add to all this the magnetism which defies 
analysis, which forces other men to listen and then com- 
pels them to believe ; a courage as uncalculating as that 
of a sea-hawk ; a strength of conviction as absolute as ever 
sustained a martyr at the stake; and there you have an 
imperfect portrait of the man who flung himself single- 
handed against an epidemic of fanaticism, and won the 
fight. For after the election the ' dark lantern ' lost its 
magic and the 'culvert' its attractiveness." The model of 
a campaign speaker and a master of invective, Wise was 
in every way fitted to strike terror to the hearts of the 
members of the new secret order, and from the Chesapeake 
to the banks of the Ohio and to the Tennessee line, he 
canvassed the State, delivering speeches of impassioned 
eloquence and convincing logic. Everywhere enormous 
crowds greeted him with unbounded enthusiasm and peo- 
ple rode on horseback fifty miles across the mountains to 
hear him." 

Early in the campaign the Democratic State Committee 
of Indiana forwarded to Wise a copy of the " Know-noth- 
ing " ritual and charter, which they had procured and of 
which the latter made free use during his canvass to the 
discomfiture of his political enemies, who would greet his 
disclosure upon the stump with catcalls, groans, hisses, 
and other noisy demonstrations. His Democratic fol- 
lowers would laugh heartily, too, when he quoted the 
words of Job : " For we are but of yesterday, and Know 
nothing." There is every reason to believe that not only 
was the American or Know-nothing order powerfully or- 
ganized in Virginia in 1855, but in addition, that had 
that party confined itself to the issue of " Americans must 
rule America," the restriction of immigration and revision 
of the naturalization laws, it would have achieved a sweep- 
ing victory. While it is true that the foreign population 

THE know-nothings' bkkor 175 

of Virginia at that time was not over two or three per 
cent at the most, and there was no friction engendered 
between the natives and the foreigners, as in the North 
where there had been large immigrations, yet the people 
of Virginia, despite the further fact that not only the 
English but the Scotch-Irish, Huguenot, and German blood 
entered into their own race elements, were, in the main, 
essentially homogeneous in character, as compared with 
the States to the northward, and not inclined to favor any 
commingling of the various foreign elements with their own 
people. There were, moreover, many who noted the fact 
that the immigrants settled almost entirely in the North- 
ern and Western States, and contributed to swell the bal- 
ance against the South with which section Virginia, on 
account of the problems growing out of the institution 
of slavery, was more nearly identified. On the 12th of 
December, 1854, the Examiner, a leading Democratic 
organ of the State, and edited at the time by Robert W. 
Hughes, said editorially: " Know-nothingism is partially 
right. American citizenship ought not to be made 
dirt cheap. The sovereignty of this Republic is in the 
people ; and every vagabond adventurer escaping from 
the jails, and packed off from the poorhouses of Europe, 
is not fit for sovereign citizenship in this country the 
moment his dirty rags and stinking carcass touch our 
shores. There is not a sensible citizen and patriot in the 
Union who will deny that the naturalization laws do need 
reformation; and no party in the country, be it ever so 
strong, veteran, and disciplined, can sustain itself upon an 
issue in favor of these laws as they stand. Jacobinical 
organization, however, is not necessary to the required 
reform, and is, besides, at war with all the essential prin- 
ciples of popular government. Religious proscription, too, 
is more prolific of the seeds of social disrupture than for- 


eignism in its most aggravated and offensive form." The 
views expressed by the Examiner were widely held 
throughout the Southern States and Von Hoist, who 
rarely has a kind word for that section, in his " Constitu- 
tional History of the United States " (Vol. V., page 190), 
in alluding to the fact that in Alabama, Georgia, Louisi- 
ana, and South Carolina the party had been forced to 
abandon its more objectionable features, remarks: "It 
does the South no small honor that there the party had to 
agree to give up its secrecy and its oaths, as it had already 
previously been forced there to make concessions in regard 
to the CathoUcs." In Virginia, while the various councils 
of the order had been organized in conformity with the 
same ritual and usages in force throughout the Northern 
States, yet the secret oaths and anti-Catholic features 
were always obnoxious to the character and genius of her 

Protestant to the core, and in many respects narrow- 
minded and intolerant, yet her people had not forgotten 
the principles of religious freedom promulgated by George 
Mason in 1776 in his immortal bill of rights, and later by 
Jefferson in his Statutes of Religious Liberty. They pos- 
sessed, moreover, that personal manliness and individuality 
which probably attain their highest development among 
a country gentry, and the subordinating of their will and 
thoughts to a secret, oath-bound organization was in every 
respect opposed to their temperament and ideas of the 
proper conduct of government. It is worthy of note that 
while in almost all of the larger towns of the State, includ- 
ing Richmond and Norfolk, the Know-nothings triumphed 
over their Democratic opponents, yet the majorities gained 
in the cities were more than offset by the country voters, 
who were more conservative in character and tenacious 
of the principles taught by the fathers of the Republic. 


General John D. Imboden, who was prominently identi- 
fied with the American party in Virginia, in an article^ 
published shortly before his death, wrote: "Its [the 
American party's] main purpose, which was to require 
a twenty-one years' residence of all foreigners before full 
naturalization and the right to vote, met with the hearty 
support of nearly all the old Whigs in the South, — and 
many Democrats, — but the anti-Catholic feature was so 
generally condemned, as contrary to our fundamental law, 
that in Virginia, at least, it was insisted that no religious 
test to vote, or hold office, should ever be made, and a 
movement was put on foot to hold a national council and 
strike that odious clause out of the party creed, as well 
as to abolish secrecy, and to plant the party simply on 
a denial of full citizenship to any adult immigrant under 
twenty-one years' residence." On the 19th of October, 
1855, some months after the gubernatorial election had 
been decided, the American or Know-nothing party met 
in convention at Lynchburg, and to its credit, be it said, 
a resolution was passed, with but one dissenting vote, 
counselling the abandonment " of the ceremonies of initi- 
ation, the oaths, signs, secrets, and passwords " ; and in 
addition, another resolution inviting into the organization 
all men "who profess to owe no temporal allegiance to 
any foreign power " ; this last being regarded as an aban- 
donment of the Catholic test. 

At the commencement of the canvass of 1855 all the 
signs of the times seemed to point to the triumph of the 
Know-nothing party, as it was spreading with remarkable 
rapidity throughout the State, and as previously stated 
had won a valuable accession to its ranks in the absorption 
of the Whigs, who, on account of their numbers and pres- 

iSee letter signed "A Grandfather" in the Bichmond Times of 
August 25, 1895. 


tige, constituted the chief strength of the new party. 
Indeed, the Whigs at that time arrogated to themselves 
the larger share of the blue blood of the Commonwealth, 
and it is related of John Syme, the editor of the Peters- 
burg Intelligencer, that when asked whether or not a 
Democrat was a gentleman he was wont to tap his snuff- 
box significantly, and reply : " Well, he is apt not to be ; 
but if he is he is in damned bad company." 

The Whig gentry had counted on the certain defeat of 
their old opponents, and were surprised to find Wise, in- 
stead of remaining quietly at home, going among the 
people and delivering speeches of telling effect. The 
spectacle of a candidate for governor " on the stump " 
was a novel one in Virginia ; for, prior to the adoption of 
the new constitution in 1851, the chief executive of the 
State was chosen by the legislature, and with the excep- 
tion of George W. Summers, who had been the Whig 
nominee in 1851, no gubernatorial aspirant had ever before 
canvassed for that office. Wise's eloquence, however, 
stirred the enthusiasm of the Democratic masses, and he 
possessed in a remarkable degree the ability to electrify 
and thrill an audience and overpower his opponents. 
Never before had a speaker on the hustings in Virginia 
kindled such a spirit of admiration among his followers, 
or met with such opposition fronl the rival party. Politi- 
cal feeling was intense, and party spirit held full sway. 
Despite the effect of Wise's oratory and bitter denuncia- 
tion of the new order, had the election been held a few 
months earlier the Democratic flag would probably have 
gone down in defeat. 

On the 14th of March, 1865, more than three months 
after the Democratic convention held at Staunton, and 
while Wise was in the midst of his canvass, representatives 
of the American organization assembled in secret meeting 


at Winchester, for the purpose of nominating a State 
ticket. "Never before in the history of Virginia," says 
Hambleton, in his " Narrative of the Campaign," " did any 
party for the purpose named assemble in privacy and 
secrecy to make a State nomination. . . . Who were there 
and what was said and done in all human probability will 
never be known to the generation now in existence. 
There could be nothing discovered by examining the 
registers of the hotels, for the delegates used fictitious 
names in recording themselves." As a result of the Win- 
chester convention, or rather conference, for it was a 
gathering of a few party leaders only, Thomas Stanhope 
Flournoy of Halifax was nominated as the American can- 
didate for governor, James M. H. Beale of Mason for 
lieutenant-governor, and John M. Patton of Richmond 
for attorney-general. Mr. Flournoy was a resident of the 
good old county of Halifax, where he had risen into promi- 
nence as a lawyer, in a circuit noted for its brilliant bar. 
He had known and ridden to court when a boy with John 
Randolph of Roanoke, who was an intimate friend of his 
father, and throughout his life delighted in relating 
many interesting reminiscences of the eccentric Virginian. 
From the outset of his career, Mr. Flournoy had been a 
stanch, old-line Whig, and his political views had brought 
him into intimate association with Judge William Leigh, 
the Bruces, Chalmers, Banks, Barksdales, and other lead- 
ing Whigs of his county and State. Shortly after coming 
to the bar, he had been selected by his friends as the Whig 
candidate for the legislature from Halifax, his Democratic 
opponent being John R. Edmunds, a personal friend and 
young man of about the same age. The campaign between 
these two youthful aspirants for political honors was 
opened by a joint debate between them, at a cross-road 
precinct, in the back country. Flournoy prepared himself 


for the occasion by donning his best suit of broadcloth, 
whereupon he mounted a fine horse and rode over to the 
scene of action. It is related of him that he was con- 
siderably disconcerted when, a little later on, after the 
sovereigns had gathered in large numbers, he saw his 
opponent ride up, clad in a homespun suit, with stitch- 
down shoes, seated astride a wagon saddle on a plough 
horse, looking as if he had just taken the animal from the 
furrow, to repair to the place of the coming forensic contest. 
It is said that Flournoy advanced to where Edmunds was 
standing, surrounded by an admiring group, and inquired, 
" Edmunds, what upon earth do you mean by coming here 
in such a plight ? " " Oh ! " said Edmunds, " I leave fine 
dressing to you gentlemen of the law ; but I belong to the 
' bone and sinew ' of the country, and don't care for it. I 
am a plain farmer, like most of these worthy friends of 
mine, and I prefer to dress as they do." Although Flour- 
noy carried off the honors of the debate, it is needless to 
add that Edmunds went to the legislature. But if we 
have unintentionally conveyed the impression from this 
little anecdote of his early life that Mr. Flournoy was at 
all haughty or exclusive in his bearing, we would hasten 
to correct it here ; for few men were more approachable, or 
simple in their manners. As an admirer and fellow-coun- 
tyman the Rev. John Cosby has written of him : " His 
popularity, like Henry Clay's, was of a personal character. 
Men were Whigs because they loved Flournoy, and many 
old Democrats loved him in spite of his Whiggism, and 
rejoiced in his forensic success. He has often told me he 
never had to spend a dollar for electioneering purposes. 
Houses were everywhere open to him, and his party friends 
were his zealous personal friends, and championed his 
cause with all their might and means." Although the 
district in which he lived was Democratic by a large 


majority, Mr. Flournoy was elected to Congress in 1846, 
by dint of his able canvass and personal popularity, and 
in the succeeding congressional election was only defeated 
by nine votes, though the Democrats of the district put 
forth their best efforts to defeat him. While in Congress, 
Mr. Flournoy made the acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln, 
and a lasting friendship sprang up between the two. 
Flournoy was sent from his county, along with James C. 
Bruce, as a member of the Virginia convention of 1861, 
where he stood as a stanch Union man, until Lincoln's 
call for troops, when he acquiesced in the action of that 
body and returned to his home enlisting in the Confed- 
erate army, where he served with gallantry. After the 
downfall of the Southern cause at Appomattox, Mr. 
Flournoy received a letter from Mr. Lincoln, containing 
warm expressions of personal regard and asking his aid 
in the proposed effort of the latter to restore the Southern 
States to their former status in the Union. 

Mr. Flournoy was a speaker of great fervor and elo- 
quence, as well as a man well versed in public affairs, and 
this, together with his popularity with the Whigs, had led to 
his nomination by the Winchester convention, as the can- 
didate of the American party in 1855, for governor of the 
State, although the honor was not of his seeking and con- 
ferred against his protest. Additional interest would 
have been added to the campaign, had Flournoy and 
Wise met in joint debate; but in accordance with the 
policy determined upon by his party, the former did not 
appear upon the hustings. Despite the feeling engen- 
dered by the political excitement, the friendship existing 
between the two candidates was in no manner inter- 
rupted, and they continued warm friends through life. 
Mr. Beale, the American candidate for lieutenant-gov- 
ernor, it was thought would add strength to the ticket in 


the western portion of the State, from whence he hailed, 
and Mr. Patton, who was named for the position of attor- 
ney-general, was a leading member of the Richmond bar, 
and had previously been prominent in political affairs, as a 
member of Congress, where he had served for some years. 
Mr. Flournoy, in his letter of acceptance, after defining his 
views on public questions, wrote in regard to the main 
issue then before the people : — 

" I indorse fully the Basis of Principles of the Ameri- 
can party, believing them to be the most conservative pre- 
sented to the consideration of the country since the 
establishment of our independence. The rapid increase of 
foreign immigration is well calculated to excite alarm, and 
the power of the government, both State and Federal, 
should be exerted to check it. It seems almost impossible 
to doubt that the influx of between four and five hundred 
thousand foreigners into our country annually will ulti- 
mately be subversive of our republican institutions. 
Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson gave early 
warning to the country of the danger to be apprehended 
from foreign influence. The naturalization laws should 
either be repealed or so modified and such restrictions 
imposed as to avert the evil. 

" The South is especially and deeply interested in this 
question. This immense annual addition to our popula- 
tion settle in the non-slaveholding States and the exten- 
sive territories of the West and Northwest, out of which 
free States will come, in consequence, to be more speedily 
formed, increasing with fearful rapidity the balance of 
power against us. Intimately connected with this ques- 
tion of foreign immigration is the growth of the Roman 
Catholic Church in our country. Despotic, prescriptive, 
and intolerant, its ascendency, as all history teaches, has 
ever been destructive of freedom of opinion, and while I 


would uncompromisingly oppose any interference with the 
rights of its members as citizens, by any legislative enact- 
ment, yet by a full and independent exercise of the right 
of suffrage and the appointing power, they should be 
excluded from the offices of the government in all its 
departments. It may be said that there are comparatively 
but few foreigners and Roman Catholics in Virginia. She 
is not acting for herself alone. She is a leading member 
of this great sisterhood of States, and her action will be 
felt for weal or woe, by them all. Her destiny is identi- 
fied with theirs, and she cannot look with indifference to 
the fact that the great valley of the Mississippi, watered 
by twenty thousand miles of navigable rivers, and the 
immense and fertUe territories, stretching beyond to the 
Pacific, capable of sustaining a population of one hundred 
millions, are rapidly filling up with this class of people. 
I will advert particularly to one other principle of the 
American party, the ' non-intervention of the Federal and 
State government with the municipal affairs of each 
other.' The strict observance of this principle will make 
the union of the States perpetual." 

The Winchester convention had published the "Basis 
of Principles of the American party of Virginia," above 
the signature of a committee appointed for that purpose ; 
but as the principles are practically the same as those con- 
tained in the letter of Mr. Flournoy, we will omit them 
here. The reader who is interested in the history of the 
American party will find an ably written defence of their 
position in the series of articles known as the " Madison 
Letters,"^ the author of which was Alexander H. H. 
Stuart of Virginia. The champions of the secret order 
maintained that not only was our civilization in danger of 
destruction from the foreign refuse, who annually migrated 

1 See Clusky's Political Cyclopedia. 


hither, and American labor forced into competition with 
the cheaper imported labor, but that the teachings of the 
Romish Church asserted the temporal as well as the 
spiritual power of the Pope, and that the articles of her 
faith were in conflict with the oath of a naturalized citizen 
to support the Constitution of the United States, and the 
renunciation of all allegiance to any foreign potentate. 

It was freely urged, as it has been in recent years,^ that 
the sovereignty of the Pope was opposed to that of the 
people, and that his commands, with the devout Romanist, 
demanded a higher allegiance than our Constitution and 
laws, and that the settled policy of that Church was opposed 
to a free press and our system of free schools. Unfortu- 
nately, the defiant attitude assumed by various Catholic 
sympathizers tended to confirm another charge, often 
made, that Romanism meant religious intolerance and was 
opposed to religious liberty. 

The editor of Brownson's Quarterly Review had bluntly 
declared : " Protestantism of every form has not and never 
can have any rights where Catholicism is triumphant." 
The Hamhler, another leading Catholic journal, had 
said: "You ask if he [the Pope] were lord in the land, 
and you were in a minority, if not in numbers, yet in 
power, what would we do to you ? That we say which 
would benefit the cause of Catholicism ; if expedient, he 
would imprison you, banish you, fine you, possibly hang 
you — but be assured of one thing, he would never tolerate 
you for the sake of the ' glorious principles of civil and 
religious liberty.' " And in the Shepherd of the Valley, 
another sectarian paper, was to be found the following in 
its issue of November 23, 1851 : " If Catholics ever gain 
an immense numerical majority, religious freedom in this 

1 See " Our Country," by Rev. Josiah Strong, D.D., Chapter V. ; also 
teachings of the "American Protective Association." 


country is at an end. So our enemies say. So we 

Among the campaign documents circulated throughout 
Virginia, during the campaign of 1855, was a letter of 
Bishop McGQl of Richmond, in reply to a similar one 
from James Lyons, Esq., a prominent lawyer of Rich- 
mond and a brother-in-law of Wise, the character of 
which wUl be explained by the response of the bishop, 
which was as follows : — 

" The letter, which you have addressed to me, contains 
three questions, to which you ask an answer, with a view 
to publication. First Question: 'Whether the Catholics 
in Virginia do acknowledge any temporal allegiance to the 
Pope ? ' To this I answer, that unless there be in Virginia 
some Italians who owe allegiance to the Pope as a temporal 
Prince, because they were born in his States, and are not 
naturalized citizens of this country, there are no Catholics 
in Virginia who owe, or acknowledge, any temporal alle- 
giance to the Pope. 

" Second Question : ' Whether if this country could be, 
and was, assailed by the army of the Pope (if he had one), 
or by any other Catholic power, the Catholic citizens of 
this country, no matter where born, would not be as much 
bound to defend the Flag of America, her rights and 
liberty, as any native-born citizen would be ? ' 

" Answer : To me the hypothesis of an invasion of our 
country by the Pope seems an absurdity; but should he 
come with armies to establish temporal dominion here, or 
should any other Catholic power make such an attempt, 
it is my conviction that all Catholic citizens, no matter 
where born, who enjoy the benefits and franchises of the 
Constitution, would be conscientiously bound, like native- 
born citizens, to defend the flag, rights, and liberties of the 
Republic, and repel such invasion. 


" Third Question : ' Whether the performance of that 
duty would conflict with any oath, or vow, or any other 
obligation of the Catholics ? ' Answer : Catholics, reared 
in the Church as such, have not the custom of taking any 
oaths or vows, except the baptismal vows, 'to renounce 
the devil, his works and pomps.' Persons converted to 
the faith, or those receiving degrees in Theology, may be 
required to take the oath contained in the creed of Pius 
IV. of obedience to the Pope, which, as far as I know, has 
always been understood and interpreted to signify a spirit- 
ual obedience to him as head of the Church, and not in 
obedience to him as a temporal prince. Bishops, on their 
consecration, also take an oath, which in our country is 
different from the old form used in Europe. But none of 
these vows, oaths, and no other obligation of which I am 
aware, conflicts with the duty of a citizen of the United 
States to defend the flag and liberties of his country. In 
conclusion, allow me to state that as we have no article 
of faith teaching that the Pope, of divine right, enjoys 
temporal power as head of the Church, whatever some 
theologians or writers may have said on this point must, 
like my answers to your inquiries, be considered as opinions 
for which the writers themselves only can be held respon- 

Mr. Flournoy, although the candidate of the American 
party for governor, took no part in the campaign, and the 
canvass of the Know-nothings was conducted through the 
medium of the press, the Richmond Whig having earnestly 
enlisted in their behalf, as well as through the secret coun- 
cils of the order, which were organized with wonderful effi- 
ciency. The failure of Mr. Flournoy to take the stump, 
although in accordance with the policy of his party, was a 
matter of regret to many of his friends, as he was a per- 
suasive and effective speaker, and would have gained hun- 


dreds of votes for his cause. With undiminished zeal Wise 
continued his tour of the State, throughout the months 
of January, February, March, and April, and during the 
early part of May, delivering speeches that stirred the 
hearts of the Democracy and revived their drooping 
spirits. The canvass of a State like Virginia was no easy 
matter, as it was -wretchedly supplied with railways and 
intersected by the AUeghanies and Blue Ridge, and travel 
to the county court houses was largely by private convey- 
ance, over roads which still answered the description of 
Tom Moore's lampoon: — 

" Ruts and ridges. 

And bridges 
Made of planks, 

In open ranks, 
Like old women's teeth ! " 

In his addresses Wise did not confine himself to the 
issue of Know-nothingism alone, but dwelt at length upon 
his favorite topic of public improvements and the indus- 
trial development of the State. Oftentimes his hearers, who 
came expecting to hear a political discussion solely, were 
entertained for hours by a dissertation upon the minerals, 
woods, and water-power of the State, the encouragement 
of manufactures, and the need of improved transportation 
facilities, etc. He pledged himself, first of all, to main- 
tain the credit of the State unimpaired, and declared, " If 
I be elected governor of Virginia, then, I tell you bluntly 
and briefly, if it be necessary to tax you to defend her 
honor, I will commend taxation, though it make us 
groan.^ Next to public credit, next to the honor of 
the State, are her great public works. Your works 
have been begun without regard to their relative impor- 

I Speech at Alexandria, as reported in New York Herald. 


tance. You have not completed one before you have 
begun another and another. Your public works are with- 
out termini. Your canals and your railroads are like 
ditches dug in the middle of a plantation, without outlet 
at either end. You appropriate for them to-day, neglect 
them to-morrow, and leave the appropriations of the day 
after to-morrow to repair decay. It is time that some one 
or two, or as many as you can, of the public works of the 
State of Virginia should be completed, in order to ease the 
taxation of the public. It is time they should be completed 
in order to render some profit to the State. All that the 
State of Virginia has been wanting has been to reach out her 
arms to the great West — to tap the Ohio River — to join 
the Big Bend of the Ohio River with your rivers in the East. 
You have reversed in times past the order of true policy. 
You have said : ' Let us have capital, let us have popula- 
tion, and then you will have a city.' But you never will 
have capital, you never -will have population, until you 
have the internal improvements to build up a city. You 
want commerce. You have bays, quays, roadsteads, which 
would float the navies of the world ; but you have no seat 
of commerce — no centre of trade has yet pointed its spires 
to the heavens on the soil of Virginia. That is because 
you have completed none of your public works. What- 
ever difference of opinion, then, may have been as to the 
commencement of your works of State improvement, now 
that they are begun, now that millions have been spent 
and wasted upon them, now that you are obliged to be 
taxed in order to complete them, the sooner you submit 
to the taxation to complete your primary works the better. 
" And the most expeditious and certainly the most profita- 
ble way of completing your works of secondary impor- 
tance is to complete those of primary importance. If, 
then, elected governor of the State of Virginia, I shall 


use all the influence which I can wield consistently with 
the public credit, and with the condition of the people, to 
expedite the completion of all the works of primary im- 
portance in the State. Next to your public works and 
your commerce, your agriculture is the most important. 
The four great cardinal sources of production of. national 
wealth are commerce, agriculture, manufacturing, and min- 
ing. We have sixty-four thousand square miles, as rich in 
every element of commerce, in every element of agricul- 
ture, of manufacturing, and mining as any other sixty-four 
thousand square nules on the face of the globe ; and yet, 
with all four powers in her hand, Virginia has, thus far in 
her history, relied upon one source alone. On Chesapeake 
Bay, from the mouth of the Rappahannock to the capes 
of the Chesapeake, you have roadsteads and harbors suffi- 
cient to float the navies of the world. From the River of 
Swans, on whose margin we are, down to the line of North 
Carolina, you have the Potomac, the Rappahannock, the 
Piantatank, from Mobjack Bay to James River and the 
Elizabeth River — all meeting in the most beautiful sheet 
of water of aU the seas of the earth. You have the bowels 
of your western mountains rich in iron, in copper, in coal, 
in salt, in gypsum, and the very earth is rich in oil, which 
makes the very rivers inflame. You have the line of the 
AUeghany, that beautiful blue ridge which stands, placed 
there by the Almighty, not to obstruct the way of the 
people to market, but placed there in the very bounty of 
Providence, to milk the clouds ; to make the sweet springs 
which are the sources of your rivers. And at the head 
of every stream is the waterfall murmuring the very music 
of your power. And yet commerce has long ago spread 
her sails and sailed away from you ; you have not, as yet, 
dug more than coal enough to warm yourselves at your 
own hearths ; you have set no tilt hammer of Vulcan to 


strike blows worthy of gods in the iron foundries. You 
have not yet spun more than the coarse cotton enough, in 
the way of manufacture, to clothe your own slaves. You 
have had no commerce, no mining, no manufactures. 
You have relied alone on the single power of agriculture : 
and such agriculture ! Your sedge patches outshine the 
sun. Your inattention to your only source of wealth has 
scarred the very bosom of mother earth. Instead of hav- 
ing to feed cattle on a thousand hills, you have had to 
chase the stump-tailed steer through the sedge patches to 
procure a tough beefsteak. And yet, while your trust has 
been in the hands of the old negroes of the plantation, 
while the master knows as little as his slave about the 
science — applied science — of agriculture, while com- 
merce and manufactures and mining have been hardly 
known, and agriculture has been neglected, — notwith- 
standing all that, and notwithstanding the effect of this 
has been that you have parted with as much population as 
you have retained, notwithstanding all this, I say, old 
Virginia still has a million and a half of population left 
within her limits. She still has her harbors and rivers 
and her water-power, and every source of wealth which 
thinking men, active men, enterprising men, need apply to." 
He urged the need of a complete system of public edu- 
cation, such as was contemplated by Jefferson, and a State 
school of scientific agriculture. Virginia, he described 
as being " in the anomalous condition of an old State that 
has all the capacities of a new one — of a new State that 
has all the capacities of an old one." On the subject of 
slavery, he pointed out the steady growth of abolitionism 
throughout the North, and declared that the Know-noth- 
ings were abolitionists in disguise, which assertion seemed 
in a measure confirmed, by the large number of extremists 
throughout the North and New England who were promi- 


nent in the secret order. He was unsparing in his denun- 
ciation of this class, and of what he considered the 
encroachments upon the rights of the South, and in refer- 
ring to an extract which he read from a sermon of James 
Freeman Clarke, in which the latter had observed that 
"Northern enthusiasm, when fully aroused, has always 
been more than a match for Southern organization," 
exclaimed : " Oh ! gods ! Northern conscience ! Take a 
shark skin, and let it dry to shagreen — skin the rhinoce- 
ros — go then and set the sUver steel and grind it, and 
when you have ground it, then take the hone and whet it 
till it would split a hair, and with it prick the shagreen 
or the shark skin, and then go and try it on Northern con- 
sciences ! . . . What is the result of such preaching, 
such teaching, such printing?" asked Wise, alluding to 
the tirades of the abolitionists. " What has been the 
result of the pulpit, the schoolhouses, and the press at the 
North upon this subject? Gentlemen, but a short time 
back, New England — Massachusetts especially — had 
but one ism within her limits, and that was Puritanism, 
the religion of the Old Covenanters and Congregationalists 
— Puritanism, full of vitality, full of spirituality — Puri- 
tanism that made even the barren rock of Plymouth to 
fructify, that made the New Englanders a strong people, 
that made them a rich people, that made them a learned 
people. But since they have waxed fat, since they have 
begun to build churches by lottery, begun to moralize man- 
kind by legislation, begun to play petty providences for 
the people, begun to be Protestant Popes over the con- 
sciences of men, begun to preach ' Christian Politics,' 
such as you have heard, Puritanism has disappeared, and 
we have in place of it Unitarianism, Universalism, Fouri- 
erism, MiUerism, Mormonism — all the odds and ends of 
isms — until at last you have a grand fusion of all those 


odds and ends of isms in the omnium gatherum of isms, 
called Know-nothingism. . . . Now where did it come 
from? It is no new thing. It is no strange thing. 
Although it is a wonder here, it has been operating for 
years in Old England. You that will go to a bookHstore 
and buy Dickens's novel of ' Hard Times ' will see a por- 
traiture of the thing, and how it has operated in a country 
with an aristocracy and a queen, with lords proprietors of 
factories and of lands, which they rent to middlemen who 
grind down the operatives. There, in England, the secret 
association of the operatives against grinding capital, I 
grant you, has done much good. There, there is some 
necessity for it ; there, where men's noses are held to the 
grindstone by oppression ; there, where all the luxuries are 
free, and all the necessaries of life are taxed ; there, where 
the operative is made to bear all the burdens of society ; 
there, where there is a crowned head and an aristocracy — 
there, dark lantern, secret association, test oaths, have 
brought forth some reforms. Well, seeing its effect in 
that country — Exeter Hall — the abolitionists of England 
send it over to the preachers of ' Christian Politics ' in 
Boston and New York, to apply its machinery to the 
North and the non-slaveholding States." 

In discussing the anti-Romanist attitude of the Know- 
nothings, Wise said : " You tell the people that Catholics 
never gave aid to civil liberty ; that they never yet struck 
a blow for the freedom of mankind. Who gave you alli- 
ance against the king of England ? Who but that Catho- 
lic king, Louis XVI. ? He sent you from the court of 
Versailles, the boy of Washington's camp, a foreigner who 
never was naturalized, but bled at the redoubt of York- 
town. And not only did Lafayette bleed at the redoubt 
of Yorktown, when Arnold, a native proved, like Absalom, 
a traitor, but when the German, De Kalb, fell at the field 


of Camden, on Southern soil, with fourteen bayonet wounds 
transfixing his body, and, dying, praised the Maryland 
militia. Gates, the Yankee native, ran seventy-five miles 
without looking behind. And not only that: In that 
intense moment when the Declaration of our Indepen- 
dence was brought into Carpenter's Hall by Rutledge and 
Franklin and Jefferson, and laid upon the table — that 
holy paper, which not only pledged life and honor, but 
fortune, too — realize that moment of intense, of deep, 
of profound interest, when the Independence of this land 
hung upon the acts of men ; when, one by one, men arose 
from their seats and went to the table to pledge lives and 
fortunes and sacred honor, — at length one spare, pale-faced 
man arose and went and dipped the pen into ink and 
signed ' Charles Carroll,' and when reminded that it might 
not be known what Charles Carroll it was, that it be 
known that it was a Charles Carroll who was pledging a 
principality of fortune, he added the words 'of Carroll- 
ton.' He was a Catholic representative from a Catholic 
colony. And, sir, before George Washington was born, 
before Lafayette wielded the sword or Charles Carroll the 
pen for his country, six hundred and forty years ago, on 
the 16th of June, 1214, there was another scene enacted 
on the face of the globe, when the general character of aU 
charters of freedom was gained — when one man — a man 
called Stephen Langton — swore the barons of England, 
for the people, against the orders of the Pope and against 
the power of the king — swore the barons on the high altar 
of the Catholic Church at St. Edmondsbury, that they 
would have Magna Charta or die for it, — the charter 
which secures to every one of you to-day trial by jury, 
freedom of the press, freedom of the pen, the confronting 
of witnesses with the accused, and the opening of secret 
dungeons — that charter was obtained by Stephen Langton 


against the Pope and against the king of England ; and if 
you Know-nothings don't know who Stephen Langton was, 
you know nothing sure enough. He was a Catholic arch- 
bishop of Canterbury. I come here not to praise the 
Catholics, but I come here to acknowledge historical truth, 
and to ask of Protestants what has heretofore been the 
pride and boast of Protestants, — tolerance of opinion in 
religious faith. All we ask is tolerance. All we ask is, 
that if you hate the Catholics because they have pro- 
scribed heretics, you won't outproscribe proscription. If 
you hate the Catholics because they have nunneries and 
monasteries and Jesuitical secret orders, don't out Jesuit 
the Jesuits by going into dark-lantern secret chambers to 
apply test oaths. If you hate the Catholics because you 
say they encourage the Machiavellian expediency of telling 
lies sometimes, don't swear yourselves not to tell the truth. 
Here are the oaths — the oaths that bind you under no 
circumstances to disclose who you are or what you are, 
and that bind you not only to political, but to social pro- 
scription. Here is your book [holding up a copy of the 
American ritual] — your Bible which requires of you to stick 
up your notices between midnight and daybreak. I don't 
object to secrecy. I am a member of a secret order, and I 
am proud to be a brother Mason ; and I am at liberty by 
my order to say that as to its ends, its purposes, its designs. 
Masonry has no secrets. Its ends, its purposes, its aims, 
are to make a brotherhood of charity amongst men. Its 
end is the end of the Christian law of religion. I know 
not how any Mason can be a Know-nothing. Masonry 
binds its members to respect and obey the laws of the 
land in which we live ; and when the Constitution of 
the United States declares that no religious test shall be 
made a qualification for office, Masonry dare not interpose 
by conspiring, in a secret association, to attempt to make 


a religious test a qualification for office. When Virginia 
has an act of religious freedom — an act that is no longer 
a mere statute law, but is now a part of the organic law, 
and which says that no man shall be burdened for religious 
opinion's sake — Masonry dare not conspire to burden any 
man for opinion's sake. Masonry has no secrets but the 
simple tests by which it recognizes its brotherhood. It is 
bound to respect the law and to tolerate differences of 
opinion in religion and politics. I do not complain of 
secrecy, but I complain of secrecy for political objects. 
What is your object ? It is to assail the Constitution of 
the United States, to conspire, to contradict the Constitu- 
tion and laws of the land; it is to conspire against the 
Constitution and laws, and swear men by test oaths — the 
most odious instruments of tyranny that intolerance and 
proscription have ever devised. It is not only to proscribe 
Catholics and foreigners, but it is to proscribe Protestants 
and natives, too, who will not unite with you in proscrib- 
ing Catholics and foreigners. It is further than that : It 
destroys all individuality in the man. You bring in your 
novitiate, you swear him to do — what ? To give up his 
conscience, his judgment, his will, to the judgment and 
the conscience and the will of an association of men who 
are not willing that others should enslave them, but by 
their test oath enslave themselves." 

In alluding to the triumph of the abolitionists through- 
out the Northern States, and their threatened invasion of 
Virginia, Wise said : — 

" No man loves and adores the Union of this land more 
than I do. I have been taught to venerate and to cherish 
the Union of these States. It is the holiest of all holy 
things. I would gladly give my life, my blood, as a sacri- 
fice to save it if required. But I know that the main 
pillars of the Union, the main props and supporters of 


this palladium, are the pillars of State rights and State 
sovereignty. If you place me with your sword in hand by 
that great pillar of Virginia sovereignty, I promise you to 
bear and forbear to the last extremity. I will suffer much, 
suffer long, suffer almost anything but dishonor. But it 
is, in my estimation, with the union of these States as it is 
with the union of matrimony. You may suffer almost 
anything except dishonor ; but when honor is touched the 
union must be dissolved. I will not say that. I take back 
the words. I will not allow myself to contemplate a dis- 
solution of the Union. No, we will try to save it. But 
when the worst comes to the worst, if compelled to draw 
the sword of Virginia, I will draw it ; and by the gods of 
the State and her holy altars, if I am compelled to draw it, 
I will flesh it, or it shall pierce my bpdy. And I tell you 
more : we have got abolitionists in this State. If I should 
have to move, some of the first, I fear, against whom I 
should have to act would be some within our own limits. 
But if forced to fight, I will not confine myself to the 
State of Virginia. My motto will be : — 

" ' Woe to the coward that ever he was bom 

That did not draw the sword before he blew the horn.' " 

In conclusion. Wise declared, in referring to his canvass 
against the Know-nothings : " Tell them distinctly there 
shall be no compromise, no parley. I will come to no 
terms. They shall either crush me or I will crush them 
in this State." 

On the 7th of May, after having been " on the stump " 
since early in January, during which time he had travelled 
over three thousand miles, Wise concluded his tour of 
the State at Leesburg, the county-seat of Loudoun. 
His labors had told heavily upon him despite his steel- 
spring energy, and he was much worn and exhausted from 


the effects of excessive speaking. An amusing story, rela- 
tive to his appearance at this period, was formerly current 
in Virginia, and appeared in print a few years ago, in 
Marper's Magazine,^ from which we reproduce it here. 

During the course of his campaign, he visited the town 
of Liberty, in Bedford County, for the purpose of address- 
ing the people of that neighborhood on the political situa- 
tion. He was received with great ^clat by the citizens of 
the town and was, of course, introduced to all the local 
notables, without regard to party. Among these was a 
Mr. Foggy who resided at the foot of the Peaks of Otter, 
a gentleman who was not awed the least when in the 
presence of greatness. The following colloquy ensued 
between them : — 

Mr. F. "Mr. Wise, I am glad to see you." 

Mk. W. " Mr. Foggy, I am happy to make your ac- 

Mr. F. " But I am sorry to say that I can't vote for 
you for governor." 

Mr. W. " I am sorry for that, Mr. Foggy ; but as this 
is a free country, every man has a right to vote as he 

Mr. F. " I tell you how I feel about it, Mr. Wise. 
When I was a young man, I was what is called a thimble- 
rigger, and I went to aU the boss races in the neighbor- 
hood with my thimbles and ball, crying out, "Tis here, 
and 'tain't there, 'tain't there and 'tis there,' a-foolin' many 
a gawkin' chap outen his money. Wa'al, for years at aU 
these races, a little boss named Waxy had been winnin' 
all the stakes every time. An' he allers come out ahead. 
Wa'al, when I war a-workin' one day as usual with my 
thimbles, I noticed the ugliest, scrawniest, long-legged, 
sharp-hipped lookin' critter led on the track I ever saw ; 

1 See Harper^ s Magazine, Vol. LXX., December, 1884. 


an' he war called Wee Hawk. I soon found he war 
entered agin Waxy, and as they thought it war for a 
joke, big odds were offered agin him. I looked him all 
over, an' though he war a hard-lookin' cuss of the hoss 
kind, I noticed thar war fire in his eye, and he war winkin' 
like he'd been thar before. I looked at my pile, and 
thinks I to myself, 'Now if I bet on Waxy an' win, it 
won't amount to much ; but if I bet on Wee Hawk an' 
win, I'll have a pile worth talkin' of. I looked agin at 
old Wee Hawk, an' seein' the fire in his eye a-flashin' 
more and more, I concluded I'd risk it. Wa'al, when old 
Wee Hawk war brought out alongside Waxy, you oughter 
heard the guyin' the crowd give his rider. ' Take 'im off.' 
' Look out for the crows.' ' Fasten some hay on a stick 
ahead of his nose,' and the like, war heard on every side. 
All this time Waxy war prancin' around, everybody feelin' 
sure he'd win. Wa'al, as I war a-sayin', when they war led 
out to start. Wee Hawk began to ruffle his feathers, and 
as the sayin' is, ' snuffed the battle from afar,' and it took 
three men to hold him. An' when the judge said, ' Go ! ' 
you oughter seen old Wee Hawk a-straightenin' out his 
long legs an' neck, an' lightenin' out as if he war another 
Diomed or Sir Archy, which war great racin' bosses in old 
times. Waxy war nowhar, an' come out more than six 
lengths behind Wee Hawk. The fellows who had been 
yellin' to give him to the crows war not crowin' so much 
when they found they had to hand over to me, an' it war 
the worst-beat crowd you ever saw. Wa'al, now, Mr. Wise, 
I never did see a man look so much like a hoss as you do 
like Wee Hawk ; an' though I can't vote for you, I'll bet 
my pile on you." 

Mr. Wise, observes the narrator, laughed heartily at the 
comparison, and the result soon proved that the " fire war 


From Leesburg Wise repaired to Washington City to 
await the battle at the polls on the 24th of May. While 
resting there from his labors, he addressed the following 
letter^ to the people of Virginia, dated May 10, 1855. 

"Fellow-citizens: — I have now finished the can- 
vass of the State. On the 7th inst., at Leesburg, I met 
my last appointment. Incessant and excessive labors for 
127 days have so impaired my health and strength that 
I must desist from further effort and seek rest. I retire 
from the ' stump ' the less reluctantly because I may now 
justly claim that I have faithfully tried to do my part, 
and I can confidently leave the rest to the unsubdued and 
unterrified Democracy and its loyal hosts. Never were the 
sound conservative, conscientious, and stake-holding Re- 
publicans in Virginia better organized and more aroused 
than they are at the present time. They have been deserted 
by a few who left their party for its good ; but, in turn, 
the very flower of the old opposition of Whiggery, re- 
spectable in times past for its profession of conservatism 
and its love of law and order, have chosen the elect 
Democracy, with all the ills they complain of it, rather 
than to fly to those they Know not of!'' 

" The personnel of the party was never more purified, 
and the numerical majority was never larger than it 
promises to be at the coming election. As in 1801 the 
Democracy stood 'like a wall' and rolled back the tide 
of federalism, so now it stands and will roll back the 
tide of fanaticism ! It will prove itself to be the visible 
invincible ! It is roused and will rally to the polls ten 
thousand voters more than ever gave the viva voce before ! 
And the viva voce will rend the veil from the ' invisible ' 
and defend the freedom and independence of the elective 

1 See Hambleton, pages 353, 354. 


franchise and the Constitution and the laws against the 
conspiracy of the dark lantern. 

" It wiU forbid any power in Virginia to interpose 
between our conscience and our God. 

"It will save the Protestant churches from the pollu- 
tion of party politics, and conserve their powers of truth 
for the pulling down of strongholds, free from the taint 
and violence of persecution. It will trust in God, and 
defend the Christian faith from intolerance, and allow 
poor humanity to indulge in the virtues of charity and 
peace on earth and good-will to all men. 

"It will not only oppose any 'legislative enactment' 
to interfere with the rights of the members of any church 
as citizens, but it will deny the power of the legislature 
to annul the new Constitution, which has made the act 
of religious freedom irrepealable. That act is now or- 
ganic law. And the Democratic conservatism will allow 
no party nor power to set up a higher law and say that 
a man shall be burthened, when the Constitution says 
he shall not be burthened, for reason of his religious opin- 
ion, by being excluded from eligibility to office, or by re- 
moval from office because of his religion or the place of 
his birth. 

"It will prevent the repudiation of the right of natu- 
ralization, for which the nation poured out its blood and 
treasure for three years in the second war of Independence 
with Great Britain. 

" It will defend the State right to regulate citizenship. 
It will not deny to the oppressed a home, nor prevent 
the population * of these States ' still requiring hundreds 
of millions of immigrants, who bring with them hundreds 
of millions of money. 

"It will allow the poor, as well as the rich, to come 
and ' drink of the waters ' of liberty freely. And it will 


remember that all are not criminals whom European des- 
pots call such and send away from troubling their domin- 
ions. It will take by the hand other criminals besides 
John Mitchell, and feel for others in the prison-houses 
and dungeons of the Old World besides him who once 
was tenant of Olmutz! 

" It will jealously guard against the European influence 
which is insidiously sent from Exeter Hall in Old England 
to Williams Hall in New England to invade America in 
the name of an ' American ' party ; and it will watch the 
oppressor, not the oppressed, abroad, as did Washington, 
Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson ! 

"It will defend the freedom and independence of the 
elective franchise against the conspiracy which would 
bind voters by test oaths to reject men of a particular 
religious faith, marked for proscription, and which would 
not leave suffrage as free to elect as to reject those whom 
the Constitution and the laws have made eligible to office. 

"It win especially guard the office of governor from 
the avowed intent to wield the appointing power so as 
not to obey the limitations of qualifications for office fixed 
by the Constitution, but to obey rules of appointment es- 
tablished by an irresponsible and authorized Secret Oli- 
garchy, formed to set up the Higher Law of its own 
prescription for its own exclusive and selfish ends. 

" It will see that the oath itself of the governor's office 
is not perverted by sectarian bigotry to set up a religious 
test as a qualification for office. It will defend the Gen- 
eral Government from the consolidation which would 
establish itself on what is called the independence of 

"It will defend public policy from the faith of the 
American system, Harbors, Rivers, and Pacific Railroads 
and Protective Tariffs and Internal Improvements by the 


General Government, now again advanced by a Win- 
chester Council of the American party. It will defend 
the State against agrarianism, free-soilism, and abolition- 
ism now threatening to invade the South from Northern 
non-slaveholding Councils of Know-nothingism. It will 
defend society against the demoralization of a cabal sworn 
to practise dissimulation and perfidy between man and 
man. And it will defend religion against the demons 
of Antichrist! With perfect and abiding confidence in 
the power of Truth and Democracy, of a purified, exalted, 
and triumphant majority for these impregnable positions, 
I go home to Accomack and await the polls of the people. 
I cannot do so without thanking thousands of the sections 
of the State through which I have passed for their uniform 
hospitality, kindness, and respect, and without saying that 
the chief gratification with which I part from a daily inter- 
course with the masses of the people is that I have endeav- 
ored to sow the seeds of truth only in the popular mind, 
and I trust that they will be fruitful of blessings to 
individuals, to the State, and to the country." 

On the 24th day of May, 1855, what had been one of the 
most exciting campaigns that has ever occurred in this 
country came to an end, and the viva voce of the people of 
Virginia was given for the Democratic standard-bearer. 
The total vote of the State was 156,668, of which Wise re- 
ceived 83,424 votes, and Flournoy 73,244, being a majority 
of 10,180 for the former. Throughout the Northern 
States the result in Virginia had been watched with in- 
tense interest, the Know-nothings having carried the gov- 
ernors and legislatures of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, 
Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, California, and 
Kentucky; and all eyes were turned toward the Old 
Dominion as the natural gateway, or "entering wedge," to 
the Southern States. The result of the Virginia election 


spread like wild-fire, and Wise was called upon in the city 
of Washington at Brown's Hotel, by an immense throng 
of his admirers, before whom he appeared, and amid the 
frequent interruptions of the Know-nothings present, de- 
clared in eloquent tones, " I have met the Black Knight 
with his visor down, and his shield and lance are broken." 
In referring to the triumph of " Sam " in the Northern 
States, he said, " He might live in the land of secret ballot, 
but he could not survive the viva voce of the people." 

The triumphant march of the secret order in America 
was thenceforward broken, and the " dark lantern " had 
lost its attractiveness, for in addition to Virginia, Georgia, 
Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi gave their verdict 
against the new movement, and Know-nothingism, instead 
of successfully invading the South, received an over- 
whelming defeat. But one circumstance detracted from 
Wise's gratification at the result in Virginia; namely, his 
native county Accomack had gone against him, but he had 
turned the tables upon his opponent, Flournoy, by carry- 
ing Halifax, the latter's county. The result in Accomack 
was explained, not only by the free-soil sentiment that 
exists there but by the close intercourse commercially and 
otherwise with Baltimore, where the Know-nothings held 
full sway, and the further fact that Wise had not been 
able to visit the eastern shore during the canvass and to 
contradict certain adverse rumors which the northern 
Methodists had circulated against him. Upon his arrival 
in his native county he was greeted by immense crowds, 
who gathered about him to congratulate him on the result, 
and he said in a public address to his fellow-citizens in 
alluding to the vote in Accomack, " The mother may for- 
get the son, but the son will not forget the mother." 

On June 29 Wise wrote in a letter to his friend, Sena- 
tor George W. Jones of Iowa : " My policy from first to 


last was to strike so fast and thick at ' Sam,' that he was 
kept on the defensive all the time. The man who defends 
in politics is half whipped. I have often been taken for 
an impulsive man to my advantage. The enemy was sur- 
prised that I never stopped to defend a position, but kept 
pressing constantly upon his centre until it was broken. 
It was a desperate battle, Jones. As late as February we 
were beaten twenty thousand votes. Nothing but Napo- 
leonic tactics could save the field. I won't march to Mos- 
cow after them. But the North must not cross the 
Virginia line with its worse than icy cold ' isms.' " 

In summing up the causes which led to the overthrow 
of Know-nothingism in Virginia, it would be unjust not to 
acknowledge the valuable services of the press, prominent 
among which were the Richmond Enquirer, edited by 
Roger A. Pryor, and the Examiner, edited by Robert 
W. Hughes, while yeomen service was rendered by such 
able speakers as Shelton F. Leake, John B. Floyd, 
Patrick Henry Aylett, James Lyons, Richard K. Meade, 
Elisha W. McComas, William H. Harman, Henry L. Hop- 
kins, and others. Nor were the old-line Whigs altogether 
lacking in their support of the Democracy, for there were 
many who refused to ally themselves with the new secret 
order. However, it is no disparagement of any of these, 
whether Democrats or Whigs, to assert that Wise had 
been from first to last the central figure for the canvass, 
and his eloquent voice had served more than all others 
combined to animate and inspire the Democratic hosts and 
break the ranks of the enemy. 

Although the American party had the boldness to put 
forward Millard Fillmore for the presidency in 1856, yet 
the force of the movement had been spent, and from the 
beginning it had served no other end than to delay, for a 
short while, the inevitable conflict between the sections. 


which, however, it was powerless to prevent. In the hour 
of its first successes, Horace Greeley had remarked that it 
had " about as many of the elements of persistences as an 
anti-cholera or anti-potato rot party would have." The 
attempted evasion of the slavery question, at a time when 
the issue had to be met, and its lack of clearly defined 
policies as to public affairs, justified this observation, apart 
from the anachronism presented by a secret oath-bound 
order in a free republic. As Professor Alexander John- 
ston has written of the political conditions in 1856, " the 
first wave of the Republican tide from the West had 
washed nativism almost out of New England," as in fact it 
was rapidly doing throughout the North, and the Ameri- 
can organization thenceforward played but an insignificant 
part upon the public stage which had been cleared for the 
great tragedy soon to be enacted. 



The peaceful retirement, afforded by his home in 
Accomack, furnished Wise the much-needed rest after the 
arduous duties which he had performed on the hustings. 
The Virginia election had not only been anxiously watched, 
on account of its effect on the success of the American 
party in the Southern States, but the triumph of Wise 
had forthwith caused his name to be widely discussed in 
connection with the Democratic nomination for the presi- 
dency to be made in 1856. Mr. Buchanan, who, at the 
time, was residing abroad, as the American minister at 
the Court of St. James, had expressed to personal friends 
his great gratification at the election of Wise, and the 
pleasure it would afford him to see the former chosen as 
the Democratic standard-bearer in the approaching presi- 
dential contest. Wise does not appear at first to have 
entertained any very serious views in regard to the election 
of himself or any other Southern man to the presidency, 
and in July, 1855, he wrote from " Only," in Accomack, 



to his friend, Senator George W. Jones of Iowa : " The 
thought of running for the presidency has never troubled 
my dreams, sleeping or waking. No, that is beyond the 
permission of the politicians. They will manage that 
matter all their own way, and I will be content to see 
that they are compelled to look to the good of our common 
country." And in September of the same year, in a letter 
to Robert Tyler, who then resided in Philadelphia, and 
who was anxious to bring forward his name, he wrote : ^ " I 
have no idea that any slaveholding Democrat can get the 
next, or any, nomination hereafter for the presidency. 
Free-soilism will run rampant over all considerations of 
Constitution, or Union, or country. My only fear is that 
it will tempt and frighten the time-serving aspirants of 
the South to distract and divide, and it may be to para- 
lyze us. For myself, I have no compromise to make with 
it, and would, by the Eternal, shoot any Southern traitor 
who would bargain away our property, and our honor 
especially, to its demands. And thus resolved, I mean 
to continue to act as if I was not thought of for any 
place of political preferment. There shall be no scramble 
in Virginia or the South, if I can help it, for the nomina- 
tion of the presidency. I will not consent that my name 
shall be used to divide our people, and my friends shall 
act with Hunter's, or it shall not be my fault. I shall 
urge the preparation of the State for events which are 
casting their substance, more than their shadows, before 
them ; and if the worst comes to the worst, I will not wait 
on Virginia soU to fight the battle, — the African war 
shall go into Africa." Although at first not inclined to 
consider his own nomination within the range of proba- 
bility, he readily succumbed to the notion, after the 

1 "Letters and Times of the Tylers," by Lyon G. Tyler, Vol. II., 
page 521. 


manner of American politicians generally, and was flat- 
tered by the letters that poured in upon him, as well as 
by the notices in the public press. 

On the 1st of January, 1856, he took the oath of office 
as governor, without any inaugural ceremony, and entered 
upon the discharge of his duties. A few days later he 
wrote to his friend, George Booker of Hampton : " I find 
my office no sinecure. We got in the Government house 
on the 8th inst., and on the 1st the whole city rushed my 
liquor so free that the footing of the bill frightens me." 
At this time he still had hopes of his own nomination, but 
later on became convinced of the impracticability of putting 
forward any Southern candidate. 

The national convention of the Democratic party assem- 
bled at Cincinnati in June of that year. Whether the 
nomination of Buchanan was due to Wise's influence, as 
stated by Von Hoist, or not, he had undoubtedly much to do 
with the bringing about of that result. Wise had espoused 
the cause of Buchanan on account of the vote of Penn- 
sylvania, and in a speech delivered at a ratification meet- 
ing in Richmond declared, " She [Pennsylvania] alone 
of all the middle and northeastern States stood firm for 
Democracy, she alone of the Northern and non-slavehold- 
ing States of largest Federal strength and size remains true 
and reliable." The fact that the electoral vote of that 
State numbered 28, and the impracticability of nominating 
a Southern man, made it necessary, in Wise's opinion, to 
form a political alliance with Pennsylvania, and indicated 
Buchanan as the logical candidate. The nomination of 
Fremont as the Republican or Free-soil candidate brought 
the slavery question directly before the people, despite the 
fact that the American party had the temerity to put 
forward Fillmore, and the issues were clearly defined. 
Apprehensive of what would follow the election of Fre- 


mont, Wise addressed the following letter to Governor 
Ligon of Maryland : — 

" Richmond, Virginia, September 15, 1856. 

" To His Excellency, Thomas W. Ligon, Governor of 
Maryland : 

'■'■Bear Sir : — Events are approaching which address 
themselves to your responsibilities and to mine as chief 
executives of slaveholding States. Contingencies may 
soon happen which would require preparation for the 
worst of evils to the people we govern. Ought we not 
to admonish ourselves, by joint counsel, of the extraor- 
dinary duties which may devolve upon us from the 
dangers which so palpably threaten our common peace 
and safety? When, how, to what extent may we act, 
separately or unitedly, to ward off dangers if we can, to 
meet them most effectually if we must ? I propose that 
as early as convenient, the governors of Maryland, Vir- 
ginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, 
Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arkausas, Mississippi, and 
Tennessee shall assemble at Raleigh, North Carolina, for 
the purpose generally of consultation upon the state of 
the country, upon the best means of preserving its peace, 
and especially protecting the honor and interest of the 
slaveholding States. I have named the States only 
having Democratic executives for obvious reasons. 

" This should be done as early as possible, before the 
presidential election, and I would suggest Monday the 
13th of October next. Will you please give me an early 
answer and oblige 

" Yours most truly and respectfully, 

"Hbney a. Wise." 

Similar letters were addressed to the governors of the 
other Southern States with the exception of Kentucky 
and Missouri. 


The meeting occurred at Raleigh, but only the gov- 
ernors of North and South Carolina were present, besides 
Wise. Most of them had written letters approving the 
objects of the conference, but were prevented from at- 
tending ; others thought any action unwise, especially as 
the governors of Kentucky and Missouri, who were not 
Democrats, had not been invited to participate, and hence 
the meeting would be regarded as a mere Democratic 
movement. Of this conference, Wise afterward, in 1873, 
wrote in a letter to Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts (see 
Wilson's "Rise and Fall of the Slave Power," Vol. II., 
page 521) : " My anxious desire and most zealous motive 
was to do all I could to prevent intestine war and guard 
against disunion ; and, if that could not be done, to pro- 
vide for the safety and protection of Virginia in a war 
which might come, and which I was sure would come, 
unless a convention of the States could be assembled to 
avert its dangers. ... I shall die in the conviction that 
if a convention of all the States could have been held, war 
would have been averted." 

No action was taken at the Raleigh meeting, though it 
had the effect, as Wilson remarks, of alarming many con- 
servative men at the North, who were prevented thereby 
from voting for Fremont. The election of Buchanan 
over Fremont served to postpone for a time the conflict, 
which otherwise might have sooner arisen. 

We may be pardoned if we narrate here an episode in the 
history of the slavery contest but little known, and which is 
of interest, if for no other reason than on account of its pro- 
jector, and the line of speculation that it awakened as to what 
might have been its results. In the year 1856 Eli Thayer of 
Massachusetts, the able and indefatigable head of the Emi- 
grant Aid Society, had completed his work of colonization 
in Kansas and made sure the triumph of the free-state 


men. It was the purpose of Thayer, after his victory over 
the pro-slavery sympathizers, to turn his attention to Vir- 
ginia, and buy up large tracts of land in that State and 
settle them with members of the Society. It was even 
contemplated to purchase whole counties in tidewater 
Virginia, which had become thinly populated and worn 
out by the exhaustive methods of agriculture in vogue 
there, and fill them with free-state settlers. Early in 
1857, after lecturing at various points throughout the 
western portion of the State, Thayer founded a colony 
called Ceredo, in Wayne County, on the Ohio River. 
Here a large sum of money was expended, and over five 
hundred settlers were located. Wise was appealed to by 
Albert Gallatin Jenkins, a resident of Green Bottom, not 
far distant, to prevent the founding of an abolition colony 
in Virginia, and in reply to a letter from the latter wrote : 

" Richmond, Virginia, August 24, 1857. 

" Dbak Sir : — Yours of the 15th inst. was received 
this morning, and I reply to it immediately, that 'Mr. 
Eli Thayer's emigration scheme,' in western Virginia or 
anywhere else, has never been submitted in any manner 
whatever to my approval or disapproval. What the 
scheme is, for any part of Virginia or elsewhere, I am not 
definitely informed, and the agents of no such emigration 
scheme have ever addressed me on the subject, directly or 
indirectly, and its friends, whoever they be, have no 
authority whatever for the use of my name in its favor. 
A newspaper report to that effect, in some Cincinnati 
journal, was lately contradicted by the Richmond Enquirer, 
with my authority. 

" I am ' cognizant ' of no ' matter appertaining to the 
origin, objects, and probable results of this enterprise,' 
which have not been given to the public. Officially, I 


have nothing to do with the subject, except it be made 
apparent, by proper and sufficient proof, that combinations 
or associations are formed, in or out of the State, to cause 
invasion or incite insurrection, or to prevent the execution 
of our laws, especially those for the protection of property 
in slaves. Any association or combination, formed under 
any pretext, coming into our limits with the avowed or 
manifest purpose and act of impairing the value of prop- 
erty in slaves, would be against the laws of the Com- 
monwealth, which I will 'take care shall be faithfully 
executed.' No such association or combination has my 
approbation, and it will have to encounter all the power 
vested in me by the constitution to resist and overcome 
any such unlawful intent or purpose, and to enforce the 
execution of the laws. But in saying this, I disclaim all 
meaning to interfere with peaceful and lawful immigra- 
tion into the limits of our Commonwealth. Our State 
settlers do develop her vast resources ; and I would, from 
policy and without fear, encourage immigrants to come to 
our waste lands and improve them, to increase our popula- 
tion, our wealth, our revenue, and our State and Federal 
strength. And so conscious am I of the power of Virginia 
to protect and defend her institutions and the persons and 
property of her citizens, in her own limits at least, that I 
would neither feel nor betray any fear, if felt, which would 
repel lawful immigration and settlement. That State must 
be weak, indeed, which would, from mere apprehension, 
arrest the progress of her development lest she could not 
preserve her peace, protect her persons and property, and 
enforce her laws. I have no fear, therefore, that any emi- 
gration scheme intended to affect Virginia can endanger 
either her honor, her possessions, or her peace in her own 

" No matter what may be the newspaper rumors, how- 


ever calculated to alarm the timid or to excite the excit- 
able, or to add fuel to the fires of agitation, my counsel is 
calmly to invite settlers to our lands ; to offer them every 
facility and favor of good neighborhood ; to give them all 
the protection of peace ; to encourage them in increasing 
plenty, by multiplying the hands and vocations of labor — 
and to allow them to abide with us under our laws so long 
as they will obey those laws, and respect all rights under 
them. Indeed, I know of no laws. State or Federal, which 
do not require this rule to be observed toward all immi- 
grants of good behavior. The right to remove from one 
State and to settle in another, complying with the laws, is 
a reciprocal right of the citizens of the respective States, 
under the Constitution of the United States. Why not 
calmly wait, then, for the fact, as it may arise ? If the act 
and the intent of immigration shall manifest themselves 
to be unlawful, we have the power to enforce the laws ; 
and if lawful, we ought to encourage settlement, and are 
bound to extend protection to innocent and lawful immi- 
grants. At all events, let us be manly in our actions and 
not move from the promptings of mere apprehension and 

" These are briefly my views, and I am grateful to you 
for the opportunity of calling them forth. 

" Yours truly, 

"Henry A. Wise. 

" Hon. Albert G. Jenkins." 

It is hardly necessary to add that the Ceredo colony 
was never interfered with, and the enterprise only lan- 
guished on account of the lack of support from the 

Another letter of Wise, equally as characteristic of the 
man as that above quoted, was one addressed to Mrs. 


Sarah J. Hale, of Philadelphia, editor of the "Lady's 
Book," in response to a request from her that he 
appoint a day of thanksgiving, by virtue of his office 
as governor. 

" Richmond, Virginia, September 24, 1856. 

" Madam : — ■ . . . Never was there a time when this 
nation more needed the efficacy of prayer, against some of 
the preaching and practices of some of the churches which 
profess to be Christian, than at this critical period of im- 
minent peril. But Virginia is peculiarly opposed to any 
the remotest connection between the action of Church and 
State. We recognize Christianity in every form of State, 
except in any form of worship ; that is left to the people, 
freely to be exercised without any interference by the 
State, and the State permits no interference with it by any 
religions among the people. I cannot but approve of this 
disconnection, to this extent, and will never venture in 
this State or Republic to invoke religion, officially or politi- 
cally, on any occasion except as the laws authorize, as a 
sanction of appeals to the consciences of men and to the 
forms of certain proceedings, judicial or otherwise. I bow 
to God and His Son Jesus Christ and to His Holy Spirit 
in all things ; but the governor of Virginia is not author- 
ized by her laws to call upon the people to bow to authority 
in heaven, or on earth, besides their own authority. This 
is no infidel or anti-Christian sentiment, but one founded 
on a zealous sense of preserving the Church pure from the 
State, and the State free from the Church : upon the rule 
to render unto Csesar the things which are Caesar's, and 
unto God the things which are God's, and to keep spiritual 
things unspotted from the world. This theatrical, national 
claptrap of Thanksgiving has aided other causes in setting 
thousands of pulpits to preaching ' Ohristian politics,^ instead 


of humbly letting the carnal kingdom alone and preaching 
singly Christ crucified. 

" You are welcome to publish this hasty letter." 

At the period of Wise's occupancy of the governorship 
of Virginia, the subject of internal improvements consumed 
a large share of public attention. For a long period the 
development of the Commonwealth had been almost solely 
on agricultural lines, and that of the most primitive and 
wasteful character, the opposite of intensive farming or 
improved agriculture. Though manufacturing enterprises 
had been undertaken at an early period, they had never 
flourished on any large scale, as they were unsuited to the 
economic and social condition of the people. At the 
present time, it hardly appears to admit of a reasonable 
doubt that this state of things was directly traceable to the 
institution of negro slavery ; and that but for that incubus, 
Virginia, with her wealth of minerals, water-power, and 
lumber, would have rivalled Pennsylvania and Ohio, if not 
New York, in her development in wealth and population. 
At a commercial convention held in the city of Richmond, 
as far back as the year 1838, the report of the committee 
on manufactures showed that there was at that time about 
$11,000,000 invested in manufacturing enterprises. Wheel- 
ing, Petersburg, Fredericksburg, and Richmond were the 
chief manufacturing points, and, the largest amount was 
invested in the first-named place, which was located on the 
Ohio, and practically a western town. Petersburg, which 
was largely settled by a class of thrifty Scotchmen, had 
been the first town east of the mountains to embark in 
manufacturing, and was followed later by Fredericksburg 
and Richmond. The report of the committee alluded to 
the natural advantages of the State for manufacturing, viz. 
coal, iron, and limestone in wonderful juxtaposition, mild 


climate, water-power, cheap labor, etc., and advocated 
internal improvements and improved transportation and 
banking facilities. That there was great need of these 
last was unquestionably true. There were no home lines 
of vessels plying between Virginia ports and Europe, or 
South America, and foreign ship-owners derived the profit 
from whatever commerce was carried on. 

In a letter addressed to a prominent citizen of Norfolk, 
on the subject of a line of steamers between Virginia and 
South America, Wise wrote, under the date of October 
15, 1858: "... When minister of the United States at 
the Court of Brazil for nearly four years, from the begin- 
ning of 1844 to the end of 1847, whilst Gallego and Haxall 
flour commanded twenty-four milreis per barrel, the Trieste, 
Chili, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore 
flour commanded twenty-two, twenty, and eighteen milreis, 
on an average. The French bakers bought the Richmond 
flour as a priming for their bread, so superior was it in 
whiteness and gluten, and, under proper inspection, it con- 
tinues to command the markets of South America. But 
the ships which carry that flour from Virginia to Rio are 
all built in Baltimore, New York, or further north. There 
they are manned, rigged, and victualled. They come to 
City Point for our flour and spend nothing amongst us 
while loading, for they come provided for the voyage. 
Their owners make the freight, the dunnage, and exchange, 
and, above all, they bring back the return cargoes, not to 
us, but to Baltimore or New York, to be distributed, and 
the coffee comes through these ports to our people at retail 
prices. Until lately, I repeat, not a pound was imported 
into Virginia, not a Virginia bottom was employed in this 
trade, and not a port or place of Virginia sent a bag to the 
interior, but we were consumers at retail prices in the very 
city of Richmond which ground the flour that bought the 


coffee." The truth contained in these statements had 
resulted in a realization of their situation by the merchants 
of Richmond, and prior to the war they had invested a 
considerable sum in vessels employed in the Brazilian 
trade, and Richmond had become a large coffee market. 
In a letter to E. Lacouture, Esq., which was laid before 
the legislature, on the subject of the establishment of a line 
of vessels between Virginia and France, Wise wrote as 
follows of the material condition of Virginia, under date of 
AprU 12, 1857 : — 

" In the first place, I call your attention to the fact that 
our first early settlers were all planters, and the earliest 
interest of our people was a plantation interest. This 
was something more characteristic than an agricultural 
interest simply. It was an occupation of land in very 
large extent, by liberal proprietors, who cultivated staple 
crops of tobacco, grain, and cotton, by slave operatives, 
whom they were encouraged by Great Britain to import 
from Africa, during the whole time of our colonial ex- 
istence. This in itself was opposed to the concentration 
of capital and population necessary to generate trade and 

" At the same time the mother country discouraged the 
navigation and commercial interest of all the colonies, and 
monopolized the carrying trade almost entirely to herself. 

" Again : Looking at the map of Virginia, you see the 
whole Atlantic lowlands watered by the Potomac, the 
Rappahannock, the Piankatank, the rivers of Mobjack 
Bay, the York, the James, and the Roanoke, streams rising 
in the great Appalachian chain of mountains and running 
a few miles only apart from each other in parallel lines, 
from west to east, and all of them except the last empty- 
ing into the grand reservoir of the Chesapeake Bay, which 
entirely cuts off the main eastern peninsula. Thus all the 


eastern and first settled part of the territory was found 
naturally divided into no less than seven distinct penin- 
sulas, especially from each other, by eight considerable 
bodies of navigable waters. Up all these waters the ton- 
nage of Great Britain came and found facilities of ship- 
ment everywhere, deep water, wharfage, and accessibility 
to navigation up to the very steps of the Blue Ridge, or 
the AUeghanies. 

" This also tended to diffuse population and capital and 
prevented the concentration of either at any one point, to 
form a city for purposes of commerce. Every plantation 
found a landing at its own fields, or near in its neighbor- 
hood, and but a shipload had to be collected at any one 
locality ; — such was the convenience to and from market 
of the earliest settlements in eastern Virginia. 

" Again : When population moved westward, it crossed 
the Blue Ridge Mountains into a rich and beautiful valley 
running north and south, which has no natural outlet but 
at its northern terminus in our limits, and it had to pour 
its products out of our marts into those of the adjoining 
State of Maryland, at the head of the Chesapeake Bay. 
And when it crossed the next and parallel ridge of the 
AUeghanies, it settled upon rivers flowing westward into 
the great basin of the Mississippi, and had to send its 
products by the Monongahela and the Guyandotte and the 
two Kanawhas and the Sandy, to float on the Ohio, to 
build up Pittsburg and Cincinnati and New Orleans, cities 
of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Louisiana. 

" Thus, by every geographical and geological cause were 
our people segregated into separate communities and di- 
vided from each other and all mutual commercial depend- 
ency. Thus at the beginning, from the character of their 
settlers and interests and of their operatives in labor, from 
the nature of their various territory, from both physical 


convenience and necessity, the habitudes of our people 
were formed anti-commercial. They grew up a planting 
and purely pastoral people, segregated and isolated in a 
way utterly opposed to the concentration of population 
and capital, to the building of cities and of ships, and to 
the encouragement of the mechanic arts, all depending 
upon commerce. ... By the operation of these causes 
we have begun and kept ourselves an agricultural people, 
producers of the raw material, relying on manual labor in 
planting and grazing, and as yet left commerce and mining 
and manufacturing and the mechanic arts to the concen- 
trated population and capital and skill of other people. 
Thereby we have lost nothing, but the world has gained 
a great deal, and we have fulfilled a mighty destiny in the 
moral and political field, greater than the achievements of 
trade and arts in the physics of other States. We have no 
cities, but we have a meliorated country populace, civilized 
in the solitude, gracious in the amenities of life, and re- 
fined and conservative in social habits. We have little 
associated, but more individual wealth than any equal 
number of white population in the United States. We 
have no mechanic arts, but are better able, en masse, to own 
their utensils than the people are who manufacture them. 
Our labor in the past has been and at present is better 
employed than to manufacture them ourselves. We have 
no commerce, that is, we are not our own carriers, but we 
supply the very pabulum of commerce, which would not 
be so largely and well supplied if we were to turn traders. 
We are not wanting in a body of laboring white yeomanry, 
but our operatives are chiefly slaves, an inferior race, who 
are blessed by a patriarchal government of benign domestic 
rule which supervises every want and provides for it ; and 
this affords a class of masters who have leisure for the 
cultivation of morals, manners, philosophy, and politics, 


which has given the nation its heroes and sages and its 
blessings of free government, and its wisdom of adminis- 
tration in the field and in the cabinet." 

The above is, on the whole, an accurate description of 
the causes that had led to the then condition of Virginia ; 
but in adverting to the opportunities for culture among the 
country gentry of the State and the many good traits of 
manhood nurtured under its patriarchal system, the im- 
portant fact, generally lost sight of by Southern statesmen, 
was overlooked ; that the commerce and manufactures of 
the North were building up great cities, which would in 
time become the centres of civilization on our continent. 

Wise's first regular message to the legislature was 
addressed to that body upon its assembling in Decem- 
ber, 1857, and he did not neglect to urge upon them, in 
accordance with the course of his predecessor. Governor 
Johnson, the need of liberal appropriations for railways, 
turnpikes, and canals. When we consider not only the 
financial troubles of this period, but the fact that Virginia 
had no great centres of trade within her limits, and that 
her people had always followed agricultural and not com- 
mercial pursuits, the material development of the Com- 
monwealth between the years 1845 and 1860 was truly 
remarkable. In 1848 energetic men, residing in the 
southwestern section of the State, obtained a charter to 
cross the mountains into Tennessee, with the Virginia and 
Tennessee railroad, by many regarded as a chimerical proj- 
ect at the time ; and the year following, the officers of the 
Virginia Central road (now the Chesapeake and Ohio) 
amended their charter, with the purpose of traversing the 
Blue Ridge and AUeghanies, and reaching out to the Ohio 
River. Many other lines of railway and works of improve- 
ment had been begun ; but, owing to the thinly settled char- 
acter of the country and lack of great individual wealth, 


liberal subscriptions on the part of the Commonwealth 
were necessary to successfully complete them. Unfortu- 
nately for the State, among other so-called improvements, 
to which larger appropriations were made, was the James 
River and Kanawha Canal, the pet enterprise of Washing- 
ton, in which millions were sunk, after Moncure Robinson 
and other competent engineers had pointed out its inutil- 
ity in an era of railway transportation. Wise, like many 
other Virginians, still adhered to the idea of the union of 
the Atlantic seaboard and the Ohio, through this medium. 
Among the means advocated by him for increasing the 
revenue were a tax on the oyster grounds and a system 
of State insurance analogous to the Swiss method. His 
views on these subjects are embraced in the following 
extracts from a message laid before the legislature : — 

" By the laws of the State from 1780 down to this date, 
'all unappropriated lands on the bay of Chesapeake, on 
the seashore, or on the shores of rivers and creeks, and 
all the beds of rivers and creeks, continue to be common 
to the people of the State. And the limits and bounds of 
the several tracts of land lying on the seashore, the Chesa- 
peake Bay and the rivers and creeks thereof, and the rights 
and privileges of the owners of such lands, shall extend to 
ordinary low-water mark, but no further, unless where a 
creek or river, or some part thereof, is comprised within 
the limits of a lawful survey.' Thus, from low-water mark 
outwards into the waters of the State, their beds have been 
reserved as public domain, and been made continually com- 
mon to the people of this State. And by the unvarying 
decisions of the circuit and supreme judges of the federal 
courts down to the case of Smith, owner of the sloop 
Volant, plaintiff in error vs. the State of Maryland, Decem- 
ber term of the supreme court of the United States 1855, 
' whatever soil below low-water mark is the subject of ex- 


elusive propriety and ownership, belongs to the State on 
whose maritime border and within whose territory it lies.' 
And this soil is held by the State subject to and in trust 
for the enjoyment of certain public rights, among which 
is the common liberty of taking fish, as well shellfish as 
floating fish. And this right is a jus publicum to the citi- 
zens of the State to which the soil belongs, and that State 
may regulate the enjoyment of the right or the fisheries. 

" The right to pass laws regulating navigation and its 
incidents belongs to Congress ; but the regulation of taking 
fish, floating or shell, in its waters, belongs to each State 
respectively. Virginia may not prohibit the citizens of 
other States from transporting her fish in their vessels; 
but she may reserve the monopoly of taking her fish in her 
own waters to her own citizens. And to guard the enjoy- 
ment of that exclusive right and to preserve the fish and 
their spawn from destruction, she may pass regulations and 
levy a tax from which she may derive a revenue. 

" The smallest tax upon the oyster fisheries in her limits 
would yield a very considerable annual revenue. The soil 
upon which the oysters grow extends over a space of more 
than 2000 square miles. About 16,000 tons of licensed 
vessels belonging to our citizens, and at least five times 
that number of tons belonging to citizens of other States, 
making in all 96,000 tons per annum are engaged in the 
oyster trade of Virginia. That amount of tonnage ac- 
counts for more than 25 to 30 millions of bushels of 
oysters taken and carried away from the public soil of 
Virginia every year. The oysters are worth from 20 
cents per bushel at the place where taken, to 60 cents 
per bushel in the market at wholesale. A tax of two 
cents per bushel on 25 millions of bushels would yield a 
gross revenue of f 500,000 per annum, to be collected under 
inspection laws, by not more than four small steam cutters. 


at an annual cost of not more than 120,000 per annum for 
them, and a cost of fees for licenses not exceeding 130,000 
per annum, leaving a net revenue for this jus publicum of 
$450,000 per annum. 

" The second involuntary source of revenue is the policy 
of insurance of all lives and property of her own citizens, 
by the State. It is strange that whilst hanking and lot- 
teries, and like subjects, have been placed by legislation 
within the category of sumptuary laws, the subject of 
insurance has been omitted by the States in a confederacy, 
cutting them off from revenues by duties, customs, and 
excises. Why not allow our citizens to replenish their 
own treasury, by becoming mutual insurers to each other? 
Why not resort to a source of revenue where the very tax 
protects and insures the very property which it burdens? 
Why not allow the contributions, which are now volun- 
tarily poured in large sums into the coffers of private 
companies, chiefly out of the State, to be voluntarily 
poured into the State treasury to lessen involuntary tax- 
ation? Why not let the public expenditures be borne by 
the wealth of the State, willing to pay them, rather than 
set the poor, who are unable and unwilling to bear them, 
clamoring against taxes, which must now alone uphold 
public credit and construct our public works? There 
can be no more fraud and favoritism against a policy by 
the State than against a policy by private companies; 
and allowing the largest percentage for losses by both, 
still a large revenue would be yielded. There need be 
no cost for assessment of value insured, for the rule 
need be to pay only for actual loss within the amount 
insured. The cost of inquiry as to actual loss may be as 
simple and as cheap as a writ of ad quod damnum to ascer- 
tain by the verdict of a jury : ' Is there fraud ? Is there 
gross neglect? What is the amount of loss?' Subjects 


not known to private insurance may be embraced in a 
State's policy. We live in an age of the lucifer match, 
and arson is too easily perpetrated not to be a crime re- 
markably rife in this day and night. Wheat in the garner, 
crops in the field, as well as houses, might be insured. 
Policies would be miiltiplied in proportion to the greater 
guarantee by State rather than by private security. No 
compulsion would be necessary, or allowed. All would 
be free to insure or not, but if they insure, prohibit them 
from negotiating a policy on any property or life in the 
State, except at the office of the State treasury, at every 
country court-house." 

The plan of State insurance above outlined has never 
been acted upon in Virginia, and in all probability never 
will be ; but it is a strange fact that up to the present time 
no oyster law has been enacted, which while preserving 
that great source of wealth, the oyster grounds and rocks, 
would at the same time yield the State an ample revenue, 
such as it is well capable of producing. Whenever the 
subject has been introduced in the legislature, the inter- 
ests of the State at large have been sacrificed to those of a 
few thousand tongmen and fishermen dwelling along the 
salt water. "The oyster banks," wrote Wise in 1857, 
" will pay a better bonus than the banks of a paper cur- 
rency. An oyster mine is a richer source of profit to labor 
than any mine of coal, copper, silver, or gold. If our 
oyster beds had been mines of metals, they would not 
have been so neglected by legislation as a source of 
revenue." At another time he declared that the game 
and fish of the Chesapeake and its tributaries were more 
valuable than the gold of California, and it is possible that 
time may yet prove this claim to be much nearer the truth 
than one who has not investigated the subject would 


Among the subjects to which the attention of the legis- 
lature was early directed by Wise was the need of a re- 
organization of the State militia system, which at that 
time was weak and inefficient; and he also strenuously 
urged the manufacture and purchase of modem muskets, 
those at that date, with a few exceptions, being flint-locks 
of the most antiquated pattern. These he recommended 
should be altered to percussion, threaded in the barrel to 
shoot a conical ball and be made self -priming. It was not, 
however, until after the period of the John Brown raid, 
in the autumn of 1859, that the legislature awoke to 
the need of a properly organized and equipped body of 

On the subject of the supply of arms at this period. 
Wise wrote in after years :^ "I looked carefully to the 
State Armory ; and whilst I had the selection of the State 
quota of arms, I was particular to take field ordinance in- 
stead of altered muskets ; and when I left the gubernato- 
rial chair there were in the State Armory, at Richmond, 
85,000 stand of infantry arms and 130 field-pieces of artil- 
lery, besides $30,000 worth of new revolving arms, pur- 
chased from Colt. 

"My decided opinion was that a preparation of the 
Southern States in full panoply of arms and prompt action 
would have prevented civil war. The story is told, and 
still believed by some, that Mr. Floyd, whilst Secretary 
of War under Mr. Buchanan, distributed a large supply of 
arms to the Southern States. The story is a doubtful one ; 
but, if true, it is certain that none of the arms were sup- 
plied to Virginia, and the misfortune of this State was 
that her whole militia system had been destroyed by an 
unprecedented dereliction of duty and by the folly of her 
legislature. A prompt, bold, defiant, armed multitude 

1 " Seven Decades of the Union," page 260. 


would have prevented war, I repeat, but the peace policy 
prevailed in Virginia ; whilst the cotton States were bent 
on what they insanely imagined would be peaceful seces- 
sion, — mistaking Cotton for King, or even money or 
credit ! " 

The financial troubles, which came to a crisis in 1857, 
retarded somewhat the amount of State appropriations at 
this period to public works, though the banks whose notes 
were due for revenue were required to redeem them in 
specie, to avoid any danger of a deficit in the treasury. 
Among the reasons given by Wise for the need of public 
works was the importance of building up a centre 
of trade in Virginia, which was not possible without 

In alluding to the State banking system he wrote : 
"The exchange is obliged to be in favor of the centre. 
Consequently, when our issues go to the centres to pur- 
chase supplies, they there pay a discount, and then are 
returned upon us to draw specie. This double operation 
of a tax goes on against us quarterly, upon a large per 
cent of our circulation. And this tax is paid by our 
people, chiefly for the accommodation of the traders of the 
large towns and for the benefit of the dealers in exchange. 
This makes the issue of bank paper immensely costly to a 
purely agricultural people. If they issued no paper of 
their own, the circulation of the centres would supply the 
medium for sending our products to market. It would be 
at par at its locality of issue and it would not return 
upon us for specie, but would rather draw specie for us." 
While opposed to the revival of a national bank, he favored 
the adoption by the various States of a uniform system, 
without altering the Constitution, a financial scheme simi- 
lar to what in our day has been proposed by various com- 
mercial organizations. 


Despite the exactions of his office, Wise had found time 
to study attentively national affairs ; and during the spring 
of 1858 wrote and published an elaborate historical and 
constitutional treatise on the subject of " Territorial Gov- 
ernment." This work was called forth by a letter from 
his friend, William F. Samford, Esq., of Auburn, Alabama, 
requesting his views, and was published in the form of a 
reply to the latter. Throughout its pages, he strenuously 
maintained that Congress not only had the power, but that 
the duty devolved upon it, to protect the rights of persons 
and of property, including slaves, in the Territories of the 
United States. He argued that the Territories, however 
acquired, were common to all, for confederate uses and 
purposes, governed by Federal legislation, and that the 
Constitution of the United States secured equality and 
community of rights, privileges, and immunities, within 
their limits. In support of this construction, he cited 
numerous illustrations from the acts of Congress organiz- 
ing various Territories. The treatise, though hastily pre- 
pared, during intervals snatched from business cares, was 
an able discussion of the subject of the power of Congress 
over the Territories ; and will repay the student of our his- 
tory who has the industry to peruse its pages, treating as 
it does of a theme no longer invested with any degree of 
popular interest. 

During the autumn of 1855, Wise was requested to 
deliver a lecture upon the subject of slavery, in a course 
held at Tremont Temple, Boston, but, unlike Robert 
Toombs, saw fit to decline the invitation, in the following 
letter : — 

"Only, near Onancock, 
" Accomack County, Virginia, October 5, 1855. 

" Gentlemen : — On my return home, after an absence 
of some days, I found yours of the 19th ult., 'respectfully 


inviting me to deliver one of the lectures of the course on 
slavery, at Tremont Temple, in the city of Boston, on 
Thursday evening, January 10, 1856 ; or, if that time will 
not suit my engagements, you request that I will mention 
at once what Thursday evening, between the middle of 
December and the middle of March next, will best accom- 
modate me.' 

" Now, gentlemen, I desire to pay you due respect, yet 
you compel me to be very plain with you and to say that 
your request, in every sense, is insulting and offensive to 
me. What subject of slavery have you 'initiated' lec- 
tures upon? I cannot conceal it from myself that you 
have undertaken, in Boston, to discuss and decide whether 
my property in Virginia ought to remain mine or not, and 
whether it shall be allowed the protection of laws. Federal 
and State, wherever it may be carried or may escape in 
the United States ; or whether it shall be destroyed by a 
higher law than the constitutions and statutes ! 

" Who are you, to assume thus such a jurisdiction over 
a subject so delicate and already fixed in its relation by a 
solemn compact between the States, and by States which 
are sovereign ? I will not obey your summons nor recog- 
nize your jurisdiction. You have no authority and no 
justification for thus calling me to account at the bar of 
your tribunal, and for thus arraigning an institution estab- 
lished by laws which do not reach you and which you can- 
not reach, by calling on me to defend it. 

" You send me a card, to indicate the character of the 
lectures. It reads : — 

" ' Admit the bearer and lady to the Independent Lec- 
tures on Slavery. Lecture committee, S. G. Howe, T. 
Gilbert, George F. Williams, Henry T. Parker, W. Wash- 
burn, B. B. Mussey, W. B. Spooner, James W. Stone.' 


" It is indorsed : 

" ' Lectures at the Tremont Temple, Boston, 1854-55. 
November 23, Hon. Charles Sumner, Rev. John Pierpont, 
poet. December 7, Hon. Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio. Decem- 
ber 14, Hon. Anson Burlingame. December 21, Wendell 
Phillips, Esq. December 28, Cassius M. Clay, Esq., of 
Kentucky. January 4, Hon. Horace Greeley. January 
11, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. January 18, Hon. John 
P. Hale. January 25, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Esq. 
February 8, Hon. Nathaniel P. Banks, Jr. February 15, 
Hon. Lewis D. Campbell, of Ohio. February 22, Hon. 
Sam Houston, of Texas. March 1, Hon. David Wilmot, 
of Pennsylvania. March 8, Hon. Charles W. Upham.' 

" All Honorables and Squires, except those who are 
Reverends! The card does verily indicate their char- 
acters by simply naming them. And your letter, gentle- 
men, is franked by 'C. Sumner, U.S.S.' With these 
characteristics, I am not at a loss to understand you and 
your purposes. 

" You say, ' during the next season, a large number of 
gentlemen from the South wUl be invited,' etc., etc. I 
regret it, if any others can be found in the slaveholding 
States to accept your invitation. You plead the example 
of General Houston. It is the last I would follow. I 
have no doubt that you accorded very respectful attention 
to him last winter and were very grateful for his services 
in your cause. 

" You offer ' one hundred and fifty dollars to be paid to 
the lecturer, he bearing his own expenses.' Let me tell 
you that Tremont Temple cannot hold wealth enough to 
purchase one word of discussion from me there, whether 
mine here shall be mine or not; but I am ready to vol- 
unteer, v^ithout money and without price, to suppress any 
insurrection and repel any invasion which threatens or 


endangers the State Rights of Virginia, or my individual 
rights, under the laws and constitutions of my country, or 
the sacred Union, which binds Slave States and Free 
States together, in one bond of National Confederacy and 
in separate bonds of Independent Sovereignties I 

"In short, gentlemen, I will not deliver one of the 
lectures of the course on slavery, at the Tremont Temple, 
in Boston, on Thursday evening, January 10, 1856 ; and 
there will be no Thursday evening between the middle of 
December and the middle of March next, or between that 
and doomsday, which wiU best accommodate me for that 

" I give you an immediate answer, and at my earliest 
convenience indicate to you that ' the particular phase of 
the subject ' that I will present is, deliberately : to fight if 
we must. 

" Your obedient servant, 

"Henry A. Wise." 

In a different tone was the following letter written 
in response to an invitation to address the Mercantile 
Library Association of Boston. 

"Only, near Onancock, Virginia, 
"November 11, 1855. 
" Gentlemen : — Yours of the 2d inst. was awaiting my 
arrival at home yesterday, from a temporary absence at 
Washington City. I gratefully acknowledge the compli- 
ment of your invitation to deliver one of a course of lec- 
tures, during the present winter, before the Mercantile 
Library Association of Boston. I am well assured of the 
highly respectable character and of the laudable objects 
of your literary association, and no body of the kind could 
have been more honored than you have been by the illus- 
trious orators and statesmen who have shed upon your 


lectures the lights of their great minds. I have no doubt, 
too, of the * cordial welcome ' I would receive from ' very 
many ' of your hospitable citizens ; but it is not in my 
power, gentlemen, to accept your invitation. The situ- 
ation of my private affairs, and the duty of preparing for 
months to come for new scenes of public service, will 
engross all my time and attention the whole of the coming 
winter. I have been compelled to decline every call of 
the same kind from many quarters in my own State, and 
other States besides yours. 

" I sincerely regret this the more, because I have never 
yet set my foot on the beloved soil of that portion of my 
country called New England. This has not been owing 
to any antagonism on my part toward that favored sec- 
tion. Massachusetts, especially, I have been taught to ven- 
erate and cherish as the elder sister of Virginia. When 
I reflect upon their attitudes and relations in the darkness 
and gloom of the night of revolution ; when I listen to 
their hails, sister to sister — Virginia and Massachusetts, 
Massachusetts to Virginia — in the 'times which tried 
men's souls ' ; when I watch the fires kindling on the 
heights of Boston, and see Virginia going forth across the 
rivers and over the land, by the sea, leading her best-be- 
loved son by the hand, dripping blood and tears at every 
step there and back, leaving him there on post to guard 
your very city, and to make the oppressors evacuate it ; 
and when I contrast this picture with the present state of 
things in our Confederacy, which makes you assure me 
' that the feelings of the people of Massachusetts toward 
my State are not those of antagonism,' — I gush forth in 
anguish and ask, "Why a necessity for such assurance? 
Why any antagonism between these, the devoted States of 
Hancock and Washington ? May God in his mercy and 
in love guide them as of yore ! May they ever be cemented 


in union by the blood of the revolution ! And whenever 
another night of gloom and trial shall come, may they hail 
and cheer each other on again to victory, for civil and re- 
ligious Uberty. « youre truly, 

" Hbnky a. Wise." 

Wise had approved the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska 
bin, which repealed the Missouri Compromise, the first act, 
in his opinion, to violate Washington's injunction not to 
recognize geographical lines, and which had made a border 
between the North and South and begun a separation of 
the States. In a letter to a Democratic meeting in New 
York, he wrote from Accomack on this subject, under 
date of October 18, 1855 : — 

" The Constitution, and not any temporary and temporiz- 
ing compromise statute, is the true and only standard of na- 
tional right. The Constitution, in its strict sense, and not 
according to the latitudinarian construction of a loose Fed- 
eral majority ; the Constitution, which leaves all powers not 
expressly granted .where it found them, the reserved rights 
of the sovereign States; the Constitution, which created cer- 
tain Federal relations and rights of private citizens, among 
the most important of which is perfect equality between 
citizens of the respective States on the common grounds 
of Federal jurisdiction ; perfect comity between the citizens 
of State and States, and common property between them 
in the national domain and dominion ; the Constitution is 
the law of our Confederacy. It is no respecter of persons ; 
it holds all alike, and equally under its protecting guar- 
dianship wherever it applies. It pries not into your private 
possession, nor into mine. It knows not whether you 
own one species of property, or I another. It recognizes 
us only as citizens of coequal State sovereignties, who 
are confederated under its shield, and it provides protec- 


tion for whatever right belongs to either of us on ground 
which belongs to both. The mere municipal authority, 
the Congress, cannot deprive States and their citizens of 
this equality, this comity, and this common property of the 

" If you may go to the common Territory with what is 
rightfully yours in New York, I may meet you there with 
whatever is lawfully mine in Virginia. Congress may not 
say that I shall not migrate with slave property and hold 
it there ; for if they may say that, they may, in like man- 
ner, say that you shall not go there with horses and house- 
hold goods and hold them ; and if they may declare 
against the right of either, they may invade inalienable 
rights and enact laws not within the competency of legis- 

" The sovereign act of defining what shall and what 
shall not be tenable property by the citizen can be deter- 
mined only by the conventional power of the people, form- 
ing organic law — a Constitution changing a Territory 
into a State. Until the new State comes into being, no 
power upon earth can lawfully deprive you of your horses 
and household goods, or me of my slave, in Kansas, unless 
the private property be taken for public use with just com- 
pensation. And, gentlemen, you say truly, ' that the peace 
and quiet of the country demand that it should be left to 
the people of the Territories to determine for themselves,' 
what their constitution of government shall be, not only 
in respect to slavery, but every other local question. The 
public peace is endangered by this ' disturbing subject.' 
It is a practical question of right and thieatens to be one 
of force. Force has already been exerted ' on the border,' 
and in the face of this danger there is an organized ' Fu- 
sion,' which must, if persisted in, compel a resort to arms 
in order to resist evil spirits, combined to repeal the 


'Kansas-Nebraska bill, and to reestablish the Missouri 

"Prior to 1819-20, the Constitution reigned supreme 
on this subject. It was then invaded by a repealable, par- 
tial, sectional statute, called the Missouri Compromise. 
It was the first separation of the States ; it first sectioned 
the country like a survey of the public lands ; it first said 
to the people the dividing language of Lot and Abraham 

— to some ' go North ' to some ' go South ' ; it was the 
first line which divided North from South, more in feeling 
than in fact. Did it not make a geographical demarkation 

— a line of latitude, — the boundary of legal limitations and 
determine that what was constitutional on one side of it, 
should be unconstitutional on the other side of it? No, 
said its friends at the time of its passage, it leaves slavery 
to be governed by the law of climate. It is a climatoiy, 
not a territorial or sectional line. It means to ' follow 
nature,' to let Jack Frost be king of the subject ; as slavery 
was profitable south, and as frost pinched negroes' toes and 
fingers too sharp north of 36.30 for it to be profitable there, 
the question never should be raised con-slavery south, nor 
pro-slavery north of that line of latitude. Well, admitting 
this to be a more consistent and rational construction of 
the ' agreement to disagree,' did the ' fanatics of fusion ' 
so abide it ? Never ! In every phase of the Compromise, 
first and last, they have broken its letter and spirit. In- 
cessantly they have raised the question con-slavery South 
and North, East and West, everywhere. In the States and 
Territories and District, in the Indian country, on the train 
in transitu between States, Districts, and Territories, on the 
acquisition of territory, on the organization and admission 
of States into the Union, on questions of peace and war, 
ever, everywhere, always, in season and out of season, they 
have raised the question against slavery, until they have. 


on various occasions, nearly raised the very demon of civil 
war and disunion ! They have harbored English emissa- 
ries ; raised foreign funds ; wielded associated influence 
and capital; wearied Congress with petitions; fatigued 
the public mind with compromises; filled it with revil- 
ing and abuse ; pensioned press, pulpit, preacher, teacher ; 
run underground railroads; spirited away runaways; have 
scattered broadcast tales of holy horrors ; painted on the 
stage scenes; written log-cabin novels; lectured, ranted, 
rioted, until they have made us a divided people, until 
they have cut the continent in two by a line of border 
feuds; until they have separated our churches; set us 
apart socially, at the watering and other places, and until 
they have engendered a sectional antagonism more becom- 
ing enemies in hostile array than tolerant neighbors even, 
much less 'united brethren' — children of one father — 
children of a common country, the only children the 
Father of that country ever had, whose farewell is still 
our warning ! 

" Within the year I have stood on the rock of Point 
Pleasant overlooking the grave of Cornstalk, the battle- 
ground between the Indian and the Long Knife, fattened 
by the blood of the conquest, whereby Virginia secured 
the eminent domain of the whole Northwest Territory. 
There before me spread out that vast domain, now a giant 
group of civilized sovereignties, empire of power, a com- 
pact tier of free States! Who made them free States? 
Their mother slave State. Virginia, by her deed of ces- 
sion, on her own conditions, with a liberality large as a 
love of continental country, made Ohio and her sisters of 
the Northwest Territory free States. Hers was no Wil- 
mot Proviso. It was a whole and entire grant to free- 
dom, the first ever made upon earth like it, and made 
before the Constitution of the United States was formed. 


After 'a more perfect Union' was formed, a permanent, 
uniform, universal, organic law began to reign. It left 
the domestic institutions with the States. It defines the 
only cases where the Federal authority can intervene. 
One of the cases is that of a slave flying from one State to 
another, he shall be restored to his master. By a double 
tier of laws. Federal and State, by constitutional and by 
statute laws, the master may reclaim him. And yet, 
gentlemen, though thus fortified by laws, organic and leg- 
islative. State and Federal, I might as well have a thou- 
sand dollars floating on a chip in the Ohio River, as to 
own a slave worth that sum on the Virginia shores of that 
river ! What then ? The laws do not reign ! The very 
free soil which Virginia first consecrated on the conti- 
nent is made the underground for the railroads of her 
runaways ! " 

Although he had long been a supporter of Mr. Buchanan 
and an extreme antagonist of the antislavery party. Wise 
was strongly opposed to the admission of Kansas under 
the Lecompton Constitution, which, while it had declared 
in favor of slavery, had failed to submit that instrument 
to a vote of the people. In a letter repljdng to an invita- 
tion to address a meeting of Anti-Lecompton Democrats, 
in Philadelphia, Wise wrote under the date of February 
6, 1858 : — 

" And why impose this Constitution of a minority on a 
majority? Cui bono? Does any Southern man imagine 
that this is a practicable or sufferable way of making a 
slave State? Who believes now that Kansas will be made 
a slave State, or kept one for any time, by the admission 
of this Constitution ? Who will carry a slave there now 
to become a bone of contention in a border war? The 
sport of violence and fraud and force like that which has 
so long endangered person and property and political fran- 


chise, in that unhappy battle-ground of sectional feuds? 
To what end is this to be done, if speedily it is to be un- 
done with State authority, created to drive slave property 
from the Territory? 

" We have proudly, heretofore, contended only for 
equality and justice ; but if this be wantonly done with- 
out winning a stake — the power of a slave State thereby 
— it will be worse than vain. It will be snatching power 
fer fas aut nefas, to be lost ' speedily ' with the loss of 
something of far more worth than political votes — our 
moral prestige. If we are not willing to do justice, we 
can't ask for justice; if we can't agree to equality, we 
must expect to be denied it. It is our bull goring the 
antislavery ox. Suppose we had had a majority of slave- 
holders in that Territory ; suppose a minority of abolition- 
ists had gotten the census and registry into their hands 
and had kept fifteen out of thirty-four counties out of the 
convention ; suppose they had formed a Constitution with 
a clause prohibiting slavery, and had sent it to Congress 
without submitting it to a majority of the legal voters ; 
or suppose they had submitted all parts of the Constitu- 
tion to the popular vote, except the one clause prohibiting 
slavery, knowing it would be voted down if submitted to 
the majority of the people ; suppose such a ' boot on the 
other leg ' had been submitted to Congress, and we had then 
heard the absoluteness of a convention contended for by 
Black Republicans, demanding of Congress to sustain the 
doctrine of ' legitimacy.' I tell you that every Southern 
man would have been in arms and would have been roused 
to the shedding of blood, rather than submit to Congress, 
fastening upon a majority of pro-slavery people an arbi- 
trary rescript of a mere convention, unauthorized to 
proclaim its Constitution without an express grant. This 
is the same principle, accompanied by trickery and fraud. 


We are willing 'to do unto others as we would have 
them do unto us.' The Southern people ask for no 
injustice, no inequality. 

" We are told that ' prompt admission ' of Kansas as a 
State will end the agitation in Congress and localize it in 
Kansas. What is the Kansas question? Is it local to 
Kansas ? No. It never can be local again. It has per- 
vaded all places and all classes in our country. Let Con- 
gress indorse this schedule of legerdemain, let the South 
insist on it, let the Northern Democracy be required to 
consent to the injustice, and the precedent becomes of 
universal application and citation against us for all time. 
Not only will the example plead, but it will be a plea in 
continuous cases of similar import and danger, rising suc- 
cessively as long as our vast Territories to the Pacific 
shall be filling up. It comes up again and again, every 
year, from Territories extending from Mesilla Valley to 
Dacotah. Flatter not ourselves, then, that any mode of 
adjustment will do because it is the 'speediest' for 
Kansas. It is all-essential that the settlement shall be 
just and right and equal. If not, it is sure to be mis- 
chievous to that party which has snatched power with- 
out right and done wrong that good may come of it. 
To do justice is always the best policy. If all would 
' demand only what is right and submit to nothing that 
is wrong,' injustice and oppression could never be perpe- 
trated or tolerated. 

" The ulterior effects of adopting the Lecompton Con- 
stitution, with its schedule annexed, will be worse than 
referring back the question to the territorial decision. 
It will arraign this administration and the Democracy and 
the South, for demanding more than its right and for 
forcing resistance to wrong. It will be jagging the lion 
of a majority whilst the hand of a minority is in its 


moutli. It will return the chalice to our own lips, when 
the Kansas question again and again arises in North 
Texas, in New Mexico, in Mesilla Valley, and in all our 
boundless domain of unsettled and fast-settling territory. 
It will drive from us thousands of honest Democrats in the 
North, who can willingly stand by us for justice and 
equality, but who must leave us when we demand more 
and refuse justice and equality to others. It will raise 
the Black Republican flag over the Capitol in the next 
struggle for power, and that, then, will raise the last dread 
issue of union or disunion! Are not some aiming to 
drive us to such extremities as will raise that issue past 
being laid ? " 


wise's description OP HIM, AND MESSAGE TO THE LEGI8- 

Although the bitter sectional conflict, which raged at 
this period over the slavery issue, boded Ul for the future 
peace of the country, yet no people were ever more com- 
pletely taken by surprise than were the peaceful inhabit- 
ants of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, when the news 
spread abroad on an October day, in the year 1859, that the 
United States arsenal and armory at Harper's Ferry had 
been seized by a band of insurrectionists, who held the 
town in defiance of the legally constituted authorities and 
were shooting down unoffending citizens in cold blood. 

John Brown, who had long contemplated an attack on 
the institution of slavery in Virginia, entertained the be- 
lief that some mountain fastness in the Appalachian range 
would be the proper stronghold from which to begin his 
plan of emancipation. The career of Brown in Kansas 
has been so often treated by various writers in describing 
the border warfare that existed in that Territory, that it 
would be idle, as well as foreign to our purpose, to treat 
of it here. Suffice it to say, that in regard to the much- 
discussed Pottawatomie massacre, it is now admitted by 
Brown's admirers that he took an active part in that 
bloody affair. On the night of May 24, 1856, a Mr. Doyle 
and his two sons, who resided at Pottawatomie, were taken 



from their beds, whereupon the father was shot dead by- 
Brown, and the two younger Doyles stabbed and hacked to 
death with swords in the hands of the sons of Brown. A 
man named Wilkinson was dragged from the bedside of his 
sick wife, carried out and killed, close enough to the house 
for his wife to hear the struggle and final shot; and a 
farmer named John Sherman underwent a similar fate. 
The champions of Brown find their justification for his acta 
in the character of the times, and the alleged necessity of 
retaliatory measures, on the part of the free-state men, 
who resided in Kansas at that period. It is customary, 
however, to credit Brown with the sympathy and aid of 
the antislavery leaders who migrated to Kansas, yet the 
recently published works of such men as Governor Charles 
Robinson, Eli Thayer, and Amos A. Lawrence go to show 
that the methods employed and the ends sought by Brown 
were, in many respects, diametrically opposed to those pur- 
sued by the more conservative free-state men. Robinson 
and Thayer, the two men whose work in Kansas had done 
most to insure the admission of that Territory as a free 
State, had throughout counselled obedience to the laws 
and respect for constituted authority. They waged a stub- 
born contest, it is true, and were prepared to meet force 
with force, but to their credit be it said, they sought to 
act within the pale of the law and by peaceful methods. 
The Hon. Amos A. Lawrence of Massachusetts, to whose 
business knowledge and zeal the Emigrant Aid Society 
was indebted for the large amount of capital necessary to 
the conduct of their undertaking, furnished Brown with 
the money to go west in 1855, and further aided him by 
paying off a mortgage on the latter's farm, located in 
the wilds of the Adirondacks. In an address delivered 
before the Massachusetts Historical Society in May, 
1884, Mr. Lawrence said: "It fell to me to give John 


Brown his first letter to Kansas, introducing him to Gov- 
ernor Robinson and authorizing him to employ him and 
draw on me for his compensation, if he could make him 
useful in the work of the Emigrant Aid Society. But 
very soon Governor Robinson wrote that he could not 
employ him, as he was unreliable, and ' would as soon shoot 
a United States officer as a Border ruffian.' 

" When he was a prisoner at Harper's Ferry, I wrote to 
Governor Wise, advising his release on the ground that he 
was a monomaniac and that his execution would make him 
a martyr. The answer to this letter was very creditable to 
Governor Wise. Afterward, when in Washington about 
the Kansas troubles, I spoke of it to Mr. Pierce, the ex- 
President, who was there at the time, and he asked to see 
it. So I ordered it sent to him ; but it was never returned. 

"John Brown had no enemies in New England, but 
many friends and admirers. He was constantly receiving 
money from them. They little knew what use he was 
making of it, for he deceived everybody." 

Of a similar character is the description of Brown's Kan- 
sas career, given by Governor Robinson in his interesting 
work entitled the " Kansas Conflict," and by Eli Thayer, in 
his not less valuable contribution to American history, the 
" Kansas Crusade." The latter has applied to him Moore's 
description of Al Hassan : — 

" One of that saintly, murderous brood, 
To carnage and the Koran given, 
Who thinks through unbelievers' blood, 
Lies their diiectest path to heaven; 
One who will pause and kneel, unshod, 
In the warm blood his hand hath poured, 
To mutter o'er some text of God 
Engraven on his reeking sword." 

" John Brown," writes Thayer in his " Kansas Crusade," 
"arrived in Kansas nearly two years after the conflict 


there against slavery began. He was a great injury to the 
free-state cause and to the free-state settlers. He said, 
' I have not come to make Kansas free, but to get a shot 
at the South.' He wished to begin a civil war. He was 
the pupil of the Garrisonites and afterward their God." 

It is unnecessary to repeat again the oft-told story of 
how John Brown, after carefully planning his Virginia 
raid, with the counsel of friends gathered at Chatham, 
Canada, rented the Kennedy farm, located a few miles 
from Harper's Ferry, on the Maryland side of the Poto- 
mac ; and how for a few months preceding his attack he 
occupied himself and his lieutenants in collecting arms, 
ammunition, and stores of all sorts, and in familiarizing 
himself with the inhabitants and general character of the 
country about him. 

On the night of Sunday, October 16, 1859, Brown set out 
with a party of twenty-two men, all armed, for Harper's 
Ferry, located on the Virginia side of the Potomac, at 
the confluence of the Shenandoah River with the former. 

Although the idea has long prevailed that Brown's 
party consisted of only twenty-two men, yet there is good 
reason to believe that his followers exceeded this number 
and that, through some miscalculation in the plan of the 
attack, the remainder of his men were prevented from 
uniting with him at the proper time. On the day follow- 
ing the seizure of the armory and arsenal, Brown informed 
several of his prisoners that before noon on that day he 
expected large reenforcements, and this expression was 
not understood as applying solely to the slaves whom he 
expected to come to his support. In the opinion of Mr. 
Andrew Hunter of Charlestown, who acted as the prose- 
cuting attorney during the trial of Brown, the arrival of 
his expected reenforcements was prevented by the prompt 
action of a volunteer company from Charlestown, which. 


at an early hour on Monday morning, marched to a point 
on the Potomac above Harper's Ferry, where they crossed 
the river and proceeded down the tow-path to the mouth 
of the bridge, thus preventing Brown's escape, or assist- 
ance reaching him from the direction of the Kennedy 
farm. This view is confirmed by the fact that Brown and 
Stevens, seeing the approach of the volunteers along the 
tow-path, mistook them for friends, and started out to 
meet them, which resulted in the latter's being shot. 

Throughout Monday Brown had held possession of the 
town and continued his bloody work unabated ; directing 
the movements of his men, wearing the sword Frederick 
the Great is said to have sent to Washington, and which 
had been captured at the farm of Colonel Lewis Washing- 
ton, a few miles distant from the Ferry, who had been taken 
prisoner by Brown. Two significant facts had thus far 
characterized the fury of the Kansas leader, the first man 
shot by Brown's men had been an innocent, unoffending 
negro and, contrary to the cherished expectation of Brown, 
no slave had joined ia his attempted insurrection, except 
one or two whom he had captured and who had accom- 
panied him under compulsion. Despite his previous visits 
to Virginia for the purpose of familiarizing himself with 
the conditions and habits of the slaves. Brown had shown 
himself a less penetrating judge of their character than 
Frederick Douglass, himself an ex-slave, and who had 
warned the former that he need not look for assistance 
from that element of the population. 

It is a fact of general knowledge that on Tuesday morn- 
ing a body of United States marines, who had been ordered 
to Harper's Ferry and were commanded by Colonel Robert 
E. Lee, battered down the doors of the engine house and 
captured the remainder of Brown's party, along with their 
chief. Rumors of the outbreak had reached Richmond on 


Monday morning, and orders were immediately issued by 
telegraph by Wise to the militia of Jefferson County to 
hold themselves in readiness. About seven o'clock that 
evening, news of a far more alarming character was re- 
ceived, and the wires brought the intelligence that a large 
number of marauders had seized the arsenal at Harper's 
Ferry, with all its arms and ammunitions and were proceed- 
ing to arm the slaves and endeavoring to incite them to 
the murder of the whites. 

On an hour's notice, the First Virginia Regiment, ac- 
companied by the governor, set out for Harper's Ferry 
and were joined at Washington by another force from 
Alexandria. Owing to delays at Washington and at the 
Eelay House, Wise did not arrive with the volunteers 
until one o'clock P.M. on Tuesday, after the insurgents 
had been captured. In a message subsequently addressed 
to the legislature, he wrote: "I immediately examined 
the leader. Brown, his lieutenant, Stevens, a white man 
named Coppie, and a negro from Canada. They made 
fuU confessions. Brown repelled the idea that his design 
was to run negro slaves off from their masters. He de- 
fiantly avowed that his purpose was to arm them and 
make them fight by his side in defence of their freedom, 
if assailed by their owners or any one else ; and he said his 
purpose especially was to war upon the slaveholders and 
to levy upon their other property to pay the expense of 
emancipating their slaves. He avowed that he expected 
to be joined by the slaves and by numerous white persons 
from many of the slave as well as the free States." 

As Brown's intention to incite the slaves to resistance 
was denied by him during the course of his trial, it is 
worthy of note that his attention was called by Mr. 
Andrew Hunter to his earlier statements made to the 
governor and himself, which Brown attempted to explain 


by saying that he had spoken before the trial without prepa- 
ration, and under stress of the excitement, and unintention- 
ally conveyed a wrong impression. After his conviction 
and prior to his execution. Brown addressed a note to Mr. 
Hunter, published in the newspapers at the time, in which 
he reaffirmed his first statement made in the presence of 
Hunter and Wise. 

So much has been written, by abolition sympathizers, of 
alleged indignities to which Brown was subjected by the 
Virginia authorities, that we may be pardoned for quoting 
Von Hoist, one of Brown's most ardent admirers, as well 
as one of Wise's severest critics. In alluding to the inter- 
view of Senator Mason and Wise with Brown, that author 
writes : " In contrast with so many Northern journalists, 
and to some extent with Vallandingham, the two Virgin- 
ians proved themselves perfect gentlemen on this occa- 
sion. Neither the subject-matter nor the manner of their 
questions could either irritate or insult the prisoner, who 
was severely wounded and suffering violent pain." ^ 

In giving his impressions of Brown in an impromptu 
address to the Virginia militia on his return to Richmond, 
Wise said : " They are themselves mistaken who take him 
to be a madman. He is a bundle of the best nerves I 
ever saw cut and thrust and bleeding and in bonds. He 
is a man of clear head, of courage, fortitude, and simple 
ingenuousness. He is cool, collected, and indomitable ; 

1 It -was the above circumstance that furnished the basis for the follow- 
ing extract from Emerson's lecture on "Courage" : "The true temper 
has genial influences. It makes a bond of union between enemies. Gov- 
ernor Wise of Virginia, in the record of his first interview with his 
prisoner, appeared to great advantage. If Governor Wise is a superior 
man, or inasmuch as he is a superior man, he distinguishes John Brown. 
As they confer, they understand each other swiftly ; each respects the 
other. If opportunity allowed, they would prefer each other's society 
and desert their former companions. Enemies would become afiec- 


and it is but just to him to say that he was humane to his 
prisoners, as attested to me by Colonel Washington and 
Mr. Mills, and he inspired me with great trust in his 
integrity as a man of truth. He is a fanatic, vain and 
garrulous; but firm, truthful, and intelligent. His men, 
too, who survive, except the free negroes with him, are 
like him. He professes to be a Christian, in communion 
with the Congregationalist Church of the North, and openly 
preaches his purpose of universal emancipation, and the 
negroes themselves were to be the agents, by means of 
arms, led on by white commanders. . . . And Colonel 
Washington says that he [Brown] 'was the coolest and 
firmest man he ever saw in defying danger and death. 
With one son dead by his side, and another shot through, 
he felt the pulse of his dying son with one hand and held 
his rifle with the other and commanded his men with the 
utmost composure, encouraging them to be firm and to 
sell their lives as dearly as they could.' " ^ 

1 The Rev. H. Clay Trumbull, in a recent book entitled "War 
Memories of a Chaplain," relates the following incident in connection 
■with General Alfred H. Terry, who was stationed in Richmond as mili- 
tary governor of Virginia shortly after the war: "On one occasion, 
General Henry A. Wise, governor of Virginia, at the time of the John 
Brown raid, came into the of5ce to apply for the intervention of Gen- 
eral Terry to repossess him of a building on his lands in the eastern 
part of the State. In the course of the conversation, it came out that 
that building was now occupied as a school for little negroes, taught by 
a daughter of old John Brown, whom he had hanged. The disclosure of 
this fact caused a friend of General Wise, who was present, to comment 
on the strange turn of affairs by which, within six years from the execu- 
tion of John Brown, the governor who hanged him was imploring the 
help of the United States government to drive one of John Brown's 
daughters out of the governor's house, where she was teaching little 
negroes. To the surprise of all. General Wise responded earnestly: 
' John Brown 1 John Brown was a great man, sir. John Brown was 
a great man 1 ' Henry A. Wise was man enough to realize that God's 
ways of working seem different when looked back upon in accomplished 
history, and when seen distortedly coming toward us through the mists 
of personal prejudices and fears." 


Brown and his associates had been committed to the 
jail at Charlestown, and at the October term of the Circuit 
Court a joint indictment was found by the grand jury 
against him, along with Stevens, Shields, Green, Coppie, 
and Copeland. The indictment contained four counts, 
viz. : 1st, Treason ; 2d, Inciting slaves to insurrection ; 
3d, Murder ; 4th, Murder with John Copeland as acces- 
sory. Although, when first brought before the examining 
court of justices, Brown had proclaimed that he did not 
want a trial, yet when the time came he had able 
counsel to defend him, who urged delay, and sought to 
take any advantage furnished by the technicalities of the 
law. At the conclusion of the trial, and before sentence 
was pronounced. Brown, when asked if he had anything 
to say, arose, and in the course of his address said: "I 
feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received 
on my trial. Considering all the circumstances, it has 
been more generous than I expected." 

On the 19th of November, a petition for a writ of 
error to the Circuit Court was presented to the Court of 
Appeals of Virginia by Messrs. Samuel Chilton and Will- 
iam Green, counsel for Brown. The reputation of these 
two members of the bar is in itself a guarantee that no 
defect, if any, in the record was lost sight of, but the Ap- 
pellate Court, which consisted at the time of Judges John 
J. Allen, William Daniel, R. C. L. Moncure, George Hay 
Lee, and William J, Robertson, denied the petition after 
a careful inspection of the record of the lower court. It 
has been so often charged, by the sympathizers of Brown, 
that his trial was a farce, and conducted regardless of the 
forms of law, that it is worth while to bear in mind the 
high character and reputation of the judges who sat upon 
the supreme bench of Virginia at that time. 

That Brown was not only humanely, but kindly treated 


during the period of imprisonment at Charlestown, is shown 
by an abundance of testimony, the statements of abolition 
fanatics to the contrary notwithstanding. The Hon. An- 
drew Hunter, the prosecuting attorney, wrote : " My in- 
structions from Governor Wise were to see that every 
comfort and privilege consistent with their condition as 
prisoners should be afforded them. This was religiously 
done, and the charge to the contrary is utterly false. Over 
and over again, in accordance with my instructions from 
Wise, I told him [Brown] that anything he wanted, con- 
sistent with his condition as a prisoner, he should have." 
The jailer of Jefferson County at the time, a man named 
Avis, was repeatedly thanked by Brown for his many acts 
of kindness to him, and the latter, in his will, further re- 
membered Avis by leaving him his Sharp's rifle and pistol. 
In a letter to the Hon. Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, 
dated November the 15th, 1873, Wise wrote on this sub- 
ject: "I required him to be treated with the utmost human- 
ity ; but, after an attempt of one of the prisoners to escape, 
he was very strictly guarded, and no one was allowed to 
have an interview with him, except under the eye of the 
guard. His guard had his instructions under General 
Willaim B. Taliaferro, as humane and refined a gentle- 
man as ever had command of men and custody of prison- 
ers. His wife had special leave to visit him, and, by my 
orders, was escorted from Harper's Ferry to Charlestown 
by a mounted guard of cavalry, to protect her from any 
indelicacy of treatment, much more against any insult. 
No insult to her was attempted, and to make sure of proper 
treatment to her in the interview with her husband, Gen- 
eral Taliaferro in person stood sentinel with the guard, 
and kept every one at respectful distance. I visited John 
Brown but once after his incarceration to await his trial. 
I especially desired to ascertain whether he had any com- 


munication to make to me other than he had already made. 
He repeated mostly the same information, expressed his 
personal regard and respect for me, thanked me for my 
kindness in protecting him from all violence and in pro- 
viding for his comfort. He complained of some disease of 
the kidneys, and I tendered him the best aid of physician 
and surgeon, which he declined, for the reason that he 
was accustomed to an habitual treatment, which he had 
already provided for himself. He talked with me freely, 
and I offered to be the depositary of any confidential re- 
quest consistent with my honor and duty ; and when we 
parted he cordially gave me his blessing, wishing me every 
return for the attentions to him as a prisoner. This was 
some time before his execution, which I did not attend. 
In my opinion, his friends are mistaken in the belief that he 
sat up the most of the night before his execution writing, 
etc. There was no need of that, for before his execution, 
after the date of his arrest, and even after the date of his 
conviction, he had abundant time and opportunity to write 
at his leisure a full account of the raid. He was perfectly 
firm and composed, except when touching his sorrows for 
the wrongs done to his sons in the Kansas wars. Then he 
was at times bitter, but the reports to me were that he 
slept well and quietly all the time of his imprisonment. 
He was especially grateful to me for doing all I could to 
prevail on the legislature to pardon one of his gang, a 
youth named Coppie. You know that by the constitution 
of Virginia of 1850, the governor could pardon in all 
cases except treason." 

After the conviction of Brown, letters by the thousand 
poured in upon Wise, urging his pardon. Many of these 
were from anonymous writers, threatening in their tone, 
unless their demand was acceded to ; others were from 
men of standing, who, while admitting the justice of the 


sentence, deemed it ill advised to hang Brown, as it would 
make him, in popular estimation, a "martyr." In his 
message to the legislature, which did not assemble until 
after Brown's execution, but prior to that of his associates, 
Wise wrote : " Sudden, surprising, shocking, as this inva- 
sion has been, it is not more so than the rapidity and 
rancor of the causes which have prompted and put it in 
motion. It is not confined to the parties who were the 
present participators in its outrages. Causes and influ- 
ences lie behind it more potent far than the little band of 
desperadoes who were sent ahead to kindle the sparks of a 
general conflagration ; and the event, sad as it is, would 
deserve but little comment, if the condign punishment of 
the immediate perpetrators of the felonies committed 
would, for the future, secure the peace which has been 
disturbed, and guarantee the safety which it has threat- 
ened. Indeed, if the miserable convicts were the only 
conspirators against our peace and safety, we might have 
forgiven their offences and constrained them only by the 
grace of pardon. But an entire social and sectional sym- 
pathy has incited their crimes and now rises in rebellion 
and insurrection, to the height of sustaining and justifying 
their enormity. . . . The strongest argument against 
this unnatural war, upon negro slavery in one section by 
another of the same common country, is that it inevitably 
drives to disunion of the States, embittered with all the 
vengeful hate of civil war. As that Union is among the 
most precious of our blessings, so the argument ought to 
weigh which weighs its value. But this consideration is 
despised by fanaticism. It contemns the Union and now 
contemns us for clinging to it as we do. It scoffs the 
warning that the Union is endangered. The Union itself 
is denounced, as a covenant with sin, and we are scorned 
as too timid to make the warning of danger to it worthy 


to be heeded. . . . We know that we have many sound 
and sincere friends in the non-slaveholding States. It may 
be that they are most numerous far who abhor and detest 
such wrongs as these; but it is not to be disguised that 
the conservative elements are passive, whilst the fanatical 
are active, and the former are fast diminishing, whilst the 
latter are increasing in numbers and in force. But where 
is the evidence that the conservative elements are the 
most powerful ? . . . Alas ! turn where we will, and to 
what we will, we find that the judgments of the Courts 
only are with us, but they have lost all reverence and 
respect, and we are left without protection, and the 
Supreme Court of the United States is itself assailed for 
not assailing our constitutional defences. . . . Though 
the laws do not permit me to pardon in cases of treason, 
yet pardons and reprieves have been demanded on the 
grounds of, first, insanity; second, magnanimity; third, 
the policy of not making martyrs. As to the first, the 
parties by themselves or counsel put in no pleas of in- 
sanity. No insanity was feigned even ; the prisoner Brown 
spurned it. Since his sentence, and since the decision on 
the appeal, one of his counsel, Samuel Chilton, Esq., has 
filed with me a number of affidavits professing to show 
ground for delaying execution, in order to give time to make 
an issue of fact as to the sanity of the prisoner. How such 
an issue can now, after sentence confirmed by the Court 
of Appeals, be made, I am ignorant ; but it is sufficient to 
say that I had repeatedly seen and conversed with the 
prisoner, and had just returned from a visit to him, when 
this appeal to me was put into my hands. As well as I 
can know the state of mind of any one, I know that he 
was sane and remarkably sane, if quick and clear percep- 
tion, if assumed rational premises and consecutive reason- 
ing from them, if cautious tact in avoiding disclosures 


and in covering conclusions and inferences, if memory 
and conception and practical common-sense, and if com- 
posure and self-possession are evidence of a sound state of 
mind. He was more sane than his prompters and pro- 
moters, and concealed well the secret which made him 
seem to do an act of mad impulse, by leaving him without 
his backers at Harper's Ferry ; but he did not conceal his 
contempt for the cowardice which did not back him better 
than with a plea of insanity, which he spurned to put in at 
his trial at Charlestown. As to the second ground of 
appeal : I know of no magnanimity which is so inhumane, 
and no inhumanity could well exceed that to our society, 
our slaves as well as their masters, which would turn 
felons like these, proud and defiant in their guilt, loose 
again on a border already torn by a fanatical and sectional 
strife, which threatens the liberties of the white even 
more than it does the bondage of the black race. As to 
the third ground: Is it true that the execution of our 
laws, fairly and justly administered upon these confessed 
robbers, murderers, and traitors, will make them martyrs 
in the public sentiment of other States ? If so, then it is 
time, indeed, that execution shall be done upon them, and 
that we should prepare in earnest for the 'irrepressible 
conflict ' with that sympathy which, in demanding for 
these criminals pardons and reprieves, and in wreaking 
vengeance for their refusal, would make criminals of us. 
Indeed, a blasphemous moral treason, an expressed fellow- 
feeling with felons, a professed conservatism of crime, a 
defiant and boastful guilty demoniac spirit combined, 
arraign us, the outraged community, as the wrong-doers 
who must do penance and prevent our penalty by pardon 
and reprieve of these martyrs. This sympathy sent these 
men tools to do the deeds which sentenced them. It may 
have sent them to be martyrs for mischief's sake ; but the 


execution of our laws is necessary to warn future victims 
not again to be its tools. To heed this outside clamor at 
all was to grant at once unconditional grace. To hang 
would be no more martyrdom than to incarcerate the 
fanatic. The sympathy would have asked on and on for 
liberation, and to nurse and soothe him, whilst life lasted, 
in prison. His state of health would have been heralded 
weekly as from a palace, visitors would have come, 
affectedly reverent, to see the shorn felon at hard labor, 
the work of his hands would have been sought as holy 
relics, and his parti-colored dress would have become, per- 
haps, a uniform for the next band of marauders. There 
was no middle ground of mitigation. To pardon or re- 
prieve at all was to proclaim a licensed impunity to the 
thousand fanatics, who are mad only in the guilt and folly 
of setting up their individual supremacy over law, life, 
property, and civil liberty itself. This sympathy with the 
leader was worse than the invasion itself. The appeal 
was: it is policy to make no martyrs, but disarm mur- 
derers, traitors, robbers, insurrectionists, by free pardon 
for wanton, malicious, unprovoked felons ! I could but 
ask. Will execution of the legal sentence of a human law 
make martyrs of such criminals ? Do sectional and social 
masses hallow these crimes ? Do whole communities sym- 
pathize with the outlaws, instead of sympathizing with the 
outraged society of a sister sovereignty ? If so, then the 
sympathy is as felonious as the criminals, and is far more 
dangerous than was the invasion. The threat of martyr- 
dom is a threat against our peace and demands execution, 
to defy such sympathy and such saints of martyrdom." 

After the assembling of the legislature in December, 
1859, a few days following Brown's execution, various 
petitions were presented to that body, praying that the 
sentence against Stevens, Coppie, and other of Brown's 


associates might be commuted to imprisonment in the 
penitentiary, and in the case of Coppie, Wise used his 
influence to secure this end. It is said that the legisla- 
ture would probably have done this in the latter's case 
but for the powerful speech of Isbell, the senator from 
Jefferson and Berkeley, delivered against it. 

From the time of the raid at Harper's Ferry until after 
the execution of Shields, Green, Coppie, Stevens, and 
Copeland, on December 16, a force of militia, varying in 
numbers from several hundred to sixteen hundred at one, 
time, was kept on duty at Charlestown and neighboring 
points along the Potomac. The presence of this number 
of military on duty has often been remarked upon and 
pointed out as an indication of the weakness attaching 
to the institution of slavery, on the one hand, and on the 
other, as an evidence of Wise's love of display and rodo- 
montade, and an attempt on the part of himself and others 
to make political capital out of the affair. But there 
seems to be no good reason to doubt that the exigencies 
of the occasion and the exposed condition of the border 
counties necessitated the assembling of a considerable 
body of troops, in and around Charlestown, and that the 
failure to do so would probably have resulted in a further 
shedding of blood. Concerning this subject, Mr. Andrew 
Hunter wrote : ".As justifying the assembling of so many 
troops at Charlestown and in the neighborhood, I deem it 
proper and especially in justification of Governor Wise, 
to state that very soon after the prisoners were arrested, 
and while the trials were progressing, I learned (and he 
through me), from Brown's intercepted correspondence 
and from various other sources, that there were combina- 
tions being formed in various parts of the United States, 
chiefly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky, of armed 
parties for the purpose of coming on here and releasing 


the prisoners." The papers contained in Brown's carpet- 
bag, together with others, were formally laid before the 
legislature ; and on January the 26th, 1860, the joint com- 
mittee of the two branches of that body, appointed to 
consider the subject of the Harper's Ferry raid, submitted 
their report, prepared by Alexander H. H. Stuart, the 
chairman of that committee : — 

" The evidence before your committee is sufficient to 
show the existence, in a number of Northern States, of 
a widespread conspiracy, not merely against Virginia, but 
against the peace and security of all the Southern States. 
But the careful erasure of names and dates from many 
of the papers found in Brown's possession renders it diffi- 
cult to procure legal evidence of the guilt of the parties 
implicated. The conviction of the existence of such a 
conspiracy is deepened by the sympathy with the culprits, 
which has been manifested by large numbers of persons 
in the Northern States, and by the disposition which your 
committee are satisfied did exist, to rescue them from the 
custody of the law. 

"Near five hundred letters, addressed to Governor Wise, 
after the arrest of Brown and his confederates, have been 
inspected by your committee. Many of these were anony- 
mous and evidently written in bad faith, but the greater 
number were genuine letters, apparently from respectable 
sources. In some instances, the authors professed to state, 
from their own knowledge, and in others, from information 
which they credited, that there were organizations on 
foot, in various States and neighborhoods, to effect the 
rescue of Brown and his associates; and they, therefore, 
urged the governor to concentrate a sufficient military 
force about Charlestown (the county seat of Jefferson) 
to frustrate all such purposes. Several ministers of the 
Gospel and other citizens, who valued the peace and 


harmony of the country, appealed to Governor Wise, as 
a measure of humanity, and to save the effusion of blood, 
to assemble such a body of troops around the prison as 
would intimidate the sympathizers from attempting a 

"They justly foresaw that even an abortive attempt, 
attended with loss of life, would, in all probability, be fol- 
lowed by disastrous consequences to the peace of the 

" Pending the trials and after the conviction of the 
prisoners, a great many letters were received by the gov- 
ernor, from citizens of Northern States, urging him to 
pardon the offenders, or to commute their punishment. 
Some of them were written in a spirit of menace, threaten- 
ing his life and that of members of his family, if he should 
fail to comply with their demands. Others gave notice 
of the purpose of resolute bands of desperadoes to fire the 
principal towns and cities of Virginia, and thus obtain 
revenge by destroying the property and lives of our citi- 
zens. Others appealed to his clemency, to his magnanim- 
ity, and to his hopes of future political promotion, as 
presenting motives for his intervention in behalf of the 
convicted felons. Another class (and among these were 
letters from men of national reputation) besought him to 
pardon them on the ground of public policy. The writers 
professed to be thoroughly informed as to the condition 
of public sentiment in the North, and represented it as so 
favorable to the pardon or commutation of punishment 
of the prisoners as to render it highly expedient, if not 
necessary, to interpose the executive prerogative of mercy, 
to conciliate this morbid popular opinion in the North. 

" The testimony before the committee amply vindicates 
the conduct of the executive in assembling a strong mili- 
tary force at the scene of excitement ; and the promptness 


and energy with which he discharged his duty merit and 
doubtless will receive the commendation of the legislature 
and people of the State. . . . The invasion of a sovereign 
State by citizens of other States confederated with subjects 
of a foreign government, presents matter for grave con- 
sideration. It is an event without a parallel in the history 
of our country. And when we remember that the incur- 
sion was marked by distinct geographical features ; that 
it was made by citizens of Northern States on a Southern 
State ; that all the countenance and encouragement which 
it received, and all the material aid which was extended 
to it, were by citizens of Northern States; and that its 
avowed object was to make war upon and overthrow an 
institution intimately interwoven with all the interests 
of the Southern States, and constituting an essential ele- 
ment of their social and political systems, — an institution 
which had existed in Virginia for more than two centuries, 
and which is recognized and guaranteed by the mutual 
covenants between the North and the South, embodied in 
the Constitution of the United States, — every thoughtful 
mind must be filled with deep concern and anxiety for the 
future peace and security of the country." 

The report closed with a strong appeal to the conserva- 
tive element of the North, and an allusion to the devotion 
of Virginia to the Union, as true as it was beautiful. 

It is doubtless true that the mass of intelligent, con- 
servative people at the North recognized that Brown had 
committed crimes, for which he deserved the full penalty 
of the law ; and few, if any, of the members of Congress 
at the time condemned his punishment as unjust, though 
some thought that it would have been better, as an act 
of policy, to have had him adjudged insane. Neither is 
it to be wondered at that the political convention which 
nominated Abraham Lincoln for the presidency, in 1860, 


resolved that Brown was a criminal. But when we re- 
member the character of the events of the period and the 
situation of the Southern people, it is but natural that they 
should have viewed the subject as they did. Throughout 
the North, public meetings had been held, bells tolled, and 
orations delivered, proclaiming Brown a hero and a mar- 
tyr, and that Virginia was but another Algiers. It became 
matter of common notoriety that Brown's plans had long 
been known and approved by men like Gerrit Smith, 
Theodore Parker, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Ralph 
Waldo Emerson, Charles Sumner, Henry Thoreau, Wen- 
dell Phillips, Governor John A. Andrew, and others. 
Emerson had said in his Salem speech : " It would be 
nearer the truth to say that all people, in proportion to 
their sensibility and self-respect, sympathize with John 
Brown." And when to the vast concourse assembled in 
Tremont Temple the day of Brown's execution, the Hon. 
John Q. A. Griffin declared that " The heinous offence of 
Pontius PUate, in crucifying our Saviour, whitened into 
virtue when compared with that of Governor Wise in his 
conduct toward John Brown," the sentence was far from 
displeasing his auditors, and it, with similar declarations, 
was approved by many newspapers. The Hon. Eli 
Thayer is authority for the statement that when John 
Brown arrived in Kansas, he said, " I have not come to 
make Kansas free, but to get a shot at the South." 
Though he did not live to see it, he played no insignificant 
part in bringing about that result, on a scale even greater, 
perhaps, than he had dreamed. 

In narrating the gathering storms that hovered over 
a portion of Wise's administration, we have omitted to 
mention two patriotic occasions over which he presided, 
memorable in the history of Richmond and Virginia. 
During the month of July, 1858, the remains of James 


Monroe had been brought from their resting-place in New 
York, accompanied by the gallant Seventh Regiment, 
under the command of Colonel .Duryee, and interred in 
Hollywood Cemetery, in the presence of a vast concourse 
of people, in the soil of his native State. 

On the 22d of February, preceding that event, had 
occurred a patriotic outpouring of the people, such as had 
never before been witnessed in Virginia. The superb 
equestrian statue of Washington, designed by the artist 
Crawford, was unveiled; and despite the bleak, wintry 
day, the enthusiasm of the audience knew no bounds. As 
the governor of the State, it fell to Wise to welcome the 
vast multitude, and standing amid the falling snow, he 
spoke as follows: "Virginia has called the Nation, its 
Elders and Councillors ; her sister States, their Governors, 
Lawgivers, and Judges ; her own People and all the chil- 
dren of this Confederate Family of Freedom, to assemble 
this anniversary birthday around the Monument she has 
raised to the memory of that son whose wisdom, valor, 
virtue won the grandest, proudest, purest of all earthly 
titles, ' Father of his Country ' ! In her name I bid you 
all — all ! welcome to the gathering around Virginia's 
Monument to Washington. 

" Magic name ! If none other under heaven can draw 
us to each other, that talisman can touch the chords of 
unison, and clasp us hand to hand and bind us heart to 
heart, in the kindred heirship of one Patriot Father! — 
Before that august name Feud and Faction stand abashed ; 
Civil Discord hushes into awed silence ; schism and sec- 
tions are subdued and vanish ; for in the very naming of 
that name, there is the sweet concord of Love, Veneration, 
Gratitude, Duty, Patriotism, and Self-devotion; in it 
there is the harmony of peace and the power only of vic- 
torious war, and the spell of Order and Liberty and Law, 


and the strength and beauty of National Union. It typi- 
fies all that there is and ought to be of goodness, great- 
ness, and majesty in that country we call ' Our Country ' ! 
— the United States of America. And that country is 
the best type of its father. 

" "We will, then, this day gather together the National 
Affections and bind them as American fasces around this 
Statue erected by the Mother State to the Father Son. 
Virginia — 

" ' Parent of valor, cast away thy fear I 
Mother of men, be proud without a tear I ' 

What a theme ! What a scene for men and angels. 

" May our God, in whose bosom he rests, who guarded 
him in our country's battles and who guided him in our 
country's councils, vouchsafe that his spirit may continue 
to hover over the land he saved and perpetuate it peace- 
ful, powerful, plentiful, and free, through all vicissitudes 
of storm and sunshine, until earthly monuments shall 
moulder into dust and humanity shall triumph over the 
probation of Time, or Time itself shall be no more." 



Prior to the expiration of his term as governor, Wise 
had determined to make his home on the western side of 
the Chesapeake, on account of the inaccessibility of his 
farm in Accomack; and during the fall of the year 1859 
purchased from his brother, John C. Wise, a fine estate 
in Princess Anne County, consisting of about nine hun- 
dred acres of land. This place, called " RoUeston," was 
located on the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River, 
some seven miles from Norfolk, and in former years had 
been the home of the descendants of William Moseley, 
who, having emigrated to Virginia in 1649, had obtained 
the land as a grant, and here built his dwelling-house 
named for " RoUeston Hall," the seat of the Moseleys in 

In October, 1859, Wise wrote in a letter to his friend 
George Booker, of Hampton : " I have sold my land in 
Accomack— got $18,000.00 cash for 'Only' and have 
about 14,000 more to sell. This and stocks and other 
means make me about $35,000 besides my negroes. Out 
of this I must pay every dollar of debt, from 5,000 to 8,000 
dollars, and start again. I can't go back to law, except in 



fancy cases, and must rely on land and negroes. I have 
about $a8,000 to inyest. I want to put 12,000 or 15,000 
in land — about 8,000 or 10,000 in negroes — leaving some 
$5,000 in cash for a margin. This will enable me to work 
eighteen or twenty hands, men and boys, of effective field 
force, and to wield that force I must have a good located 
farm in good condition." ^ 

The RoUeston estate was finely timbered and had a 
good saw and grist mill on it, and would doubtless have 
been an excellent investment, if purchased at any other 
time. Here Wise retired, immediately after the expira- 
tion of his term of office at Richmond, but it was not long 
before his name was again prominently connected with polit- 
ical affairs. His followers were anxious that he should 
be brought forward as a presidential candidate, and his 
cause was strongly championed by the Richmond Unquirer 
and other papers throughout Virginia and the South. 
The Virginia Democratic Convention assembled in the 
spring of 1860 for the purpose of selecting delegates to 
represent the State, in the Charleston Convention, but 
declined to express a preference for any candidate ; and it 
is probable that the followers of R. M. T. Hunter were in 
a majority in that body, though Wise was doubtless the 
more popular among the people at large. In a letter, 
written for the press, in April, 1860, he said: "Whomever 
else the preference has been expressed for, it has not been 
expressed for me. Without the voice of Virginia clearly 
and indisputably declared for me, I decline to allow my 
name to be presented primarily before the Convention 
for a nomination. In no event am I willing that it shall 
cause any division of the vote of our delegation. I beg 

1 The records of Princess Anne County show that he owned twenty- 
one slaves in 1860 — a number much above the average held in that 
locality, which probably did not exceed three or four negroes to a planter. 


my friends, therefore, not to offer my name, but to unite 
cordially with the majority of the delegation and to pre- 
sent the vote of the State a unit before the Convention." 
In accordance with his wishes he was not placed in 
nomination, at Charleston ; and the action of that Con- 
vention has been too often described, and is too famil- 
iar to every reader of American history, to be repeated 

Along with the majority of Southern Democrats, Wise 
gave his support to the ticket headed by Breekenridge and 
Lane; and in a speech delivered at Norfolk, during the 
campaign, said: "Squatter sovereignty, when analyzed, 
is nothing in effect but the same infamous Lecompton 
tyranny which attempted to compel a people to be all one 
way. In Kansas, by the odious Lecompton Constitution, 
the people were allowed to vote /or a constitution, but not 
against it. They were allowed to vote against nothing but 
slavery. This doctrine Mr. Douglas opposed most right- 
eously and I backed him with all my might, in maintaining 
the popular sovereignty to decide pro and con on a State 
constitution, without intervention from any quarter. And 
now he claims the power in a majority of settlers to ex- 
clude the property of a minority. If he excludes their 
property, he excludes them. The slave-owner himself won't 
go to Kansas, if he may not take his slaves with him. 
What is the result? Why, that none but non-slaveholders 
will go there. This is certain from the very nature, or 
difference in the nature, of slaveholding and non-slave- 
holding population. A with 50 slaves and B with 20 
from Virginia emigrate to Kansas. They have taken 72 
people from us to Kansas. They will require 1280 acres 
of new land at least. Thus 72 people from a slave State 
will cover that space, and how many votes will they have? 
Why, but 2. Five Emigrant Aid Society men go out 


from Vermont, with flocks and herds, and settle 40 acres 
each — 200 acres in all, and they will covmt 5. If the 5 
may exclude the 70 slaves, by voting 5 to 2, the two mas- 
ters will never go there and have their slaves caught in 
this territorial trap. Thus the 5 are left the monopoly of 
the Territory. The effect of squatter sovereignty is to 
prevent all competition in settlement and compels all 
to be free soilers. The truth is, that these doctrines of 
Mr. Douglas are but short cuts to all the ends of Black 
Republicanism. The only difference between Lincoln and 
Douglas is, that Lincoln claims the power and duty of 
Congress to abolish slavery in the Territories ; and Doug- 
las practises intervention and preaches non-intervention by 
Congress, but claims that a territorial legislature, a mere 
creature of Congress, a most subordinate Federal authority, 
can intervene to abolish property in slaves. It is safer for 
us to contest the power in Congress. We can't risk our 
slaves to contest it in the Territories. In Congress we 
are represented and in the Kansas legislature we can't 

In adverting to the possible action of Virginia, in the 
event of Lincoln's election, Wise declared: "In tortur- 
ing suspense I shall wait upon her resolves, and pray God 
they may be worthy of the example of '98 and '99. If she 
does not meet the issue and come up to the mark of self- 
defence and self-respect, I will look to another and another 
and another, until some one sovereign does raise the rightful 
flag of Revolution. Revolution is the word. I take Mr. 
Douglas at his word. Secession is revolution, but revolu- 
tion is not secession. I wiU not nullify, I will not secede, 
but I vidU under sovereign State authority fight in the 
Union another revolutionary conflict for civil liberty, and 
a Union which wiU defend it. Mr. Madison knew his 
own faith better than South Carolina did. His Everett 


and IngersoU letters admitted that his rule of State 
rights, already cited, necessarily led to conflict of judg- 
ment, and of modes and measures of redress, and if pressed 
to its ultimate results would end in revolution, logically 
and practically end there. It will be revolution, then, and 
to bring it on I do hope that no one slaveholding State 
will wait for another. If it must come, let it come as soon 
as possible." 

At a public meeting and barbecue held in Princess Anne 
County during the latter part of October, he made a speech 
setting forth the ills under which the South had suffered, 
and declared that the utterances of Lincoln and Seward 
that " the government cannot endure half slave and half 
free," — that "an irrepressible conflict existed between 
slave and white labor," and " that the country must be- 
come all one or the other," would in the event of the for- 
mer's election be equivalent to an open and official avowal, 
by the people of the North, that the rights of the South, 
under the Constitution, were to be disregarded. He of- 
fered a set of resolutions, which were enthusiastically 
adopted, for the appointment of committees of safety, in 
each magisterial district, and for a State convention, to 
meet at Richmond immediately upon Lincoln's election 
being made known. The Princess Anne meeting created 
considerable comment at the time and the Richmond 
Whiff announced in flaming head-lines, that " Revolu- 
tion " had been " Recommended and Begun in Virginia." 
But the meeting cannot be said to have reflected the 
views of the vast majority of the people of the State, who 
deprecated war in any event; and who were, moreover, 
opposed to anticipating any overt act on the part of the 
Federal Government. Months and months had passed, 
after Lincoln's election, and the cotton States had all 
seceded, before the Virginia Convention, which was largely 


made up of Whigs and Union men, at last passed an 
ordinance of secession, upon receiving the announcement 
that Sumter had fallen and Lincoln issued his call for 

The views of Wise were considered peculiar, as he 
favored neither secession nor peaceable acquiescence in 
the triumph of the antislavery and sectional party. His 
opinions of the proper course to have been pursued are 
contained in the following letter, dated " Rolleston," near 
Norfolk, Virginia, December 1, 1860, and addressed to a 
friend in Georgia. 

" Dbak Sib : — Yours of the 22nd ult. was late coming 
to hand, I now thank you for it. As to my doctrine of 
' fighting in the Union,' it is one of true policy. 

" 1st. If a sovereign State is judge of the infraction as 
well as of the mode and measure of redress, she may re- 
main in the Union to resent or resist wrongs as well as do 
so out of the Union. 

" 2d. If other States have infracted the Union, not she, 
the State wronged is bound to defend the Constitution and 
Union against those who have infracted the one and 
threatened the other. Logically the Union belongs to 
those who have kept, not those who have broken, its cove- 

" 3d. The Union is not an abstraction ; it is a real, sub- 
stantial thing, embracing many essential and vital political 
rights and properties. It has nationality, lands, treasury, 
organization of army, navy, ships, dock-yards, arsenals, etc. 
Shall we renounce these rights and possessions because 
wrong-doers attempt to deprive us of other rights ? Is it 
not cowardly to renounce one right to save another ? Are 
these rights not as precious as the mere right of property 
in negroes ? But, 


" 4th. If you secede you not only renounce the Union 
and its possessions, but you fail to unite your own people, 
because you do renounce these rights. Wake a man up 
to destroy the Union and Constitution and he will stare 
at you and turn away. But tell him that the Constitu- 
tion is infracted and the Union threatened by Black Re- 
publicans, and caU on him to aid you in defending both 
against those who would destroy both, and he will act 
heartily with you. 

" 5th. Then how is this to be done ? The 3d clause of 
the 10th section of the 1st article of the Constitution of 
the United States permits a State to keep troops and ships 
of war in time of peace, and to engage in war, when act- 
ually invaded, or when in' such imminent danger as will 
not admit of delay. Now are we not actually invaded ? 
Is our danger not imminent? Does it admit of delay? 
May not a sovereign State secede ? Will it not be revo- 
lution and war in either event ? 

" I say, then, stick to all your rights, renounce none, 
fight for all, and save all ! " 

Though these views were commended by the Richmond 
Whig and a few men of prominence, they cannot be said 
to have had any considerable following in Virginia. 

The electoral vote of the State was cast for Bell and 
Everett, the candidates of the Constitutional Union party, 
in 1860 ; and the old-line Whig and Union men had, like 
those of Tennessee and Kentucky, pursued this course, in 
an earnest effort to prevent a sectional conflict, the brunt 
of which they knew would be borne by the border States. 
Every consideration, both of sentiment and self-interest, 
caused Virginia to dread a civil war and disruption of the 
Union. As the eldest of the original thirteen States, she 
took an intense pride in the government, to the formation 


of which she had contributed so large a share of ability 
and patriotism ; while her geographical position, midway 
between the North and South, on the Atlantic seaboard, 
indicated all too clearly that her soil would be the scene 
of the fiercest strife, in the event of war. 

The special session of the legislature, which met at 
Richmond in January, 1861, had called a Peace Congress 
of all the States, in a vain but earnest endeavor to keep 
the peace and preserve the Union ; commissioners had 
also been appointed to wait on Mr. Lincoln and urge a 
postponement of hostilities for sixty days ; and a State 
Convention was called to consider the crisis with which 
the people of the Commonwealth were then confronted. 
This last body, among the most memorable ever assembled 
on her soil, met in the city of Richmond, on the 13th of 
February, 1861, and for two months discussed the various 
propositions presented, with a view to adjusting the rela- 
tions existing between Virginia and the Federal Govern- 
ment, on a basis alike honorable to both. The foremost 
men of the Commonwealth, Whigs and Democrats, sat 
side by side, to take counsel as to the course of their 
mother State. 

Wise, though but a short time resident in the county 
of Princess Anne, had been nominated, without solicitation 
on his part, to represent her people, and though he made 
no canvass was elected by a large majority. Shortly after 
the assembling of the Convention, he was appointed to a 
place on the most important committee of the body, that 
on Federal Relations, which embraced among its list of 
members Robert Y. Conrad, John B. Baldwin, Robert E. 
Scott, William Ballard Preston, Lewis E. Harvie, Will- 
iam H. McFarland, Robert L. Montague, Valentine W. 
Southall, Waitman T. Willey, James C. Bruce, James 
Barbour, William C. Rives, Samuel McD. Moore, and 


others, prominently identified with the past history of the 

Within a few days after the Convention met, commis- 
sioners from South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi 
appeared before the body and earnestly and eloquently 
pleaded with it to cast in the lot of Virginia with that of 
her Southern sisters, and join the Confederacy, newly 
formed at Montgomery. But while a majority of the 
delegates believed in the constitutional right of a State to 
withdraw from the Union, they were opposed to being 
needlessly dragged into a quarrel, not of their making, as 
well as to being coerced by the Federal Government. Of 
the twenty-one members who composed the committee on 
Federal Relations, sixteen were avowed Union men and, at 
the commencement of the session, like a great majority of 
the delegates, favored any sort of delay or compromise, in 
preference to the horrors of war. Wise was one of the 
minority of five and, although at fii'st opposed to secession, 
believed in putting the State in a condition to defend her- 
self and repel invasion. From the first he does not 
appear to have entertained a belief in any peaceable solu- 
tion of the difficulty and, on February 18, 1861, wrote 
in a letter to his son, Richard A. Wise :"-..! am con- 
fident there are a number who would vote for abject sub- 
mission and abolition of slavery to-morrow. But I stUl 
have hope. A committee on Federal Relations is appointed 
— twenty-one, of which I am one. I had a hopeful con- 
ference yesterday with some of its members from whom I 
received some considerable consolation, but I now see 
that the fate of slavery is doomed in Virginia and we have 
no hope but in actual Revolution." 

The committee did not submit a report until March 9, 
and then but a partial one, accompanied by several minority 
papers and substitutes, indicating considerable division of 


sentiment as to the proper course to be pursued. A 
lengthy debate ensued, which lasted for weeks and which 
was participated in by nearly all of the prominent mem- 
bers. The report of the committee, which set forth the 
wrongs under which the Southern States were suffering 
and proposed various constitutional amendments and com- 
promises, as well as a convention of the border States to 
be held at Frankfort, Kentucky, was ably discussed in all 
its details. Wise submitted a substitute at the time the 
main report was presented, demanding of the various 
States satisfactory guarantees for the protection of slave 
property, which were to be given prior to October 1, 
1861, and in the meanwhile it was to be recommended that 
neither the Federal Government nor seceded States should 
commence hostilities, and that the former should reduce 
the force at all forts in the Southern States to a number 
requisite for garrison duty only, pending this period. It 
was further provided that the Commonwealth should be 
immediately placed in a complete state of military organi- 
zation for defence; and that it should be forthwith sub- 
mitted to the people to determine whether, if the demands 
of Virginia were not satisfactorily responded to, or civil 
war commenced on the part of the Federal Government, 
within the period named pending the efforts for adjust- 
ment, they would or not resume the powers granted by 
them under the Constitution of the United States ; and 
that the Convention should place itself immediately in 
communication with the border slaveholding States for 
conference and cooperation. 

During the anxious weeks of delay which followed, the 
members of the Convention were derided as " submission- 
ists," by the secessionists throughout the Commonwealth, 
and the state of feeling among this last element was well 
illustrated by a clever satire which was published at the 


time in the Richmond Examiner, under the title of the 
"Parliament of Beasts." The writer, a ci-nl engineer 
named Lorraine, cleverly caricatured the various delegates, 
comparing them to different animals, who were represented 
as rendering homage to King Abe, the chief of the orang- 

On the 4th of April, Lewis E. Harvie, the member from 
Amelia County, and who along with ex-President Tyler 
and the brilliant Holcombe of Albemarle was considered 
among the leaders on the disunion side at this time, 
moved that the committee on Federal Relations be in- 
structed to report an ordinance of secession; which 
motion, however, was defeated by a vote of 88 to 45, 
indicating the large preponderance of Union sentiment, 
even at that date. Wise, although opposed in the begin- 
ning to secession, voted for Harvie's resolution, as the 
drift of events naturally identified him with this element, 
despite the fact that he had favored "fighting in the 
Union " and the assumption of an attitude of armed neu- 
trality on the part of Virginia, between the government at 
Washington, on the one hand, and that at Montgomery on 
the other. 

Wise's idea of "fighting in the Union" was not the 
prevailing sentiment among the members on either side of 
the Convention, as his views on this point were regarded 
as eccentric and peculiar ; and those of the delegates who 
no longer remained attached to the government at Wash- 
ington approved of Virginia casting in her lot with the 

During this period of doubt and apparent unwillingness 
to take her stand, Virginia incurred the harsh criticisms of 
her sister States, both North and South. But to the 
utter failure of the Peace Conference and the unsatisfac- 
tory report of the commissioners from Virginia, appointed 


on the 8th of April to confer with Mr. Lincoln, were to 
be added still more ominous events, when the wires 
brought the news that Sumter had fallen and Lincoln's 
call for troops to invade the South had been made. 

As late as April 10, Wise, although among the "fire- 
eaters " in the Convention, had said on the floor of that 
body : " As to parting from the Union, in my affections I 
shall never do that. As to leaving its flag, whenever I 
leave this Confederacy, this North Star Confederacy, which 
makes the needle tremble northward, sir, I shall carry the 
flag of the Old Union out with me ; and if I ever have to 
fight, so help me God, I will fight with the star-spangled 
banner still in one hand and my musket in the other. I 
will never take any Southern cross or any palmetto for my 
flag. I will never admit that a Yankee can drive me from 
the Union and take from me our Capitol! I will take 
from him forts, I will take from him flags, I will take from 
him our Capitol, I will take from him, if I can, my whole 
country, and save the whole." But while his idea up to 
this time had been to fight in the Union, if possible, he 
had never denied, but on the contrary stoutly contended 
for, the right of a State to withdraw and resume her dele- 
gated powers, whenever she saw fit to do so. 

The vast majority of the members of the Convention 
had been Union men, almost to the very last, but to the 
stanchest Whig, as well as Democrat, the conception of a 
Union meant a sisterhood of co-sovereign States, and not 
a consolidated government held together by force and 
arms. Whatever may have been the true construction of 
the Constitution, or what the faith taught elsewhere, the 
States-rights principles had been those enunciated by the 
Virginia statesmen ; and the idea of the Federal Govern- 
ment, the creature of the several States and an agent of 
limited and derivative powers only, attempting to coerce 


and invade its creators, was repugnant to the teachings of 
her statesmen and the instincts of her people. With her 
past history and beliefs, she was bound to make the cause 
of the Gulf States her cause, when at last the crisis came, 
and circumstances which she could not control compelled 
that she should take her stand. That her soil would be 
reddened by the blood of contending hosts and her fields 
devastated could not change this fact. The men who 
voted for the ordinance, offered by William Ballard Pres- 
ton, on April 17, 1861, could with truth utter the words 
of the great Athenian : " I say that if the event had been 
manifest to the whole world beforehand, not even then 
ought Athens to have forsaken this course, if she had any 
regard for her glory or for her past or for the ages to 

By the 16th of April, the news of Sumter and of Lin- 
coln's action had spread abroad in Richmond, and the 
excited state of public feeling was shown, not only by 
the Confederate flags to be seen here and there, but by 
a spontaneous gathering, or "people's convention," as- 
sembled in Metropolitan Hall, ready to anticipate the 
passage of the ordinance by the official body sitting near 
by. This measure had been offered that day by Preston 
of Montgomery County, and though the Convention had 
adjourned without taking a vote, it was now apparent that 
on the morrow the die would be cast. 

The story of the capture of Harper's Ferry, and the 
manner in which the movement was inaugurated by Wise, 
has been so graphically narrated by a participant ^ in some 
of the scenes, that we have introduced it here, though in 
slightly condensed form : — 

" After many weeks of very trying debate, principally 
participated in by Robert E. Scott and John B. Baldwin 

1 General John D. Imboden. 


on the one side, and Henry A. Wise on the other; and 
after the committee, by a vote of 13 to 8, had rejected 
the proposition of Mr. Wise to take a stand of armed 
neutrality between the Federal powers of Washington 
City and the Confederate powers at Montgomery, and to 
fight in the Union against the invasion of either by the 
other, and to prevent the troops of either from crossing 
the territory of Virginia ; and when it had become mani- 
fest that the people in the State were becoming impatient 
at the inaction of the Convention, Wise, worn down by 
overwork and anxiety and despairing of any fair adjust- 
ment or prompt action, was walking from the committee, 
the sittings of which were held in the Mechanics Hall, on 
Bank Street, and met Captain J. D. Imboden on the pave- 
ment, near Tenth, next the Capitol Square. After a 
pleasant salutation. Wise spoke to Imboden of his impa- 
tience at the delay of the Convention, and of the dark 
prospect of events, and said, 'Do you remember, sir, 
what passed between you and me, when I was governor, 
at the moment when you thanked me for the order per- 
mitting you to have two brass field-pieces for your com- 
pany of artillery at Staunton?' 

" Captain Imboden replied, ' Yes, I do, sir,' and repeated 
that he was bound to obey the call of Wise for those guns 
whenever made. Wise then said: 'What was a joke 
then, is earnest now. I want those guns with which to 
aid in the immediate capture of the United States Arsenal 
at Harper's Ferry ; can they be had with all the men you 
can raise ? ' Captain Imboden replied, ' They can, and if 
you say so, the men shall be raised and the arsenal shall 
be taken.' Wise then inquired, ' What boys, reliable and 
brave, are in town ? ' Imboden named several and prom- 
ised to look immediately for others, and Wise told him to 
notify as many such as he could find in the city, to meet 


him at the Exchange Hotel at about seven o'clock p.m. 
At the hour named Captain Imboden had assembled, in a 
room ou the first floor of the hotel passage to the left of 
the entrance as you go in, Oliver Funsten, Richard Ashby, 
Turner Ashby, John S. Barbour, Alfred Barbour, John A. 
Harman, and J. D. Imboden, who were joined by Wise. 
Wise stated to them the object of calling them together. 
Turner Ashby asked what was proposed. Wise replied 
that the first thing required was some official, or semblance 
of official, authority, to make the movement, and proposed 
the appointment of a committee of three to wait on Gov- 
ernor Letcher and to ascertain whether he would support 
or countenance, at least, an attempt to secure the arms 
and munitions of war at Harper's Ferry. The proposition 
was at once adopted ; and J. D. Imboden, Oliver Funsten, 
and Alfred Barbour were appointed the committee, and 
the meeting waited for their report about an hour, when 
they returned and reported briefly that Governor Letcher 
declined to entertain or consider the matter, as he was 
under some informal pledge not to do so or promote any 
hostile action against the United States, without first ap- 
prising the Convention and conferring with it. Wise then 
said, ' Well, gentlemen, you have heard the report ; are 
you willing and ready to act on your own responsibility ? ' 
The meeting unanimously voted to act without official 
authority, and Turner Ashby, addressing Wise, said, ' You 
have been governor of Virginia, and we will take orders 
from you, sir, as if you were now governor; please draw 
your orders.' Wise immediately drew, in writing, a brief 
plan of action and the orders conformable thereto. Mr. 
Alfred Barbour was then superintendent of the arsenal at 
Harper's Ferry ; he was directed to repair to the arsenal 
at once and to prepare the operations there. Turner 
Ashby was despatched at once to Fauquier to rouse the 


Black-Horse Cavalry there. Captain Imboden was in- 
structed to move his company of artillery at once, and 
John A. Harman was sent to Staunton to rally all the 
volunteers he could to move with Imboden's artillery. 
At this moment Milton Gary came into the meeting and 
was requested to see to railroad transportation; went out 
and brought in Colonel Edmund Fontaine, the president 
of the Central Railroad, and transportation was arranged. 
Whilst the meeting was in session. Wise received a tele- 
gram saying that Federal troops were on their way to 
Harper's Ferry, which was read. All were ordered to 
report promptly to Wise and to move at once, — that 
night, — and the meeting adjourned sine die. The whole 
time of the meeting for report and all did not occupy 
more than three hours, and it adjourned about eleven p.m. 
" In passing through the vestibule of the hotel where the 
baggage is received and distributed, the clerk handed Wise 
a despatch. It was from William H. Parker, then of Nor- 
folk, now of Northampton, and to this effect: 'The 
powder magazine here can be taken, and the Yankee 
vessels can be captured and sunk, so as to obstruct the 
harbor. Shall we do it?' Wise wrote at once, 'Yes,' 
showed the telegram and answer to Mr. Holcombe, stand- 
ing by his side, and despatched it. The next morning he 
awaited telegrams at the hotel and received one from 
Captain Imboden, at Gordonsville, saying he was there 
with the volunteers under General Harper, and his guns, 
pressing forward to Harper's Ferry. Wise immediately 
hastened to the Convention then in session. For some 
weeks previously telegrams had been announced to that 
body, -with the view of hastening its action, until, at last, 
they lost their effect and had become an object of de- 
rision. As soon as one was named, voices would exclaim : 
' Another Democratic alarm ! ' Immediately upon reach- 


ing his seat, Wise addressed the president and said : ' Mr. 
President, I arise to announce no ' Democratic telegram,' 
but to say to you and this body that I know that armed 
forces are now moving upon Harper's Ferry to capture 
the arms there in the arsenal for the public defence, and 
there will be a fight or a foot-race between volunteers of 
Virginia and Federal troops before the sun sets this day! ' 
And he asked the Convention whether it would sanction 
and support the movement on foot. If a hand grenade 
had been thrown in among the members, it could not have 
caused more consternation. Wise said no more, but went 
to Mr. Holcombe and Mr. George W. Randolph, told them 
what he had done and urged them to see Governor Letcher 
and to prevail upon him to reenforce the volunteers and to 
sanction their movement. They went immediately to the 
governor's room and returned quickly, requesting Wise's 
presence with Governor Letcher. He went forthwith to 
the governor's chamber and inquired what he [Governor 
Letcher] would do? He answered that he would back 
the movement then and issued orders at once. 

" After a very short conference Wise returned to his seat 
in the Convention. Mr. Robert Y. Conrad was on the 
floor, protesting warmly against the movement, as un- 
authorized and illegal, involving, in fact, all the conse- 
quences of treason, and the whole people in a war to 
which the most of them were opposed. Mr. John B. 
Baldwin and others, but especially Mr. Baldwin, followed 
in a strain of awful lamentation and forebodings; de- 
nounced the act as a usurpation, as revolutionary and 
disturbing to peaceful measures, and interfering with the 
labors of that Convention toward compromise and concili- 
ation. He asked who had assumed to instigate and organ- 
ize so rash a foUy? Whoever they were, he could not, for 
one, sanction or countenance their disastrous and un- 


authorized action. Wise rose and announced that he, and 
he alone, had originated and ordered the movement and 
assumed its whole responsibility; and he inquired of Mr. 
Baldwin whether he would or not, now that the movement 
was on the march, aid the people, who had waited on the 
Convention too long in vain, in seizing arms for their own 
defence. Mr. Baldwin said that he could not, and he 
hoped the Convention would not partake in any such fear- 
ful responsibility. It was not the act of the people, and 
those who had assumed to act for the whole State must, 
if they had made for themselves a bloody bed, lie upon it 
and take all the consequences, which he apprehended would 
be sad and fatal. They should not have his sanction, or 
aid, or countenance. As yet it was not known to him or 
the Convention of what portion of the people the volun- 
teers were composed. 

" Wise then rose and said : ' Mr. President, I have often 
heard old Augusta ^ boasted of as the heart of Virginia. 
Heretofore I have been content to acquiesce by silence, in 
this claim of her preeminence over other members of our 
body politic, as a sort of political if not poetical license, 
for I always accorded her the highest rank among the 
sections of the State ; but now I know, I feel in every fibre 
of every extremity of my body that she is the heart of 
Virginia. I feel her grand and noble pulse throbbing 
through every nerve, and kindling emotions in my heart 
of admiration and gratitude. Let me tell the gentleman 
from Augusta [Mr. B.J that the patriotic volunteer revo- 
lutionists, whom he consigns to bloody beds, are his constit- 
uents of Augusta, — his friends and neighbors of Staunton. 
They are the men who are marching under my orders to 
take up their own arms for their own defence ! The self- 
sacrificing Kenton Harper is leading his neighbors and 

1 Augusta County was the home of Mr. Baldwin. 


command to all the dangers and risks of taking Harper's 
Ferry, and the question is : Shall they be doomed, unsup- 
ported, to bloody beds? ' 

"This appeal silenced Mr. Baldwin ; he looked aghast ; he 
dropped his austere mien of reprehension at the movement; 
and the whole body (then in secret session) was thrown 
into bewildering excitement by Mr. Baylor, Baldwin's 
colleague, rushing by, almost over seats and down aisles, 
making his way to Wise. It might be to assail him, but 
no ; it was to grasp his hand, with tears streaming down 
his cheeks, and exclaiming: ' Let me grasp your hf^id! I 
don't agree with you, I don't approve your acts ; bui I love 
you ! I love you ! ' " 

On the eve of the passage of the ordinance, it appeared 
probable that a number of members, from what is now 
West Virginia, would retire. A member of the Conven- 
tion, Judge John Critcher, thus describes a scene in which 
Wise arraigned their leader for this contemplated with- 
drawal. " It was plainly premeditated. Before he [Wise] 
arose, I noticed his suppressed agitation. Ex-President 
Tyler, who knew what was coming, turned his chair about 
ten feet in front of Wise, with his back to the president of 
the Convention. As Wise proceeded with his arraignment 
of Summers, Mr. Tyler lost control of his feelings and 
tears trickled freely down his cheeks. The speaker was 
supernaturally excited. His features were as sharp and 
rigid as bronze. His hair stood off from his head, as if 
charged with electricity. Summers sat on the left of the 
chair, white and pale as the wall near him. It was the 
most powerful display of the sort I ever witnessed. I 
have heard Wendell Phillips, Beecher, Mr. Clay, Daniel 
O'Connell, Lord Brougham, Sir Robert Peel, Thiers, 
Guizot, and Lamartine; but never witnessed any display 
of eloquence like this, and in this opinion Mr. Tyler con- 


ourred. I have often wished that Wise's remarks could 
have been preserved." 

It was in vain, during the excited debate that ensued 
in the secret session, that the extreme Union men remon- 
strated, and that old John Janney, of Loudoun, the presi- 
dent of the body, left his seat, and v^ith tear-dimmed eyes 
and a voice trembling with emotion, pleaded with the Con- 
vention not to sever the tie that bound Virginia to the 
Federal Government, and lay bare his beautiful home to 
the invader. 

The adoption of the ordinance by a vote of 88 to 55, 
on the afternoon of the 17th, left no doubt in the minds 
of the members as to where their paramount allegiance 
was due ; and the instrument was then, or later on, signed 
by aU the delegates, with the exception of about six or 
eight from the western part of the State. Governor 
Letcher, who on the night of the 16th had ordered a se- 
cession flag which had been placed over the Capitol to be 
hauled down, forthwith took active steps to place the Com- 
monwealth in a condition of defence. From that time 
forward the sentiment of the people living within the 
present limits of Virginia may be said to have been a unit 
in favor of resisting invasion by the Federal Government. 
Political differences had been forgotten : — 

" Then none were for a party, 
Then all were for the State." 



After signing the ordinance of secession, Wise had 
returned to his farm near Norfolk. His health had been 
wretched for some time, and upon his return to " Rolles- 
ton" he was confined to the bed by sickness, and his physical 
condition, advanced age, and total lack of military train- 
ing would have afforded him a ready excuse for not en- 
listing in the army ; but he was not a man to fail to 
bear arms in a conflict which he had advocated as neces- 
sary to resist the aggressions of the North. During the 
month of May he offered his services, by letter, to the 
government formed at Montgomery, Alabama, and was 
commissioned a brigadier-general in the provisional army 
of the Confederate States. As soon as his health and 
household affairs permitted, he left home for Richmond, 
to confer with the authorities and to be assigned to duty 
in the field. 

He was present at the serenade tendered President Jef- 
ferson Davis and family shortly after the latter's arrival at 
the Spotswood Hotel, on June 1, and in the course of a 
brief speech upon that occasion, said, in alluding to the 
duties and necessities of the hour : — 

" The man who dares to pray, the man who dares to 
wait until some magic arm is put into his hand, the man 
who will not go unless he have a minie or a percussion 



musket, who will not be content with flint and steel, or 
even a gun without a lock, is worse than a coward, — he 
is a renegade. If you can do no better go to a blacksmith, 
take a gun along with you as a sample, and get him to 
make you one like it. Get a spear — a lance. Take a 
lesson from John Brown. Manufacture your blades from 
old iron, even though it be the tires of your cart-wheels. 
Get a bit of carriage spring, and grind and burnish it into 
the shape of a bowie knife, and put it to any sort of a han- 
dle, so that it be strong — ash, hickory, oak. But if pos- 
sible get a double-barrelled shot-gun and a dozen rounds 
of buckshot, and go upon the battle-field with these. If 
the enemy's guns reach further than yours, reduce the dis- 
tance ; meet them foot to foot, eye to eye, body to body, 
and when you strike a blow, strike home. Your true- 
blooded Yankee will never stand still in the presence of 
cold steel." 

The importance of western Virginia to the Southern cause 
was early perceived by those in authority ; and both politi- 
cal and strategic reasons rendered it necessary that a large 
and efficient force should be despatched to that region, in 
order to hold it for the Confederacy. Enough has been 
said, in a previous chapter, to illustrate the lack of asso- 
ciation and community of interest, between eastern and 
western Virginia, to make it unnecessary to more than al- 
lude to it again. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 
1861, but one railroad — the Baltimore and Ohio — trav- 
ersed the latter section of country ; and the Virginia Cen- 
tral road, which ran westerly from Richmond, though 
designed to connect the Chesapeake Bay with the Ohio 
River, did not at that time extend beyond Jackson's River, 
which is within the present limits of Virginia. Thus the 
line of the AUeghanies made the western portion of the 
State extremely inaccessible from eastern Virginia, while 


it was a comparatively easy matter, for the Federal au- 
thorities to throw a large force into that district by way 
of Pennsylvania and Ohio. The presence of Northern 
troops and their occupancy of the route afforded by the 
Potomac River left, as the only two practicable entrances 
into western Virginia from the east, the one by way of the 
Staunton and Beverley pike and that of the James River 
turnpike, which last ran westwardly via the White Sul- 
phur Springs and Lewisburg and over Gauley Bridge into 
the Kanawha Valley. 

General Robert S. Garnett, a distinguished officer, had 
been ordered to take command of the force sent to Bev- 
erley; and in response to an order received from General 
S. Cooper, the adjutant and inspector-general, issued on 
June 6, 1861, Wise proceeded to western Virginia, having 
been commissioned to raise a command to be known as the 
" Wise Legion " and directed to proceed to the Kanawha 
Valley and to rally the people there, to assist in repelling 
the invasion of that country. Although he had never 
"set a squadron in the field," and was entirely without 
military training or knowledge, yet his selection for this 
post of duty had not been made without reflection on the 
part of Generals Lee and Cooper. 

The condition of affairs in the Kanawha Valley, and 
indeed throughout western Virginia generally, rendered 
it highly important that an officer should be sent there 
having the confidence of the people of that section in 
order to hold them with Virginia, instead of the North. 
Wise was, perhaps, better equipped for this phase of the 
undertaking than any other brigadier in the Confederate 
service, and had it been possible, under the circumstances, 
to accomplish this task, it is probable that he would have 
done so; but the work was undertaken too late, when 
the Federal troops were already in possession of impor- 


tant points and when the Confederate forces were poorly 
organized and equipped. 

The order of General Cooper, directing Wise to proceed 
to the Kanawha Valley, contained among other informa- 
tion the following : " You must needs rely upon the arms 
among the people to supply the requisite armament, and 
upon their valor and knowledge of the country, as a sub- 
stitute for organization and discipline." The task of en- 
listing and fitting out an effective force, under these 
conditions, and by an officer of no previous experience 
whatever, was far from being an easy one at best ; but the 
difficulty was still further increased by the general dispo- 
sition of the inhabitants of western Virginia to sympathize 
with the Federal Government. 

On June the 13th Wise was joined at Staunton by the 
Richmond Light Infantry Blues, a time-honored volunteer 
company of that city, at that time under the command of 
his eldest son, O. Jennings Wise. For some days previous 
Wise himself, who had left Richmond without a man or a 
gun to accompany him, had been in the neighborhood of 
Covington and the adjoining country, beyond Staunton, 
engaged in the work of recruiting for his regiments ; but 
the Blues were the first regularly equipped organization 
to join him, and with them he proceeded to Jackson's 
River, the terminus of the Virginia Central Railroad, and 
from that point to Lewisburg, the seat of Greenbrier 
County, where he arrived on the afternoon of the 14th, 
and established a camp. Along the entire route the com- 
pany had been enthusiastically greeted by the people, who 
assembled at the railway stations to cheer them as they 
passed along ; and at Goshen the ladies presented a flag 
to the soldiers. 

The work of recruiting was pushed forward as rapidly 
as conditions permitted, and Wise promptly issued an ad- 


dress urging the inhabitants to come to the defence of the 
State. On July 8, 1861, he reported the troops under him 
as numbering about 2700 in all. Of these, some 1300 
were organized in two regiments, in addition to which 
there were seven independent companies of about sixty 
men each, a battalion of about 400, and three companies of 
mounted rangers numbering 170 men. He had received 
valuable assistance in the work of recruiting and organiz- 
ing his command, from Colonel Christopher Q. Tompkins 
in western Virginia, and Colonel J. Lucius Davis who re- 
mained in Richmond for that purpose, at the time when 
Wise left for the Kanawha region. Both Tompkins and 
Davis were graduates of West Point and officers of merit. 
The Legion was also joined by several officers, who had 
served with distinction under Walker in Nicaragua, among 
them Colonels Charles F. Henningsen and Frank Anderson, 
the latter having performed a daring exploit in the capture 
of Castillo, in that country, with but forty -eight men. The 
career of Henningsen eclipses that of Captain John Smith 
in its adventurous character; for he had participated in 
numerous European wars, before he came to America, as 
the companion and friend of Kossuth. His marriage to a 
niece of Senator Berrien of Georgia brought him into con- 
tact with the Southern people, and he served first under 
Walker in Nicaragua, and later on in the Confederate 

During the early part of July, Wise advanced into the 
Kanawha Valley, by way of the Gauley Bridge, and threw 
up intrenchments at Tyler Mountain, about five miles west 
of Charleston, which last place is located at the confluence 
of the Elk and Kanawha rivers and is the only town of 
importance in that region. 

The Federal troops selected for the invasion of the val- 
ley, from the western entrance, consisted of a number of 


Ohio and Kentucky regiments, though the latter had been 
recruited from the district just opposite Cincinnati and 
were in reality Ohioan, in everything except the name. 
The whole were under the command of General Jacob D. 
Cox, and had been concentrated at Gallipolis and Point 
Pleasant at the mouth of the Kanawha, where it empties 
into the Ohio River. From the latter place the movement 
up the valley was commenced on the 11th of July, and the 
main body of the Federals, under Cox in person, ascended 
the river in steamers as far as navigable, detachments hav- 
ing been thrown out on either bank ; while one regiment 
had been ordered to proceed from Guyandotte, some 
seventy miles below the mouth of the Kanawha, and an- 
other to land at Ravenswood, about fifty miles above, and 
advance by way of Ripley. The total force commanded 
by Cox numbered between three and four thousand men, 
who in equipment and supplies vastly excelled the hastily 
organized and wretchedly fitted-out troops under Wise, 
many of whom were armed with old-fashioned flint-lock 

A detachment of the Richmond Blues had been sent on 
a reconnoitring expedition to Ripley, and similar expe- 
ditions had been undertaken in various directions; but 
there was no real skirmishing until July 16, when two 
mounted companies of Wise's troops, numbering 120 men 
and commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel John Clarkson, 
encountered a detachment of 200 of the enemy's in- 
fantry, along the pike in the neighborhood of the Poca- 
taligo, and drove them to the mountain top, killing eight 
and wounding a number of others. At this date the Con- 
federates were posted on both sides of the Kanawha as high 
as the mouth of the Coal River, which flows in a north- 
westerly direction, and empties into the former stream 
below Charleston. At these points, as well as on the Elk 


River and at Gauley Bridge, Summersville and on the 
Birch River, Wise had stationed his men to await the 
approach of the enemy, who were advancing by the way 
of the Guyandotte road and up the Kanawha. While the 
numerous mountain passes and beetling cliffs which char- 
acterize this section offered many points apparently easy 
to defend, yet numerous lateral roads entered the valley 
from every direction, rendering an attack from the flank 
and rear highly probable at any time. The eastern gate- 
way to the vaUey was at Gauley Bridge, which spanned 
the river of that name, just above where it unites with the 
New to form the Kanawha. It was necessary that this 
point should be carefully guarded, as well as the road by 
way of Summersville and Suttonsville, across the Birch and 
Powell mountains, which was the one subsequently taken by 
General Rosecrans to Camifax Ferry ; while the force then 
operating under McClellan against Garnett rendered it im- 
perative that Wise should carefully guard against having 
his retreat cut off at the eastern end of the valley. The 
correspondence of McClellan since made public shows that 
from the beginning of the campaign he had kept this pur- 
pose steadily in view, and in a letter to Cox, dated July 2, 
1861, wrote, " Endeavor to keep the rebels near Charles- 
ton until I can cut off their retreat by movement from 

On the afternoon of July 17, a body of five hundred Con- 
federates, under Major George S. Patton, encountered, at 
Scary Creek below the Coal River, some twelve hundred 
of the Federal troops commanded by Colonel Norton, of 
the Twenty-first, and Colonel Lowe, of the Twelfth Ohio 
Infantry. A deep ravine separated the hostile forces, and 
in the early part of the action the Confederates were thrown 
into some confusion owing to an attempted flank move- 
ment of the enemy, but were quickly rallied by the gallant 


Patton, who unfortunately about this time was shot through 
the left shoulder by a minie-ball and unhorsed. This 
young officer was a distinguished graduate of the Vir- 
ginia Military Institute and, at the commencement of hos- 
tilities, had promptly raised a company for the defence of 
his native State ; and later on, at the battle of Winchester, 
gave up a life full of promise, on the altar of his coun- 
try. The Federals, by means of superior artillery, suc- 
ceeded in silencing two iron sixes opposed to them, but 
the infantry of the Confederates were well handled by 
Captain Jenkins, upon whom the command devolved after 
the wounding of Patton. After a sharp engagement the 
Federals were handsomely repulsed, about thirty of them 
having been killed and a number taken prisoners, among 
whom were Colonels Norton, Woodruff, De ViUiers, 
Lieutenant-Colonel Neff, and Captains Austin and Ward. 
The retreating columns were pressed for some distance, 
but were able to cross to the north side of the Kanawha 
and encamped near the mouth of the Pocataligo River. 
Wise immediately resolved to follow up the victory gained 
at Scary Creek, and advanced that night with three troops 
of cavalry and 650 infantry and artillery; but finding three 
regiments of the enemy strongly intrenched behind the 
Pocataligo, and provided with adequate artillery, and be- 
ing without such pieces himself, abandoned the idea of 

Events were now transpiring elsewhere which necessi- 
tated the latter's withdrawal from the Kanawha region. 
The disastrous retreat of General Garnett's command, 
after his defeat at Rich Mountain, rendered it highly 
perilous for Wise to remain where he was, with Cox in his 
front; for he was in imminent danger of being attacked 
from the rear by McClellan and having his command 
crushed between these two armies. In obedience to orders 


received from General Cooper at Richmond, he fell back 
from Charleston on the 24th of July, and on the 27th 
crossed the Gauley River, burning the bridge there behind 
him, which act was rendered necessary owing to his defi- 
ciency in means of transportation. 

Except to fell a few trees here and there, nothing had 
been done to prevent the prompt occupation of the upper 
end of the valley by Cox, who had advanced as far as 
Charleston the day after Wise retired ; and later, on the 
29th of July, had taken possession of Gauley Bridge, 
about thirty-eight miles distant, at which place he accu- 
mulated supplies, determined, as he states, to stand a siege 
if necessary. The retreat from the Kanawha Valley, by 
the force under Wise, had been made in good order and 
without serious loss. Within half an hour, however, after 
he had fallen back from Tyler Mountain, the enemy took 
possession and nearly succeeded in cutting off a regiment 
composed of about seven hundred State volunteers, under 
Colonel Tompkins, at Coal River. The latter succeeded 
in making good their escape, though they were compelled 
to abandon and fire the steamer Maffet, in which they were 
moving up the Kanawha, which stream was navigable to a 
point some ten miles above Charleston. 

From the Gauley Bridge, Wise had proceeded along the 
James River turnpike to the White Sulphur Springs, about 
seventy miles eastward, and not far from the town of 
Lewisburg. It was at that time apprehended that the 
enemy, who it was evident would form a line of communi- 
cations between Weston and Gauley Bridge, would ad- 
vance by way of Lewisburg, with the object of threatening 
either the Southwestern, or the Virginia Central Railroad, 
and it was, therefore, deemed advisable to make a stand in 
the vicinity of the last-named town, until a union between 
Wise's force and that of Floyd, or Loring, could be ef- 


f ected. It was, moreover, in a high degree imperative that 
Wise should without further delay refit and reorganize 
his wretchedly equipped force, who were sadly deficient in 
blankets, clothing, arms, ammunition, and means of trans- 
portation, and were without tents and, in many instances, 
shoes to their feet. A fairly accurate idea of the condi- 
tion of the force can be had from the subsequent report of 
Wise to the War Department, in which he says : " It was 
a secret which neither of us [Colonel Tompkins and him- 
self] dared to tell in the Kanawha Valley, that at no time 
of the whole sixty days while we were marching and 
countermarching, posting and counterposting, scouting 
and fighting, day in and day out, in a valley the hardest 
to defend and the easiest to be attacked in the topography 
of the country, could we at any time have fired in any 
general action ten rounds of ammunition in our joint 

The already miserable condition of his troops was to be 
still further increased, whUe at the White Sulphur, by an 
epidemic of measles, which raged among them to such an 
extent that, at one time, their number of effective men 
was reduced nearly fifty per cent. 

On the 5th of August, Wise was joined at the Springs 
by General John B. Floyd, commanding a brigade which 
he had raised mostly in the southwestern part of the 
State, having been early commissioned as a brigadier- 
general in the Confederate service, and who, on account 
of the date of his commission, was Wise's senior in rank. 
Floyd promptly determined to move into the Kanawha 
Valley, against the enemy, of which plan of campaign 
Wise did not approve. In his opinion, it was the better 
policy to draw the enemy to the eastern verge of the wild 
mountainous country lying this side of the Gauley, and 
known as the Fayette Wilderness, thereby forcing upon 


them some forty miles of wagon transportation, away from 
their base of supplies, rather than that the commands of 
Floyd and himself should penetrate the district, and have 
themselves to undertake this hauling and marching over 
mountain roads. From the outset of the campaign there 
appears to have been a lack of harmony between Floyd 
and Wise, and the latter had applied to General Lee to 
separate his legion from that of Floyd, it having been 
originally intended as an independent partisan force ; this, 
however. General Lee declined to do, and urged the neces- 
sity of united action. 

On the 13th of August, General Floyd, who was then at 
Meadow Bluff, and had assumed command of all the forces 
intended to operate against the Kanawha Valley, ordered 
Wise to join him with his troops ; but owing to lack of 
supplies and transportation, and the sickness among the 
men, which had largely unfitted them for service, it was 
not until the 16th that Wise marched to Big Sewell Moun- 
tain with his first and second regiments, leaving his third 
regiment, then not in marching order, and a regiment of 
State volunteers under Colonel Tompkins, in need of re- 
fitting, to follow as soon as possible. 

On the 19th, Wise was ordered by Floyd to proceed 
with his force, on the day following, along the turnpike 
from Sewell Mountain in the direction of the Kanawha, 
and in response to this command advanced about fifteen 
miles in the neighborhood of the Sunday road leading to 
Carnifax Ferry. Here his scouts reported that they had 
been fired upon, and Lieutenant-Colonel Croghan, who had 
been sent forward along the James River turnpike with a 
detachment of cavalry, had a skirmish with the enemy near 
Piggott's Mill, and another in the vicinity of the Hawk's 
Nest, about six miles east of Gauley Bridge, where he 
encountered a considerable force, and was obliged to retire. 


On the evening of the 21st, the commands of Floyd and 
Wise were united at the foot of Gauley Mountain, and 
after a conference between the two brigade commanders, 
it was decided that Wise should proceed, at three o'clock 
in the morning, to attack the enemy at Carnifax Ferry, on 
Gauley River, some twenty miles above where it unites 
with the New to form the Kanawha. Floyd, in the mean- 
while, was to hold the front on the turnpike, and join Wise 
at the ferry, after covering the train and artillery which 
had been left at Dogwood Gap. The movement was 
promptly executed by Wise, who left Piggott's Mill at 
3.30 o'clock in the morning, and, after a seventeen-mile 
march through mud ankle-deep, found that the enemy 
had crossed the river, having first destroyed one of the 
two ferry-boats, and sent the other adrift over the falls. 
Shortly after Wise's arrival at the south of the ferry, Floyd, 
who had been informed during the night that the force 
of the enemy stationed at this point had marched to the 
mouth of the Gauley, made a forced march, by a shorter 
route than the one taken by Wise, without notifying him, 
and came up with him early on the morning of the 22d 
instant. Having joined to his command three pieces of 
artillery, a detachment for the guns, and one hundred 
horse belonging to Wise, Floyd crossed the Gauley by 
means of the sunken ferry-boat, and ordered Wise, with 
the remainder of the latter's command, back to take posi- 
tion on the turnpike to check the enemy. 

On the 25th of August, Floyd, becoming aware that the 
Seventh Ohio Regiment, under Colonel E. B. Tyler, was 
approaching the direction of the ferry, having been de- 
spatched thither by Rosecrans, determined to attack, and 
ordered Wise to send one of his regiments to support him. 
Although the command of Wise was barely sufficient, as 
he states, to hold the turnpike road, yet he had prepared 


to reenforce Floyd on the morning of Sunday, the 25th, 
when firing was heard in the direction of Piggott's Mill, 
near the foot of the Saturday road leading to Carnifax 
from the James River pike, and some fugitive cavalrymen 
coming in reported the advance of the enemy. At that 
time the force of the latter under Cox consisted of two 
regiments at Gauley Bridge, another along the Kanawha 
to cover the steamboat communications, while an advance 
guard of some eight companies was thrown forward 
along the turnpike, between the Bridge and the Hawk's 
Nest, where the roadway passes through a series of narrow 
defiles. A small body of Floyd's cavalry had imprudently 
advanced into the passes beyond Piggott's Mill and had 
narrowly escaped capture. Wise immediately started a 
force of infantry and three artillery pieces on a double- 
quick march, which caused the enemy to fall back in the 
vicinity of the Hawk's Nest. About sunrise on the morn- 
ing of the 26th, Floyd with his own force and the two 
volunteer regiments under Tompkins and McCausland, 
which had been detached from Wise, fell upon Tyler, who 
had advanced as far as Cross Lanes, within two miles of 
the Confederate camp, and dispersed his regiment, which 
was completely taken by surprise. The enemy lost some 
twenty or more killed and one hundred captured. Floyd, 
who remained on the north side of the Gauley, was now 
on the line of communication between Rosecrans and 
Cox, the former having established a chain of posts from 
Weston by way of Suttonsville, with a considerable force 
at each, prepared to unite with Cox at Gauley Bridge. 
Anticipating an attack, on the 31st, Floyd wrote Wise 
to further reenforce him ; but owing to sickness and want 
of forage for the cavalry, the available force under the 
latter's command had been reduced to scarcely eighteen 
hundred effective men, with which he had to guard the 


turnpike in front of Cox, as well as watch the approaches 
from the south side of the New River. This caused him 
to address a reply to Floyd, explaining the situation, and 
asking a reconsideration of this command ; but receiving a 
second order late in the day, stating that the enemy was 
advancing. Wise moved to Carnifax, leaving only a small 
guard at Dogwood Gap. Upon arriving at the cliffs over- 
looking the ferry, another communication from General 
Floyd was delivered to him, in which the latter stated 
that from more recent information he did not consider a 
union of their forces necessary at that time, and ordered 
him back to Dogwood Gap, whither Wise marched during 
the afternoon. His men were weary from their march, but 
Wise announced to them his intention to take the Hawk's 
Nest on the following day, in order, as he states, that he 
might gain possession of Liken's mill to grind wheat and 
corn for his troops, and also secure the approaches to 
Miller's ferry, leading across the New River, which would 
enable him to communicate with the volunteer troops 
under General Chapman, on the south side of that stream. 
On the 2d of September, Wise marched from Dogwood 
Gap to Hamilton's, within a half-mile of the Hawk's Nest, 
from which place he advanced along the pike, driving the 
enemy beyond Big Creek, a distance of some thirteen 
miles ; but the latter being reenforced. Wise fell back to 
Hamilton's and encamped there and at Westlake's Creek, 
guarding the ferry. From this time until September the 
10 th, the date of the battle of Carnifax Ferry, the position 
of Floyd and Wise continued practically unchanged, the 
former remaining north of the Gauley and the latter hold- 
ing his position on the turnpike in the vicinity of the 
Hawk's Nest, in front of Cox. Reports reached Floyd on 
the 9th of the approach of Rosecrans, who was marching 
with three brigades from Clarksburg, apparently either to 


join Cox at Gauley Bridge, or to attack the Confederate 
force at Carnifax Ferry. This caused Floyd in turn to 
order Wise to send troops to his support, and the regiment 
under Colonel Tompkins was immediately despatched, 
in response to this message, though it had been sent to 
Wise but two days previously as the result of an urgent 
demand from him. The further order of Floyd, that 
Wise send him one thousand men from his legion, the 
latter was obliged to decline to comply with; as, owing to 
sickness and other causes, his effective infantry had been 
reduced to about twelve hundred, and artillery to two 
hundred, while six out of eight companies of cavalry had 
been sent over New River to Loop Creek and Coal River. 
About the hour of noon on the 10th, Wise received a 
communication from Floyd, inquiring why his order of 
the previous day had not been complied with, and per- 
emptorily ordering the former to send one thousand 
infantry and a battery of artillery with all possible speed. 
To this last Wise answered from Hamilton's, near the 
Hawk's Nest: "Mr. Carr has just handed me yours of 
to-day at 12.05 M. It found me here, called to meet an 
advance of the enemy, who are reported to threaten my 
picket at the Hawk's Nest, and all my force of three regi- 
ments of infantry, a corps of artillery, and two companies 
of cavalry are under arms, to prevent, if possible, an 
obvious attempt to turn our right flank and pass us at the 
turnpike, most probably to gain Carnifax Ferry in your 
rear. Under these circumstances I shall, upon my legiti- 
mate responsibility, exercise a sound discretion whether to 
obey your very peremptory orders of to-day, or not." 

Floyd had thrown up temporary intrenchments near 
Carnifax, in a position that was sheltered by woods and 
undergrowth from the enemy's view. Rosecrans, who 
had proceeded by the way of Summersville and had that 


day marched seventeen and a half miles, with three bri- 
gades of his troops, began a reconnoissance of Floyd's posi- 
tion about three o'clock in the afternoon, and a spirited 
engagement was commenced which lasted until nightfall. 
The Federal forces and especially the Tenth and Thir- 
teenth Ohio regiments, the former under Colonel William 
H. Lytle, and the latter commanded by Colonel William S. 
Smith, assaulted as vigorously as the nature of the ground 
would permit, but were repulsed by Floyd, whose men 
behaved with coolness and courage. The Federal casual- 
ities amounted to 17 killed and 141 wounded, while Floyd's 
loss was inconsiderable. 

At eight P.M. on the night of the engagement at Carni- 
fax, Floyd despatched an order to Wise to reenforce 
him with all the latter's troops save one regiment, which 
message was received after the hour of midnight ; but on 
the morning of the 11th Wise advanced toward Carnifax, 
and when about halfway to the ferry received verbal 
orders to return to Dogwood Gap. During the night of 
the engagement Floyd, on account of his precarious posi- 
tion and the superior force with which he was confronted, 
had determined to withdraw his command to the south 
side of the Gauley, which was successfully done under 
the cover of darkness. The movements of both Floyd and 
Wise have been here described with what would appear 
to be unnecessary detail, but the latter has been so fre- 
quently censured for his conduct during the campaign, 
and for his alleged failure to support the former at Carni- 
fax Ferry, that we have thought best to give the actual 
occurrences as reported in the volumes of war records. 

Floyd had been commissioned a brigadier in the Con- 
federate service prior to Wise, and, as his ranking officer, 
it was undoubtedly the duty of the latter to render prompt 
obedience to his orders. That he assumed the responsi- 


bility of declining to do this, on the date of the Carnifax 
engagement, is true, yet when we consider his situation 
at the time of the receipt of this order, the circumstances 
would seem to indicate that his action was dictated by 
sound judgment. Cox had thrown forward a consider- 
able force along the James River pike east of Gauley 
Bridge, which troops Wise was at this time engaged in 
holding in check. From a point on the pike eleven miles 
east of Gauley Bridge the Saturday road leads to Carnifax 
Ferry, and five miles further on the Sunday road enters 
the pike from the same place. By either of these roads 
Cox could easily have moved up to Floyd's rear, on the 
south side of the Gauley, entirely cutting off his retreat 
and rendering his capture well-nigh inevitable. The offi- 
cial report of General Rosecrans shows that Cox had been 
instructed to operate in the direction of Floyd, and Wise 
was correct in believing that Cox had conceived the plan 
of advancing by the Saturday or Sunday road. The 
Gauley River, in the vicinity of Carnifax, penetrates a 
deep, mountainous gorge, with a continuous fall for a dis- 
tance of twelve or fifteen miles. 

The descent to the ferry from the north side is described 
by General Rosecrans as " by a narrow wagon-track, wind- 
ing around a rocky hillside. The ascent from the other 
side is by a road passing up the Meadow River, which is 
in a deep rocky gorge, the bottom being little wider than 
the bed of the river, and the side ascending precipitously 
to the height of nearly three hundred feet. For two miles 
the road gradually ascends until it reaches the top of the 
hill, when the country becomes high, rolling, and partially 

In a lengthy report, addressed to the Hon. Judah P. 
Benjamin, the Secretary of War for the Confederate 
States, Wise wrote as follows in reference to the crossing 


of the Gauley at Carnifax : " From the first mention of 
the occupation at Carnifax Ferry, I urged upon General 
Floyd the importance of that ferry, as commanding the 
stem of all the roads to the rear on the turnpike. To this 
end we could hold it on the left bank or south side of 
Gauley with a very small force, say 250 men, if their rear 
were well covered, so as to prevent the approach of the 
enemy toward them from the turnpike. By holding that 
stem and advancing our forces to the foot of the Saturday 
road, and to where the Chestnutburg road enters the 
turnpike (the mouths of the Saturday and Chestnutburg 
roads being near each other on opposite sides), we could 
have forced the enemy to approach on the turnpike alone 
in single column and could have met him with our concen- 
trated defences, without much danger of having our flanks 
turned. It was utterly unmilitary to have crossed Carni- 
fax Ferry, unless General Floyd had force enough to 
advance. I warned him that this would compel him to 
divide his command, already too weak when combined; 
that if he crossed, the enemy might advance upon him 
from Summersville, from Gauley Bridge up the Gauley, 
and from Gauley Bridge up the Saturday road, thus 
attacking him with superior numbers front, flank, and 
rear. WhUst he would be too weak to withstand the 
front and flank attack on the right bank of the Gauley, 
I would be too weak, perhaps, to prevent the enemy from 
falling on his rear on the left bank of the Gauley ; that 
his ferriage, too, was insufficient for the retreat of his 
command; whereas, if we took the position I advised, 
we would hold Miller's ferry also, on the New River, and 
could spur the enemy at Cotton Hill, Montgomery's ferry, 
at the Loop and from Coal River, all the way down the 
left bank of the Kanawha, and compel the enemy to with- 
draw a considerable portion of his force from Gauley 


Bridge ; that as long as he insisted on crossing that ferry 
and thus exposing himself, it would be impossible for me 
to reenforce him from across the river, without exposing 
the safety of both commands to the same disaster of hav- 
ing our retreat cut off." 

On the evening of the 12th of September, a conference 
was held between Floyd and Wise at the former's camp, 
as a result of which orders were issued to fall back to the 
top of Big Sewell Mountain, about seventeen miles east 
of Dogwood Gap, and thirty-two miles from Gauley 
Bridge. In accordance with the above, the commands 
retreated to Sewell Mountain, with the exception of six 
companies of Wise's cavalry, numbering 240 men in all, 
under Colonel J. Lucius Davis, who had made a success- 
ful raid on the south bank of the Kanawha, to within 
a few miles of Charleston, and had successfully repulsed 
a detachment of the enemy on the 12th of September. 
The joint commands of Floyd and Wise reached Big 
Sewell on the 14th, the former encamping on the summit 
of that mountain, while the latter selected a position on 
the eastern slope, or what is known as Little Sewell, at the 
place afterward called Camp Defiance, and which is said 
to have been one of the strongest points between the 
AUeghanies and the Ohio. On the 15th and 16th Floyd 
was engaged in throwing up earthworks on the Big Sewell, 
but suddenly determining that his position was not a 
tenable one, owing to its exposed character, retreated on 
the night of the 16th, with about three thousand men, 
to Meadow Bluff, in the direction of Lewisburg. Wise 
was without suitable wagon trains to follow up Floyd's 
retreat, without abandoning valuable provisions, and this, 
together with the wet weather and the dissatisfaction 
among the troops at the idea of retiring farther in the face 
of the enemy, caused him to resolve to make a stand on 


Little Sewell, and to disregard the order of Floyd to pre- 
pare to bring up the latter's rear. " Here," wrote Colonel 
Henningsen, "it was impossible for an enemy to bring 
more tban two guns or a thousand men to bear on any 
part of his position; and on every point, within a few 
minutes. General Wise could bring six of his eight pieces 
and two-thirds of his force into play, besides the advan- 
tage of intrenchments. In addition, most of the officers 
of the Legion spoke openly of resigning if compelled to 
retreat any further. On the 18th, General Wise addressed 
the troops of his Legion, stating substantially that hitherto 
he had never retreated but in obedience to superior orders. 
That here he was determined to make a stand. That his 
force consisted only of seventeen hundred infantry and 
artillery, and that the enemy was alleged to be fifteen 
thousand strong. That this he did not believe, but that 
his men must be prepared to fight two or three or several 
to one, and even if the enemy were in the full force stated, 
the position admitted of successful defence and he was 
determined to abide the issue. He warned them that 
they would probably be attacked front and rear for suc- 
cessive days, and he called on any officer or soldier who 
felt doubtful of the result, or unwilling to stand by him 
in this trail, to step forward, promising that they should 
be marched at once to Meadow Bluff. This speech, 
delivered successively to the three regiments of infantry 
and to the artillery, was received with the wildest enthu- 
siasm. Not one solitary individual in the Legion failed 
to respond, and the spirits of the corps were raised and 
maintained at the highest fighting pitch. The provisions 
and baggage wagons were withdrawn into safe positions 
and the camp on all sides strengthened. In this attitude 
the Legion remained till about the 20th, when it was 
strengthened by the arrival of Captain Romer's artillery 


company, with one gun, and one Virginia, one North 
Carolina, and three Georgia companies, which swelled 
the forces of the Wise Legion to over two thousand men." 

On the 21st of September, General Lee, who had joined 
Floyd at Meadow Bluff, wrote to Wise urging the union 
of the latter's troops with those of the former. In his 
letter Lee expressed the opinion that Floyd's position had 
the advantage over that at Little Sewell, in that it com- 
manded the Wilderness road and the approach to Lewis- 
burg, which he thought the aim of Rosecrans. Wise in 
his reply expressed his willingness to unite with Floyd, at 
whatever point might be thought best, but requested Gen- 
eral Lee to examine his position at Little Sewell before 
ordering him back to Meadow Bluff. In addition, Wise 
pointed out that it was improbable that the enemy would 
advance by the Wilderness road instead of the turnpike ; 
and he estimated their number at about seven thousand men, 
whom he thought the joint forces of Floyd and himself amply 
able to check at Little Sewell. General Lee rode over to 
Wise's camp the following day, and after inspecting his 
position, directed him to hold it until further orders. The 
peculiar formation of Little Sewell prevented the possibil- 
ity of a flank movement, as any attack there had to be 
made directly in front, up a narrow gorge, between pre- 
cipitous mountain sides. The surface of Big Sewell, on 
the other hand, was a large flat area exposed on the sides. 

The site of Floyd's camp, twelve miles to the eastward 
at Meadow Bluff, beyond the fact that it covered the 
approaches to Lewisburg, possessed no natural advantage 
whatever and his earthworks had been constructed in a low- 
lying field, where they were inundated by the first rainfall. 

On the afternoon of the 23d, the enemy appeared, 
and began driving in the Confederate pickets. Wise 
promptly notified General Lee at Meadow Bluff, who 


does not appear to have at first credited the report that 
the enemy were advancing in full force, and it was not 
until the afternoon of the 24th that Lee, in response to 
further information from Wise, arrived at Little Sewell 
with a reenforcement of four regiments. " By this time," 
wrote Wise, "the enemy had received reenforcements 
swelling their numbers probably to more than six thou- 
sand, and their scouts pushed close to our lines, occasioning 
frequent sharp skirmishes, in all of which our men and 
officers acquitted themselves to my entire satisfaction." 

On the afternoon of the 25th, while under fire on the 
field. Wise received an order from the President to trans- 
fer his command to Floyd and report at Richmond, and 
the following morning set out for that place, where he 
arrived two days later. The severe exposure to which he 
had been subjected for months, in a mountain country 
during a rainy season, brought on an illness, which con- 
fined him to his bed for some weeks. After regaining his 
strength he submitted his report to the War Department, 
detailing his movements in western Virginia. The cam- 
paign in that section had not been a successful one and 
Wise had failed to meet the expectations of his admirers. 
More than one circumstance had made against Confed- 
erate success beyond the AUeghanies, and General Lee 
himself was destined to return to Richmond later on with 
greatly diminished reputation. It can hardly be said that 
the assignment of either Floyd or Wise to command in the 
Kanawha region was dictated by the soundest judgment, 
and political motives doubtless largely controlled in their 
selection. Wise had been too long in public life to divest 
himself of his former habits all at once, and his letters 
during this period often suggest characteristics begotten 
by campaigning of another sort. His excitable temper 
and apparent lack of appreciation of the prompt obedience 


required of a soldier by his superiors in command were, 
doubtless, a source of frequent annoyance and embarrass- 
ment to both Generals Lee and Floyd; yet it is idle to 
endeavor, as some Southern writers have attempted, to 
fasten the failure of the western Virginia expedition upon 
him. The true reasons for this failure are to be found in 
a variety of unfavorable conditions, rather than in the 
faults of any one officer. The Federals had been much 
more prompt than the Confederates in occupying this 
territory, which was far more accessible to them; and 
after the defeat of Gamett by McClellan, the real key to 
the Kanawha Valley was lost to the South. Had the 
force under the last-named officer been held at bay, the 
Confederates could without much difficulty have retained 
control of that valley as far westward as the Ohio ; and it 
is probable that a considerable number of its inhabitants 
would have enlisted in the Southern army. 

Throughout the campaign Wise had retained unabated 
the confidence of the troops under his command, and if he 
was deficient in military training, he did not lack true 
courage, or the faculty of inspiring his men with zeal for 
the cause in which they were engaged, under circumstances 
the most trying. One other talent of the military leader 
he possessed in more than an ordinary degree. He had 
excellent topographical knowledge and the faculty which 
enables some men to know instinctively the course of 
mountains, rivers, and streams ; while his thorough under- 
standing of the various roads, in the section where he was 
operating, enabled him to correctly determine beforehand 
the route that would be taken by the enemy. 



After recovering from a severe illness of some weeks' 
duration, Wise reported to the War Department by letter 
from RoUeston, dated November 18, requesting that the 
forces comprising his Legion be ordered to the point where 
he was to serve. By an order issued December 21, he was 
assigned to the command of the military district composed 
of that portion of North Carolina lying east of the Chowan 
River, which section was attached to the department of 
Norfolk, under the command of Major-General Benjamin 
Huger. Early in January Wise reported for duty to Gen- 
eral Huger at Norfolk, and on the 7th of the month as- 
sumed command, with headquarters at Roanoke Island. 
From a military point of view, this post was of incalcu- 
lable importance to the Confederacy and, as Wise pointed 
out, it " was the key to all the rear defences of Norfolk." 
Moreover, as he truly said, it unlocked the Albemarle and 
Currituck sounds, eight rivers, four canals, and two rail- 
roads ; and guarded more than four-fifths of all Norfolk's 

For some reason, but probably on account of the fact 
that the command of the island had been constantly trans- 
ferred from one officer to another, the defences had been 
almost wholly neglected, and it was at this period in dan- 
ger of capture by the Federal force at Hatteras Inlet, as 
well as by the Burnside expedition then being fitted out. 
I 305 


Wise immediately began a carefiil reconnoissance, in com- 
pany with Colonel H. M. Shaw of the Eighth North Caro- 
lina Infantry, the officer he had found in command ; and 
through the courtesy of Flag-Captain Lynch, command- 
ing the naval fleet, passed in the Sea Bird through the 
channels on either side of Roanoke Island. The military 
defences of the island consisted of three turfed sand forts 
on the west side, near the upper end facing Croatan 
Sound, with a similar fort on the east side a few miles 
farther down, while about the centre was a redoubt some 
seventy or eighty yards in length thrown across a cause- 
way and facing south, flanked on either side by marshy 
ground. The positions of these forts had been badly se- 
lected. In the opinion of Wise they should have been 
constructed on the islands of marshes, at the south end, 
where the channel was very narrow, and with batteries at 
Hommock's and Pugh's landings. Wise, after carefully 
informing himself of the needs of the island for proper 
defence, hurried back to Norfolk and urged upon Gen- 
eral Huger its unprotected condition and the need of 
pile-drivers, dredging machines, ammunition, artillery, 
and barges for the transportation of troops and supplies. 
He returned to Roanoke Island on the 11th, and set to 
work with the limited means at his command to put the 
island in a state of defence. In response to his urgent 
calls, Huger wrote that he did not consider a large force 
necessary, and Mr. Benjamin replied that the stock of pow- 
der at Richmond was very limited, adding, " At the first 
indication, however, of an attack on Roanoke Island a 
supply will be sent you." On the 15th of January he 
wrote as follows to the Secretary of War: "I am sure 
you will not judge me importunate when I inform you 
that I returned from Roanoke Island to Norfolk last Sat- 
urday. I hasten back, after a short reconnoissance, to 


apprise headquarters and the Department that there are 
no defences there, no adequate preparations whatever to 
meet the enemy, and to forward all the means in my reach 
as speedily as possible to make the key of all the rear of 
Norfolk, with its canals and raUroads, safe. Inside of Hat- 
teras Inlet I found twenty-four vessels of light draught, 
eight of which are steamers, said to carry four guns each. 
They are at farthest but thirty miles from Roanoke Island 
and can reach there in four hours or less, to attack five 
small gunboats under Captain Lynch and four small land 
batteries, whoUy inefficient. Any boat drawing seven feet 
water, or less, can pass the Croatan Sound as far off as 
one and one-fourth miles from any battery, and the 
enemy's guns can silence our batteries there in a very 
short time. Neither battery is casemated, and our men 
there are untrained to heavy pieces mounted on navy 
carriages. The moment the enemy passes Croatan Chan- 
nel, the North Landing River, North River, Pasquotank, 
Chowan, Roanoke, Alligator, and Scuppernong rivers, and 
the Dismal Swamp and Albemarle and Chesapeake canals 
will be blockaded effectually, and Norfolk and Portsmouth 
will be cut off from supplies of com, pork, and forage. The 
force at Hatteras is independent of the Burnside expedi- 
tion. No matter where the latter is, the former is amply 
sufficient to capture or pass Roanoke Island in any twelve 
hours. Let me say, then, sir, that if we are to wait for 
powder from Richmond until we are attacked at that 
island, that attack will be capture, and our defeat will 
precede our supply of ammunition. The case is too urgent 
for me to delay speaking this out plainly at once." 

Finding that his written appeals for munitions of war 
and men were unheeded by General Huger and the War 
Department, Wise hastened to Richmond, to confer with 
the authorities there and urge the necessity of immediate 


preparation. While in western Virginia, he had raised his 
Legion to fifty-five companies of all arms, divided into three 
regiments of infantry, eight cavalry and four artillery com- 
panies, numbering in all some twenty-five hundred effec- 
tive men. It had been understood, at the time that he was 
ordered to Richmond from Camp Defiance, that his Legion 
was to be restored to his command in the east ; but up to 
the date of which we write, this had not been done. In 
response to his appeals for reenforcements, and that his 
Third Regiment of Infantry be ordered to report to him, 
along with the rest of his troops, Mr. Benjamin replied 
that he had not the men to spare at the time. " I then 
urged," says Wise, " that General Huger had about fifteen 
thousand men in the front of Norfolk, lying idle in camp 
for eight months, and that a considerable portion of them 
could be spared for the defence of the rear of Norfolk, and 
especially as my district supplied Norfolk and his army 
with nearly or quite all of its corn, pork, and forage; 
that reenforcements at Roanoke Island were as absolutely 
necessary to the defence of Norfolk as forces in its front, 
and that particular or special posts should not be allowed 
to monopolize nearly all the men, powder, and supplies." 
The final reply of the Secretary to this demand was a 
peremptory order, issued on January 22, directing Wise 
to proceed immediately to Roanoke Island and assume 
command of the troops there. Wise forthwith repaired 
to his post, after a short delay in Norfolk, caused by lack 
of transportation facilities. Of the state of affairs at the 
island at the time Wise wrote in a subsequent report: 
" My two regiments (the First and Second of the Legion, 
numbering seventeen companies and less than eight hun- 
dred men) had preceded my arrival, and for want of quar- 
ters on Roanoke Island, occupied Nag's Head. It was 
absolutely necessary to maintain some sufficient force 


there to make and protect a ferry across Roanoke Sound 
to the island to secure a comparatively safe depot for 
provisions, stores, etc., and to guard the beach against the 
landing of the enemy north of Oregon Inlet. We com- 
menced immediately to procure lighters for the ferry, to 
repair the bridge, and to make a magazine. Early on 
Friday, January 31, I visited Roanoke Island, meeting 
Colonel Shaw at Weir's Point. I gave him the necessary 
orders to forward the pile-driving, to construct breast- 
works at Suple's Hill, and to keep strong guards at Hom- 
mock's, Pugh's, and Ashby's landings, on the south end 
of the island. I returned then to Nag's Head on Friday 
and ordered every preparation there. At neither post were 
there any tools to work with, no axes, shovels, spades, 
nails, etc., and requisitions had been made in vain for 
them both at Richmond and in Norfolk. Neither place 
had any teams, except two pairs of broken-down mules 
at the island and some weak and insufficient ox-carts. 
The consequence was that men had to carry everything on 
their shoulders and no work could be accomplished, and in 
the evening of Friday a cold rain had set in, which lasted 
until the evening of the 5th instant. 

" On Saturday evening, the 1st instant, I was seized 
(while attending to duty) with a high fever, resulting in 
an acute attack of pleurisy, threatening pneumonia, from 
which I was unable to rise until late on the evening of 
the 8th instant, but from bed continued to issue orders and 
to despatch preparations for the enemy, and on the morning 
of the 6th the enemy appeared off the southern end of the 

The fleet organized by Major-General Ambrose E. Burn- 
side, for the purpose of effecting lodgements along the 
southern coast, by means of which troops could penetrate 
the interior, had embarked from Annapolis on January 5, 


1862, for Fortress Monroe, from which point they sailed 
for Hatteras Inlet, the entrance to Pamlico Sound. The 
transports accompanying the naval fleet had a capacity for 
carrying fifteen thousand troops, who were divided into 
three brigades under Generals Foster, Reno, and Parke. 
The fleet, which consisted of sixty-five vessels, presented 
an imposing spectacle as it came in sight off the lower end 
of the island. 

On the morning of the 7th, the Federal gunboats en- 
tered Roanoke Sound, and by eleven o'clock were opposite 
the island, and engaged with the Confederate fleet and the 
batteries alongshore. The insignificant tugboats of Com- 
modore Lynch were compelled to retire up the sound, 
though they managed to keep up a brisk fire, and during 
the afternoon the enemy succeeded, under cover of the 
gunboats, in landing all of their force a short distance 
above Ashby's, with the exception of one regiment which 
was gotten ashore the following morning. 

Colonel J. V. Jordan, of the Thirty-first North Carolina 
troops, was in command of the small force stationed at 
Ashby's, where it had been anticipated the enemy would 
attempt to land. Between this point and the actual place 
of landing, which was a short distance above the former, lay 
a large marsh, impassable for artillery ; and fearing that he 
might be cut off, Jordan ordered a retreat to Suple's Hill, 
about a mile and a quarter above, where the redoubt pre- 
viously mentioned had been thrown across the main road, 
or causeway, leading up the centre of the island. 

In obedience to orders from Wise, Lieutenant-Colonel 
Frank P. Anderson of his Legion left Nag's Head early on 
the morning of the 7th, for the island, with two companies 
of the Forty-sixth, and ten of the Fifty-ninth Virginia 
regiments, in all about 450 men, and for some reason, 
probably deficiency in means of transportation, it was 


six P.M. before they were marched to the earthwork across 
the main road, whither Jordan had fallen back. 

Owing to the sickness of Wise, who was still ill and 
confined to his bed at Nag's Head, the command of the 
island devolved upon Colonel Shaw, whose entire avail- 
able force, "exclusive of the companies on duty at the 
several batteries, amounted to 1434, rank and file " ; which 
number was made up of men belonging to the Eighth and 
Thirty-first North Carolina and the Forty-sixth and Fifty- 
ninth Virginia regiments. 

Early on the morning of the 8th, the pickets reported 
the approach of the enemy, and about seven o'clock a 
general engagement was begun, Shaw soon opening with 
his artillery stationed at the redoubt, which consisted 
of three guns only, — one twenty-four-pounder howitzer, 
one eighteen-pounder field-piece, and one six-pounder. 
Colonel Anderson meanwhile had deployed three com- 
panies on his right and left, in the swamp, under the 
commands of Captains Wise on the left and Coles of 
the Forty-sixth on the right and Lieutenant Hazlett of the 
Fifty-ninth Virginia Regiment. The three brigades of 
the enemy, with General Foster in the centre and advance, 
and Generals Reno and Parke on the left and right respec- 
tively, numbered probably fifteen thousand men, and were 
supplied with several pieces of artillery from the boats. 
The Federals were able to penetrate the low marshy 
ground which lay south of the redoubt ; and the struggle 
continued until 12.20, when the artillery ammunition of 
Shaw being exhausted and his right flank turned by the 
brigade of Reno, he was compelled to yield the place. In 
his report of the engagement Colonel Shaw says : " With 
the very great disparity of forces, the moment the redoubt 
was flanked I considered the island lost. The struggle 
could have been protracted and the small body of brave 


men, which had been held in reserve, might have been 
brought up into the open space to receive the fire of the 
overwhelming force on our flank, which was under cover 
of trees; but they would have been sacrificed without the 
smallest hope of a successful result." 

Captain O. Jennings Wise and Captain Coles, in com- 
mand of the Confederate skirmishers thrown forward on the 
right and left, had fallen while engaged in bravely cheering 
on their men. The former, though dangerously wounded 
in the thigh and breast, had been carried by his comrades 
to a boat near the head of the island and the party were 
endeavoring to escape to Nag's Head, on the opposite 
beach, when they were fired upon by the men of the Ninth 
New York Regiment and compelled to return. Captain 
Wise was twice shot while his men were carrying him 
from the field, and his four wounds, several of which were 
severe, left no hope of his recovery. 

Late on the afternoon of the engagement. General 
Wise, who was then lying ill with pneumonia at Nag's 
Head, was placed in a wagon and driven fifteen miles up 
the beach, accompanied by a small remnant of his men 
who had escaped, and three companies under Colonel 
Richardson, who had remained at Nag's Head during the 
fight. From the Canal Bridge, the tug Currituck was 
despatched under a flag of truce to Roanoke Island, to 
inquire for the killed and wounded, and to obtain the 
bodies of Captains Coles and Wise and Lieutenant Selden. 

Upon the return of the boat, from her sad errand. Wise 
directed that the coffin containing the remains of his son 
be opened. " The old hero," wrote an eye-witness, " bent 
over the body of his son, on whose pale face the full moon 
threw its light, kissed the cold brow many times and 
exclaimed, in an agony of emotion, ' Oh, my brave boy, 
you have died for me, you have died for me.' " 


Wise proceeded with his handful of troops northward, 
by way of Currituck Court-House, and was later joined by 
his artUlery under Colonel Henningsen, which last had 
never reached him at Roanoke on account of an interrup- 
tion of his orders by General Huger. After placing ob- 
structions at the mouth of the Albemarle and Chesapeake 
Canal, Wise, deeming it impossible for him to withstand 
an attack of the enemy with his mere handful of men, fell 
back to Great Bridge, in Norfolk County, where he arrived 
on the morning of the 16th, after a three days' march 
through a steady rain. 

A few days after the battle at Roanoke Island, Wise 
wrote of himself in a letter to Huger : " Providence 
sharply prohibited me from sharing the fate of my brave, 
devoted troops, but I can sit in my saddle now. I am 
happier at the post of duty than I could be at home now 
wailing for its best scion, cut down in its full vigor ; and, 
God willing, I never mean to leave the remnant of my 
men again until I see them recruited and proudly reani- 
mated." But despite his eagerness to serve, the hardships 
of the campaign had told upon him in his feeble condition, 
and the leave of absence, which was shortly accorded him, 
came at a time when he stood in sore need of it. On 
account of the fact that the disaster at Roanoke Island 
had broken up the organization of his Legion, General Will- 
iam Mahone of the Second Brigade was ordered to assume 
command of the district, and Wise was granted a furlough, 
after which he was to be assigned to the command of Gen- 
eral Joseph E. Johnston. 

From Great Bridge Wise wrote to the Secretary of War 
on February 21, 1862, detailing at great length a history 
of the events prior to the engagement at Roanoke Island, 
as well as a report of that affair, and demanding a court 
of inquiry as to the defences of this post and the responsi- 


bility for the disaster. A resolution was passed by the 
Confederate House of Representatives requesting Mr. 
Benjamin to lay Wise's report before that body, which was 
done ; and a committee was appointed to investigate the 
affair, which, after an elaborate examination of all the facts 
and circumstances, submitted a report, commending the 
energy and foresight of Wise and completely exonerating 
him from all responsibility for the defeat sustained by the 
Southern troops, and closed by attributing the failure of 
the defence to General Huger and Mr. Benjamin. 

A curious bit of unwritten history has come to light in 
this connection. Some years after the war, Mr. Benjamin, 
in a letter to Colonel Charles Marshall, stated that he had 
directed General Huger to send powder from Norfolk to 
Roanoke Island, but had been informed by the latter that 
if he obeyed this order, Norfolk would be left without 
ammunition. Mr. Benjamin then says : " I consulted the 
President whether it was best for the country that I should 
submit to unmerited censure, or reveal to a congressional 
committee our poverty and my utter inability to supply 
the requisitions of General Wise, and thus run the risk 
that the fact should become known to some of the spies of 
the enemy, of whose activity we were well assured. It was 
thought best for the public interest that I should submit 
to censure." 

It is superfluous to add that the above statement reflects 
the highest credit upon the patriotism of Mr. Benjamin, 
but there appears no reason to doubt that the committee 
was right in concluding that it was easily within the 
power of General Huger to have transported to Roanoke 
Island arms and ammunition, as well as a part of the large 
force under his command who were then idle in camp at 

The Confederate squadron at Roanoke Island consisted 


of eight vessels, two of which were side-wheel river steam- 
boats and the remainder screw tugboats, mounting one 
thirty-two-pounder rifled gun each. In consequence of 
their hastily improvised character, the war-ships under 
Lynch came to be dubbed the "Mosquito fleet," and 
though the officers and men aboard conducted themselves 
handsomely during the engagement, it is hardly necessary 
to comment upon the absurdity of sending such a collec- 
tion of tugs to meet the Burnside expedition, instead of 
using them to transport troops and supplies, through the 
canals leading from Norfolk into the waters of North Caro- 
lina. Had this been done and proper fortifications con- 
structed at the marshes, off the south end of the island, 
even the formidable fleet of Burnside could have been kept 
at bay. 



Feom Great Bridge Wise returned, as has been else- 
where stated, to his home at Rolleston, near Norfolk, 
having been granted a furlough of some days in order 
to recruit his broken health. While on this leave of 
absence, he witnessed the great naval fight on the 9th of 
March between the Merrimac and the Monitor, which 
occurred in Hampton Roads, not far distant from his 
home. On the 3d of May, 1861, not long after Virginia 
seceded, but before she had formally united with the 
Confederacy, Wise wrote to General Lee describing the 
model for a marine battery devised by Commodore James 
Barron, and which the latter had in former years exhibited 
before the naval committee of the House of Representa- 
tives over which Wise had presided. Barron presented 
his model to Wise, and at the outbreak of the war the 
idea of such an ironclad, as a means of harbor defence, 
at once suggested itself. General Lee, in his letter of 
reply to Wise, which was dated May 24, 1861, stated 
that he had been induced to lay the latter's communica- 



tion before the executive council, but that owing to the 
numerous duties then pressing upon them, and with their 
limited means, they were unable to undertake the con- 
struction of such a vessel at that time. 

A few days later Virginia had been joined to the Con- 
federacy and, early in June, the Hon. Stephen R. Mallory, 
the Secretary of the Navy, requested Lieutenant John M. 
Brooke to design an ironclad; and as a result of the 
latter's inventive genius, the frigate Merrimac was raised 
at Norfolk and converted into the Virginia, the distinctive 
features of which were the "submerging the ends of the 
ship and the eaves of the casemate." Wise was mistaken 
in thinking that through his letter to General Lee, the 
remodelling of the Merrimac had been begun,^ as Lieu- 
tenant Brooke was not familiar with Barron's design; 
although it is quite possible that the letter was after- 
ward referred to Secretary Mallory, and suggested to 
him the practicability of an armored vessel as a means 
of harbor defence. Mr. Mallory had been chairman of the 
committee on Naval Affairs in the United States Senate, 
and his experience in matters of the sort had made him 
quick to see the advantage of a ram constructed after the 
design of the Virginia. 

Wise reached Richmond on the 18th of March, and for 
some weeks was occupied with the investigation of the 
Roanoke Island disaster by the Confederate Congress, from 
whom he received the most enthusiastic endorsement as 
to his conduct throughout. The command of his Legion, 
which body had suffered severely, had been taken from 
him, and it was through the influence of General Lee that 
he was assigned to the command of a brigade in May, 
1862. The remainder of his Forty-sixth and Fifty-ninth 
regiments were restored to his command, and to these 

1 See " Seven Decades of the Union,'' pages 279-282. 


were added the Twenty-sixth and Thirty-fourth Virginia 
regiments, the whole being organized into a brigade of 
infantry. To the four regiments, commanded by Colonel 
R. T. W. Duke of the Forty-sixth, Colonel William B. 
Tabb of the Fifty-ninth, Colonel Powhatan R. Page of 
the Twenty-sixth, and Colonel J. Thomas Goode of the 
Thirty-fourth, were added two batteries of artillery under 
Major A. W. Starke, commanded by Captains Armistead 
and French, with a few cayalry for vedettes. The force 
was stationed to guard the batteries at Chaffin's Bluff, 
about seven miles east of Richmond and on the river 
road, while the battles around that city were in progress. 

On the morning of June 30, Wise, in response to a 
verbal message from General Theophilus H. Holmes, but 
without orders, voluntarily joined the latter's command, 
with two regiments of infantry and two companies of 
cavalry, at the Dill house, near New Market. His men 
shared the fortunes of that division during the three 
days' fighting at Frazier's Farm and Malvern Hill, but 
were posted too far around toward the river, on Lee's 
extreme right, to take an active part in these engage- 
ments. After this Wise returned to Chaffin's, at which 
point as well as at the Diascund and White House, his 
brigade did post duty for sixteen months, guarding the 
entire peninsula from Richmond to Williamsburg on the 
James, Chickahominy, and Pamunkey rivers. 

Just prior to the battles around Richmond an amusing 
incident had occurred at Wise's headquarters. Before 
relating the story, however, we wiU state what we have 
hitherto omitted ; namely, that Wise was a hard swearer, 
and his army career had not diminished his propensity to 
indulge this habit. A farmer named Taylor, who lived 
on the Osborne turnpike, a few miles east of Richmond, 
had complained of depredations on his vegetable patches 


by the troops, and guards had been stationed by Wise to 
prevent further foraging expeditions of this character. 
One day Taylor came to Wise, in a state of considerable 
rage, and complained that the guards were not doing their 
duty, and that the soldiers continued to steal his vegeta- 
bles. Wise told him that the men were doing the best 
they could to protect the property, but Taylor continued 
to denounce the soldiers, which resulted in the former 
delivering him a lecture on the sacrifices and privations 
of the troops, and concluding by the announcement that 
he intended to withdraw all guards, and that he must 
take care of his own truck patch. Taylor, much incensed, 
mounted his horse and rode away shaking his fist at Wise, 
and calling out that he intended reporting him to General 
Lee. Not long after, the latter rode up, accompanied by 
General Longstreet, and as the two were dismounting 
Wise advanced to meet them. General Lee greeted him 
in a very stern manner, and said : " General Wise, I have 
a grave charge against you to investigate. I have been 
informed that you have disobeyed general order No. — 
and have allowed your men to depredate on the truck 
farms hereabouts; but, sir, 1 must have your version of the 
affair, for the credibility of the witness against you is 
called into question by the fact that he told me that you 
swore at him. Now, sir, knowing you as well as I do, I 
cannot believe this to be true." Wise looked at him 
intently, and observing a suppressed smile, put his hand 
on General Lee's shoulder and replied, "Well, General 
Lee, if you will do the praying for the Army of Northern 
Virginia, I'll be damned if I will not do the swearing." 

The brigade remained in camp at Chaffin's and at points 
along the peninsula, during the winter of 1862-63, but 
early in April of the latter year were ordered to make a 
divertisement in favor of Longstreet in his operations 


around Suffolk, in Nansemond County, and to prevent 
the enemy from sending reenforcements from Yorktown 
against him. Wise thus describes the expedition : — 

"I was ordered to move as low down as practicable 
toward Fortress Monroe, and to threaten the enemy as 
close as possible and do him all the damage in my power, 
without risking a battle unless certain of victory. Know- 
ing that the enemy had moved up in force to the redoubts 
around Williamsburg, I pressed with all the available force at 
my command — three regiments, the Twenty-sixth, Thirty- 
fourth, and Fifty-ninth, a few cavalry of the Holcombe Le- 
gion, and Rives's Battery of artillery, all numbering eleven 
hundred effective men — to the Six-Mile ordinary, on the 
James City road. There I issued orders to the Fifty-ninth 
to proceed after nightfall to College Creek, to cross that 
creek after the setting of the moon at one o'clock A.M., and, 
passing through Tetter's Neck, to gain the Cheese-Cake 
Church on the Warwick road, and thence to attack the 
headquarters and stores of the enemy at Whitaker's mill, 
five miles in the rear of the redoubts at Williamsburg; 
whilst I, with the Twenty-sixth and Thirty-fourth regi- 
ments, and Rives's Battery and the squadron of cavalry, 
would attack Williamsburg at daybreak. The whole 
force of Colonel William B. Tabb, at the head of the 
Fifty-ninth, was 210 men of his regiment and 8 of the 
James City cavalry belonging to Fitz Lee's command on 
furlough, numbering in all 218 men, to perform this haz- 
ardous movement in the rear of the enemy. It was known 
and reasonably supposed from the distance and the ground 
under ordinary circumstances, that six hours would enable 
the movement to reach the rear of Whitaker's mill by day- 
break, at a pace of only two miles per hour, and that thus 
the attack would commence simultaneously front and rear. 
Colonel Tabb's orders further were that, in the event he 


succeeded in destroying the enemy's stores at Whitaker's 
mill, he should march quickly and directly upon the rear 
of the redoubts at Williamsburg, which we would storm 
or feign to storm in front and on their left flank. The 
Fifty-ninth, after receiving orders and taking a little rest, 
proceeded promptly to College Creek, waited there imtil 
the moon went down and crossed into Tetter's Neck, pass- 
ing within some of the sentinel posts of the enemy, near 
the Hospital Cemetery, when lo ! they found themselves 
tangled in the timber of that Neck felled by the enemy so 
as to form obstructions worse than that of regular abattis. 
Instead of being able to move at a pace of two and a half 
miles an hour, they could not advance more rapidly than 
a mile an hour in the darkness of the night, and this de- 
layed their reaching the rear of Whitaker's mill until 
nearly eight o'clock a.m. At daybreak we advanced 
upon the front and entered Williamsburg, and the enemy 
opened in full fire from the redoubts. Colonel Powhatan R. 
Page was ordered with eight hundred men of the Twenty- 
sixth and Thirty-fourth to quietly move down a ravine to 
the left of the redoubt on the enemy's left, and one section 
of artillery, two companies of infantry, and the squadron 
of cavalry were kept in the front. Nothing was heard of 
Tabb's movement to the rear, and the enemy in the re- 
doubts and mounted were reported twenty-six hundred 
strong. One section of artillery under Rives was pushed 
forward in front of the enemy's left redoubt, and thus the 
fight continued until eleven a.m., when a single shell cut 
down three of Rives's artillery horses and shattered one of 
his gun-carriages. Still, nothing was heard of Tabb, and 
there was danger of a charge from the enemy and of the 
loss of the damaged gun. Immediately, the order was 
given to withdraw the section from the field, Page was 
recalled, and we fell back in good order, with but little 


loss, just out of the town, and were in position there when 
about one o'clock p.m. we saw the immense column of 
smoke rising from the conflagration of the enemy's quar- 
ters and stores at Whitaker's mill, and then knowing that 
Tabb was successfully at his work, we rapidly returned to 
the town and met him in timely retreat. He had burned 
all of their munitions and provisions, making in all from 
three to five hundred thousand dollars' worth of the enemy's 
property destroyed and captured, without the loss of a man. 
We remained for days relieving the distressed inhabitants, 
saved a large amount of property for many families, and 
returned without loss, to meet the approval of the War 
Department and of General Elzey at headquarters." 

His post of duty at Chaffin's Bluff had denied Wise the 
opportunity to participate in the battles against McClellan, 
or those fought the year following ; and while the army 
of northern Virginia was winning imperishable renown, 
he was compelled to serve at a point affording no oppor- 
tunity for distinction, and to see officers of inferior rank 
appointed to positions above him, almost daily. It was 
the policy of Mr. Davis to give to West Pointers the 
preference in the service, and he was, moreover, in all 
probability not favorably inclined toward Wise personally, 
as the latter strongly disapproved of the civil adminis- 
tration of the Confederacy, and did not hesitate to de- 
nounce it unsparingly. In the opinion of Wise, Davis 
was not the man for the position he held, and he did not 
fail to express himself on this point as on all others, and 
naturally enough this did not increase Wise's chances of 
promotion. Both he and his men had chafed under the 
comparative inactivity imposed upon them at Chaffin's 
Bluff, though Wise never suffered the time passed in 
camp to be wasted, and the brigade had perfected its drill 
to a high degree of efficiency, while the men were required 


to construct an inner line of defences, which last, accord- 
ing to General Ewell, saved Richmond during the summer 
of 1864, and caused that officer to address a letter to Wise 
acknowledging the service performed by him. The men 
were also employed in gardening, tanning leather, and 
other useful avocations, until September, 1863, when the 
welcome order was received to proceed to Charleston. 
Of the camp life prior to this period. Wise afterward 
wrote : " Our supplies whilst at Chaffin's were vastly aided 
and improved by ' the old folks at home ' in King and 
Queen, Gloucester, Matthews, Essex, Accomack, and North- 
ampton. The latter counties had to run a blockade 
through narrow passes in the smallest craft, at night, but 
they sent clothes and medicine and food. Essex and 
Matthews and Gloucester poured out their cornucopias 
upon us ; but oh ! shall I ever forget the little hen-coop 
carts of King and Queen. They were constantly coming 
packed to the top of their cover-hoops always with good 
things from the dear mothers and sisters and wives at 
home ! . . . One of those little carts, hauled by a pony, 
was like an open sesame : it was full of hams and chickens 
and eggs and melons and cakes and cider and home-made 
wine and letters and socks and blankets. And the mem- 
ory of its fulness is nothing to that of its pathos. Not 
a company got its home greeting that some poor soldier 
did not bring to me some choicest present of the sweets 
he so seldom got, compared with my own opportunities. 
' Why, my good comrade, keep 'em for yourself, you need 
them more than I do.' But no, he wouldn't, he couldn't 
eat them if I did not take part, and hear what the ' old 
woman ' or the children said about us. God bless my 
true-hearted, humble, brave privates who loved for me 
to taste their morsels of good things. There was no gen- 
erosity like theirs. It forgot everything but self-sacrifice 
and devotion, cheerfully made and paid." 


The brigade reached Charleston in September, 1863, 
having been ordered to report to General Beauregard to 
take part in the defence of the South Carolina coast. Of 
his services under the above-named officer Wise subse- 
quently wrote : — 

"The command preceding that of Beauregard had an 
effective force of forty-five thousand men, to defend the 
department from North Carolina to the Cape of Florida ; 
whilst Beauregard had for the same defence only about 
seventeen thousand effective men. This compelled a dis- 
tribution of forces very wide apart, and hardly in support- 
ing distances, so large were the districts and extended the 
coasts of the command. To our brigade was assigned 
the duty of guarding the entire district lying between 
the Ashley and the Edisto, with the exception of James's 
Island. On the Atlantic front it extended from the Stono 
to the Edisto, including John's Island, Kiahwah, Sea- 
brooks, Jehosse, King's and Slau's islands and the Wadma- 
law. At first, our headquarters were at Wappoo, and 
then farther south at Adams's Run, and extended from 
Willtown on the Edisto to the Church Flats on the Stono, 
posting Willtown, the Toogadoo, the Dahoo, King's Island, 
Glen's Island, Church Flats, and the Haulover, near the 
mouth of the Bohicket on John's Island, besides the forces 
in reserve at Adams's Run. It was a very laborious and 
hazardous defence of a coast indented for every mile 
almost by waters accessible, not only to the war steamers, 
but to the land forces from Morris's Island in the occu- 
pancy of the enemy. In every emergency these troops 
did their whole duty promptly, successfully, and with the 
approbation and commendation of their superiors. Their 
duties were constant and active during the whole period 
from September, 1863, until March, 1864, in doing guard 
duty in the most exposed situations, and in details upon 


extensive earthworks, at many and various points. But 
they were not left to non-combatant work alone. They 
had two memorable opportunities of showing their alacrity 
and bravery in the fields of battle. The two war steamers, 
Marble Head and Pawnee, were too curious in running up 
the Stono to peer at a Quaker battery, which had been 
placed above the mouth of the Abbepoola, to deter the 
enemy, and Colonel Page commanding, with Major Jen- 
kins of the South Carolina troops, and Colonel Del. 
Kemper of the artillery, were ordered to drive them off. 
This they did with gallantry, riddling the Marhle Head, 
but the Pawnee got a cross-fire on our batteries and forced 
Page to fall back, but he fully effected the purpose 
of the expedition and won my most hearty thanks. He 
was one of the coolest men I ever saw under fire. On his 
dull sorrel horse, he rode about the field under showers 
of shot and shell, without turning his head, or giving it 
a twitch even at the sound too near of that awful aerial 
whisper : ' where is he ? where is he ? ' before an explo- 
sion which crashed as if heaven and earth were coming 
together. His mounted unconcern was so marked that it 
did not escape the notice of that cool and gallant soldier 
Major Jenkins, the brother of the lamented General M. 
Jenkins, of South Carolina. After the fight was over he 
asked the gallant Page how he could be so unflinching, 
without a dodge, amidst such bursting of bombs and 
whispers of danger aU around him. His answer was 
beautifully characteristic, showing the great integrity of 
his courage : — 

" ' I didn't dodge, sir, because I am so deaf I didn't 
hear them before their explosion ! ' A braggadocio would 
have pocketed the compliment as belonging to his steady 
nerves. He claimed nothing which did not belong to him, 
and his courage was too honest and real not to assign 


his apparent indifference to danger to the true cause,— 
his deafness. 

" But there was a much greater and more important in- 
stance trying the promptness and the pluck of these men. 
The enemy designed its attack upon Florida, and a large 
fleet left the mouth of the Stono, conveying troops for the 
South. It was uncertain for a time what their point of 
destination was, when a servant of General GUlmore was 
captured by my ' Rebel Troop,' as it was called, on John's 
Island. He was brought in to me as a prisoner of war. 
He was a light mulatto, who described himself as the son 
of a slave freed by the Barnes family, near Frederick, in 
Maryland. He was General Gillmore's cook, was purvey- 
ing for the general's table on Morris's Island, and he got 
lost on the Wadmalaw. He was an exceedingly plausible 
feUow, and after a close and searching examination pro- 
fessed to be wholly ignorant of the design of the Stono 
expedition. At last he was overcome by my refusal to 
receive or treat him as a prisoner of war. What then? 
He was made to apprehend that he would be turned loose, 
unmolested, to shift for himself. Fearing many imaginary 
dangers, — that he would be shot as a straggler from the 
enemy, or be caught and sold as a slave and might never 
see his wife and family again, — he made a full disclosure 
which proved in the sequel to be true, and enabled Gen- 
eral Beauregard to forward reenforcements to General Fin- 
negan. Just before these reenforcements were to depart 
for Florida, General Alex. Schimmelfinnig with six thou- 
sand men crossed over the bars to Seabrook Island, and 
surprising the picket at the Haulover from that island to 
the main, he advanced up the Bohicket road and nearly 
reached the headquarters of Major Jenkins, in command 
at that point, twenty-five miles from Adams's Run. Major 
Jenkins had no force but two companies of our brigade and 


Humphreys's troop of South Carolina cavalry. The enemy 
divided into two columns of three thousand each, the one 
moving up the Bohicket road, and the other moving to the 
right over the Mullet Hall Creek which heads very near 
the left bank of Bohicket. The three thousand on the 
Bohicket road were gallantly met by Humphreys and two 
companies of infantry, Jenet's and another, and were so 
closely fought by them as to make them move very 
cautiously, and to give time for Colonel Page to reenforce 
Jenkins from John's Island bridge with a portion of the 
26th, and this small force, fighting for thirty-six hours, 
saved Jenkins's headquarters and prevented the enemy from 
getting to the Abbepoola road, and made him, in fact, 
retire past the defile at the head of Mullet Hall, when 
I reached that defile with reenforcements from the Fifty- 
ninth, the Forty-sixth, and Thirty-fourth, making our whole 
force but nine hundred men. Seeing that the three thou- 
sand of the enemy were crossing the Mullet Hall, over the 
temporary bridging of the channel of that stream, and that 
they were trying to reach the defile ia our rear, we fell back 
to what is called the ' Cocked Hat,' a short distance west of 
the defile and of the Abbepoola road, and there took posi- 
tion and opened fire from two batteries upon the columns of 
the enemy advancing on the Bohicket road ; the three thou- 
sand on the Mullet Hall threatening our left. In half an 
hour after the fight began, nine hundred of Colquitt's 
brigade, bound to Florida, left the railroad cars at Church 
Flats and reenforced our command. They were posted on 
the left to check the enemy at Mullet Hall Creek, whilst 
our nine hundred repulsed the attacking columns on the 
Bohicket road. This was done handsomely, without loss 
save to the enemy. They fell back after several hours' 
fighting, and the next morning we could see their strategy. 
They expected us to pursue them past the defile at the 


head of Mullet HaU, when their forces on our left were to 
close in upon our rear. We were not to be caught in such 
a snare, and they were glad to retire in the night as they 
came. For this the command was highly commended by 
the report of Colonel Harris and the orders at headquarters. 
Colquitt's men proceeded the next day on their way to 
Florida, and were soon followed by our Twenty-sixth and 
Fifty-ninth, to join Finnegan, who met the enemy of the 
Stono fleet and conquered them gloriously at Olustee." 

Some months prior to leaving Chaffin's Bluff, Wise had 
received a letter from a dear friend, Mr. John G. Chapman, 
an artist then residing in Rome, who wrote that his son 
had made his way to America and joined the Confederate 
army, and begged Wise to endeavor to locate his where- 
abouts, if possible. After many unsuccessful attempts, 
Wise finally succeeded in learning his address and getting 
into communication with him, as a result of which young 
Chapman came to Virginia and joined the Fifty-ninth Regi- 
ment of his brigade. At the outbreak of the war, he had 
landed in New York and at first served in the western 
army under General Albert Sydney Johnston at Shiloh, 
where he was badly wounded. Conrad W. Chapman, 
like his father, was an artist of great talent, which soon 
came to the knowledge of General Beauregard, who had 
him detailed to paint the various fortifications in and 
around Charleston. While serving in South Carolina he 
painted excellent panels, illustrating the camp scenes and 
incidents of army life, as well as the characteristic features 
of the Southern seacoast. In the spring of 1864 he ran 
the blockade from Charleston, carrying these pictures with 
him to Rome, where fortunately they were preserved, as 
they constitute not only the best, but probably the only 
authentic collection of paintings on the Confederate side 
executed during the war. 


In March, 1864, having obtained a furlough. Wise re- 
turned to Virginia to visit his family and look after his 
private affairs. His home at Rolleston had been seized 
when Norfolk fell into the hands of the enemy, in 1862, 
and his wife, at the time we write of, was visiting his 
daughter, Mrs. Hobson, who resided at a plantation called 
"Eastwood," some twenty miles west of Richmond, in 
Goochland County, which was reached by means of the 
James River and Kanawha Canal. A younger daughter, 
who accompanied Wise from Richmond on the trip made 
on the packet boat to Goochland, thus describes their 
arrival, and the visit from which so much pleasure had 
been anticipated : ^ — 

" The carriage from ' Eastwood ' was awaiting us. The 
lights from the country store glinted on the vehicle, its 
harness and trappings, and the horses, chilled by the 
nipping air, pranced and fretted in the darkness, impa- 
tient to be off. It was but a moment's wait for the newly 
arrived maU, and then our host entering the carriage with 
us, the team, handled by 'Ephraim,' a famous driver, 
sprung away under his master hand, wheeling us at an 
exhilarating gait to the Hobson homestead. Along the 
public road beside the canal, through ' Eastwood's ' outer 
gate, up the long lull to the highlands, past the tobacco 
bams, we sped, until at last we caught sight of the home- 
stead, all its windows ablaze with loving welcome, looming 
up in its grove of oaks, half a mile away. 

" One may fancy what the feelings of my father were at 
such a time. For the past three years he had been in 
active service in the field ; first ia West Virginia, then at 
Roanoke Island, where he lost his first-bom son; after- 
ward on the Virginia Peninsula ; and, finally, at Charles- 

1 " A War-Time Aurora Borealis," by Ellen W. Mayo. Cosmopolitan, 
June, 1896. 


ton, South Carolina. At last, with his furlough, the 
prospect of a short period of peace and domestic quiet 
seemed fairly to open up to him. Mr. Plumer Hobson, 
our host and his son-in-law, had been prevented by ill health 
from entering the army. His inability to volunteer was 
a great mortification and distress to him. As if to make 
up, in another form, for the military service he could not 
render, he devoted himself and his means throughout the 
war in every way possible to charity and hospitality. It 
was, therefore, with peculiar satisfaction that he greeted 
us now, showing by every means in his power his desire 
to make our visit as happy as possible. 

"We noticed, as we drove along in the starlit night, 
that the northern sky was aflame with what we all sup- 
posed to be the Aurora Borealis; but our thoughts were 
too much concentrated upon the lights blinking at us from 
the ' Eastwood ' grove to pay much attention to the lights 
in the heavens. Wide apart flew the yard gates for us as 
we reached them ; and wider still the great doors of the 
mansion house, as the wheels ceased their grinding in the 
gravel before the house. Joyous faces peered out into 
the night. Merry, happy greetings met us on the thresh- 
old. Within, the warmth of great wood fires, and the 
good cheer of a delicious supper, banished from our party 
every thought of war. What a feast it was ! Coffee from 
Mrs. Seddon's ; sugar from Mrs. Stanard's ; sorghum from 
somebody else. The cook had made the biscuits so light 
that they almost flew out of the plates ; and the cow, in 
honor of our coming, had given down nothing but cream. 
The good old general, as he looked over this array of luxu- 
ries, bade good-by, for a time at least, to camp life, tin plates, 
canteens, Nassau bacon, sweet-potato, coffee, rice, ' Hoppin'- 
John,' and ' Hoppin'- Jinny,' 'cush,' and all the horrible 
makeshifts of food he had endured for months at the front. 


" If I enjoyed the snowy pillows awaiting, what must he 
have felt ? For the first time in many months he tucked 
himself away, at midnight, in a Christian bed, with linen, 
lavender-scented sheets, and warm, soft blankets, to dream 
of days gone by, when, at his own home by the sea, in 
time of peace, with oysters, terrapin, and canvasbacks for 
the feast, judges and statesmen and even presidents had 
been his guests. He sank to rest, in fancy hearing the 
sound of the salt waves at his home, and the sighing of 
the winds through the seaside pines. I, happy and con- 
tented beyond expression, lost consciousness wondering 
what we would have for breakfast. Before us all stretched 
a vista of thirty days of peace ! No matter what might be 

"I dreamed. For a long time I glided upon smooth 
waters, watching ever-changing landscapes of beauty. I 
was not on the canal nor on a canal-boat. It was a beau- 
tiful lake, a painted boat with snowy sails, and I was ac- 
companied by gay companions and merry music. Then of 
a sudden the scene changed. I was back on the miserable 
packet. It was dark. I was in the stuffy cabin. A fear- 
ful thumping was overhead. A drunken man on deck 
was trying to burst open my trunk and throw it over- 
board. I awoke. The pounding continued. It was some 
one beating on the oaken doors of the house and loudly 
calling for the general. Dressing hurriedly, the family 
was soon collected in the hallway listening with bated 
breath. A soldier of the general's command had come up 
with us on furlough. His home was some miles beyond 
us in the back country. He had ridden thither and solved 
the mystery of the Aurora Borealis ; for right around his 
home he had come upon the bivouac of the raiding party 
of Dahlgren. Even as he sped back to warn us he had 
heard ' boots and saddles ' sounded. He had ridden 


rapidly to tell his dear old general of the danger; and, 
at the moment he was speaking, the enemy, according 
to all reasonable calculation, was coming on the same 
road by which he had arrived, and not over two or three 
miles behind him. 

" The news chilled every heart among us with the sense 
of imminent peril. The ashes on the hearth, where last 
night's revelry was held, lay dead. Our dream of peace 
and rest was over. The dogs of war were once more bay- 
ing on the hot scent, and we were the quarry pursued. If 
the men escaped with their lives, they would be lucky. 
The women and children, in another hour, would be 
defenceless, at the mercy of ignorant slaves and hostile 
soldiery. There was hurrying for the stables. In an in- 
credibly short time 'Pulaski,' the blind war-horse of the 
general's dead son, and ' Lucy Washington,' Mr. Hobson's 
thoroughbred riding-mare, were at the door. They were 
not a moment too soon. But for an episode they would 
have been too late. The two plantations adjoining ours 
on the west were owned by Mr. James M. Morson and 
Hon. James A. Seddon, Secretary of War. Dahlgren's 
original purpose is said to have been to cross the James 
River at either Jude's Ferry, which was on the Morson 
place just above, or at Mannakin Ferry, three miles below 
us, and to approach Richmond by the south bank of the 
James. Whether it was or not, his force entered the 
Morson and Seddon plantations instead of coming straight 
on to ' Eastwood,' and there lost considerable time firing 
buildings and appropriating horses. 

" Mr. Seddon's house was in full view, not a third of a 
mile away. It was by this time broad daylight, and from 
the portico where I stood, the troopers of Dahlgren were 
plainly visible, galloping about the stables and barns and 
setting fire to the buildings, the smoke from which already 


began to rise. Of course, the first tiling the Union sol- 
diers learned from the negroes was that General Wise, the 
man who hung John Brown, was at 'Eastwood.' For 
'Eastwood,' then, they started in fuU career, just as my 
father and Mr. Hobson rode out of the ' Eastwood ' yard, 
making for a heavy body of woods lying in the direction 
of Richmond. My father knew the ground thoroughly, 
and parted from us bidding us feel no apprehension. 
' For if,' said he, ' I can gain the woods before they over- 
haul me, I have no fear of my capture, or failure to reach 
Richmond in time to give warning.' And away they 
went, plunging across the ploughed fields, just as, from the 
Seddon place on the opposite side of the farm, the enemy's 
troopers came galloping, hundreds of them, flying like 
birds, it seemed to me, — fences and closed gates offering 
no obstacle to their headlong rush. ' Have no fear,' father 
had said, as he rode away. Oh, no. Of course, I had 
none! There I stood, almost frantic, as a Union soldier 
dashed up, with drawn revolver, and demanded to know 
where the man was who hung John Brown. I can see 
him as plainly now as then : his flea-bitten gray horse, his 
McClellan saddle, his very expression as he sat there 
sidewise, talking so insultingly. I see the flashing eye 
and hear the voice commanding me to tell the truth. I 
clutched at the child beside me, and even as I spoke I 
could see out of the corner of my eye, over the trees 
which concealed him from the trooper, my father dis- 
appearing in the woods. I declared most solemnly (God 
forgive me) that my father was in Charleston, South 
Carolina. Anxiety and excitement excluded fear of God 
or man. As a reward, I was informed that I lied, the 
trooper adding that he would capture him if he had to 

chase him to . ' Take your white head into the 

house,' said he, threateningly, and I gladly accepted his in- 


vitation. From the upper windows I beheld the handsome 
barns of 'Dover' and 'Sabot Hill' in flames. About the 
stables the troopers were shifting saddles from their own 
jaded horses to Mr. Hobson's animals. Ephraim, inflamed 
with liquor, was marched hither and thither under cover 
of pistols and required to deliver everything under his 
care ; and poor ' Bob,' who had been working on fortifica- 
tions about Richmond, when asked about them, exclaimed, 
' Lawd, master! Dey is a hundred and fortyfications aroun' 
dat place.' 

" Their stay with us was short. They took all our horses, 
Ephraim and several other slaves ; but, on the whole, we 
fared much better than our neighbors. Nothing at ' East- 
wood' was burned; and after the raiding party went to 
pieces below Richmond, most of the horses were recovered. 
Poor father, with his knowledge of the topography of the 
country, had no trouble in reaching Richmond, by shorter 
routes than and far in advance of the Dahlgren party. 
Going directly to the War Department, he with great diffi- 
culty convinced Secretary Seddon of the real situation. 
The Department had no warning whatever of the raid, and 
Mr. Seddon seemed utterly incredulous at first. But once 
convinced, the local reserves under Colonel McAnerny 
were called out and met and repulsed Dahlgren about 
five miles above Richmond. The collision took place 
about dusk. The cavalry charging the infantry line failed 
to observe an old ice-house in their front. Into this a 
man on a flea-bitten gray horse plunged headlong. I 
have never ascertained definitely whether he was the 
gentleman I met that morning stUl pursuing my father 
in the direction then indicated. Between our place and 
Richmond was Mannakintown, with important coal-pits, 
ironworks, and a ferry. Opinions differ as to whether 
Jude's Ferry or Mannakin Ferry was the original objec- 


tive point of Dahlgren. He crossed the river at neither 
place, but held to the north bank. The fate of the raid is 
known, and I will not repeat it. The orders found on 
Dahlgren's body have gone into our historical archives. 
The bitterness of those days has passed away. Two days 
after the visit of Dahlgren, father and Mr. Hobson came 
ambling quietly through the farm from the direction of 
Richmond, rising in their stirrups now and then to observe 
carefully what the angry little war-cloud had swept away 
in its passage ; and, as the dear old fellow resumed the en- 
joyment of his interrupted furlough, with a merry allusion 
to his narrow escape, we all felt grateful to God that it 
was no worse, and that we were left unharmed." 



On the 3d day of May, 1864, an order was issued reliev- 
ing Wise from duty in the department of South Carolina, 
Georgia, and Florida, and directing him to proceed with 
his brigade by rail to Richmond to take part in the defence of 
the Confederate capital. The Fifty-ninth Regiment, which, 
under Colonel William B. Tabb, was in advance, encoun- 
tered a force of from 2500 to 3000 Federal cavalry of 
Kautz's command, with six pieces of artillery, at Nottoway 
Bridge. The last-named officer was engaged in destroying 
the lines of communication in south-side Virginia. Tabb, 
who had at his disposal 600 men, had taken up a position 
at the southern end of the bridge and stubbornly resisted 
the approach of the enemy; but finding that the latter had 
turned his right flank and gained his rear, he fell back to 
a small redoubt, about 300 yards from the end of the 
bridge on the north side of the stream. Although this 
movement involved the loss of the bridge, which was 
quickly fired by the enemy, the force under Tabb was 
able to repulse the attack in front of the redoubt, and 
the assailants were driven back, leaving their dead and 
wounded on the field. The brigade reached Petersburg 
without further interruption, and was assigned to the 
command of General Whiting. 



Wise thus describes the services performed by himself 
and men at this period : — 

" General Lee was at that time confronted by Grant at 
the Rapidan. General W. H. C. Whiting was placed in 
command of the defences of Petersburg, embracing the 
line of heavy fixed batteries supported by two small local 
battalions, about 150 militia, one Georgia battalion, and 
our brigade of infantry. 

" General Beauregard took his position with about 8000 
effective men at Drewry's Bluff, and all these forces were 
confronted by Butler's army of the James intrenched at 
City Point and at Cobb's in Howlett's Neck. On the 
14th of May, 1864, he presented his plan of strategy to 
the War Department, at the head of which then were Mr. 
Seddon and General Bragg. Lee had about 45,000 effec- 
tive forces; Beauregard about 15,000; and the plan he 
presented was for Lee to fall back upon the outer defences 
of Richmond and send to him, Beauregard, 15,000 reen- 
forcements, making, with his own, 30,000 men with which 
to attack and conquer Butler, gain City Point, cross the 
James, and attack Grant on the left and rear, whilst Lee 
should attack him in front. Thus Grant would have been 
cut off from the James below Richmond, Petersburg would 
have been relieved, and Grant's force of about 120,000 then 
could have been assailed front, flank, and rear by 60,000 
men under the two choicest generals of the Confederate 
army. This plan, unfortunately, was rejected by the 
President, and immediately thereafter General Bragg sent 
to General Whiting an order saying that General Lee was 
pressed very hard by Grant, and needed all the reenforce- 
ments which could be forwarded to him to save Richmond; 
and the defence of the capital being much more important 
than that of Petersburg, he was ordered with all despatch 
to report with all his available forces at Richmond. This 


order was submitted to me, his second in command, by 
General Whiting, for my opinion as to its execution. It 
was signed by General Bragg officially. I read it with 
care, and unequivocally gave the opinion that it should 
not be obeyed, for the reason that to abandon Petersburg 
was to abandon Drewry's Bluff, and to abandon the latter 
was to abandon Richmond. General Whiting declared 
that that was his own opinion, and ordered me at once to 
make the best preparation for the defence of Petersburg 
to the last extremity in my power. I state these facts 
because it has been denied that General Bragg ever issued 
such an order. It was read and considered by another 
besides General Whiting and myself. In two hours from 
the time it was received, and whilst I was issuing orders 
for the defence of Petersburg, General Whiting again sent 
for me to wait on him at his quarters. The moment I 
reported he handed me an order to him from General 
Beauregard at Drewry's Bluff, to the front of which point 
Butler had advanced. The substance of that order was 
that he. Whiting, was with all his available forces on both 
sides the Appomattox, Martin's and Wise's Brigades, num- 
bering in all about five thousand men, to cross the Appomattox 
and take the road across Campbell's Bridge by the coal pits, 
and join his right before daybreak the next morning, when 
he would attack Butler. In a few hours after this order 
was received, another order from Beauregard changing 
this came, ordering (J. G.) Martin's and Wise's Brigades 
to be at Dunlop's, on the Richmond and Petersburg turn- 
pike, before daybreak the next morning, and thence at 
daybreak to move to the sound of Beauregard's guns. 

" It is lamentable to add that, owing to causes which 
affect the reputation of a brave and accomplished Confed- 
erate commander, who died nobly in battle afterward, 
General Whiting did not move as promptly as he might. 


The two brigades were at Dunlop's before daybreak, and 
there awaited his orders until more than an hour by sun. 
They were moved then, and found the reserve of the enemy 
under General Terry in barricade at the Walthall Railroad 
junction with the Petersburg Railroad and the turnpike. 
Martin's Brigade was on the right and Wise's on the left, 
crossing the turnpike on which the enemy had thrown up 
their works. They were immediately charged, driven 
from their breastworks, across Bakehouse Creek up the 
hill to their artillery, and in their flight their guns barely 
escaped capture. AU their provisions were captured, and 
the brigades were passing on to the rear of the army 
retreating before Beauregard, when they were halted by 
General Whiting and ordered to fall back. But for this 
sad hindrance, the causes of which were fully reported, 
the victory of Beauregard would have been one of the 
most signal and decisive during the war. As it was, it 
was very decided in capturing six thousand ^ prisoners and 
in shutting Butler up, as General Grant said, in Hewlett's 
Neck, 'like a fly in a bottle.' On the morning of the 
17th the two brigades joined Beauregard's army, and from 
the 18th to the 28th of May, for ten days, there was heavy 
fighting on the whole picket lines, one-third of our brigade 
being required at a time to picket its front, making every 
day almost a general battle. At last the order came to 
charge and take the enemy's outer line at Hewlett's, and 
it was captured from Ware Bottom Church on the James 
to the front of Cobb's on the Appomattox.^ The part 

1 Wise was evidently misinformed on this point, as the prisoners cap- 
tuied did not numher more than one-third of this. 

2 The late Colonel Carter Braxton of Newport News, Virginia, who 
commanded the battalion of artillery on the Hewlett line occupied by the 
Wise Brigade in the early summer of 1864, used to laugh heartily over the 
following story, which he was fond of relating : — 

One day he saw a number of Yankees in his front and was about to 


borne by Martin's and Wise's Brigades upon the enemy 
in their front was without failure and a perfect success ; 
six hundred of the Wise Brigade, under that perfect tacti- 
cian, Lieutenant-Colonel J. 0. Council, of the Twenty- 
sixth, led the charge, supported by Martin, who was 
supported in a third line by the remaining portions of 
Wise's Brigade. The six hundred carried the front before 
either brigade came up; so rapid and so undaunted was 
this charge of the six hundred it was Balaklava-like. This 
charge was made in open field for one-half a mile, under 
110 guns, against a full line of infantry in parapet. The 
men, though falling ' like leaves in Vallombrosa,' moved 
steadily up under the point-blank fire until within ten or 
twenty paces, when the enemy threw down their guns and 
cried for quarter. The reply was ' too late ! ' 'too late ! ' 
and the havoc which followed was appalling. The six 
hundred passed beyond the line taken and had to be 
recalled. No more could be done but hold that line. 
After this line was captured and settled firmly, General 
Wise was sent with but one of his regiments, the Forty- 
sixth, and a Georgia battalion to support the local forces 
on the lines of Petersburg. His whole force was 800 
men, including 113 militia under the gaUant Colonel F. H. 
Archer, to defend a line of six and a half miles. Alas ! 
when he came to count his brigade, numbering 2400 men 
on the 16th of May, he found the roster reduced to 1350. 
In the charge at Howlett's the Ben McCuUock Rangers, 

open on them, when Wise told him not to Are, and insisted that they were 
some of his men. Braxton accordingly did not fire, but still claimed that 
they belonged to the enemy's force. Wise then said, " Wait, Colonel, I 
will find out," and proceeded to climb over the breastworks and advanced 
close to the body of men referred to, they allowing him to get tolerably 
close before firing on him. Wise turned around deliberately and called 
to Colonel Braxton, "Open on them. Colonel, they are «ot our men." This 
Braxton did successfully and drove them off. Wise in the meantime haviilg 
walked back into the works without getting hurt. 


the best scouts of the army, were reduced from seventy- 
four to thirty-eight, and the Accomack Company from 
seventy-two to thirty-seven." 

By a special order issued June 1, Wise was detached 
from his brigade, and directed to assume command of the 
forces in the district lying between the James and Roan- 
oke rivers, exclusive of the defences immediately around 
Richmond on the south side of the James. This involved, 
in short, the defence of Petersburg, the natural gateway 
to Richmond, which was soon to be the objective point 
of Grant's invading columns. General William Farrar 
Smith relates ^ that he was once in company with General 
John Newton, a Virginian by birth, who, placing his finger 
upon the map at the point designated Petersburg, remarked 
" There is Richmond," and the former has truly observed, 
in this connection, that the more the map of Virginia is 
studied, the clearer will this truth appear. The Petersburg 
Railroad running south from that place, together with the 
South-side Road to Lynchburg, and the Danville Railroad, 
near by, constituted the main arteries by means of which 
Richmond and the Confederate forces were furnished with 
supplies, and with these lines in possession of the enemy, 
the fall of Richmond must soon follow. This fact was 
soon to dawn upon General Grant himself, who having 
sacrificed, between the Rapidan and James, the lives of 
almost as many Union soldiers as Lee had men in his 
army, realized that with the James River open as far up 
as City Point, and with that place as a base of supplies, 
it was more practicable to proceed against Richmond from 
the rear than in front. 

Although it was not until after the slaughter at Cold 
Harbor that Grant began his crossing of the James, yet, 

1 Unpublished address delivered before the Military Historical Society 
of Massachusetts. 


in the meanwhile, Petersburg was menaced by the force 
under Butler, from whose front Beauregard had been 
ordered to withdraw a part of his command — Hoke's 
Division — to reenforce Lee on the north side of the 
James. Butler, having resolved upon a movement against 
Petersburg, issued orders on the 8th of June directing 
Major-General Gillmore, with a large body of infantry, 
accompanied by thirteen hundred cavalry, under General 
August V. Kautz, to cross the Appomattox, by means of 
a pontoon bridge at the Point of Rocks, and proceed 
against the city by the various roadways leading thither 
from that direction. Butler apparently was well informed 
as to the weakness of the force stationed there and cor- 
rectly surmised that a prompt, vigorous movement would 
have been crowned with success. To defend a line ex- 
tending from the Appomattox to the Jerusalem plank road, 
nearly six miles in length, Wise had one regiment of his 
brigade, the Forty-sixth, under Colonel Randolph Harri- 
son, Sturdivant's Battery of artillery, Hood's and Batte's 
battalions, and a miscellaneous force of infantry, composed 
of old men and boys, together with a part of the Seventh 
Regiment of cavaby, under Colonel Taliaferro, — in all 
about 900 infantry, 125 artillery, and 150 effective cavalry, 
— the whole amounting to less than 1200 men. General 
Butler's statement as to " the grave and the cradle being 
robbed in about equal proportions " to compose the force 
opposed to him, was not only true, but the jails and hos- 
pitals were in like manner required to yield up their 

The patriotic old men and boys of the town had organ- 
ized themselves into a reserve force, under the command 
of the gallant Colonel Fletcher H. Archer, and had been 
well drilled for the defence of the Cockade City. Colonel 
Archer relates a story of how when Wise came to Peters- 


burg to take command, he rode out to inspect the lines, 
and appearing at the camp of the reserves inquired for the 
commanding officer, who happened to be absent at the 
time. He was told by the adjutant that the commandant 
had gone to Petersburg. " Yes," replied he, " and if the 
Yankees were to come, you would all be there in less time 
than it would take a cannon-ball to reach there." But 
the reserves were to give a different account of them- 
selves a few days later on. Early on the morning of the 
9th, GiUmore crossed over the Appomattox, a part of his 
infantry, under Colonel Joseph R. Hawley, advancing, by 
way of the City Point road, a similar force, under General 
Edward W. Hinks, proceeding along the Jordan's Point 
road, while the cavalry under Kautz moved in a southerly 
direction from the river, in order to swing around and 
attack the Confederate right. The whole force under 
Gillmore numbered upward of forty-five hundred men, 
and had they been handled with intelligence and vigor, 
the capture of Petersburg would have been effected be- 
yond a reasonable doubt. 

The Confederate pickets were driven in at an early 
hour, together with the handful of cavalry under Colonel 
Taliaferro, but on this occasion, as subsequently during 
the attacks on Petersburg, the Confederates, by a seem- 
ingly reckless use of their scant force in front of the breast- 
works, no doubt deceived the enemy as to the number of 
men stationed behind them. Mr. Ropes ^ has laid consid- 
erable emphasis on this point, in treating of the siege of 
Petersburg, and upon the day of Gillmore's attack many 
of Wise's men followed this plan. Owing to the longer 
distance which he was compelled to traverse, Kautz did 
not reach the Confederate lines until some hours after 

1 Address by John C. Bopes, Esq., on first day's attacks on Petersburg. 
Unpublished manuscripts Military Historical Society of Massachusetts. 


Hawley and Hinks, who, either on account of not having 
heard from the former, or from the appearance of the 
redans in front of them, did not make a combined assault 
on the works. The following passage from a narrative, 
written by Wise, describes the main events of the day : — 

"They pressed hard upon the left, for three or four 
hours, and then suddenly attacked the militia on my ex- 
treme right, with a detachment numbering one thousand,^ 
which were handsomely received by Archer; but they 
broke through his line, one half of them taking the road 
into Petersburg, and the other the road leading to Bland- 
ford. Graham's Battery accidentally, at the City Water 
Works, met the first, and a curious force drove back the 
latter. I had detailed all who could possibly do momen- 
tary duty out of the hospitals, calling them the ' Patients ' ; 
and from the jail and guard-houses all the prisoners, call- 
ing them the ' Penitents ' ; and the two companies of 
' Patients ' and ' Penitents ' moved out on the Bland- 
ford road, while I advanced with three companies of the 
Forty-sixth from our left ; and the enemy on that road, see- 
ing the head of the column of ' P. P.'s ' advancing in their 
front, and my three companies bearing on their right flank, 
wheeled to the right-about at once and retired; and Gra- 
ham's Battery repulsed the other party advancing upon the 
city. This was done with a loss of thirteen killed and a 
few wounded, of the militia. Petersburg was thus barely 
saved on the 9th ; and the defence was so critical that I 
demanded additional forces, and General Beauregard at 
once reenforced my command with my Twenty-sixth Vir- 
ginia, and nine companies of the Thirty-fourth." ^ 

It should also be stated in this connection that the timely 

1 This was the cavalry force under Eautz which attacked on the Jeru- 
salem plank road about noon. 

^ Roman's "Life of Beauregard," Vol. II. page 224. 


arrival of General James Bearing, with his regiment of 
cavalry, about the time that the outer works were carried 
by Kautz, materially aided in saving the day, as his com- 
mand were promptly hurried through the city by their 
efficient commander, and their appearance near the city 
limits followed by a charge upon the enemy probably 
induced the Federals to withdraw. 

The armies of Lee and Grant continued to face each 
other at Cold Harbor until the 12th of June, when the 
latter began his movements to the south side of the James. 
On that night the Eighteenth Federal Corps, under General 
W. F. (Baldy) Smith, marched to the White House on the 
Pamunkey, where they embarked aboard transports for 
Bermuda Hundred, at which place they arrived during 
the afternoon and night of the 14th. To Smith's Corps, 
supplemented by twenty-five hundred cavalry under Kautz, 
was assigned the duty of making the initial attack on 
Petersburg, which it was proposed should begin early on 
the morning of the 15th. The number of troops under 
the command of General Smith on that date exceeded, 
according to the estimates of Generals Grant and Butler, 
seventeen thousand, although General Smith himself says 
that his infantry barely aggregated ten thousand effective 
men, which, with the cavalry under Kautz, would make a 
total of about twelve thousand five hundred of all arms. 
At this time. Wise had for the defence of Petersburg an 
effective force of only twenty-two hundred men, including 
his Twenty-sixth and Thirty-fourth regiments, which had 
been returned to him by Beauregard as previously stated, 
along with a small cavalry command under General James 
Bearing. The line of works defended by the Confederates 
during the first attack on Petersburg, and known as the 
Dimmock line, ran in a direction from the Appomattox a 
little south of east, over low ground, to the City Point 


Railroad, "and then, turning sharply, mounted the high 
ground and ran along a series of crests, for about a mile 
and a half from Battery No. 5 to Battery No. 12 " ; when 
it was drawn back, in a semicircular form, to a point on 
the river west of the city. According to General R. E. 
Colston, who was present and gallantly assisted in the 
defence against Gillmore's attack, these redans differed 
entirely from the shortened and formidable works which 
were later on constructed by General Lee's army. " With 
the exception of a few lunettes and redoubts at the most 
commanding positions," wrote that officer, "they were 
barely marked out, and a horseman could ride over them 
without difficulty almost everywhere, as I myself had 
done, day after day for weeks, just before the fight." ^ 
On the morning of June 15th Wise's troops were posted 
from Battery No. 1, on the Appomattox, constituting his 
left, to Butterworth's Bridge, on the Jerusalem plank 
road, which allowed but one man to every four and one- 
half yards. From the bridge to the river on his right 
flank, a distance of nearly five miles, the lines were with- 
out troops to man them, and a well-executed movement 
by a cavalry regiment of the enemy, in this quarter, would 
have rolled up the Confederate right flank during the first 
day's attacks on Petersburg ; for though Dearing's cavalry 
were posted in this direction, it was merely to give warn- 
ing of the enemy's approach. But these were the days of 
direct assaults and not of turning movements. At day- 
break on the morning of the 15th, the three divisions of 
infantry under Smith, numbering fully fifteen thousand 
men, and the cavalry of Kautz, twenty-five hundred strong, 
had crossed the Appomattox at the Point of Rocks and 
were on the march to capture the Cockade City, while 

1 Article by General Colston in "Battles and Leaders of Civil War," 
Vol. IV. 


Lee was yet on the north side of the James, and the main 
body of Beauregard's forces were confronting Butler on 
the Bermuda Hundred line. About two miles east of the 
Petersburg lines were stationed Graham's Battery of artil- 
lery and the cavalry companies under Bearing. These 
were posted behind a hastily constructed earthwork in 
Baylor's field near the forks of the Broadway and City 
Point roads, which, according to General Hinks "com- 
manded the (City Point) road, as it debouched from the 
wood and swamp near Perkinson's saw-mill." Bearing 
had dismounted his handful of cavalry and deployed them 
as infantrymen ; and upon the cavalry of Kautz coming in 
sight, a well-directed fire was opened against the latter, 
which caused them to fall back. Hinks, who was in the 
rear of Kautz, pressed forward with his infantry after a 
reconnoissance of the ground. In his report of the affair 
he wrote : " The wood and swamp, through which was a 
creek, were extremely difficult of passage, but the advance 
was finally made by most of the regiment, though furiously 
assailed with spherical case, canister, and musketry along 
the whole line. Some confusion, however, arose among 
the regiments upon the left of the road, and a few of the 
men fell back to the open space of ground." From the 
edge of the woods to the works was, according to General 
Hinks, about four hundred yards over open, rising ground 
where the attack was made, which was met by Bearing 
with great stubbornness. 

It was after eight A.M. when the work was carried, and 
this delay of Smith's columns proved to be of incalculable 
advantage to Wise, who with his meagre force was awaiting 
the enemy's advance. About ten A.M., the hot skirmish 
fire in front indicated the approach of Smith's Corps, and 
shortly after, his three divisions arrived in front of the 
Confederate works, "covered the river, Jordan's Point 


and City Point roads, and were drawn up in line of battle, 
with Martindale in the low ground on the right, Brooks 
in the centre, and Hinks on the left. The two latter 
opposed the eastern front from Battery 5 to Battery 10; 
and it was against this front that active operations were 
directed. These works presented a very formidable aspect 
to the troops. They were situated on commanding crests, 
and the forest was feUed in their front, so as to expose 
advancing lines to their fire for half a mile, or more. 
Numerous pieces of a;rtillery swept the field of fire rapidly 
and with precision, and a strong line of skirmishers in 
secure rifle-pits, well advanced in front of the works, kept 
up a spirited and effective fusillade. These circumstances 
necessarily resulted in the deploying of divisions under 
cover of the forest, at such a distance from the works that 
difficulty was encountered in making connections, as the 
lines converged from a very extended arc ; and to recon- 
noitre with effect, and to place batteries where they could 
aid the assaulting parties, required that the lines shotdd 
be advanced to exposed eminences, and that these positions 
should be held all under a sharp fire — which was a work of 
difficulty and delay." ^ 

Wise had assumed command in person of the lines from 
Batteries 14 to 23 inclusive, while his right toward the 
Jerusalem plank road was intrusted to General Colston. 
At twelve m. Kautz approached the Confederate centre, 
apparently with the object of threatening the Norfolk and 
Petersburg Railroad, and dismounting, moved up as in- 
fantry ; while about the same time Hinks threw forward 
a brigade, deployed as skirmishers under Colonel Duncan 
in front of Batteries 9 and 10. Wise had, in consequence, 
closed his line from the right to support the Thirty-fourth 

' Report by Colonel T. L. Livemore of Hinks's division, belonging to 
unpublished manuscripts of MUitaiy Historical Society of Massachusetts. 


Virginia, under Colonel Goode, and stationed Hood's Bat- 
talion on the left to reenf orce Colonel Page, commanding the 
Twenty-sixth Regiment. To the urgent call of Wise for re- 
enforcements from the north side of the Appomattox, the 
reply came that they would be sent and to hold on at all 
hazards. The massing of the enemy along the crest in Jor- 
dan's field necessitated the concentration of his force in that 
direction by Wise, where they were hotly engaged. From 
Battery No. 5 Captain Nat Sturdivant, the embodiment of 
energy and bravery, raked the field with his artillery, doing 
most effective work, and when about one p.m. Duncan's Bri- 
gade advanced in front of the Thirty-fourth Regiment and 
took the Confederate rifle-pits, the regiment charged and 
drove them out. "Again," wrote Wise, "the enemy re- 
took the pits and were again driven out ; and when they 
advanced the third time upon the pits the whole regiment 
leaped the parapets and gloriously repulsed them." The 
deadly fire of Wise's artillery had delayed Smith in com- 
pleting his alignment between the three divisions of Mar- 
tindale. Brooks, and Hinks, who were posted from left to 
right in the order named, and it was two o'clock before the 
line of battle was formed. Kautz, who continued to press 
on the Confederate lines in the direction of the railroad, 
was successfully repulsed, and finally withdrew about 
5.30 P.M. 

Throughout that long, hot June day the men of Wise's 
Brigade fought with what General Beauregard described as 
" unsurpassed stubbornness," resisting the advance of the 
enemy, who outnumbered them fully seven to one. A part 
of the afternoon was spent by General Smith in carefully 
reconnoitring the ground, which he did in person with 
great care and intelligence. The Confederate line in the 
quarter of Batteries 5, 6, and 7 was very badly located, and 
General Beauregard, upon first inspecting it, is said to have 


condemned its extension. Here, as upon other occasions, 
the troops were to pay the penalty of occupying a salient. 
The ground in front of these redans was seamed by a series 
of gullies ; and a deep ravine which ran between Batteries 
6 and 7 had been discovered by Smith while making his 
reconnoissance. The general assault which he had planned 
to take place about five p.m. was delayed by the artillery 
horses having been sent, by some mistake, to the rear to 
be watered, and it was after seven when the attack was 
made. The plan of assault, as described by Colonel Live- 
more, was the German method of throwing forward heavy 
lines of skirmishers, in lieu of lines of battle, which was, 
according to that officer, first employed on an extended 
scale by General Smith. Burnham's skirmishers plunged 
into the ravine above described, between Batteries 6 and 7, 
while the three divisions of Hinks, Brooks, and Martindale 
advanced in line of battle, and the protection afforded by 
the ravine enabled the skirmishers to gain the rear of the 
Confederate line and flank Battery 5, against which Brooks's 
division was hurled, while almost simultaneously Hinks's 
command "rushed forward, as the movement on their right 
was seen to begin, and under a heavy fire carried Battery 7 
with loud cheers." 

Though assailed in front and on the flank, which last 
the enemy were able to do successfully, through the cap- 
ture of these batteries and by turning the guns against the 
other redans. Wise continued the unequal struggle with 
singular obstinacy; but the enemy succeeded in taking 
the works from Batteries 3 to 11 inclusive. The cap- 
ture of the last of these, however, Battery 11 at the Dunn 
house, was not effected until about nine o'clock that 
night. The day had been one full of anxiety for Wise, as 
he rode from point to point, along the lines, .giving his 
orders and speaking words of encouragement to his men. 


Upon the conduct of his command had depended the fate 
of Petersburg and Richmond, and the confidence reposed 
in them had been more than justified. They had not 
only made a glorious struggle against overwhelming odds, 
but though the outer line had been partly lost, the day 
had been saved ; for shortly after the works were captured, 
the Fifty-ninth Regiment of Wise's Brigade, which had 
been on the north side of the Appomattox, came to his 
assistance, and the division of Hoke, which had been sent 
to reenforce Lee's veterans at Cold Harbor and had rendered 
heroic service in the defence of Richmond, arrived, and 
Hagood's Brigade, which was in the advance, was hurried 
forward on the City Point road to take position on the 
left. After penetrating the works between Batteries 6 
and 7 the enemy had succeeded in turning the right 
of the Twenty-sixth and the left of the Forty-sixth Vir- 
ginia regiments, and the former suffered considerable 
loss, among them Lieutenant-Colonel Council, who was 
captured, while Colonel Randolph Harrison of the Forty- 
sixth was seriously wounded. 

The Confederates fell back a short distance, in the rear 
of the abandoned works, and, during the night of the 
15th, threw up a small epaulement along a new line, ex- 
tending from Battery No. 2 "through Friends' field to the 
woods, and thence through them across the road leading to 
Dunn's house, and thence on the road to Webb's ^ house." 
But this made the left of the Confederate line, occupied 
by Hagood, in echelon, thrown forward on the left and 
exposed to enfilading fire, and at daybreak on the 16th 
Hagood withdrew the regiment stationed in Batteries 1 
and 2 to the west side of the creek. This intermediate 

* The Webb house is the same as the Shands house, and is situated 
about three-quarters of a mile beyond the Dunn house in the direction of 
the Baxter road. 


or temporary line of the Confederates ran south from the 
Appomattox along the ground west of Harrison's Creek, 
being the chord of the arc of the abandoned works ; and 
was the line defended during the 16th and 17th of 
June, after which time the permanent line was occupied. 
Beauregard, finding it impossible to longer occupy the 
Bermuda Hundred line and to hold Petersburg at the 
same time, ordered the evacuation of the former, during 
the night of the 15th, and on the morning of the 16th the 
force defending Petersburg consisted of the divisions of 
Hoke and Johnson, about ten thousand effective men, of 
all arms; the former being stationed on the left toward 
the Appomattox, with Johnson on the right, the whole 
covering a distance of some five miles. Wise, with his 
brigade, was posted to the right of Clingman, his (Wise's) 
right resting on the apex of a high hill, between which 
and Webb's house was a deep ravine and a gap in the line 
a quarter of a mile in length. Although no longer in com- 
mand in the field, Wise remained (during the 16th) with 
his brigade, which formed a part of the heroic force who 
were now defending Petersburg not only against Smith's 
Corps, but in addition that of Hancock, who had arrived 
about dusk on the previous day, while Burnside came 
up about noon on the 16th, and Warren at nightfall 
on the same day. Prior to Warren's arrival, Hancock 
had under his command three Federal corps, numbering 
upward of sixty thousand men, to assail Beauregard's 
dauntless veterans. Much censure has been heaped upon 
General Smith for his failure to take Petersburg on the 
night of the 15th, before the arrival of the divisions of 
Hoke and Johnson, and had he exhibited the daring 
energy of Wellington at Badajos, he could have un- 
doubtedly accomplished that task, but Smith had been 
misinformed as to the number of men who were defending 


the lines in front of him, and the perils incident to an 
advance after nightfall caused him to determine to halt 
where he was, and await the arrival of Hancock's Corps 
before proceeding further. 

Throughout the 16th Wise's fagged men were again 
called upon to defend the Cockade City against over- 
whelming odds, and gallantly repulsed the assaults made 
in their front that afternoon. Wise urged General John- 
son to fill the gap at the ravine on his right, which, how- 
ever, was neglected with sad results. Before dawn on the 
17th Potter's Division was formed in this ravine, and swept 
over the works to the right of Wise, occupied by John- 
son's Brigade, capturing a number of prisoners and expos- 
ing Wise's flank. His men, however, stood firmly and 
drove the enemy back, without flinching. In this attack, 
the gallant Colonel Powhatan R. Page of the Twenty- 
sixth Regiment was killed, and Captain George D. Wise, 
the brigade inspector, received a wound which proved 
fatal. Wise remained on the field with his brigade 
until noon on the 17th, when in obedience to orders he 
repaired to his headquarters in the city, as commander of 
the district. The command of his brigade, after the death 
of Page, devolved upon Colonel J. Thomas Goode, of the 
Thirty-fourth Regiment. This officer, after graduating at 
the Virginia Military Institute, had served in the United 
States army prior to the war, but upon the secession of 
Virginia tendered his services to his native State. During 
the 17th the brigade again rendered effective service, in 
repulsing the attack of Wilcox, maintaining their place 
with great gallantry ; but late in the afternoon Ledlie's 
Division carried a portion of the intrenchments on their 
right, and turned the right of Wise's Brigade, consisting of 
the Forty -sixth Virginia Regiment, and compelled it to fall 
back about one hundred yards to the edge of a wood in 


their rear, where, however, it soon rallied and quickly 
charged the works, carrying them as far as the left centre 
of the regiment, and were still advancing, when Major 
J. C. Hill, who had leaped upon a traverse, fell wounded, 
and the hot fire of the enemy caused the regiment to fall 
back a second time. The flagstaff had been shot in two 
pieces, and the colors perforated by eighteen bullet-holes, 
while the flag-bearer Rogers was dangerously wounded. 
The men were rallied a second time by Captain John H. 
White, and Grade's Alabama Brigade coming to the rescue 
the enemy were driven back with great loss. The Thirty- 
fourth Virginia Regiment of Wise's Brigade had maintained 
their place in the line and served as a pivot, on which the 
Forty-sixth was rallied. Their loss, however, had been 
severe, and of the twelve field-officers of the brigade nine 
had been either killed, wounded, or captured during the 
attacks on Petersburg. 

On the night of the 17th Beauregard fell back to a line 
marked off in the rear of Taylor's Creek, which was the 
one occupied from that date to the commencement of the 
retreat to Appomattox Court-House. 

It would be difficult to exaggerate the heroic resistance 
of Beauregard's men during these first days at Petersburg, 
while the Army of Northern Virginia was on the north 
side of the James ; and on the 9th and 15th of June the 
defence of the city had devolved upon Wise, to whom the 
credit of having twice saved the gateway to Richmond is 
justly due. Nor should the stubborn valor, as well as the 
numbers of the attacking forces, be overlooked. It has of 
late been the custom of certain Northern writers to dis- 
parage the temper of Grant's army at this time, and to 
describe it as lacking in spirit and without the fierce im- 
petuosity that characterized it at the commencement of 
the Wilderness Campaign. It is probably true that the 


long series of direct assaults from the Rapidan to Cold 
Harbor had taught the men the danger to be apprehended 
from this character of attack and that it had lessened 
in some degree their recklessness, if not their confidence 
in their commanding officers; but the number of fierce 
assaults on the Petersburg lines during the 15th, 16th, 
17th, and 18th of June, 1864, and the list of the killed and 
wounded among the Union troops, justifies the conclusion 
of Mr. Ropes, that the failure to take Petersburg was due 
to the officers and not to the men. Of the Federal sol- 
dier at this time it may be said that he " dared do all that 
might become a man," and had he been under the com- 
mand of a general with a clear idea of the nature of the 
duty to be performed, and the numerous assaults of these 
early days been conducted with concert of action on the 
part of the various division commanders, Petersburg would 
have fallen, and the war ended shortly thereafter. But no 
criticism of these early movements can detract from the 
valor of the troops engaged. Of the conduct of his men 
at this time General Beauregard has written : " No event 
of our war was more remarkable than the almost incredi- 
ble resistance of the handful of men who served under me 
at Petersburg, on the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th of June, 
before the arrival of General Lee. They knew they were 
fighting more than seven times their number. In fact, the 
disproportion of the first day had been much greater ; and 
opposed to them were some of the finest and best disci- 
plined Federal corps. They (my troops) had had no 
regular sleep, and had hardly had a scant meal once in 
twenty-four hours. And yet the courage, the endurance 
and spirit of these men never quailed. They fought unre- 
mittingly until the end — until their opponents ceased to 
fight. Not one of them had left his post, except, per- 
haps, to remove the dead body of a fallen comrade, or to 


have bandaged his own wound. I am proud to think that 
I was the leader of such troops. My own regret is that 
the name of each of them is not inscribed on the memorial 
tablets of history." ^ 

1 North American Seview, Vol. CXLV. page 515, " The Battle of Peters- 
burg," by General Beauregard. 



bight in march, 1865. the ketbeat to appomattox, 
sailob's cbeek. subbendeb of lee's aemt. wise 


The life of the trenches had now begun for the troops 
before Petersburg, and the pick and shovel were substi- 
tuted for the bayonet, until the affair of the Crater 
on July 30, 1864. Meanwhile Wise's Brigade had re- 
mained under the command of Colonel Goode, the former 
having established his headquarters, as the commander of 
the district, at the Dunlop House in Petersburg. At the 
time of the mine explosion, early in the morning of the 
30th, the brigade occupied the eminence south of the Bax- 
ter road, about one hundred yards from the scene of the 
explosion, and as the enemy's masses moved on the open 
ground up to the breach, the former poured in a deadly 
fire upon them. Colonel Goode, according to the report 
of General Bushrod Johnson, caused the Fifty-ninth Regi- 
ment to be formed in a ditch running at right angles to 
the main work, "and when the enemy attempted some 
five times to form in rear of the breach for the purpose 
of charging to the right, and after they had planted 
four colors on the line, by which the movement desig- 
nated was to be made, the Regiment under Captain "Wood, 
and the Twenty-sixth Virginia Regiment under Captain 
Steele, with the Twenty-second and the Twenty-third 



South Carolina regiments, and two guns of battery near 
the junctions of the Baxter and Jerusalem plank roads, 
opened with a fire that drove them precipitately back to 
the Crater. In this way the conflict was maintained from 
five till nearly ten a.m. with coolness and steadiness by 
determined men and officers on both flanks of the breach, 
and with a success worthy of much praise and with great 
damage to the enemy." At about ten a.m. the brigade 
of Mahone, which had been brought some two and a half 
miles from the right, arrived, and made the gallant charge 
by which the Confederate line was reestablished. 

In the month of November, 1864, Wise rejoined his 
brigade, and during the winter of 1864-65 shared with 
his men the discomforts and hardships of the trenches. 

"Early in March, 1865,^ we were ordered to Lee's 
extreme right at Hatcher's Bun. Then commenced the 
preliminaries of the retreat, strong guards near Burgess's 
Mill, where the plank road crossed our line. On the 28th 
of March the firing became hot and heavy ; we felt that 
something had given way on our left. Sheridan's mounted 
infantry (miscalled cavalry) was bearing on Five Forks, 
and General Pickett was advanced to that point at the 
head of Gravelly Run fork, on the White Oa,k road ; and 
General Meade's corps of twenty-five thousand men was 
advancing in our front across Arthur's Creek. Ransom's 
and Hunton's brigades were taken from our division to 
reenforce Pickett at Five Forks, and Evan's old brigade 
of South Carolina, then commanded by General W. H. 
Wallace, and our brigade, were left alone at Hatcher's 
Run. On the 29th of March our brigade was ordered 
into line of battle at the point near Burgess's Mill where 
what is called the Military road forks with the plank 

1 Address delivered by Wise in Gloucester County, Virginia, in 1870, 
on the Career of Wise's Brigade. 

grant's attack on lee's eight 359 

road to Dinwiddle Court-House, and General Wise was or- 
dered to advance quickly ' on the Military road, to Grav- 
elly Run, guiding by the centre, and to fight everything in 
our way.' We threw the Thirty-fourth and Forty-sixth 
on the right of the road, and the Twenty-sixth and Fifty- 
ninth on the left. Within six hundred yards from the 
place where the brigade was ordered forward, we struck 
the enemy obliquely, diverging from left to right. They 
were in four lines, which we charged and broke, and drove 
the first upon the second and the second upon the third, 
until the four lines were massed in our front, in a dense 
growth of pine thicket on the right and a heavy growth 
of oak, with an undergrowth of Black Jack, on the left 
of the road, at the distance of ten to twenty paces on the 
left and thirty on the right. But the line of the enemy 
being so much longer than our own, the angle at which 
we struck them gave them an enfilade fire on our left ; 
nevertheless, under the order to lie flat and shoot from 
a rest on the elbows, we maintained the dreadful conflict 
for one hour and a haK, when the Fifty-ninth and Twenty- 
sixth were obliged to break; but they soon rallied on 
General Wallace in reserve at the Forks, came up again 
with his brigade to the aid of the Forty-sixth and Thirty- 
fourth, until Wallace and the Twenty-sixth, Fifty-ninth, 
and Forty-sixth were again broken and gave way, leaving 
the Thirty-Fourth alone under fire, where it stood and 
fought to within thirty paces of the enemy's artillery, 
until thrice ordered to retreat. We fell back again to 
the parapet at Hatcher's Run, rested the 30th there, 
and on the 31st again were ordered to fall in on the left 
of McGowan's Brigade and charge the enemy. The Fifty- 
ninth were left to guard the trenches, and the Twenty- 
sixth, Thirty-fourth, and Forty-sixth went into the 
charge. They, with McGowan's Brigade, did good execu- 


tion in staggering the overpowering columns of Meade, 
and in delaying their advance to Five Forks. In these 
two fights a number of the best and bravest fell among 
the killed and wounded, among whom were Lieutenant- 
Colonel Harrison, of the Thirty-fourth; Captain Barks- 
dale, of the Fifty-ninth; and Lieutenant Barksdale 
Warwick, of my staff, who died with a smile of the gaudia 
certaminis on his face, struck whilst waving his sword 
and shouting ' Charge ! Charge ! ' 

" On the night of the 1st of April, we fell back across 
Hatcher's Run to Sutherland's on the South-side Railroad 
and pressed forward after Hunton, to reenforce Pickett at 
Five Forks. On Sabbath morning, the 2d of April, we 
reached Church Crossings, and were kneeling to God, 
under the prayers of Chaplain W. E. Wiatt of the Twenty- 
sixth, when an order announced the defeat of Pickett at 
Five Forks and that we must fall back to the Appomattox. 
On Sunday at noon we reached the Namozine Creek, and 
lodged our right on its banks. The enemy came up imme- 
diately, whilst we were throwing up breastworks, and Sher- 
idan's cavalry sounded the bugle-notes of charge until 
nightfall, from a heavy wood in our front. This was but 
a feint to deceive Fitz Lee's dismounted cavalry on our 
left. At dark the enemy pressed decidedly upon him, 
when he called for reenf orcements from the infantry. We 
ordered the Fifty-ninth down the breastworks immediately, 
leaped them before reaching the cavalry, formed at right 
angles to the breastworks on the enemy's left, and scat- 
tered them at the first volley. That night we crossed the 
Namozine, and the next day, the 3d of April, crossed the 
Winticomack Creek, and as we reached the defile of Deep 
Creek near Mannsboro, Sheridan's cavalry, in position at 
the defile, opened a galling fire upon our advanced guard. 
The Fifty-ninth had been ordered to assist in bringing up 

gkant's attack on lee's eight 361 

the rear, and thus we consisted then of the Twenty-sixth 
under the younger Perrin, the elder having been badly 
shattered to pieces at the charge of Howlett's the year 
before ; the Forty-sixth under Captain Abbott, Colonels 
Harrison and Wise being both wounded and exempted, 
and the Thirty-fourth under Colonel J. Thomas Goode. 
Immediately upon the fire we turned the head of our 
column obliquely to the right through an open field to a 
curtilage of houses, where the Twenty-sixth and Forty- 
sixth were posted, and the Thirty-fourth was deployed 
to the open ground on our right, to decoy a charge upon 
it passing the front of the other two regiments behind the 
houses. The decoy succeeded. The enemy had dis- 
mounted, tied their horses on the other side of the creek 
some six hundred yards off, and charged on foot obliquely 
by the houses, upon the Thirty-fourth, untU. they came 
close in front of the Twenty-sixth and Forty-sixth, which 
burst upon their right flank so sudden and so sharp that 
they broke and fled, and were so pressed by the three regi- 
ments that they could not reach their horses and mount in 
time to prevent a severe loss of men and horses. Here we 
were halted for the entire line to pass, with orders to bring 
up the rear. Thence we passed on by Amelia Court-House, 
Jetersville, and Deatonsville, zigzagging from right to left 
and from left to right, and skirmishing the whole way 
until we came to the forks of Sailor's Creek, near James- 
town, and the High Bridge, on the 6th of April. What 
was left of our division, Wise's Brigade of Virginia, and 
Wallace's of South Carolina, were posted on the left of 
Pickett's Division, then reduced to an inconsiderable num- 
ber by the stampede at Five Forks. Corse's Brigade and 
Ransom's had stood their ground there well, and suffered 
very much. Whilst in position at the forks of the road 
when the baggage train passed to the right and the artillery 


to the left, we were ordered to detail two regiments to 
guard the left of Wallace's Brigade ; the Twenty-sixth and 
Fifty-ninth were detailed, and when the order came, as it 
did, to join Pickett on his left and attack the enemy, we 
had but two regiments, the Forty-sixth and Thirty-fourth, 
to go into the fight with. We came in half-rifle range of 
the enemy near the east fork of Sailor's Creek on our left ; 
Wallace's Brigade came up between our two regiments and 
the east fork, when we found that the enemy were coming 
up on our left, and we were annoyed by an enfilading fire. 
In our front was a curtilage of houses, dwelling, kitchen, 
barns, stables, and tobacco-houses, reaching a half-mile, and 
with a large graveyard enclosed by a rough stone wall, all 
filled by the enemy, who were pouring in a fire so galling 
that we were compelled to lie down in the copse of pine 
where we were posted. The enemy had broken the forces 
under General EweU, and were then pouring down upon 
our left. Under these circumstances, we detailed two 
companies from the Thirty-fourth, under Captain William 
Jordan, of Bedford County, to drive off the sharpshooters 
who were enfilading our left, which duty he did with 
signal efficiency, and Colonels Abner Perrin and Tabb 
coming up at the time to the left of Wallace, they were 
ordered to support Jordan with the Twenty-sixth and 
Fifty-ninth regiments and to push the enemy until they 
came opposite their right flank in our front. The moment 
they did so we charged in front upon the stone wall and 
houses, and Perrin and Tabb and Jordan charged upon 
the enemy's right flank, and we broke them thoroughly, 
and drove them some one and a half to two miles, un- 
assisted by either the forces of Wallace or Pickett, when 
Colonel (R. P.) Duncan, of General Anderson's staff, 
ordered us to fall back to Pickett's rear to form at right 
angles to his line and to retreat to the road of our march. 


" We had already formed and begun to move in his rear 
before Pickett's whole command stampeded, leaving our 
artillery in the enemy's hands, and they were exploding 
our caissons in a lane in our front. We pressed forward 
across a branch of the west fork of Sailor's Creek, and 
were surrounded by the enemy entirely on our rear and 
left and halfway down our front. Wallace's Brigade broke 
and fled to a woods on our right. We pressed up a hill 
in our front, halted behind a worm-fence on the crest, 
fired three volleys to the rear, and retreating again, moved 
quickly down the bill, putting it between us and the 
enemy in our rear, and poured three volleys obliquely to 
the left and front, broke the enemy and got out. Here 
the Twenty-sixth showed its exemplary drOl. Perrin 
gallantly rallied his regiment, and upon its nucleus we 
formed and seized the whole brigade in sight of the 
broken enemy. After rallying and forming, we poured 
three volleys into the woods where Wallace's Brigade were 
ensconced, and it raised a white flag and came out to us 
and formed and marched with us safely off the field, and 
gained our road past the enemy. Anderson, Pickett, and 
(B. R.) Johnson had left the field before we cut through 
and gone on to the High Bridge and Farmville. At one 
o'clock at night we reached the High Bridge and found it 
shut down. After getting over it we marched a mile or 
more on toward Farmville, and bivouacked until the 
morning of the 7th. We were overcome by exhaustion, 
and without food or refreshment of any kind. There was 
no water but the pools, as red as brick-dust, in the soil of 
that region. Colonel J. Thomas Goode, Captain Jordan, 
and myself washed or cooled our faces and hands in the 
same pool the next morning, and neither of us had a hand- 
kerchief or towel to wipe with, and consequently the paint 
of the red water remained on our faces and at the edges of 


our hair; and during the night a soldier of the Thirty- 
fourth found me sleeping without a blanket or coat on the 
chilling earth — the enemy had captured my orderly and 
body-servant, with my cloak and two of my horses — a 
wounded man at Sailor's Creek had escaped on my riding- 
horse proper, and the noble private, whom I don't know, 
wrapped me, more dead than alive, in his coarse gray 
blanket, pinning it on with a wire pin, both of which I 
have now, and the gold of Ophir could not buy them. 
With a face painted like an Indian, with the gray blanket 
around me, and with the Confederate Tyrolese hat on — 
not oif , as ridiculously stated — and muddy all over, I put 
myself on foot at the head of the two brigades and marched 
on the railroad to near Farmville. There an officer of 
General Lee met me and ordered us to move to him, then 
in sight on his gray. Turning the head of the column to 
the right, down the railroad embankment, we marched 
across the open field to where he was sitting in his saddle, 
with General B. R. Johnson on his horse a little in the 
rear. The latter had fled from Sailor's Creek and reported 
me killed and the whole division cut to pieces and dis- 
persed. As I moved up with the two brigades I saw that 
General Lee was suppressing a laugh. I knew he had a 
sub-vein of humor, which he was hardly concealing when 
he saw my appearance — that of a Comanche savage. He 
was right ; I was savage and looked like an Indian, and 
waited not to be accosted, when I exclaimed with an oath : 
' General Lee, these men shall not move another inch 
unless they have something more to eat than parched corn 
taken from starving mules.' He smiled with great bland- 
ness, and said : — 

" ' They deserve something to eat, sir. Let them, with- 
out taking down the fence, move to the trees on yonder 
hiU, and they shall be filled for once at least. And you. 


General Wise, will pause here a moment with me.' 
When the brigades passed on, he turned to me and said, 
'You, sir, will take command of all these forces.' There 
were no organized forces, but the two brigades I came 
up with, in sight; there were thousands of disorganized 
troops in all directions without order or command. I 
protested that I could not take such a command. I had 
no horses. He ordered me to get a horse, and make all 
the stragglers and disorganized men fall into my ranks. 

"... And I first went to breakfast, and then to the work 
which wound up at Appomattox on the 9th, when and 
where I signed the paroles of more than 5000 men besides 
those of my own brigade. . . . Alas ! how few were there at 
last of those who were comrades with us at first. There 
were less than 1000 left of the 2850 returned from 
Charleston in May, 1864. Less than half were paroled of 
2400 who charged at Hewlett's. Their last, after fighting 
in nineteen battles, was their most glorious charge ; and 
they fired the last guns of the infantry at Appomattox." 

Of Wise's part in the retreat to Appomattox, Major- 
General Fitzhugh Lee wrote in his final report: "The 
notice of the commanding general is also directed to 
Brigadier-Generals Henry A. Wise and Eppa Hunton, 
commanding infantry brigades, and who were more or 
less under my command until Amelia Court-House was 
reached. The disheartening surrounding influences had 
no effect upon them ; they kept their duty plainly in view, 
and they fully performed it. The past services of Gen- 
eral Henry A. Wise, his antecedents in civil life, and his 
age, caused his bearing upon this most trying retreat to 
shine conspicuously forth. His unconquerable spirit was 
filled with as much earnestness and zeal in April, 1865, as 
when he first took up arms four years ago, and the freedom 
with which he exposed a long life laden with honors 


proved he was willing to sacrifice it, if it would conduce 
toward attaining the liberty of his country." 

On the day following the battle of Sailor's Creek Gen- 
eral Robert E. Lee had promoted Wise to the rank of 
major-general ; and when a day or two later it was found 
that the Army of Northern Virginia would have to be 
surrendered, the former, in conversation with Wise, told 
him that as he was particularly obnoxious to the Federal 
authorities, he was at liberty to look out for himself, if he 
so desired. This the latter declined to do, replying that 
he would share the fate of his men ; and he, furthermore, 
agreed with General Lee that it was their duty to remain 
in Virginia, and aid in the restoration of civil government 
among her people. 



General Meade, commanding the Army of the Poto- 
mac, and General Wise were brothers-in-law, the former 
having married Margaretta Sergeant, eldest daughter of 
the Hon. John Sergeant, of Philadelphia, and sister of the 
second Mrs. Wise. The relations existing between the 
two families had been of the closest sort, particularly those 
between Generals Meade and Wise. 

The former had at one time resigned from the army, 
and procured through the influence of the latter a more 
lucrative position in the United States Coast Survey ser- 
vice. Afterward, through Wise's good offices, Meade was 
transferred to the Engineer Corps of the army, and assigned 
to duty at Detroit, where he lived when the war came on. 

For the first time in eight years the two met at Appo- 



mattox, and their meeting was most touching and affec- 
tionate. By his tenderness and solicitude for Wise, Meade 
disarmed every feeling of estrangement, and after calling 
in person and greeting General Wise with all the warmth 
of old friendship, and observing that he was dismounted, 
he sent his young son. Colonel George Meade, with an 
ambulance and pair of mules, laden with every necessary 
and luxury, with instructions to place the outfit at the dis- 
posal of General Wise to convey him to his home, and to 
be turned over to the nearest government officer when 
General Wise had no further use for them. When Gen- 
eral Meade returned to Richmond, his first care was to 
visit the female members of General Wise's family, and 
tender them all that love and courtesy could suggest. 
Writing to Wise in June, 1867, introducing Mr. Ropes, 
the historian. General Meade said : — 

"I reciprocate all your kind feeling. The war never 
changed my good feeling for you, and never in the small- 
est degree diminished the gratitude I have always felt to 
you for the many acts of kindness received at your hands 
when you had the power to do me service, and when I 
attacked Petersburg on the 16th and 17th of June, 1864, 
when we ought to have whipped you, and I learned from 
prisoners that you were in command, painful and embar- 
rassing as was the knowledge, yet it did not for an instant 
stay my determination to drive you across the Appomattox 
if I could, and I am only sorry for my sake, as well as 
yours, that I did not succeed, for it might have brought 
an earlier termination of the horrid war and the terrible 
slaughter then prevailing. 

" So, also, at Gettysburg I think it must be evident to 
intelligent men on both sides that it was a great mis- 
fortune that I could not have accomplished a more deci- 
sive result, because with such a result peace might have 


been brought about two years earlier than it was. By the 
by, has your conscience never disturbed you for your 
agency at Gettysburg ? for you know if it had not been 
for your kindness in having me reappointed to the army, 
I should not have been in command on that field so fatal 
to your cause. 

" Do believe me when I say old times are present times 
with me so far as you and yours are concerned, however 
much we may differ as to what has occurred or is occur- 

The cordial feelings manifested in this letter continued 
between the two until the death of General Meade, which 
occurred shortly before that of General Wise. 

General Wise had a quick sense of humor, and told a 
story well. An episode which occurred at the surrender 
at Appomattox was frequently repeated by him with keen 
relish. His brigade was actually engaged for some time 
after the order for the cessation of hostilities was pro- 
mulgated. In fact, he lost several valuable officers in 
the interim between the issuance of General Lee's order 
to cease firing and the time it reached the lines. He 
delighted to tell that when the orders came his men " did 
not know they were whipped, and had the Yankees on the 
run." On receiving the orders, firing ceased, the men 
stacked arms, and he, learning what was going forward, 
walked a short distance down the road alone. He was 
dressed in an old overcoat with a large cape, and wore a 
slouch hat. As was his custom when under excitement, 
he was chewing tobacco vigorously. Just as he was re- 
turning to his command, a dashing young Union cavalry 
officer, magnificently mounted, came down the road at a 
hard gaUop, his yellow hair flqating in the breeze, and his 
whole manner betraying excitement, as he called out to 
General Wise, " Surrender ! surrender ! " Wise, without 



as much as " shifting his quid," continued his walk until 
the officer came abreast of him, and then putting his arms 
akimbo, and rocking his body in a fashion peculiar to 
himself, said, with inimitable drollery, " Ain't you a little 
late ? I surrendered about an hour ago." The officer was 
no other than the gallant Custer, who had been leading 
the flanking movement, and did come in a little late at the 
death, as they say in fox hunting. 

The things which most surprised General Wise at the 
surrender at Appomattox were the desire of the Union 
soldiers to see him above all others ; the lack of any evi- 
dence of personal malignity shown towards him; and 
the large number of his foes who expressed the warmest 
interest and personal regard for him. Especially was this 
so among the New York troops, many of whom were 
Irishmen, who seemed to have retained for him the live- 
liest affection for his fight against Know-Nothingism in 
1855. The courtesy of two young officers on General 
Humphreys's staff made a deep impression upon him, and 
to the day of his death he kept their card stuck in the 
corner of the shaving glass of his portable dressing-case, 
where it still remains. They sought him out, made them- 
selves known, told him of their lifelong admiration, and 
begged the privilege of ministering to his wants in any 
way in their power. He thanked them, and protested that 
the only thing he needed was a good pocket-knife. Soon 
after their departure an orderly appeared with the finest 
knife to be procured, and a hamper of the choicest delicacies 
obtainable. The names of these young officers were Lieu- 
tenant Stickney and Lieutenant Feary. Thirty years after- 
ward, his son, residing in New York, met Lieutenant Feary, 
who recalled the incidents of Appomattox with great vivid- 
ness, was much gratified to hear that General Wise had pre- 
served the card, and, speaking of the impression which Wise 


made upon him, said that his memory always reverted to 
him as one of the most remarkable men he ever met. 

In the task of paroling the army, General Wise was also 
brought into constant relations with the late General John 
Gibbons, who conceived for him the highest regard. 

Wise remained at Appomattox untU paroled, and on 
the 12th of April proceeded to Halifax Court-House, the 
home of his son, the Kev. Henry A. Wise, who was the 
rector of the Episcopal Church at that place. After a 
visit of some weeks at the home of his son he made his 
way on horseback to Mecklenburg County, where he visited 
two friends of former days, — Captain Robert Y. Overby, 
who resided near the Buffalo Lithia Springs, and the Hon. 
Mark Alexander, whose home was also near by. The 
country throughout south-side Virginia presented a sad 
aspect at this time; for, in addition to the devastations of 
war, straggling parties of Sheridan's cavalry continued to 
pillage the homes of the farmers, and had carried off num- 
bers of horses and live-stock. 

A few months after the capture of Roanoke Island, in 
February, 1862, the Confederate troops had been compelled, 
in consequence, to evacuate Norfolk, as they were menaced 
by the force of the enemy to the southward, as well as by 
that at Fortress Monroe. About a year later the United 
States authorities took possession of Wise's farm called 
RoUeston, on the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River, 
which they continued to occupy after the cessation of 
hostilities, having established a colored school there, and 
quartered large numbers of negroes on the place under 
the auspices of the Freedman's Bureau. Thus, after 
laying down his arms at Appomattox, he found himself, 
at the age of fifty-nine years, a prisoner of war on parole, 
impoverished and without a home ; and although he em- 
ployed the Hon. John S. Millson, a prominent attorney 


of Norfolk, to represent him, there appeared to be little 
prospect at that time of recovering his property. From 
Mecklenburg County he proceeded to the home of a friend 
in Isle of Wight, whence he wrote, on May 30, to his son- 
in-law, Dr. Garnett : — 

"... My land has been advertised, but I hope to have it 
yet and have retained Millson as my attorney, and will 
wait until William Parker comes back from the Eastern 
Shore, before I go to Norfolk. I am enjoying myself here 
catching fish and crabs. I will try to send you some. 
We caught a rockfish yesterday weighing seven and one- 
half pounds and one to-day, twelve pounds. John ^ went to 
Smithfield to-day and took the oath under my advice, with 
instructions to keep it sacredly. I, of course, have not 
and will not take it, until I know my full status before 
and after taking it, and I am not sure that I will be per- 
mitted to take it. I shall not ask to do so. The negroes 
here and on the peninsula are allowed every license at 
present, but will soon be put to work. Some gentlemen 
just arrived here from Elizabeth City informed me that 
President Davis is undoubtedly in irons, and they say it is 
reported that General Robert E. Lee is arrested. This is 
but to terrify the people of the South, and I have no fear, — 
nothing but total impoverishment and the loss of National 
Republican liberty. For myself I fear nothing, be the con- 
sequences what they may. I shall carefully and conscien- 
tiously abide my parole, and not attempt to escape any fate 
that may befall me, and shall walk abroad as best I can, 
with the purpose not to leave* my county, or the State of 
Virginia. Tell Mary I received her letter on getting here, 
dated since yours. Give her my blessing for herself and 
children, and say she must write regularly to me through 

1 His son John Sergeant Wise. 


Mr. A. G. Newton, Atlantic Hotel, Norfolk; or to White 
and Sales, Norfolk. God bless you all." 

Wise arrived in Norfolk on the 28th of June, and on the 
day following addressed an application to General How- 
ard, setting forth that his home had been seized by the 
government authorities, and requesting that it be restored 
to him in accordance with the terms of his parole, he hav- 
ing surrendered on the condition that he be allowed " to 
return to his home and to remain there unmolested in all 
respects, as long as he obeyed the laws." This appli- 
cation was later on returned, with the endorsement of 
Generals Mann and Terry (the former commanding the 
sub-district of Norfolk and the latter the department of 
Virginia) to the effect that he would "be treated as a 
Rebel prisoner of war, with no rights that he [Terry] is 
bound to respect, save those appertaining to a person in that 
condition " ; and further that he " had not been pairdoned 
by the President " ; and that he had abandoned his home 
"in order that he might, to better advantage, engage in 
rebellion and civil war." It seems strange that even at 
this day there are to be found those who approve of such 
acts of confiscation, but in the "Life of William Lloyd 
Garrison," ^ published by his children, we are told that : 
" The dramatic incidents of the war had been many and 
striking, and each month brought its fresh example of 
retributive justice, of strange contrast and coincidence. 
There was the occupation of General Lee's estate at 
Arlington as a freedman's village (with its Garrison and 
Lovejoy streets) and national cemetery ; of John Tyler's 
and Henry A. Wise's residences, by schools for colored 
children — the daughter of John Brown teaching in the 
latter, with her father's portrait hanging on the wall," etc. 

1 " Life of Garrison," The Century Co., Vol. IV. page 133. 


The so-called "retributive justice" continued in "Wise's 
case for several years after the war, when, in 1868, by an 
order obtained from General Canby, his home was restored 
to him. The estate in the meanwhile had been stripped of 
nearly all its timber, while the fences and many of the out- 
buildings had been destroyed by the negroes. Prior to its 
occupancy by the prot^gfe of the Freedman's Bureau, the 
furniture, bric-^-brac, pictures, and household articles of 
every sort had been seized by the military authorities, and 
a large quantity of them carried to Fortress Monroe, for 
the use of the garrison quartered there. In the summer 
of 1866, Wise obtained an order from General Schofield for 
the recovery of these articles and sent his nephew Lewis 
Warrington "Wise, along with an old housekeeper who had 
resided many years in the family, to Old Point, in order 
to identify them. Upon his arrival at Fortress Monroe, 
on August 30, Mr. L. "W. Wise presented this order to 
General Miles, the officer in charge of the post, who stated 
that he was on the eve of leaving for a short while and 
would be succeeded in command by General Henry S. Bur- 
ton, and suggested that he (Mr. Wise) wait until his suc- 
cessor was installed, which the former concluded to do. 
Every courtesy was extended by this last-named officer, 
and full opportunity afforded him to search the officers' 
quarters, where numerous pieces of furniture, books, china, 
and household articles were found. A year later such of 
the articles as remained were delivered to one of his sons 
by General William Hayes, then in command of Fortress 

Prior to the war Wise had collected a number of valua- 
ble oil paintings, most of which were the gifts of friends, 
and pieces of bric-a-brac, which were left at his farm when 
it was suddenly abandoned in the spring of 1862 at the 
announcement of the enemy's approach. Among the paint- 


ings was the original of Herring's " Village Blacksmith," 
which, fortunately enough, was cut out of the frame hy 
one of his sons, and wrapped on a roller. Wise had come 
into possession of the picture as the successful subscriber 
to the American Art Union, and after the war, when 
much in need of money, sold it for fifteen hundred dollars. 
It was recently sold in England for many times that sum. 
He was not so fortunate, however, in saving others, and a 
valuable set of Dutch drinking scenes by Teniers, and an 
exquisite Bacchante by Pauline Laurent, went to adorn 
the walls of some unknown lovers of fine art. Some years 
ago, the last-named picture was discovered in Washington 

at the home of General , who was induced to return 

it by a suggestive note from General Schofield, then the 
Secretary of War. Various pieces of bric-S,-brac, too, have 
turned up from time to time in different quarters. One 
day in Washington, about fifteen years ago. General B. F. 
Butler, who was associated with John S. Wise in a lawsuit, 
turned to the latter, with whom he was quite friendly, and 
remarked, " Wise, it's very curious, but I have a cup at 
my home made from the timber of the old Constitution, 
and which has your father's name engraved upon it; it 
was presented to him by Captain Percival. I cannot, for 
the life of me, imagine how I came by it." "It is not 
curious at all. I'll explain that to you very easily," 
repUed the other. "You stole it when you were down 
at Norfolk during the war. Send it back, and purge 
your conscience to that extent, at least. General." The 
pair laughed heartily, and General Butler shortly after- 
ward returned the cup. 

During the summer of 1865 Wise's name, along with 
those of General Lee, Mr. Davis, and a number of other 
prominent Confederates, was presented to the grand jury 
of the United States District Court at Norfolk, and in- 


dictments for treason were found against them. Although 
extremely anxious that he might be brought to trial, no 
further steps were ever taken by the authorities and a 
nolle prosequi was subsequently entered. 

In a letter to General Lee, dated Richmond, August 5, 
1865, Wise wrote :"...! have not applied for pardon. 
First, because I cannot consent to countenance ' Test Oaths.' 
Second, because those tendered to me I cannot conscien- 
tiously take under my present impressions of their force 
and effect. Third, because I was earnest and honest in 
my convictions that I was right and I am not yet con- 
vinced to the contrary and cannot admit therefore, under 
oath, either impliedly or expressly, that I was wrong, by 
the very fact of petitioning for pardon. Pardon implies, 
ex vi termini, guilt, crime — in this case the high crime of 
treason. I don't admit it and can't imply it by any act of 
mine. I was not a traitor to my country and cannot be- 
come a traitor to myself. By this I don't mean to censure 
comrades who have petitioned for pardon ; in such extreme 
cases as ours each must judge for himself alone. On the 
one hand, whilst my holding out may seem to reflect on 
the course of comrades who have given in to the terms of 
amnesty; on the other, their giving in will certainly in- 
crease the chances and degrees of pains and penalties 
against any of us who hold out. Not to follow your ex- 
ample either way will reflect upon any officer whom you 
have commanded. It is important, therefore, to me to 
know what your action has been and will be in this re- 
spect. ... I have, I know, no claims on your attention, 
other than the respect and gratitude of one who ever 
devoted his best endeavors and improved every oppor- 
tunity allowed him, from first to last of our great but 
vain struggle, to make it successful and glorious under 
your leadership." 


In reply to the above inquiry General Lee wrote from his 
brother's home, near Cartersville, in Cumberland County, 
under date of August 21, 1865 : — 

". . . As you ask to be informed what my course has 
been under the proclamation of the President of the United 
States of the 29th of May, 1866, I would state that in ac- 
cordance with one of its provisions, I applied, on the 13th 
of June, for the benefits of amnesty, and the restoration of 
all rights and privileges extended to those in its terms, but 
have not yet received an answer to my application." 

It is said that General Lee, in view of the position he 
occupied among the Southern people, deemed it best to 
pursue a course which he considered would tend to allay 
all sectional feeling ; but upon being indicted at Norfolk, 
he withdrew his application. Wise never applied for the 
benefits held out in the President's proclamation, nor took 
an oath of any sort ; nor did he ever cast a vote in any 
election after the war, his disabilities never having been 
removed. The amnesty act which was subsequently passed 
by Congress he described as " not amnesty but damn nasty." 

"The United States have not enough money to bribe 
me," he wrote to a New York editor in 1870, " nor force 
enough to drive me to take, touch, or taste a test oath, that 
most odious instrument of tyranny; 'before I would per- 
mit my forefinger and thumb to touch the pen to sign it, 
my right hand should be cut off at my wrist, and be nailed 
to a guide-post to point the way to a gibbet.' So Petti- 
grew said concerning the test oaths of nullification in South 
Carolina, and so I say to the test oaths prescribed by Con- 
gress. I said all I meant, meant all I said, and tried my 
best to do all I said and meant for ' the lost cause.' What 
is ' the lost cause ' ? Ah ! would only that the host of 
voters in the United States would ' do truth and come to 
the light,' and see that the Confederacy is not the only 


cause lost. The Constitution is lost; the Union defined 
by it is lost; the liberty of States and their people, which 
they both at first and for half a century guarded, are lost. 
I am anxious only that the truth should be told and felt. 
I wish to live only a little while to see the true spirit of 
constitutional liberty and laws under a free republic of 
States and their people revived, and I pray to be ready to 
go then, when my only Master in the universe calls. I am 
willing, freely willing, and more than anxious that all men 
of every race shall be as free as I wish, or claim to be ; but, 
whilst slaves are being made free, I protest against freemen 
being made slaves ! " 

On account of the seizure and possession of his farm by 
the government authorities, which they continued to hold 
until the year 1868, Wise concluded not to return to the 
vicinity of Norfolk, and mainly on his wife's account de- 
cided to locate in Richmond, where he proposed resuming 
the practice of law in order to support himself and family. 
During the fall of 1865 he resided temporarily in a house 
owned by his son-in-law, Dr. Garnett, but in January, 1866, 
rented a dwelling in Manchester, on the south side of the 
James River from Richmond, where he lived that year. 
This house was surrounded by a large yard, with shade 
trees and a good garden, and here he could not only 
indulge his passion for gardening, but be much more 
comfortable in his straitened financial condition than in 
Richmond, where living was more expensive. 

On December 5, 1865, he wrote from Richmond to Mrs. 
Garnett: — 

"Yours of the 3d instant was received by me to-day 
and touched me sweetly, though mournfully, and all your 
dutiful conduct, my child, has ever affected my heart. I 
had no birthday cake, no gathering of my household, for 
now, alas ! I have none, and but a bare remembrance of 


what I once had, and how bare I am of every comfort now. 
I did not, therefore, regret your absence, though your 
companionship is always pleasant to me whenever we can 
be happy together." 

And on December 24 of the same year, he wrote as 
follows : — 

" Here I am down in the dining room by a good fire, 
this Sabbath morning before Christmas, full of mist and 
rain and dirt and black mire under feet, whUst all, as 
usual, are not out of bed. I am thinking of you, and 
a thousand things full of sad memories and yet not with- 
out some hopes. Your letter to Sister [his wife] and 
others for the past week, and the Doctor's to his brother, 
of which he told me last night, seem to indicate that you 
and he are not happy in Washington. I beg you not to 
repine. I don't think that Richmond will for years offer 
pleasant and profitable homes for any one of the old Vir- 
ginia people — God bless them. The professions are clogged 
and the people are poor and there is nothing but borrowed 
capital wherewith to pay, and that is very scarce ; and the 
people are changed. The same people are not the same 
they were before the war, and I see not how this state of 
things is to improve for a year or more. So, my child, try 
to be content and reconciled to your lot in a land you don't 
prefer; there is no preferred land now." 

While he felt keenly the changed condition of affairs 
in Virginia, especially as regarded himself, he was not 
a man to sit idle and lament his broken fortunes; and 
early in 1866 we find him resolutely at work, engaged in 
the practice of his profession. That this was not an easy 
task for a man who had abandoned the law years before 
needs no proof; but it is difficult for us at the present time 
to appreciate the embarrassments under which Southern 
men past the meridian of life labored, who had to begin 


life anew in 1865. The rooted land was there, it is true ; 
but in all else how changed ! Not only did there exist 
that indefinable, as well as apparent, sense of desola- 
tion which characterizes a people defeated in a civil con- 
flict; but the end of an era had come; a civilization had 
been overthrown, and " Military District No. 1 " was to 
take the place of what once had been Virginia. To 
give up all one's previous habits of thought, and to see 
those things profaned which hitherto we have regarded 
as sacred, is not easy even in early manhood; but 
to the aged, the ordeal is rendered many times more 
difficult. The ante-bellum Virginian loved above all 
things the freedom of the country, and "elbow room," 
as he would have expressed it, and for a man of Wise's 
temperament, in his sixtieth year, to take up the hum- 
drum routine of the modern professional man was far 
from congenial to his taste and inclinations. With the 
energy characteristic of him, however, he devoted himself 
assiduously to his profession, and before a great while 
enjoyed a fairly lucrative practice. For some years after 
the war he was associated with his nephew George D. 
Wise and Judge E. H. Fitzhugh, but in 1869 dissolved 
his connection with them, and entered into a partnership 
with his son John Sergeant Wise, who had come to the bar 
in 1867. That partnership continued until his death. It 
is probably no exaggeration to say that a lawyer has never 
long engaged in political life without relaxing in some 
degree the habit of close legal reasoning ; and what Judge 
William D. Shipman has declared of Roscoe Conkling is 
in an even greater degree true of Wise ; namely, that his 
public career had " deprived him of much of the whole- 
some discipline which his ardent and exuberant nature so 
much needed to compact his faculties, and steady and clarify 
his judgment." 


" However little active and constant employment in the 
legislative or executive departments of our government 
may demoralize the ethical side of a man's nature, there 
can be little doubt that it is unfavorable to ' that purifica- 
tion of the intellectual eye ' so important to a practising 
lawyer."^ Wise, like Conkling, had given up the best 
years of his life to politics, and though better known in 
that connection, was a successful practitioner ; for, though 
he had suffered the disadvantages above named, he was, 
nevertheless, well grounded in the principles of law. It 
can be said of him that his client's cause was his own, and 
he threw into the contest whatever of earnestness and 
learning he possessed. The same independence and fear- 
lessness which were characteristic of him in the other walks 
of life were illustrated at the bar. And while he had 
become more or less unfamiliar with the forms of legal 
procedure, he retained first rank for his knowledge and 
power of enforcing the legal principles of his cases. 
Generals Stoneman, Canby, and Terry, when in com- 
mand at Richmond, frequently sent for Greneral Wise, and 
sought his counsel and advice, for, while he delighted to 
call himself " an unreconstructed rebel," his knowledge of 
the people was unequalled ; his advice was always sound ; 
the course which he recommended was sure to be honora- 
ble, and no man was more trusted by friend and foe alike. 

At the close of the reconstruction era in Virginia, and 
when the military was at last to become subordinate to 
the civil authority, a conflict arose in the city of Richmond 
over the office of mayor, between George Chahoon, a mili- 
tary appointee, and Henry K. EUyson, who had been elected 
by the city council. For several days the city was in a 
state of disorder, each claimant endeavoring to exercise 

1 Memorial sketch of Roscoe Conkling by William D. Shipman. 


the functions of mayor ; and the matter was jBnally taken to 
the courts. Wise accepted employment as one of Chahoon's 
counsel. The case arose at a time when the Virginia people 
had long chafed under military rule, and under circum- 
stances which almost precipitated a riot and race war, and 
Wise received unstinted abuse for appearing as an advo- 
cate of Chahoon's claim to the office. At one time he was 
housed with his client in one of the police stations of the 
city, surrounded by an infuriated populace and a body of 
the EUyson police, who had cut off the Chahoon contingent 
from food and water, and where his own life was by no 
means safe. He unhesitatingly expressed his fearless scorn 
and contempt for the spirit which would deny a litigant 
the best attorney he could afford to employ, and gloried in 
his defiance of the clamor against him. The case was 
finally decided by the Court of Appeals of Virginia in 
April, 1870, and the desire to hear the reading of the 
opinion attracted a large crowd to the court-room, located 
in the Capitol building. The strain upon the floors proved 
too great, and a disaster occurred in which fifty-eight people 
were killed. Fortunately for Wise, he was not present at 
the session of the court, having been detained by an acci- 
dental circumstance at his office. 

From the end of the Civil War up to the date of his 
death. Wise was never again a participant in public affairs, 
although an anxious observer of events and an occasional 
contributor to the press during the painful period of dis- 
order and maladministration which followed the clash of 
arms. On February 12, 1866, he wrote from Richmond 
to his old friend Hon. Fernando Wood of New York, as 
follows : — 

"The past and the present both justify me to myself 
in appealing to you, sir, for such information and coun- 
sel, if you have it, as will relieve my mind and heart 


of the painful doubt and anxiety which oppress them 
respecting the fate not only of the Southern States and 
people, but of the Republic, and of the civil liberty which 
it was created to establish and defend. My own views are, 
in a word, nothing in my present position to be heeded even, 
much less to be made known with any hope that they would 
prevail. You know my position before the war: ' To fight 
in the Union, under the express letter of the Constitution 
— to take up arms by the sovereign authority of States — 
to repeal invasion and to suppress ' insurrection.' 

" I assented to secession on the grounds of Mr. Madi- 
son, that it was at most but a revolutionary remedy in the 
conflict of sovereignties among the States of the Union; 
that if successful it would preserve constitutional limita- 
tions, defend the right of self-government, and secure civil 
liberty; and if unsuccessful, that it would leave us at 
least as we were ante helium, under the segis of the Con- 
stitution of the United States, as the supreme law of the 
nation and aU its parts, the Confederate States remaining 
bodies politic, or sovereign States, still in the Union. 

" The revolution of sovereignties was unsuccessful, never 
consummated Confederate independence, and never for one 
moment took a single State out of the Union, but left each 
and all as they were under the Federal Constitution, bound 
by its compacts and protected by its provisions and guar- 
antees. By the result of the war the Union was not 
restored, for it was never destroyed or broken ; it was not 
to be ' reconstructed,^ for it was already constructed by the 
Constitution ; States were still States ; citizens were still 
citizens ; Federal rights and relations were stiU the same ; 
obligations and duties were the same ; priAoleges and pro- 
tection and penalties were all the same, just simply because 
the Constitution of the United States was still the same, and 
the Union was still the same, as neither had been destroyed. 


though the former was heavily assailed, and the latter had 
been often violated ; the one stood the shock and test of 
arms, and the other still reigns the supreme law. Such, 
fairly stated, I apprehend and hope to be the position of 
President Johnson, founded on the laws of civil war among 
sovereign States. 

" Can you inform me, then, why, that war having ceased, 
peace has not been proclaimed ? Why the writ of habeas 
corpus has not been restored ? Why civil jurisdiction has 
not been allowed to take cognizance of all cases belonging 
to the courts of law and equity under the Constitution ? 
Is the war power to continue after war itself has ceased ? 
Are arms to be employed still, long after the ordinary pro- 
cess of the judicial tribunals can be executed? Are the 
civil laws to be continued suspended ? Are original and 
sovereign States to be provincialized and ' territorialized ' ? 
Is the Constitution of the United States itself to remain sus- 
pended until some power or other can or shall form a new 
National Crovernment? I might add inquiry to inquiry 
further, but these are enough, and I confess to you that I 
have seen nothing from any quarter as yet shedding light 
on these momentous questions. Whether I look to the 
Federal Executive, or Congress, or Judiciary, or to the 
country at large, all is dark. I see a lurid light only in 
the camps of the army, still surrounding our very homes 
and firesides. Can you, from your stand, point me to any 
clear, unclouded prospect to cheer the patriot heart which 
longs to see the old Union and old Constitution respected, 
and honored, and obeyed as they really exist, and have 
ever since 1787 existed, without any reconstruction ? 

"A year ago you implored the Southern people to 
return to the Union on a basis of equality and fraternity. 
This you did from the hall of the House of Representa- 
tives, where we have no representatives now, whilst we are 


paying heavy excise duties and other taxes. During the 
war you were manfully opposed to it, but you were for the 
return of the South, and for the Union on an amicable 
adjustment of all questions at issue ; you do not believe 
that the differences existing were either irreconcilable, or 
to be determined and adjusted only by the sword. The 
main difference, that of slavery, has been since determined 
forever vi concitata belli. I am convinced that it could 
never have been settled in any other way, and that for that 
reason the war itself was providential ; it was God's war, 
and who on earth dares gainsay it. It has fixed the Union 
firm on its base, unless it has unfixed the Constitution. 
But if the war has destroyed the latter, it has destroyed 
the former, forever. Why have you been silent so long? 
What is the state of national affairs, present and prospec- 
tive ? Let me hear from you soon." 

Mr. Wood replied, February 19th, 1866, as follows : — 
" You say, correctly, that I have been silent on national 
politics since my speech of February last, in Congress, 
in which I implored the Southern people to return to 
the Union. I have been purposely so. During my ab- 
sence in Europe last spring and summer, the war abruptly 
closed, the Executive was more abruptly changed, and the 
consequences of these events precipitated upon the coun- 
try a condition of things to comprehend which few minds 
were capable. I thought that silent observation would the 
better enable me to understand and appreciate this new 
order of public affairs, and to reach a conclusion which, 
however unimportant to others, would at least be satisfac- 
tory to myself. I have reached this conclusion, and hav- 
ing been thus called upon in your letter of the 12th inst., 
will give it in reply. The form of government established 
by the present Constitution was not the first created after 
independence, nor was it republican. The first was that 


established by the Articles of Confederation, making a 
league of colonies, which, in 1788, was replaced by the 
present form, enlarging the central authority, but retain- 
ing much of the Confederate characteristics ; but this was, 
nevertheless, essentially a Confederacy, and not a Republic, 
in the true sense. The Republic form ' is that of a State 
in which the sovereign power is in the representatives 
elected by the people.' This was not nor is yet our system 
according to the theory of State government. The States 
are republican, but not the Federal Union. Two sover- 
eign powers cannot exist within the same government. If 
sovereignty was retained by the States, it could not have 
been imparted to the Federal authority. Opposite views 
as to the relative strength of these authorities have existed 
ever since. There was sufficient in the anomaly of the 
system to divide statesmen and parties as to its nature. 
Opposing sectional differences on this and other essential 
questions increased with time, and finally plunged the 
whole country into war. No one difference caused the 
war. There was a combination of antagonism, including 
those of a social, commercial, and partisan character. All 
of these questions were issues between the parties to the 
contest. An appeal was taken to the highest of all human 
tribunals, and a decision has been rendered from which 
there can be no further appeal. We are concluded by the 
result. It is true the Constitution remains as it was ; and 
it is also true that, though the war power has ceased, the 
war power is still invoked, and the South kept in a state 
inconsistent with peace and repugnant to the Constitution. 
But I look upon this as but the period which intervenes 
between the rendering of final judgment and the settle- 
ment of the case as to the precise points which have been 
decided. It is an interregnum, to be followed by such 
measures as will adapt the fundamental form of govern- 


ment to the new order of things; and incorporate into 
our system the principles thus established by force of arms. 
As you well state, both State sovereignty and slavery have 
been determined against. For the former we must here- 
after have unity ; for the latter freedom. Whether you 
and I will it or not, or whatever may be men's opinion as 
to the true construction of the Constitution with reference 
to these two great questions, it is folly to disguise the fact 
that hereafter there can be no such issues. The new 
Americanism opens up before us, and common sense de- 
mands that we should conform to it. Now, what follows ? 
State sovereignty being dead, unity follows. The people 
of the whole Union are one, and the majority is that one. 
This, you will say, is consolidation, and so it is, but not a 
consolidation inconsistent with free government nor with 
republicanism, nor does it imply that States, as such, 
shall not continue North and South, with all needful 
jurisdiction over domestic rights. Slavery being dead, 
freedom follows. This is one of the difficulties now in 
the way of the complete restoration of peace. There is a 
doubt in the minds of some as to the points settled by the 
decision on this question. It is held, on the one side, that 
it means something more than merely exemption from 
physical bondage, that it has been determined that all men 
shall hereafter be free and equal, comprehending equality 
of political and every other right known to the law. An 
appeal to arms to decide social issues is the most radical 
of all measures, and we should not be surprised if the 
victors should seek to avail themselves of the advantage 
gained to carry out their doctrines to the extreme extent 
which the opportunity affords. 

" I note what you say as to the present lamentable con- 
dition of the Southern people, and admit the force of your 
description of their oppression and deprivations. How 


could it be otherwise? The storm through which they 
have just emerged may have disappeared, but not its effects. 
The violence of that hurricane has left its marks deep in 
the recesses of the Southern heart. Besides, the very doubt 
to which I have referred as to the extent of the application 
of the principles settled by the war, produces irritation on 
one side and oppression on the other. Until these are 
finally disposed of, much of this will continue. Nor can 
executive legislation nor judicial action prevent. Time, 
and time alone, can restore the lost rights of which you 
complain. But this time will be very much curtailed by 
a speedy realization and appreciation of the fundamental 
change effected. 

"The South has not lost any substantial right by the 
war. It has gained much. Its homogeneity and unity 
with the people of the whole Union have been secured. 
Sources of discontent have been removed, and the door 
opened forever for the establishment of fraternal relations 
with other parts of the Union, not heretofore existing. 
She cannot be kept down. Her teeming soil ; her climate 
of rare adaptability to culture ; her brave and generous 
population ; her peculiar monopoly of an indispensable 
product, with free institutions, and free intercourse with 
all the world, — she will speedily recover, not only her 
ancient prosperity, but possess an additional advantage 
which the new order of things will necessarily promote. 

" I am aware that there are positions assumed and 
declarations made in this letter which may render me 
liable to the charge of inconsistency. If any thus accuse, 
let them remember that no partisan associations, nor 
opinions existing before and during the war, should con- 
tinue when the whole aspect of public affairs and the 
promises upon which they were founded have been alto- 
gether changed. I was opposed to the abolition of 


slavery, because I believed, and yet believe, that as it 
existed in the Southern States, it was a physical blessing 
to the black race. I was opposed to the war for the 
reasons you so truthfully state, and because I thought 
the Union could be maintained without bloodshed — that 
the questions at issue were susceptible of amicable adjust- 
ment, and because I saw that the South would be van- 
quished and overpowered, and reduced to a state of 
subjugated dependence. This is now over. Slavery has 
been abolished; the war is ended. The great questions 
which made issues between political parties have ceased, 
and a new and entirely different order of public affairs 
has ensued. My desire is that we shall realize this 
change and conform to it. It is folly to fight over the 
dead past when the live present and the great future open 
so brightly and beautifully before us. 

" I want America to fiU her mission. She is the fixed 
corner-stone of universal liberty throughout the world. 
With this principle laid deep and broad in our own 
institutions it should be our aim to extend it to those 
oppressed elsewhere, until despotism ceases, not only on 
this continent, but throughout the civilized universe." 

During the autumn of 1866, Wise resumed his residence 
in Richmond, having rented the house built and occupied 
by Chief Justice Marshall on the street of the same name. 
Here he installed his household goods and gathered his 
family about him. On December 23 of this year he wrote 
to his daughter, Mrs. Gamett, as follows : — 

" I write this morning that my letter may reach you in 
time to say 'A Merry Christmas to you all,' merry, my child, 
in every sense of peace and plenty, and especially of trust 
in a good and gracious Providence. We, at least, are spared, 
and to be spared is an unspeakable blessing. I can't help 
feeling this Sabbath, after the years of sacking, more than 


merely grateful that not one of mine will this anniversary 
of a Saviour's Birth be without bread and something 
wherewith to be joyful. Let us be, then, happy in what 
we have left, and be hopeful that we are spared not in 
vain. I begin now to feel that there are a peace and pleas- 
ure in communing with you more as a companion and friend 
than as a child, or younger sister. You, Mary, have been 
with me now many years a companion of joy and grief, 
upon which we can together look back not without many 
sacred thoughts of solemn sweetness ; and that sweetness 
is sweeter than the 'honey or honeycomb.' I have this 
morning been thinking of my earliest family, and of all 
the little ones as they have come and grown, or are gone, 
and of whom you were the first and are still left. For 
that I am grateful, my child, for you have ever been a 
comfort to me. I wish I could send you all my thoughts 
and affections and love, which would make you comforted ; 
but you know them all and can dwell upon them and think 
of them and cherish them with me, though we be apart so 
far. Strengthen yourself by improving these thoughts and 
feelings during this solemn time. I will try to do so too, 
and we will think and feel in communion this Christmas. 

"I have been on a tour of court campaigning for a 
month at Williamsburg and at King George Court, and 
though suffering much discomfort and catching cold, I 
made enough to meet Christmas bills, and to gain breath 
for another day of labor and to live for the day." 

Although often importuned to become again a candidate 
for public office. Wise refused to allow the use of his name 
in that connection. As a friend, Governor Cameron wrote 
of him : " The very foundations of his political faith had 
been uprooted, and all that he believed most sacred in the 
fabric of our institutions had been destroyed. He made no 
moan of vain complaining, applied himself diligently to the 


practice of a profession long ago laid aside for the broader 
field of statesmanship, and in the training of his children 
took a careful interest. But the mainspring of his life 
was broken. His mental and moral machinery could not be 
put in gear with the new order of things. ... ' And, great 
God ! sir,' he said to me one day, ' we must now lick the 
hand that hath smitten us, and vote for Horace Greeley as 
a Democratic President. Is thy servant a dog that he 
should do this thing?' This last was the hair that 
broke the camel's back. And the heart in him was glad 
exceedingly when Virginia refused to ratify what he 
called ' the unholy and unnatural compact,' but gave her 
electoral vote to General Grant instead." 

But if he ever cherished hopes of Grant's administra- 
tion they were destined later on to be shattered, and 
on January 25, 1875, he wrote to a friend : — 

" General Grant had an opportunity, after being freed 
from Stevens, Stanton, Seward, and Greeley, to have inau- 
gurated a patriotic policy, which would have poured balm 
into the wounds of war and have restored halcyon days of 
peace to the South. I had a hope at one time he would 
allow the good genius of the country to be his genius, 
and if he had he would have left his office and left this 
world for a better, happy and blessed. But he has proved 
himself to be but a military martinet — has obeyed the 
orders of that hydra monster Congress, and has 'broken 
owners.' After carrying out a persecuting attorney- 
general's law and sending Sheridan to raid a legislature, 
I give up all hope in him. But Congress has lost its 
prestige and power; he will be turned neck and heels out 
of office. The owners of the real wealth of the nation are 
surely and strongly about the work of reforming the cur- 
rency, and a revolution is commenced which can't go 
backward, and which will certainly build up a new order 


for a new era. This is my only hope of saving the re- 
public, its laws, and its liberty." 

While entirely without sympathy with the Radical 
party in his own State, Wise, on the other hand, did not 
approve of the method of rehabilitation devised by the 
Conservative organization to bring Virginia back into the 
Union; and he contributed a series of letters to the press 
disapproving the action of what was known as the " Com- 
mittee of Nine." The constitutional convention which 
assembled in Richmond, during the winter of 1867-68, 
under the auspices of the military authorities and known 
as the "Underwood" Convention had been largely con- 
trolled by the " carpet-bag " element of politicians reen- 
forced by ignorant negroes, and a clause had been adopted 
by which probably ninety per cent of the adult white 
population would have been disfranchised, rendered ineli- 
gible to any office, and incompetent to sit on a jury either 
in a civil or criminal case. Moreover, it appeared probable 
that with negro courts and juries, the property of the 
former slaveholding element would be confiscated under 
the forms of law. The presidential election of 1868 had 
indicated very clearly that the negro would be given the 
suffrage by the party in power, and in the opinion of the 
element of Virginia people represented by the " Committee 
of Nine " it was the part of wisdom and common sense 
to accept "universal suffrage and universal amnesty," 
rather than " universal suffrage and universal disfranchise- 
ment." The committee held numerous conferences with 
the committees of the Senate at Washington (the bill 
approving the Underwood Constitution having passed the 
House of Representatives), and with General Grant, who 
in many respects proved himself a generous friend of 
Virginia. Through their efforts, the test oath and dis- 
franchising clauses of the new State constitution were 


defeated, on the condition that Virginia would ratify the 
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitu- 
tion of the United States. It was a bitter pill for the 
people of Virginia to swallow, their opinions in regard to 
the evils to be apprehended from negro suffrage having 
in no wise changed, and nothing but what they conceived 
to be the necessity of looking the situation fully in the 
face prompted them to this course of action. There were, 
of course, many irreconcilables, who could not bring 
themselves to approve it, or see the virtue of such a plan. 
General Jubal A. Early narrowly escaped a personal diffi- 
culty with Colonel John B. Baldwin, a member of the 
committee, to whom he remarked that they reminded him 
of a game of whist, where the players having gotten into 
the nine hole and being unable to win the game by honors 
had to depend on tricks. Wise believed that, with a little 
more patience and a firm faith in the obligations of a writ- 
ten constitution and in a returning sense of justice and 
patriotism on the part of the party in power, many of the 
evils threatened could be averted. "If either is forced 
upon me," he wrote, " I am not to blame ; but I will be 
blamed by myself and my heirs forever if I take either, 
by and with my own consent, or for and in consideration of 
a price. I would as soon barter honor or charity for a 
price. If Virginia is to be forced, she will be pitied ; but 
if she consents, or sells her honor, her oath will never be 
taken that she was violated. Let her take death, I say, 
rather than dishonor. There is no political sentimental- 
ism in this, but common sense and faith in the moral law ; 
and some experience in political events teaches me it is 
policy and expediency thus to abide in our own continence. 
Gentlemen say it is to be forced on us, and therefore they 
consent. My reason for not consenting is, that it is to be 
forced on us." And again he wrote : — 


"... But do ' prominent gentlemen ' say that our peo- 
ple can't bear to abide longer in the present state of things, 
and can't wait for reasons and patriotism and a love of 
constitutional liberty, to resume their reign? I reply that 
our people are not made of that stuff which can be 'fatigued 
into compliance ' by an unmitigated usurpation and tyranny. 
Whoever can be are already slaves fit for the chains of 
white slavery and negro domination. The people can appeal 
to the supreme judicial tribunals. But ' prominent gentle- 
men ' think, perhaps, that the judges of the Supreme Court 
of the United States cannot be relied on for unintimidated 
and uninfluenced justice. To that I can say at least that 
they have not been appealed to, as they ought to have been, 
long ago, to settle the questions arising under the recon- 
struction acts of Congress. In the 'Reign of Terror,' 
under the elder Adams, the Supreme Court of the United 
States was almost suspended, and the State and Federal 
judiciaries were in a much more fearfully disturbed state 
than they are now ; and yet the spirit of justice frowned 
down political disorder and brought the most beautiful 
order out of chaos. The present Chief Justice Chase 
is not the debauched Justice Chase of 1801. If we can 
do no better, we can, I confidently believe, appeal with 
certainty at least to our present bench, against unconsti- 
tutional laws. The decisions of the Supreme Court thus 
far have not been of such a character as to make me dis- 
trust either the wisdom, or learning, or purity of our 
judges. I prefer to appeal rather to them to throw over 
and around us the shield of the Constitution, than to 
crouch before Congress with humiliating consent to their 
usurpation. But will ' prominent gentlemen ' go the full 
length of saying, what is so rife in the lips of all who are 
ready to ' consent ' and to ' surrender, ' ' there is no longer 
any Constitution of the United States ' ? I hope not. It is 


at least our only sheet anchor. It is not the fault of that 
instrument, the wisest ever di-awn by mortal pen, that evil 
days have come upon this nation. The assaults of enemies 
upon us are made upon it, as heavy as upon us. The 
blows at us may excite no sympathy and no relenting of 
our foes; but there is a redeeming spirit in the love of 
constitutional liberty which will defend the charter of the 
rights of aU, and make all, before long, feel the neces- 
sity of rallying to the restoration of its supreme author- 
ity, even as if it were our shield and buckler. Death has 
stricken down the most deadly enemy to it, the only man 
who has ever openly proclaimed in the teeth of his oath to 
support it that he was urgent to act ' outside of its pale ' 
in the passing of laws. Do 'prominent gentlemen' fear 
that the majority of the Northern people and their officials 
are such monsters ? If that be true, then the nation is 
given over to judicial blindness and we are all in the black- 
ness of the darkness of despair! And is that not really 
the rationale of the course of proceedings by 'prominent 
gentlemen'? Do they not give up the legitimate and 
constitutional remedies ? Do they sufficiently rely on the 
constancy and endurance of our people ? Do they give up 
judicial relief? Do they give up the Constitution and its 
guards and guarantees ? Have they lost all trust and con- 
fidence in the Northern members of the Union to which 
they are seeking to be restored? Then I say they are 
men of despair, and are not such as ought to assume to de- 
fend their own rights, much less the rights of aU. Neither 
desperate nor timid men can be relied on to save a people 
in our distress. They had better take up their own de- 
fence in their own hands, and calmly await the effects of 
not only the memories of the past but of the hopes of the 

In regard to the status of the negro as affected by the 


results of the war, Wise believed that as the slave had 
been freed and made a citizen enfranchisement would 
follow emancipation ; or, in the words of Senator Lamar, 
"that universal suffrage being given as the condition of 
our political life, the negro once made a citizen cannot be 
placed under any other condition." ^ In a letter to a 
friend, dated July 25, 1872, he wrote : — 

" I was ever and am now a friend of the colored race. 
They were too peaceable and orderly and respectful of the 
laws of God and humanity for me now not to be grateful 
to them for their conduct during the war. I would not 
enslave them or their children again, if I could; and I 
could not if I would. I, therefore, heartily adopt as well 
as acquiesce in the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitu- 
tion of the United States. I regret that amendment was 
not regularly adopted by competent authority, free to act, 
when all the States could be parties to it ; and I wish now 
to see it adopted by the Union, in due form, when all the 
States can act without constraint by the force of arms. I 
am more than convinced now that slavery is so great a 
national weakness, if not wickedness, that it should never 
be tolerated by any people who would themselves be free 
and strong enough to defend their right of self-government. 
But I cannot consent to act with any party which sus- 
tains the Fourteenth Amendment or the measures to carry 
it out, or which denies the sovereign right of State self- 
government. This is not the time or place to assign 
my reasons for that faith. It is enough to say that I can 
barely submit to it whilst enforced by superior power ; but 
it shall never have my free consent or sanction." 

A new and younger order of men had assumed the con- 
trol of affairs in Virginia at this period, which under all 

1 See article on this subject by Senator L. Q. C. Lamar, North Ameri- 
can Beview, March, 1879. 


the circumstances was probably for the best, as the politi- 
cal upheaval had brought about absolutely changed con- 
ditions. The derangement of. the entire labor system of 
the State, the onerous burden of debts both public and 
private, the dismemberment of the Commonwealth by the 
formation of another State within her territorial limits, and 
complex questions too numerous to mention, demanded for 
their solution not only the exercise of ability and patriot- 
ism on the part of those in power, but required men adapted 
to the new era which had supplanted the old regime. 

Virginia alone of the original thirteen States had suf- 
fered the humiliation of witnessing a large part of her 
territory torn from her by a radical Congress, and the State 
of West Virginia formed, which Wise in his epigrammatic 
way dubbed "the bastard offspring of a political rape." 
Thenceforward the Alleghanies and not the Ohio became 
the western boundary of the State. Although he favored 
the payment of the old Virginia bonds, dollar for dollar, 
Wise was probably the first to recommend the petitioning 
of Congress by the two States and their creditors, to as- 
sume the debt of Virginia. The Federal Government was, 
in fact, deeply in debt to Virginia, and in ceding the North- 
western Territory — her splendid gift to the Union — she 
had stipulated " that the necessary and reasonable expenses 
incurred by this State in subduing any British posts or 
maintaining forts or garrisons within and for the defence, 
or in acquiring any part of the territory so ceded or relin- 
quished, shall be fully reimbursed by the United States." ^ 
In his interesting history of the debt controversy in Vir- 
ginia, Mr. Royall observes in this connection: " The United 
States Government accepted her grant upon the express 
understanding that it would repay her these expenses, 

1 1 Virginia K. C., page 40. 


which it has never done. With their accumulated inter- 
est these expenses would be a very large sum now." The 
justice of Wise's idea so commended itself to Mr. Blaine 
that he subsequently became its earnest advocate. 

But if, as Governor Cameron has written, Wise's mental 
machinery was out of gear with the new political condi- 
tions that existed in Virginia, nevertheless, no one was 
quicker than he to perceive the stern necessity for a change 
in the agricultural and industrial methods which had previ- 
ously prevailed, and in an address delivered at the dedica- 
tion of the Stonewall Cemetery at Winchester, in January, 
1867, he said: — 

" The plantation interest is gone, and farming, embrac- 
ing every variety of products instead of a few large staples, 
— arboriculture, horticulture, and stock-feeding and graz- 
ing, and cultivating on a small scale none but the most im- 
proved lands, and these tilled to the square inch by the 
most able, intelligent, and skilful laborers, hired at a rate 
which close farming only can afford, — must be substituted, 
and will change and immensely enrich the whole system 
of our agriculture. This is not a matter of theory, but it 
is a stubborn fact, a stern necessity which we must look 
steadily in the face, with the resolution, industry, and per- 
severence to conform to the change. It is repulsive to 
our habits, awkward and burdensome at first, and we were 
wholly unprepared for it. But we have no alternative 
and must abide the result. How abide it? Fold our 
arms and cry out, ' What can we do ? ' ' We have no 
capital.' No; there is blessing beyond measure in this 
change. Nothing but fire and blood could have driven 
us to it, and it has shown what a weakness to our people 
African slavery was. Its weakness was so great that it- 
self amounted to wickedness. Nothing but negrodom ever 
could have conquered such a people as were the masters 


of Virginia slaves ! The faith of Jackson foresaw this : 
the war was inevitable, it was providential. Nothing but 
war could have shocked us out of this weakness into a new 
strength and vigor. We had to fight, and had to surrender, 
too ; but it was in the end to be a noble, a great and incal- 
culable victory. It was to build anew thousands of cot- 
tages, hamlets, and towns and cities where heretofore stood 
lone mansions of masters whose broad-spread acres were 
scourged by slaves. It was to improve labor by a price 
laid upon it ; it was to bring an eye over every inch of soil 
and to fructify it by the watchful interest and active at- 
tention of its own proprietor ; and it was to increase a white 
population that would be numerous and strong and give 
the land its greatest pride, a solid Caucasian yeomanry, 
instead of being filled by ignorant, lazy slaves of a degraded 
race ! Do you say that this will overdo farming ? I re- 
ply that farming, the production of bread-stuffs, fruits, and 
grapes, can't be overdone. The more farming less will labor 
and living cost, and a people can't be but strong that can and 
will produce its own bread and meat and clothing cheap, 
and the more plentiful the cheaper. The lands will pay 
all the laborers worthy of their hire that you can put upon 
them, and the old problem: 'How little labor for how 
much land?' will be more than solved by its opposing 
problem: 'How much labor on how little land?' Like 
Agricola at Rome, on one-tenth after division to nine sons, 
you shall realize more than was made before on the whole. 
Don't call out for Hercules, don't cry to the North nor to 
the money-changers for capital — a curse of the times that 
sells consciences and soils honor, and betrays comrades and 
country — but put your own shoulders to the wheel ! Oh ! 
young men who have fathers with naught now left but 
negro-scourged tobacco and wheat fields, burthened with 
old debts enough to break the hearts of honest men and 


make them bow in want with sorrow to the grave — pull 
off your broadcloths — bare your arms — blister your hands 
until blisters become callous, to plough and reap the plenty 
which earnest labor will surely bring home to pay debts 
and provide comfort and maintain manly independence ! 
You have no longer the host of slavery's drones to feed 
and clothe ; your expenses now are comparatively small. 
Only be self-denying, determined, and work ! You need 
not fear that there will be too many of you in the field. 
But if there are, those not wanting and not willing there 
can find occupations now multiplied and varied beyond 
what plantations afforded, to try their fortunes on. Min- 
ing, manufacturing, commerce, mechanic arts, will now 
open avenues for skill and enterprise ; and improvements 
in all these will soon pay professional avocations higher 
fees and wages than ever compensated them before. 

"Have your fathers thousands of acres of land which 
now yield no income and cannot afford to pay labor for 
their cultivation ? Lay off the garden spots, scrape the 
mounds of humus all around every curtilage, compost your 
wasted manures for the little space you can till, and sell 
or rent out or let lie out every impoverished acre. Aye, do 
better, — advertise to select emigrants that you will gladly 
give to them one half your superfluous lands and help them 
build and fence them, if they will come and settle the other 
half. Their settlement will make the other half far more 
valuable than was or is the whole. They will give you 
neighborhood and life, and bring to you new lights, and 
be your source of most efficient labor and of richest returns. 
Abandon ' one ideas ' ,■ here it is wheat, there it is tobacco, 
yonder corn and potatoes, and somewhere else it is brandy 
and goober-peas. Go to the fields and be taught by your 
own experience ; learn of other crops and prepare your own 
fertilizers from the forest leaves and pine tags and straw 


and from well-fed cattle and pig pens. Don't stand on the 
river bank like the fool of Horace and wait for the waters 
to pass by before you cross this Rubicon. Don't wait to 
manure until you can get capital to buy guano. Borrow 
not at all, but work, and you will have wherewith to 
lend. The faith of Jackson saw this, that the war would 
put our young men to work. No more fair hands ! No 
more lazy morning hours! No more cigars and juleps! 
No more card-parties and club-idleness ! No more siren 
retreats in summer, and city hells in winter ! 

" The hard necessity which presses down upon our people 
may change the Virginia character in some lamentable 
respects, but it will also happily strengthen it in other 
important traits. It will dispel some weaknesses which, 
though grand and noble, impeded the power and progress 
of the State. Of the true old Virginian it may well be 
said : — 

" ' High-minded he was ever, and improvident, 

But pitiful and generous to a fault ; 

Pleasures he loved, but Honor was his idol.' 

" To young Virginians I would say : High-minded, pitiful, 
and generous be as were your fathers ; honor must ever be 
your idol ; but be just before you are generous ; and let a 
life of mere pleasure and all improvidence now cease." 




A WELi^KNOWN French author, M. Blouet (Max 
O'Rell), has observed that the different members of the 
human race are rarely pious and profane at one and the same 
time, and that the Anglo-Saxon alone combines these quali- 
ties without taint of hypocrisy. Like certain men in his 
day, Wise had the habit of writing prayers to be read in 
his family at religious worship, and like many others 
he could give utterance to violent expletives when 

Upon one occasion during the war, while in camp near 
Chaffin's Bluff, he was seated in his headquarters tent 
writing away diligently on a prayer to be sent to his wife 
for family use, when his son and a young officer, who were 
amusing themselves at a game of seven-up, while Ij^ng 
under the fly of the tent, became engaged in a dispute over 
the cards. Their loud conversation broke in upon his re- 
ligious meditations so abruptly that he turned aside from 
his labor, and in emphatic language called out : " Damn 



it, don't make so much fuss ; you interrupt all continuity 
of thought." 

Wise had grown up in the country in Virginia, at a 
time when swearing was by no means an uncommon 
habit; and when provoked to anger he did not mince 
words. In this connection, Governor Cameron has 
written of him as follows : — 

"A recent vmter in the Century dilates on General 
Wise's sometime lapses into profanity as though he had 
been inordinately or exceptionally addicted to that habit. 
This is not so ; and so to represent him is to caricature a 
very great and admirable man, by exaggerating a mole 
into a cancer, as if a portrait of Pitt should show nothing 
but a great wine-bottle, or one of Grant only a Brob- 
dignagian cigar. Undoubtedly, though, there was a 
picturesqueness and muscularity about our governor's 
oaths which forbid their entire exclusion from a faithful 

A somewhat severe critic, in discussing his life and 
career, has written : ^ — 

"We sometimes find intellect of the highest order 
abused by a fondness for paradox, and a disposition to 
make strong and startling effects by sudden contradic- 
tions of the received opinions of the public, and novelties 
of literary style. So great is this affliction of Governor 
Wise that the peculiarity of his conversation is never to 
agree vdth any opinion that is advanced ; no matter what 
that opinion is, no matter how firmly fixed the common- 
place may be in the ordinary judgment of men, he makes 
a point to go off at a tangent, to dissent for the sake of 
argument, and to discharge the abundant vivacity of his 
mind in eloquent dissertations at variance with his audi- 

1 " The Life and Times of Robert E. Lee and his Companions in Arms," 
by Edward A. Pollard. 


ence. His ' table-talk,' as brilliant as that of Coleridge, is 
equally as rambling, inconsistent, and yet, after all, rather 
showing a vivacity of intellect than an insincerity of con- 
viction. Men who can talk well on all sides of a question 
are often sincere for the moment in what they profess to 
believe, and persuade themselves as well as the audience 
to accept che novelty of their opinions. Yet this disposi- 
tion of mind, entertaining as it may be, and partaking of a 
certain sort of genius, is an affliction — at least, it borders 
on a moral infirmity ; it reduces the intellect that should 
command by its convictions to the evanescent triumphs 
of the brilliant disputant. Such have been the triumphs 
which General Wise has achieved, rather than those of 
the deliberate and trusted statesman. His disordered and 
inconsistent political life ; his strain after novelty in what- 
ever he speaks or writes ; his almost matchless command 
of language, and an eloquence rich, affluent, but often 
disfigured by word-coinage, and an affectation of careless- 
ness mixed up with classical severity, are marks of an 
afflicted intellect that, with better training, might have 
conquered fortune, and made him a reputation that would 
have been a possession forever." 

The above criticism, while unduly severe, contains 
within it a certain amount of truth; for Wise, un- 
doubtedly, lacked symmetry of character, and was in 
many respects erratic, and wanting in the even balance 
which we associate with a really great man. Doubtless, 
he had frequent occasion to ponder the lines of the 
Scotch poet : — 

" Whether thy soul 

Soars fancy's flights, beyond the pole, 

Or darkling grubs this earthly hole 
In low pursuit, 

Know, prudent, cautious self-control 
Is wisdom's root." 


Yet in judging the character of such a man we should 
not fail to make due allowance always for temperament in 
attempting to arrive at any just conclusion. He was 
largely a creature of impulse, and a man whose acts found 
their springs in the promptings of his nature, rather than 
in premeditated design. His temperament was a remark- 
ably mercurial one, his temper exceptionally excitable, 
and his bump of combativeness developed in an extraor- 
dinary degree. Probably a slender body, thin arms and 
legs, a large and over-active brain, and an imperfect diges- 
tion, rendered more so by the constant habit of chewing 
tobacco, go a long way toward accounting for these traits. 
It is manifestly incorrect, however, to judge the acts of 
such a man by those of the more quiet and self-contained, 
who, after all, probably oftentimes, exercise a much less 
degree of self-control; and as motives are to be counted 
of more importance than acts, so it is by this test that the 
life and character of such an one should be tried. 

How shall we estimate his political career, and what 
place will history accord to the ante-bellum leaders of the 
South? An author is generally expected to give his con- 
clusions as to the subject of a biography, though to give 
these intelligently is by no means an easy task ; and if we 
have not already conveyed a correct impression, we shall 
probably fail now. Though the men of the South of 
"Wise's generation had, to a certain extent, the problems 
of modern society to work out, in common with the people 
of other lands, yet it is also a fact that the questions growing 
out of the institutions of negro slavery overshadowed in 
importance all others with which it fell to their lot to deal. 
That this question should have become the touchstone, 
by which well-nigh all others were tried, was inevitable 
in the very nature of things, however much we may in- 
cline at first glance to deplore the circumstance. Slavery 


had gradually become interwoven into the web and woof of 
the social fabric, and to the complications arising out of 
this institution were added a race problem the gravity 
of which could not well be put aside. We shall fall into 
an old and very common error if we fail to keep these 
points well in view, for the emancipation of the Russian 
serf furnishes no analogy to the problem growing out of 
negro slavery. 

The Southern statesman of the Revolutionary era had 
written the charts of our liberties, and stamped his im- 
press upon the institutions of his time. His place in 
history it is too late to question now, and we all know 
how he deplored slavery, and how we can quote passage 
after passage from his speeches and writings in which he 
holds up the frightful evils growing out of that institution. 
When we read these and turn to the lives of the men 
who flourished from 1835 to 1860, either consciously or 
unconsciously we are apt to institute a comparison be- 
tween them, a comparison, too, by no means favorable to 
the latter. Our Revolutionary sires lived under the stimu- 
lus of a great crisis, at a time when it was their custom 
to recur to first principles and ponder the natural liberties 
of mankind, and when under the influence of the political 
and social upheaval much of the old order was changed. 
Slavery, though, did not share this wreck of old things, 
and along with a number of beautiful and highly moral 
observations which were bequeathed to us in connection 
with it, the solution of the problem was likewise handed 
down, — a problem which increased in its fearful import 
at every decade, as the number of slaves grew larger year 
by year. The ante-bellum Southern statesman was in 
no wise responsible for the existence of the institution, 
but he found it here and could no more escape its influ- 
ences than he could avoid breathing the air about him. 


His revolutionary sire had not spared him the curse, but 
left the question as he found it, to be met and solved by 
his children. Perhaps it would be very wrong to censure 
the former for not bringing about emancipation. He had 
a great work to do, and he did it nobly, but that he left 
much undone is also true. We know that had he agi- 
tated this question in 1787, our country could never have 
been formed. It is the merest commonplace to say that 
a man should be judged by his circumstances and sur- 
roundings, but to no class of men was this truth more 
applicable than to those of Wise's generation. Judge 
Henry St. George Tucker, his law teacher, had written 
in his " Commentaries " on Blackstone, and had taught in 
his law school at Winchester: " Slaves ^ were imposed 
upon the people of these States by an unwise and cruel 
policy, which our forefathers in vain attempted to resist, 
untU the revolution enabled us to abolish the horrible 
traffic in African slaves, by the earliest acts of the inde- 
pendent government. An immense slave population had 
accumulated in the meantime, whose complexion is des- 
tined to preserve forever the distinction between the two 
races resident in the Southern country. To emancipate 
the slave in the present condition of the Southern States, 
and either to allow or to deny to him equal privileges, 
would soon array one race against the other, and sow the 
seeds of exterminating civil wars. We are, therefore, 
compelled to keep that wretched class of men in servitude, 
from a sad necessity, unless some feasible plan can be 
devised by the statesman and philanthropist for their 
gradual emancipation." The above extract may be said 
to fairly state the views of thoughtful Virginians at the 
time when Judge Tucker wrote, and his teachings were 

1 Tucker's "Commentaries," Vol. I. page 75. 


those imbibed by Wise. That there was a contrast in the 
opinions expressed on this subject by the Southern leaders 
(during the period leading up to the Civil War) is true, 
and popular judgment had, outwardly at least, changed 
somewhat ; for the South had been placed in the attitude 
of the defender of slavery. Extremes begot extremes, and 
it is no difficult matter to trace, in the speeches and writ- 
ings of the public men who lived in the period between 
the year 1835 and the Civil War in the South, a growing 
intolerance and resentment of outside interference with 
this question. Perhaj)S it was true in some instances that 
from long familiarity with the institution, people had 
grown so accustomed to it as to lose sight of its more 
objectionable and repulsive features; yet this cannot be 
said to be generally true, nor would it sufficiently explain 
the change in the temper of Southern opinion, even if it 
had been. Until human nature shall have become con- 
structed on a radically different plan from that which we 
know at present, it is not probable that any class of prop- 
erty holders will hear with patience insults and gibes 
heaped upon them, or preserve their equanimity while 
they are at the same time told that their possessions are 
held in violation of the law of God and man. The South- 
ern publicist had resisted by every lawful means the intro- 
duction of negroes into the Colonies, and Virginia had 
taken the lead in the movement to suppress the African 
slave-trade, and had witnessed a weU-nigh solid New 
England delegation record their votes in favor of its con- 
tinuance. The fact that the agitation was carried on by 
the people of one section against those of another, and 
that, too, by the same people whose ancestors had been the 
chief importers of negroes, undoubtedly added much to 
the bitterness engendered by the controversy. Probably 
it may be said with truth that the arguments of Mr. 


Henry George against the justice and right of holding 
land as private property have never heen fully answered. 
His followers were already far more numerous and respect- 
able than the abolitionists in 1835, and it may be that in 
time to come they will constitute a majority of the quali- 
fied voters of our land. If this should ever be the case 
(and who is prepared to gainsay it?), the crusade, against 
private property will be fiercely waged and full use made 
of the moral argument, but he is indeed an irrepressible 
optimist who hopes to see the change brought about in 
peace and quietness. And if, perchance, the ownership 
of land should cease in one section of the Union from 
a purely economic reason, and the former landowners of 
that portion should paint in glaring colors the great 
enormity and moral guilt of landholding, the shackles of 
which their neighbors had not cast off, it is not probable 
that such a course would conduce to the continuation 
of friendship and brotherly love. Yes, the South had 
grown defiant ; it had come in a measure to defend that 
which it naturally viewed as an affair peculiarly its own. 
It was to learn the truth of the poet's lines : — 

" Arouse the tiger of Hyrcanian deserts, 
Strive with the half -starved lion for his prey ; 
Lesser the risk, than rouse the slumbering fire 
Of wild Fanaticism." 

Probably no man realized more keenly than Wise the 
ill effects of slavery, and how it had retarded the develop- 
ment of his State and section. He had, along with many 
men of his time, favored the African Colonization Society, 
and while in Brazil had labored for the repression of the 
slave-trade there. In the Virginia Convention of 1850-51, 
he had told some plain, blunt truths in regard to the work- 
ings of the institution; and a man who declared that 


" black slaves make white slaves " could hardly believe in 
the institution per se. Yet it must be said that it is by 
no means difficult to quote numerous extracts from his 
speeches and writings, from the tone of which it would 
appear equally, if not more, natural to arrive at exactly the 
opposite conclusion ; and he engaged at times in much 
wild and extravagant talk. His excitable temper and dis- 
position, when irritated, to run into extremes are largely the 
explanation of this, and are the only sort of excuse, too, that 
can be given for his having indulged, just prior to the war, 
in some of the silly attempts made among a certain class 
of Southern people to disparage Yankee courage. Wise 
was essentially a type, although an extreme one, of the 
defiant attitude of the South of 1860, and bitterly resented 
outside interference with that which he considered pecul- 
iarly a State and not a national question, and from inter- 
fering with which it was the duty of the North to abstain. 
In common with the best men of his generation in the 
South he loved the Union of the States, and impartial 
history will record of the Southern man of 1861 that it was 
the growth of circumstances beyond his power to control 
which placed him in conflict with that government to the 
support of which he had contributed even more than his 
share of patriotism. "As to patriotism in the broadest 
sense, that is, belief in American institutions, there is no 
better patriot in the land than the Southern man, and, 
paradoxical as it sounds, he was never more intensely 
American than when he was trying to divide the United 
States that he might have a place where he could work out 
his own interpretation of these ideas without interfer- 
ence." ^ It has been said of the ante-bellum Southern 
leader that he never rose to the national conception of the 

1 "The Old South Still," by Captain Edward Field, Fourth Artillery 
U. S. Army, United Service Magazine February, 1896. 


Constitution, and that his talents were those which tend to 
conserve existing institutions merely. It would not be 
difficult to point out many fallacies in these statements ; 
but if he failed to perceive what some writers term the 
growth of the Constitution, and still adhered to the old land- 
marks, a disposition to " prove all things " may be as much 
of a virtue as an error, in a government which has been 
described as carrying more sail than anchor. If in the 
eyes of his opponents he laid too much stress upon the 
letter of the law and seemed at times to forget that 
the Constitution, like the Sabbath, was made for man, he 
was but following the teaching of his Revolutionary sires 
when, finding his rights disregarded, he fell back upon 
that fundamental organic law which he had been taught 
to reverence as the sheet anchor of our safety. 

The biographer of Mr. Justice Lamar gives the latter's 
description ^ of a debate which occurred upon the floor of 
the Senate between Mr. Seward of New York and Mr. 
Hammond of South Carolina. Seward had declared in 
exultant tones that the power had departed from the 
South, and " that henceforth the great North, stronger in 
population and in the roll of sovereign States, would grasp 
the power of government and become responsible for its 
administration." To these remarks the senator from 
South Carolina made answer : — 

"Sir, what the senator says is true. The power has 
passed from our hands into yours ; but do not forget it, it 
cannot be forgotten, it is written upon the brightest pages 
of history, that we, the slaveholders of the South, took our 
country in her infancy, and, after ruling her for near sixty 
out of the seventy years of her existence, we return her to 
you without a spot upon her honor, matchless in her splen- 

1 "Life of L. Q. C. Lamar," by Edward Mayes, pages 89, 90. 


dor, incalculable in her power, the pride and admiration of 
the world. Time will show what you will do with her, 
but no time can dim our glory or diminish your responsi- 

" Southern society to-day," writes Captain Field, " is one 
of the many proofs that you cannot fill up without to some 
extent levelling down. It is so in every department of 
life. We pat ourselves on the back when we contrast the 
present conditions in England and America with what 
existed one hundred and thirty years ago. Yet it is an 
open question whether those who now rule in either coun- 
try can be compared with the governing class of Wolfe and 
Chatham, the men who expelled France from India and 
America and made England the arbiter of the world. In 
Southern society forty years ago all the juices of the soil 
went to produce one flower, but to-day we sadly miss that 

In a speech delivered at Roanoke College, Salem, Vir- 
ginia, on June 17, 1873, Wise gave utterance to the fol- 
lowing views in regard to the war between the States: 
" The time has not yet come to view that war calmly and 
philosophically. But this I will venture to say of it now : 
that it did what no other human power could have done, 
— it cauterized and cured the worst curse upon some of 
the fairest portions of the continent, and removed the only 
incubus upon the development of the southern part of the 
Eastern Terminus of the Great Belt. One of nature's 
poems is flowing water, with power in its current to clarify 
itself and purify its springs and streams. The stagnant 
pool is thick, malarious, and fetid ; but springs and streams 
are usually clear and clean, and life-giving and life^ustain- 
ing. So with the watershed of this continent ; it cleared 
and cleansed its Southern Geography of the malaria of 
African bondage. That cause alone made the Southern 


States stagnant. The globe would not be habitable, if its 
oceans were not agitated by storms, evaporated by the sun, 
congealed by frost, and cleansed by perpetual currents. 
And as of the currents of air and of the waters, it may be 
said, that they often conflict with each other, yet their 
very cyclones and whirlpools are made by God's provi- 
dence to give motion and purification and life ; so of our 
Civil War it may be said, I hope, in time to come, that it 
gave a New Life to the country and all its parts, which 
may atone for the many precious lives which were taken 
away by its fire and sword. Nothing but intraterritorial 
war could have given this New Life ; and it was sent by 
God, not only because the Exodus of Slavery had come, 
but to make the motion of commerce and arts and migra- 
tion southward. The two Virginias ivill now be filled 
with population from abroad and from other States at 
home, and the whole South will soon be strong enough 
to do a great moral duty on their part." As his purpose 
had never been originally to secede from the Union, so 
he believed that the destiny of his people was wrapped up 
in its future, and were he alive he could with truth repeat 
the lines of his friend, James Barron Hope : — 

" Give us back the ties of Yorktown, 
Perish all the modern hates ; 

The safety of the Union 
Is the safety of the States I " 

He had an abiding faith in the principles for which the 
South had fought as he conceived them, and never doubted 
that they would in the end triumph, if constitutional 
liberty is perpetuated in America. 

" A Lost Cause ! If lost, it was false ; if true, it is not 


lost ! " — was the faith that abode with him, and the 
sentiment to which he gave utterance. 

Once in alluding to his own career, he said: "Sir, I 
never was afraid of the people. If I have any strength 
before the people and with the people, I don't owe it to 
any ability, perhaps to no great merit, moral or intellectual 
of any sort, — no great merit but one; namely, that I 
never in my life was afraid to differ with my constituents, 
and I never was afraid to tell them so." He belonged to 
that class of men who like to go among the plain people, 
and who derive their greatest social pleasures from associa- 
tion with them, and was himself a natural democrat. 

The fragments of his speeches that have been preserved 
render it difl&cult for us to appreciate the effect they pro- 
duced at the time of their delivery, and they do not read 
well. He had remarkable earnestness of manner, a ready 
flow of words, and whatever his faults of style he was 
never commonplace. The people of our own generation 
are far less susceptible to the influences of oratory than 
those who preceded us, and the ante-bellum Virginian 
enjoyed it to a degree which we do not witness in our 
modern workaday world. Indeed, oratory with him 
corresponded to what the opera and theatre are to the 
modern resident of large cities. Wise's style was not the 
swelling, majestic one of Webster, which Senator Hoar 
has termed a "ponderous Latinity," but rather "nervous 
Saxon " poured forth in a torrent-like flow of words, and 
accompanied by great vehemence of manner. In the 
moments of his loftiest flights we might apply to him his 
own description of the glowing eloquence of Sargent S. 
Prentiss : ^ — 

" He rose higher and higher, went up, and up, and on, 

1 Memoir of S. S. Prentiss, edited by his brother, Vol. IT. page 61. 


and on, and on, — far, far away like the flight of the car- 
rier-pigeon ! It was the music of sweet sounds, and anon 
it was the roar of the elements. Figures bubbled up and 
poured themselves forth like springs in a gushing fountain, 
which murmur and leap awhile amid mountain rocks, then 
run smooth and clear through green and flowery valleys, 
until at length, swollen into mighty rivers, they roll on- 
ward to the ocean ! The human reeds bowed and waved 
before his blasts, or lifted their heads and basked in 
his sunshine." James Barron Hope, the graceful poet, 
and no ordinary judge of oratory, thus describes^ the 
effect produced upon him by Wise's presence and elo- 
quence : — 

" A Virginian ' intus et in cute,' there he stands ! His 
forehead broad and ample; his dark^ hair abundant to 
wildness ; his jaw that of a gladiator, strong and inflexi- 
ble ; his lips thin, well-cut, and resolute ; his large, gener- 
ous mouth full of a rare variety of expression ; his profile 
such as you see on antique medals of demigods and heroes, 
and his face pale, but not sickly — Roman, — Roman of 
that Rome wherein the leaders shaped the institutions and 
not the institutions the leaders. 

" I can see him at this moment as he held me there 
with his hazel eyes, which were now those of a prophet, or 
a seer. 

"I can hear him as I stand, as he held me with his 
voice, that had now the melancholy tone of a pine swept 
by the wind and now the ring of a trumpet that calls to 
battle ! 

" In his grand moments of inspiration there was an air 
as of eternal youth about his animated features and sinewy 

1 " Lecture on Virginia," by James Barron Hope. 

2 Wise's hair in early life was a light flaxen, but grew darker with 
advancing years. 


frame, as though a ray from another world had fallen on 
him, at once the light and forecast of immortality ! 

" He was indeed an orator ! Not only an orator, but a 
statesman, wise, able, and sagacious ! Not only a states- 
man, but a soldier, tried, true, and faithful, and as the 
years roll on his form now heroic will become colossal in 
its proportions worthy of a statue to be cleft out as was 
the statue of the Lion of Lucerne." 

Of his conversational powers a friend has written: "Even 
in the course of casual conversation the richness and copi- 
ousness of his vocabulary excited wonder and admiration. 
I heard him once upon a railroad train teUing to some 
chance travelling companion the story of the sinking of 
the Oumberland by the Merrimac, and it was as if listening 
to the declamation of a page from Homer, so sonorously 
and in such poetic phrase fell the unpremeditated narra- 
tive. The closing words haunt me yet : ' And as she sank, 
sir, and the waves closed over the living and the dead, the 
sound of the last gun furnished a requiem for the brave ; 
and it came muffled, dank, and despairing, like a voice from 
the caverns of the deep.' " 

The last years of Wise's life were spent in Richmond, 
at the house formerly known as the Freeland homestead, 
which stood upon the corner of Fifth and Gary streets. To 
this he removed about the year 1873 and continued to re- 
side there up to the time of his death. Richmond at that 
date had not become so closely built up as at present, and 
there were still left a few old-fashioned houses with enclos- 
ures about them large enough to contain a garden and 
flowers. The Freeland house was one of these, and he was 
able, on a limited scale, to indulge his taste for gardening, 
of which he was extremely fond, and it was his habit in 
the spring of the year to work with his hoe before 
breakfast, after his return from market, whither he re- 


paired at an early hour. At that place he knew every 
huckster and driver of a market cart ; as well as all the 
boys in his neighborhood, many of whom still remember 
a spare old man, with piercing eyes, and beaver tilted back 
upon his head. He probably found his greatest recreation, 
however, in carving canes and jackstraws with his pen- 
knife, in which he displayed much skill. He would sit be- 
fore his fireplace cutting alligators, Turks' heads. Punches 
and Judies, and the like, on the head of a stick to be pre- 
sented to some friend ; or else making a set of jackstraws 
for the children, or a salad spoon and fork ; and whenever 
he went to Virginia springs he would be out on the moun- 
tain sides gathering sticks for these purposes. He also 
found great pleasure in carpentering, for which he had 
a decided talent; and on his death-bed amused himself 
cutting out and rigging up the model of a two-masted 

Like most old-fashioned Virginians hailing from the salt 
water country, he liked good eating, and particularly those 
things furnished by the Chesapeake. He enjoyed a barrel 
of oysters from his native peninsula, or a dozen diamond 
backs which he would delight in preparing according to 
the method known in his section of the State. His views 
on this point, which cooks everywhere would do well to 
follow, were embraced in a saying attributed to Judge 
, a noted character and oddity living on the east- 
ern shore. 

" Well, sir, it's all very well to talk about fixin' up your 
tarrapin with spices an' things ; but give me my tarrapin 
straight. You first bile him till the under shell comes off 
easy ; then you take out the gall-sac, an' butter him, an' 
put pepper an' salt on him, an' then you have a tarrapin 
that is a tarrapin." Although by no means a gourmand. 
Wise liked salads and other dishes which he would com- 



pound with great care. One of his special weaknesses was 
for slaw. During the war he was at one time critically ill 
with pneumonia and placed under the strictest regimen by 
his physician. He awoke one night about the hour of 
twelve and a craving for slaw possessed him to such an 
extent that he called his man servant, a venerable old 
negro named Harry, and told him to procure a fine head 
of cabbage without delay. The expression on old Harry's 
face at the announcement of this order was a study, and he 
began to protest, but the order was repeated in a peremp- 
tory manner, and the cabbage brought. When a few hours 
later on the doctor appeared on the scene, an empty bowl 
and the remains of a few leaves and stalk on the table sug- 
gested what had happened, and the physician gave it as his 
opinion that he would be a dead man — but he lived to tell 
the tale. 

During his last years Wise wrote and published a work 
entitled : " Seven Decades of the Union," illustrated by a 
memoir of John Tyler, being a treatment of American his- 
tory from 1790 down to the period of the Civil War. 
Although not prepared perhaps with as great a degree of 
painstaking as it might have been, it is nevertheless a 
most interesting and valuable addition to the political and 
historical literature of the country, particularly as regards 
the period of Mr. Tyler's administration. 

During these closing years he served as a member of the 
Virginia-Maryland Boundary Line Commission, appointed 
for the purpose of ascertaining the correct line across the 
Chesapeake between the two States, a subject with which 
he was very familiar, but with this exception he never 
held or sought a public position of any kind. 

To a friend — the Rev. Peyton Harrison, who had written 
to him on the subject of religion — he replied in the follow- 
ing letter : — 


" On my return last Friday from an absence of several 
weeks, I found your kind and very acceptable letter of 
the 29th ult. 

" In reply I have to say, that more than fifty years ago 
and ever since, I had and have stUl the most anxious as 
well as serious thoughts about the salvation of my soul. 
Your question about 'a convenient season' is too vague: 
it means little but a common error, which I can't descant 
upon now. Repentance has always been playing false to 
me, and Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ has ever abided 
and now still more than ever abides with me. I put my 
whole trust in Him who is ' All in All.' I know that my 
Redeemer liveth. I delay not and await His time. If I 
fail or fall, it will be on my knees clinging to Him on the 
cross. But this to you is all liable to great misapprehen- 
sion, and I must stop writing and you must call, going or 
coming from Prince Edward; come and spend the night 
with me in Richmond — my wife will rejoice to see you 
on such a mission — and then we can talk ' face to face.' 
I regret you missed me both times in Baltimore." 

In a letter to a friend who had lost a much-beloved 
daughter, he wrote : " You will henceforth eagerly seek to 
go to your Father in Heaven, because He has now in His 
bosom your ' lamb.' The ' Lamb of God ' is the Shepherd 
of the 'lambs' of earthly love. Oh! how satisfying as 
well as consoling is that blessed assurance of Christian 
Faith and Hope ! And there is something else in this 
assurance which is now a reality : we do not lose the pre- 
cious ones who go lefore us even whilst we abide in the world 
of sin and suffering. Not for all the dross of earth would 
I, my dear companion in grief, exchange the holy bliss and 
blessed comfort of communing with their spirits whilst I 
am still waiting for Death, amidst tears and trials of this 
life. Ah ! in one sense of little import they are gone — 


but gone from sin and trouble and suffering and tempta- 
tion. They are gone to a Heavenly Home of Rest and 
Truth and Eternal Bliss. They stUl speak to me, without 
a pang or shadow of passion. They are ever smiling upon 
us and beckoning us away from earth to join them in 
realms of joy and gladness." 

Life in Richmond, or in fact in any city, was uncon- 
genial to him, and during the last year of his life he was 
contemplating the purchase of a home in his native county, 
where he hoped to spend the brief remainder of his days, 
and to hear once more the soughing of its pines and 
the beating of its surf against the shore, where he could 
inhale the salt breezes which he loved. It was probably 
during a period of these reflections that he copied the 
lines of Praed found among his papers : — 

" Scene of my best and brightest years ! 
Scene of my childhood's joys and fears ! 
Again I gaze on thee at last; 
And dreams of the forgotten past, 
Robed in the visionary hues 
That memory flings o'er all she views, 
Come fleeting o'er me ! — 1 could look 
Unwearied on this babbling brook. 
And lie beneath this aged oak, 
And listen to its ravens croak, 
And bound upon my native plain, 
Till fancy made me boy again ! 
I could forget the pain and strife 
Of manhood's dark, deceitful life ; 
I could forget the ceaseless toil, 
The hum of cities and the coil 
That interest flings upon our hearts, 
As candor's faded glow departs ; 
I could forget whatever care 
It has been mine to see or share, 
And be as playful and as wild 
As when, a dear and wayward child, 


I dwelt upon the fairy spot, 
All reckless of a bitterer lot. 
Then glee was high, and on my tongue 
The happy laugh of f oUy hung, 
And innocence looked bright on youth. 
And all was bUss and aU was truth. 
There is no change upon the scene, 
My native plain is gayly green, 
Yon oak still braves the wintry air. 
The raven is not silent there ; 
Beneath my foot the simple rill 
Flows on in noisy wildness still. 
Nature hath suffered no decay; 
Her lordly chUdren ! where are they? 
Friends of my pure and sinless age, 
The good, the jocund, and the sage; 
Gone is the light your kindness shed, 
In silence have ye changed or fled ; 
Ye and your dwellings I — yet I hear 
Your well-known voices in mine ear. 
And see your faces beaming round. 
Like magic shades on haunted ground. 
Hark ! as they murmur down the deU, 
A lingering tale those voices tell ; 
And while they flit in vacant air, 
A beauteous smile those faces wear. 
Alas ! I turn my dreaming eyes ; 
The lovely vision fades and flies ; 

The tale is done 

The smile is gone 
I am a stranger, and alone." 

The year 1875 had been a successful one for Wise in 
the practice of his profession, and he felt much encouraged 
from a business standpoint, but his poor health and attacks 
of sickness indicated that the end was not far off. On 
January 7, 1876, he wrote from Richmond, to his daughter, 
Mrs. Garnett: — 


" My dear child : — Yours of the 31st was what I ex- 
pected, and have always regularly and punctually received 
from you, a repetition of your affectionate reverence and 
dutiful attention. It hasn't been neglected. On the con- 
trary, it touched me now more than ever ; now that I 
know death has grappled my windpipe, and I am weak- 
ening every day under the fatal grasp. I am no bet- 
ter in fact, but stronger than when you were here. I 
suffer exceedingly from my cough, and worse from its 
effects on my enlarged hernia. ... I wish I had recol- 
lected your mother's birthday, but what matters it ? She 
is a saint, or there are none around the throne of God. 
Oh ! Mary, how vividly now all the time the past comes 
up to me and over me, its reminiscences constituting my 
whole religion. The sweet memory of your mother more 
than anything else assures me that I am not to be cast 
out. She and Obie^ are above, and waiting on my case 
and waiting for me." 

Although his health improved for a short while, he was 
confined to the house on the 1st of April, where he lin- 
gered until the 12th of September, the time of his dissolu- 
tion. His mind remained bright and clear to the last, and 
a short while before his death he was talking to his son, 
and giving him advice concerning the rearing of his chil- 
dren. " Take hold, John," he said, " of the biggest knots 
in life, and try to untie them — try to be worthy of man's 
highest estate — have high, noble, manly honor. There is 
but one true test of anything, and that is, is it right ? If 
it isn't, turn right away from it." 

His funeral services were conducted from St. James 
Protestant Episcopal Church, by his friend, the Rev. 
Joshua Peterkin, and appropriate honors paid his memory 

' His son, O. Jennings Wise. 


by his comrades in the Confederate Army, the local miH- 
tia, and various civic organizations. At a meeting of the 
bar of the city, his lifelong friend, Judge W. W. Crump, 
after dwelling upon his career in public life, as a lawyer 
and soldier, declared that he had never known a man more 
public spirited than the deceased. "There was never a 
time when he was not ready to stem any tide of corruption 
and wrong. He was, in truth, a knight-errant, armed cap- 
a-pie for every fray, and especially against every wrong, 
oppression, and corruption that had existed in his day. In 
his whole life he had never been found heading majorities, 
or running with crowds, that easy way of gaining popular- 
ity, but he was ever seen fighting for the right against 
wrong. No matter who differed with him, there was no 
man who could not lay a wreath upon his grave and say, 
* Here lies a true, disinterested patriot.' Nor was he 
wanting in the gentler traits. A warmer heart than his 
never beat. To the weak, the young, the helpless, the 
downtrodden, he was especially a friend ; and they would 
drop as sincere tears upon his grave as ever fell." 

Another admirer has recently written: "To me in 
memory he reappears a knightly figure of a heroic age, 
single-hearted, lofty-minded, honest, generous, brave, — a 
noble product of the loins of the Commonwealth he loved 
so well. Virginia's epitaph upon his tomb might fitly be : 
' To grateful mother, never truer son.' " 


Aberdeen Act, the, 110. 

Abbott, Capt., 361. 

Abolition petitions, 44, 47, 51-54; de- 
bates in the Senate over, 47, 57-62. 

Accomack, 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 26, 31, 36, 38, 
41, 102, 103, 104, 107, 119, 121, 122, 
156, 160, 203, 206, 232, 262; Court- 
House, 6. 

Adams, John Qnincy, 42, 44, 45 ; in the 
debates on abolition petitions, 54r-61 ; 
attacks Wise on account of the 
Graves-Cilley duel, 58, 86;— Rev. 
Nebemiah, 160; letters to, from 
Wise, 161. 

Alexander, Hon. Mark, 371. 

Allen, Judge John J., 248. 

Amelia Court-House, 361, 365. 

American Anti-slavery Society, the, 
formed, 45. 

American party, the, 166, 167, 169, 174r- 
178 ; Mr. Flournoy the candidate of, 
170-203; "Basis of Principles" of, 
182, 183; Anti-Romanist attitude 
of, 165-169, 182-186, 192-195. 

•• Amnesty Act," the, 377. 

Anderson, Frank P., 286, 310, 311, 362; 
— John T., of Botetourt, 147. 

Anderson's Corps, 5. 

Andrew, Gov. John A., 259. 

Anti-duelling Act, the, 86. 

Anti-Romanist feeling in the American 
party, 165, 166, 169, 176, 177, 182-186; 
letter of Bishop McGill, 185, 186; 
Wise's speech on the, 192-195. 

Appomattox, 181, 338, 339, 342, 345, 346, 
351, 360, 367, 371 ; Court-House, 354. 

Archer, Col. Fletcher H., 340, 342, 344 ; 
— William S., on the discussion of 
Slavery, 51 ; demands confirmation 
of Wise as minister to BrazU, 104. 

Armistead, Capt., 318. 

Army of Northern Virginia, the, 5, 

319, 354, 366. 
Arnold, of Tennessee, 59. 
Asbby, Richard, 276 ; — Turner, 276. 
Aurora Borealis, a war-time, 330-335. 
Austin, Capt., 289. 
" Awkward Squad," the, 43. 
Aylett, Patrick Henry, 204. 

Bagwell, Mrs., the case of, 121, 122. 

Baldwin, John B., 131, 269, 274, 278- 
280, 393. 

Banks of the United States, 43 ; Jack- 
son's hostility to, 43, 88; Tyler ve- 
toes the charter of, 92, 94. 

Banks, Nathaniel P., 229. 

Barbour, Alfred, 276 ; — James, of Cul- 
pepper, 147, 148, 269 ; — John S., 276 ; 
— Philip P., 35, 140. 

Barron, Commodore James, 316 ; urges 
adoption of an ironclad, 65. 

Beale, James M. H., of Mason, 179, 
181;— R. L. T., of Westmoreland, 

Beauregard, in command of the de- 
fence of the S. C. coast, 324, 326, 
337-339; in defence of Petersburg, 
345, 349, 352, 354, 355. 

Beecher, Rev. Henry Ward, 229. 

Benjamin, Hon. Judah P., Secretary 
of War, in the Confederate States, 
298, 306, 308, 313, 314. 

Benton, Thomas Hart, 69, 70, 99. 

Berkeley, Sir William, 2, 4. 

Berrien, Senator, from Georgia, 90, 

Blaine, James G., 173, 397. 

Blonet, M. (Max O' Rell), 402. 

Bocock, Willis P., 171. 

Boiling, Philip A., of Buckingham, 313. 

Booker, George, of Hampton, 208, 263. 




Botts, John Minor, of Henrico, 91, 147. 

Bouldin, Judge, of Virginia, expires 
on the floor of the House, 44. 

Bowman's Folly, 6, 7, 10, 13. 

Brandywine, 11. 

Bragg, Gen., 337, 338. 

Braxton, Carter M., 31, 339 note. 

BrazU, 108, 109, 118; the Court of, 109, 
110, 115, 119 ; the Emperor of, 108, 
119; the slave-trade in, 109-116. 

Brockenbrough, John W., 22. 

Brooke, Lieut. John M., 317. 

Brooks, Gen., 348-350. 

Brown, John, his part in the Potta- 
watomie massacre, 240 ; his career in 
Kansas, 240, 242 ; the number of his 
followers, 243 ; the raid of, 243, 244 ; 
arrest and trial of, 245, 250; mes- 
sage of Gov. Wise to the legislature 
concerning, 251-254; report of the 
legislative committee on, 256-258; 
Northern views of, 259. 

Brownson's Quarterly Review, 184. 

Bruce, James C, 181, 269. 

Buchanan, 119, 206, 208, 210. 

Burlingame, Hon. Anson, 229. 

Burnside, Maj. Ambrose E., 309, 315, 
352 ; expedition, the, 307, 309, 315. 

Burton, Gen. Henry S., 374. 

Butler, Gen. Benjamin P., 337-342, 375. 

Bynum, of North Carolina, associated 
with Jones as second in the Graves- 
Cilley duel, 82, 83, 85. 

Cabell, Joseph C, 137. 

Calhoun, John C, 37, 42, 66 ; his nom- 
ination as Secretary of State, 96-100. 

Calvert, Gov., 3. 

Cambreleng, C. C, 42. 

Campbell, Alexander, 130, 131. 

Cameron, Gov. William, a description 
of Henry A. Wise about 1855 by, 173 ; 
later comments by, 390. 

Campbell, Lewis D., 229. 

Camp-meeting, anecdotes of, 122-124. 

Canby, Gen., 374, 381. 

Caperton, Allen T., of Monroe, 147. 

Carlisle, John S., of Barbour, 147. 

Carnlfax Ferry, the battle of, 288-299. 

Carroll, Charles, 193. 

Carter, Hill, of Shirley, 102. 

Cary, Capt. Milton, 277. 

Catapulta, the, said to be the first iron- 
clad, 63-65. 

Ceredo colony, the, 211, 213. 

Chaffin's Bluff, Gen. Wise stationed 
at, 318, 319, 322, 323, 328, 402. 

Chahoon, George, contests the mayor- 
ship of Richmond, Va., with EUy- 
son, 381, 382. 

Chapman, Gen., 295; — Conrad W., 
328;— John 6., 328. 

Chase, Hon. Salmon P., 229, 394. 

Chesconnessex, the, 4, 5, 9, 14, 16, 17. 

Chilton, Samuel, one of John Brown's 
counsel, 248, 252. 

Ghincoteague Island, 122. 

Choate, Rufus, 42. 

Christian, Judge John B., 98, 99. 

Cilley, Jonathan, duel between Graves 
and, 58, 80-86. 

Clarkson, Lieut.-Col. John, 287. 

Clay, Cassius M., 229; Henry, 42, 87, 
91-94, 102, 104; his connection with 
the Graves-Cilley duel, 82, 86 ; politi- 
cal avowals, 88-90. 

Clifton, 14, 22. 

Coke, Richard, 36, 39, 65; the duel 
between Mr. Wise and, 40, 41. 

Cold Harbor, the battle of, 341, 345, 
351, 355. 

Coles, Capt., 311, 312. 

Colonization Society, African, 46; 
favored by Mr. Wise, 407 ; Tennessee, 
Wise the secretary of, 29 ; Virginia, 
156 ; addressed by Mr. Wise, 156. 

Colquitt's Brigade, 327. 

Colston, Gen. R. E., 346, 348. 

"Committee of Nine," the, 392. 

Compromise, the Missouri, 89, 232, 234. 

Conference, Peace, the, 269, 272. 

Conrad, Robert Y., 22, 269, 278. 

Constitution, of the United States, 
the, 232, 239; Lecompton, in Kan- 
sas, the, 236, 264; Underwood, in 
Virginia, the, 392. 

Convention, Virginia Constitutional, 
of 1829, 131-134; of 1831, 135; of 
1850, 129, 131, 143, 146-161, 155, 409 ; 
conditions leading up to, 134-146; 
State, of 1861, 269, 270-274; Virginia 
Democratic, of 1852, 163; of 1854, 
169; of 1860, 263; National, of 1852, 
164 ; of 1856, 208 ; of 1860, 264 ; Nash- 



ville, of 1850, 162, 163; Underwood, 
in 1867-68, 392; Winchester, the, 
of the American party, 179, 181, 
Cooke, John E., 22, 131. 
Cooper, Gen., 284, 290. 
Copeland, a follower of John Brown, 

Coppie, a follower of John Brown, 245, 

248, 250, 254, 255. 
" Corporal's guard," the, 93, 102. 
Oorwin, Thomas, 42. 
Council, Lieut.-Col. J. C, 340, 351. 
Cox, Gen. Jaeoh D., 287-296, 298. 
Crater, the battle of the, 358. 
Crawford's statue of Washington, 
unveiled with speech by Gov. Wise, 
260, 261. 
Critoher, Judge John, 280. 
Crittenden, John J., associated with 

Wise in the Graves-Cilley duel, 82. 
Crockett, Thomas, 125. 
Croghan, Lieut.-Col., 292. 
Cropper, Gen. John, 6, 8, 10-13, 17; 
— Sarah Corbin (Sallie) , mother of 
Henry A. Wise, 6, 8, 9, 10. 
Crosby, Rev. John, his description of 

Mr. Flournoy, 180. 
Crozet, Claudius, 137. 
Cushing, Caleb, 76, 93, 95, 97, 101. 
Custer, Gen., his meeting with Wise 

at Appomattox, 369, 370. 
Custis, John, 17. 

Dahlgren, the burning of "Eastwood " 
by, 331-335. 

Dalby, James B., 38. 

Dale, Sir Thomas, 2. 

Daniel, Judge William, 248. 

Davis, Col. J. Lucius, 286, 300; — Jef- 
ferson, President of the Confederate 
States, 282, 303, 322, 337, 372, 375; 
—John, 69 ; — Matthew L., 80. 

Dawson, of Georgia, 57. 

Dearing, Gen. James, 345-347. 

De Villiers, Col., 289. 

District of Columbia, slavery in, 44^ 
62, 89. 

Doddridge, Philip, 131. 

Dogwood Gap, 293, 295, 297, 300. 

Dom Pedro II., 108. 

Douglas, Beverly B., of King William, 

147 ; — Frederick, 244 ; — Stephen, 
173, 264; — W. E. C, 170. 

Dromgoole, 35, 55, 131. 

Drummondtown, 9, 10, 31, 71. 

Duel, between Burr and Hamilton, 80 ; 
Graves and Cilley, 58, 80-86. 

Duke, Col. E. T. W., 318. 

Duncan, Mr., of Illinois, associated with 
Jones in the Graves-Cilley duel, 82- 
85 ; — Col. E. P. , 348, 362 ; — Thomas, 
Wise's first law partner, 28, 29. 

Duncan's Brigade, 349. 

Duryee, Col., 260. 

Early, Gen. Jubal A., 393. 

Eastern Shore, the, 1, 26, 31, 35, 129- 

" Eastwood," the home of Mr. Wise's 
daughter, Mrs. Hobson, 329-335. 

Edge Hill, Mr. Wise's home in Acco- 
mack, burned, 70. 

Edmunds, John E., 179, 180, 186. 

Ellett, Charles, 137. 

Ellis, Vespasian, 31. 

EUyson, Henry K., contests the may- 
orship of Richmond, Va., 381, 382. 

Elzey, Gen. Arnold, 322. 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 229; extract 
from the lecture on " Courage " about 
Gov. Wise and John Brown, 246 note ; 
Salem speech on John Brown, 259. 

Emigrant Aid Society, the, 210, 241, 

English, Thomas Dunn, 170. 

Ewell, Gen., 323, 362. 

Ewing, Thomas, speech of, at the " ex- 
punging" scene, 69. 

Faulkner, Charles J., 22, 133, 147. 
Feary, Lieut., his meeting with Wise 

at Appomattox, 370. 
Ferguson, James H., of Logan, 147. 
Field, Capt. E., 410 tiote, 412. 
Fillmore, Millard, 42, 48, 205, 208. 
Finnegan, Gen., 326, 328. 
Finney, Louis C. H., 146. 
Fisher, M. W., 31. 
Pitzhugh, Judge E. H., 380. 
Fitz Lee, 320, 360. 
Fletcher, Thomas, 29. 
Flournoy, Thomas F., candidate for 

governor, 179-183, 186, 202, 203. 



Floyd, Benjamin R., of Wythe, 147; 

— Gen. John B., 204, 225, 290-3(H. 
Fogg, Francis B., 29. 
FoUy Creek, 6, 10, 11. 
Fontaine, Col. Edmund, 277. 
Foster, Ephralm H., 29; — Gen., 310, 

Franklin, BeLJamin, 44. 
Frazler's Farm, 318. 
Frederlckshurg, 215. 
Freedman'8 Burean, in possession of 

Mr. Wise's home, 371, 373, 374. 
Fremont, John, 93, 208, 210. 
French, Capt., 318. 
Fullerton, Alexander, of Philadelphia, 

9;— Mrs. Valeria, 8. 
Funsten, Oliver, 276. 

Gtardner, Mr., 99. 

Garnett, Dr., 117, 372, 378 ; — Mrs., 372, 
378, 389, 421; — M. R. H., of Essex, 
147 ; — Gen. Rohert S., 284, 289. 

Garrison, William Lloyd, 373; founds 
the Liberator, 45. 

Gauley Bridge, 284, 286, 288, 290, 292, 
2^, 296, 298-300; — Mountain, 293; 
-River, 290-300. 

George, Henry, on landholding, 409. 

Gettysburg, 368. 

Gholson, Mr., 77. 

Gibbons, Gen. John, 371. 

Giles, William B., 131. 

Gilbert, T., 228. 

Gillett, Tabitha, 17. 

Gilmer, Thomas W., 55, 93, 95. 

GiUmore, Maj.-Gen., 326, 342, 343, 

Goode, Col. J. Thomas, 318; in com- 
mand Wise's Brigade in the retreat 
on Appomattox, 353, 357, 361, 363. 

Gordon, Mr., 131. 

Grade's Alabama Brigade, 354. 

Graham's Battery, 344, 347. 

Grant, Gen. U. S., 337, 339, 341, 345, 
391, 392, 403. 

Graves, William J., 80-85. 

Graves-Cilleyduel, the, 58, 80-86. 

Great Bridge, the, 314, 317. 

Greeley, Horace, 205, 229, 391. 

Green, a follower of John Brown, 248, 
255; Dnff, 90;— William, one of 
John Brown's counsel, 248. 

Griffin, John Q. A., 259. 
Grundy, Felix, 29. 

Hagood, Gen., 351. 

Hagood's Brigade, 351. 

Hale, Hon. John P., 229 ; — Mrs. Sara 
J., 214. 

Halleck, Lieut., visits Rio with Gen. 
Sherman, 117. 

Hambleton, quotations from his his- 
tory of the Campaign of 1855, 42, 
171, 1T9, 199. 

Hamilton, Hon. Hamilton, British 
minister to the Court of Brazil, 115. 

Hammond, Mr., of South Carolina, 411. 

Hancock, Gen., 352. 

Hancock's Corps, 353. 

Harman, John A., 276, 277 ; — William 
H., 2(M. 

Harper, Kenton, 279. 

Harper's Ferry, John Brown's raid on, 
240-245 ; seizure of arms at, 275. 

Harris, Col., 328. 

Harrison, Lieut.-Col., 360, 361;— Rev. 
Peyton, 418, 419; — Col. Randolph, 
351; — William Henry, 66; nomi- 
nated and elected President, 90, 91 ; 
death of, a month after inaugura- 
tion, 92. 

Harvie, Lewis E., 269, 271, 272. 

Hatcher's Run, 357-360. 

Haverhai petition, the, 57, 59, 86. 

Hawkins, Col. Rush C, 311. 

Hawk's Nest, 292, 294r-296. 

Hawley, Col. Joseph R., 344. 

Hays, Andrew, 29 ; — O. B., 29. 

Hays, Gen. Wm., 374. 

Hazlett, Lieut., 311. 

Henningsen, Col. Charles F., 286, 301, 

Henry, James, 59 ; — Mary (Polly) , 5. 

" Hermitage," the, home of Gen. Jack- 
son, 27, 28. 

Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 259. 

Hill, Maj. J. C, 354. 

HiUiard, Henry, 92. 

Hinks, Gen. Edward W., 343, 347-360. 

Hoar, Mr., on Webster's style, 414. 

Hobson, Mrs., Mr. Wise's daughter, 
329;— Plumer, 330, 333, 336. 

Hoke, Gen., 352. 

Hoke's Division, 342, 352. 



Holcombe, of Albemarle, 272, 277, 278 ; 
Legion, the, 320. 

HoUywood Cemetery, interment of 
James Monroe in, 260. 

Holmes, Gen. Theophilus, 318. 

Holten, 3. 

Hope, James B., 415. 

Hopkins, Henry L., 204 j — George W., 
of Washington, 147. 

Hopper, B., 73. 

Houston, Hon. Sam., of Texas, 229. 

Howard, Gen., 373. 

Howe, S. G., 228. 

Huger, Maj. Benjamin, 305-308, 313, 

Hughes, Robert W., editor of the Rich- 
mond Examiner, 175, 204. 

Humphreys, Gen., 327, 370. 

Hunter, Andrew, 243, 245, 246, 249, 265 ; 
—A. M. T., 22, 163, 263; — Moses, 22. 

Hunton, Gen. Eppa, 359, 360, 365. 

Hunton's Brigade, 359. 

Imboden, John D., 177, 275-277. 
Intelligencer, the, 86. 

Jackson, Gen. Andrew, 20, 21, 26, 34, 
39; administration of, 65-67, 87; 
Wise's visit to, on his wedding jour- 
ney, 27, 28; his Proclamation, 35; 
removal of deposits from the Bank 
of the United States, 43, 66. 

Jackson Corresponding Committee, 35. 

Janney, John, of Loudoun, 147, 281. 

Jefferson, Maria, 8; — Thomas, 6, 118, 
129, 130, 176, 182. 

Jenkins, Capt., 289; — Maj., 325-327; 
—Albert Gallatin, 211; — Gen. M. 

Jennings, Obadiah, 20, 25, 27, 28; — 
Ann, 20, 25. 

Johnson, Andrew, nominated as Vice- 
President, 66; — Gen. Bushrod, 352, 
353, 357, 363, 364 ; — Chapman, 131; 
— Joseph, of Harrison, 147, 171, 220; 
—William R., 21. 

Johnson's (Bushrod) Division, 5, 352 ; 
Brigade, 353. 

Johnston, Gen. Albert Sydney, 328 ; — 
Alexander, 205;— Gen. Joseph E., 

Jones, George W., 204, 207 ; second to 

Cilley in the Graves-Cilley duel, 82- 

Jordan, Col. J. V., 310, 311; — Capt. 

Wm., 362. 
Joynes, John C, 11, 14; — Thomas R., 

of Accomack, 60. 

Kanawha Valley, 284-304. 

Kansas, letters by Mr. Wise on the 

admission of, 232-239 ; career of 

John Brown in, 240, 242. 
Kansas-Nebraska Bill, the, 232-239. 
Kautz, Gen. August V., 342-349. 
Keunon, Mr., 99. 
Know-nothing Order, the, 166, 167, 174, 

178, 192, 196, 202, 203, 204, 370. 
Knox, Gen., 11. 

Lacouture, E., letter of Mr. Wise to, 

Lafayette, 19, 165, 192, 193. 

Lamar, Senator L. Q. C, 396, 397, 411. 

Lawrence, Hon. Amos A., 241. 

Leake, Shelton F., 168, 170, 204; — 
Walter D., of Goochland, 147. 

Ledlie's Division, 353. 

Lee, George Hay, 22, 248; — Henry, 
haU-brother of Gen. Robert E., 28 ; 
— Fitzhugh, Maj .-Gen., 360, 365; — 
Robert E., 28, 65, 244, 292, 302-304, 
316, 317, 319, 358, 364, 369, 372-376. 

Legare, Mr., 96. 

Leigh, Benjamin W., 131, 141 ; — Judge 
William, 179. 

Letcher, John, of Rockbridge, 142, 147, 
168, 278. 

Letters of Henry A. Wise, quoted, on : 
declining to address a meeting of 
Anti-Lecompton Democrats, 236-239 ; 
declining to address the Mercantile 
Library Association, Boston, 230- 
232 ; declining to lecture on slavery, 
at Tremont Temple, Boston, 227-230 ; 
the American party, to a committee 
of citizens, 168, 169; the approach 
of death, to his daughter, 422; the 
battle of Roanoke Island, to G«n. 
Huger, 313; the campaign of 1855, 
204, do. to Geo. W. Jones, 204 ; the 
Ceredo colony, to A. G. Jenkins, 
211-213; the Christmas season, to 
his daughter, 379, 389; closing his 



campaign in 1855, 204 ; the defences 
of Roanoke Island, to Mr. Benjamin, 
306, 307 ; the " expunging " scene, to 
his wife, 69, 70; on the Graves- 
Cilley duel, 86, do. to Geo. W. Jones, 
82-84; John Brown, to the Hon. 
Henry Wilson, 249-251 ; the Kansas- 
Nebraska Bill, to a Democratic 
meeting in New York, 233-236 ; the 
loss of his wife, to Dr. Kobert Eeed, 
71-73 ; the material condition of Va. 
in 1857, to E. Lacouture, 217-220 ; his 
parole, to Dr. Garnett, 372 ; his per- 
sonal relations with Clay, 88; the 
petitions for abolition, to Gov. Taze- 
well, 52-54, do. to Mrs. Wise, 55; 
the policy of Grant in the Louisiana 
troubles of 1875, 392; refusing to 
proclaim a Thanksgiving, to Mrs. 
S. J. Hale, 214, 215 ; remaining at 
Hawk's Nest, to Gen. Floyd, 296; 
resigning from Congress, to the 
people of his district, 105, 106; his 
return to Accomack from Nashville, 
31 ; running for President, to Geo. 
W. Jones, 207, do. to Robert Tyler, 
204; the sale of "Only," to Geo. 
Booker, 262, 263; secession, Dec. 1, 
1860, 267, 268, do. to the Hon. Fer- 
nando Wood, 382, 383; slavery, to 
the Rev. Mr. Adams, 160-162, to 
Richard A. Wise, from the Conven- 
tion of 1861, 270 ; the slave-trade in 
Brazil, to Maxwell, Wright, & Co., 
110-115 ; the status of the slave after 
the ■ war, 396 ; temperance, to B. 
Hopper, 73-75; the test-oath, to 
Gen. Lee, 376; Tyler's administra- 
tion, to Caleb Gushing, 101, 102; 
the Union, to Wm. H. Roy, 162, 163; 
the vegetation of Brazil, 116, 117; 
his wish for a conference of gov- 
ernors, to Gov. Ligon, 209 ; for a con- 
vention of States, to the Hon. Henry 
Wilson, 210. 

Ligon, Gov. Thomas W., 209. 

Lincoln, Abraham, 181,265-269; elec- 
tion, 266 ; call for troops, 267. 

Livemore, Col. T. L., 348 note, 350. 

Longstreet, Gen., 319. 

Lynch, Capt., 306, 310, 315. 

Lyons, James, of Richmond, 147, 155, 

186, 204; — Mary Elizabeth, Mr. 
Wise's third wife, 155. 
Lytic, Col. Wm. H., 297. 

McCarthy, Col. John, 76. 

McCausland, 294. 

McClellan, Gen., 288-289, 304, 322. 

McComas, Elisha W., 171, 204. 

McDuffie, George, 42, 66; his part in 
the nomination of Calhoun as Secre- 
tary of State, 96-101. 

McFarland, William H., 269. 

McGiU, Bishop, 185. 

McGowan's Brigade, 359. 

McLean, 90. 

Madison, James, 37, 130, 131, 182, 266, 

Madisonian, the, 86. 

Mahone, Gen. Wm., 313, 358. 

MaUory, the Hon. Stephen R., 317. 

Malvern Hill, 318. 

Mangum, W. P., 69. 

Mann, Gen., 373. 

Marcy, 99. 

Margaret Academy, 16, 17. 

Marshall, Col. Charles, 314; — John, 
131; — Thomas F., 55. 

Martindale, in the attack on Peters- 
burg, 348-350. 

Maryland State Temperance Society, 

Mason, James M., 22; — John Y., 35, 
42, 147. 

Mayo, P. P., 31. 

Meade, Col. George, son of the follow- 
ing, 368; — Gen. Geo. G., 358, 360, 
367-369 ; — Richard K. , 204. 

Meadow Bluff, 292, 300-303;— River, 

Menefee, Richard H., associated with 
Wise as second in the Graves-CUley 
duel, 82-85. 

Mercantile Library Association, Bos- 
ton, 230. 

Mercer, Mr., 131. 

Meredith, John A., of Richmond, 147. 

Merrimac-Monitor battle, the, 316. 

Miles, Gen., 374. 

Miller, Dr., brother-in-law of John 
Tyler, 98, 99. 

Millson, Hon. John S., 371, 372. 

Moncure, Judge R. C. L., 248. 



Monroe, James, 118, 131, 132, 260. 
Moore, Samuel McD., 269. 
MoTSon, James M., 332. 
Moseley, William, 262. 
Mussey, B. B., 228. 

Nag's Head, 308-312. 

Nashville, Wise's life and friends in, 

NefE, Lieut.-Col., 289. 
Newton, A. G., 373 ; — Gen. John, 341. 
New York Courier and Enquirer, 80, 85. 
Nicholas, WUson Gary, 6, 140. 
Norfolk, 135, 140, 141, 176, 305, 308, 

314, 372-374, 377, 378. 
Norton, Col., 289. 
Nullification, 35, 37, 39. 

"Old Hickory," 34; Mr. Wise's im- 
pressions of, 21, 28. 

Onancock, 31, 168, 227. 

Onancock Creek, 18, 120. 

" Only," 120, 168, 227. 

Oratory of Henry A. Wise, the, 414 ; de- 
scribed by James Barron Hope, 415, 
416 ; quotations from, see Speeches. 

Overby, Capt. Robert Y., 371. 

Overton, Judge, 28. 

Page, Col. Powhatan R., 318, 321, 325, 

Parke, Gen., 310, 311. 
Parker, Henry T., 228;— Severn E., 

39; — Theodore, 259;— William H., 

277, 367. 
Parton, James, 42. 
Patton, Major George S., 288, 289; — 

John M., 179, 182 ; resolutions, 1837, 57. 
Peace Conference, the, 269, 272. 
Perrtn, Abner, 361, 362. 
Peterkin, Rev. Joshua, 421. 
Petersburg, 6, 140, 215, 338, 356, 357, 368. 
Peyton, Hon. Baillie, 29, 76, 97. 
Phillips, Wendell, 229, 259, 280. 
Pickett, Gen. G. E., 358, 361-363. 
Pierpont, Rev. John, 229. 
Pierce, Franklin, 42, 164, 242. 
Plggott's Mill, 292-294. 
Pinckney, Henry L., 61; resolntions, 

the, 51, 57. 
Poindexter, George, 66. 
Polk, James Knox, 42, 101, 119. 

Pollard, E. A. , a criticism of Mr. Wise's 
style by, 403, 404. 

Porter, of Pennsylvania, 97. 

Portsmouth, 141. 

Potter's Division, 353. 

Powell, Alfred H., 22, 131. 

Prentiss, Sargent S., 41, 75, 414; a 
reminiscence of, by Wise, 76, 78. 

Preston, William Ballard, 90, 91, 269, 

Princeton, the, 96, 97. 

Pryor, Roger A., editor of the Rich- 
mond Enquirer, 204. 

Raleigh, 210. 

Randolph, Thomas J., of Albemarle, 
147 ; John, of Roanoke, 44, 131, 179. 

Ransom's Brigade, 358. 

Reed, Dr. Robert R., 71. 

Reno, Gen., 310, 311. 

Rhett, Robert B., 57. 

Richardson, Col., 312. 

Richmond, 135, 138, 140, 155, 156, 163, 
176, 215, 416. 

Richmond Blues, the, 285, 287. 

Richmond Examiner, the, 204 ; on the 
nomination of Mr. Wise, for gov- 
ernor, 171; on Know-nothingism, 
175, 176 ; Satire by Lorraine on the 
Convention of 1860, in the, 272; — 
Enquirer, the, 35, 37, 204, 211 ; Jef- 
ferson's letter in, 131; Eastern Va., 
described in, 135, 136 ; Championship 
of Gov. Wise as a presidential can- 
didate, 263 ; — Times, the, anecdote 
of Mr. Wise in, 123, 128 ; — Whig, 
103, 186, 266, 268. 

Rio, Mr. Wise's residence in, as 
American minister to Brazil, 108- 

Rives, William C, 69, 269, 320, 321. 

Rives's Battery, 320, 321. 

Roanoke College, speech by Mr. Wise 
at, 412^14. 

Roanoke Island, 305-315, 317, 371. 

Robertson, Judge William J., 248; — 
Wyndham, 137. 

Robinson, Gov. Charles, 241, 242; — 
Moncure, 137, 221. 

RoUeston, 262, 282, 304, 316, 329, 371. 

Ropes, John C, 343, 355, 368. 

Rosecrans, Gen., 288, 293-296, 298, 302. 



Koy, William H., 162. 
BoyaU, Mr., 397. 

Sailor's Creek, 361-366. 

Samtord, William F., 227. 

Samuels, Green B., of Shenandoah, 
22, 147. 

Scarburgh, Capt. Edmund, 3; — Col. 
Edmund, 3;— George P., 31;— Han- 
nah, 3. 

Scary Creek, the encounter at, 288, 289. 

Schimmelfinnig, Gen. Alex., 326. 

Schofield, Gen., 374, 375. 

Scott, John W., 19;— Robert E., of 
Fauquier, 147, 148, 151, 269, 274;— 
Winfield, 90. 

Secession, passage of the ordinance of, 
280, 281 ; letters from Mr. Wise on, 

Seddon, Hon. James A., 168, 332-334, 337. 

Segar, Joseph, 139. 

Selden, Lieut., 312. 

Seward, Secretary, 266, 391, 411. 

Sewell Mountain, 292, 300; Big, 300, 
302; Little, 300-302. 

Shaw, Col. H. M., 300, 309, 311. 

Sheffey, Hugh W., of Augusta, 147. 

Sherman, Gen., 117. 

Shields, a follower of John Brown, 
248, 255 ; — Joseph D., 76. 

Shipman, Judge William D., 380. 

Slade, Wm., 57. 

Slavery, 130, 215, 405-410; the Tre- 
mont Temple Lectures on, 227-230; 
in the District of Columbia, 44, 47, 
62, 89 ; petitions for the abolition of, 
47, 51-54. 

Slave-trade, the, in Brazil, 109-116 ; 
discontinued, 116. 

Smith, Gerrit, 259 ; — Capt. John, 1, 26 ; 
— Gen. W. F. (Baldy), 345, 352; — 
Larkin, 6; — CoL Wm. S., 297. 

Southard, Mr., 91. 

Speeches of Henry A. Wise, quoted: 
at Alexandria, in 1855, 187-196; at 
the Constitutional Convention, 1861, 
148-150, 273, 279 ; at the dedication 
of Stonewall Cemetery, Winchester, 
398-401; at a dinner given him in 
Norfolk, 140, 141; at a ratification 
meeting in 1856, 208; at Roanoke 
College, 412-414 ; at the serenade to 

Pres. Davis, Richmond, 282, 283 ; at 
the unveiling of Crawford's statue 
of Washington, Richmond, 260, 261 ; 
at Washington on his election as 
Gov. of Va. 203 ; in Congress, 1837, 
on the condition of the south, 142, 
143 ; in 1841, on nullification, 39, 40 ; 
on petitions for abolition, 48, 51; 
testifying in the boundary line dis- 
pute, 103, 104 ; in his first campaign, 
39 ; in the campaign of 1855, 61, 62, 
187-196; of 1860, 264-266; in the 
House of Representatives, on the 
question of appointing a chaplain, 
78, 79 ; on a bill for building an iron- 
clad, 63, 64; on appointments to 
office, 94, 95 ; on the career of Wise's 
Brigade, 358-366; on "old bache- 
lors," 155; on the abolition of slav- 
ery to the members of legislature, 
Richmond, 1850, 156-160; to people 
of the " York " district, 144, 145 ; to 
the Virginia militia, 246, 247. 

Spooner, W. B., 228. 

Stanard, Robert C., of Richmond, 147, 

Starke, Maj. A. W., 318. 

Staunton, 169. 

Steele, Capt., 357. 

Stevens, a follower of John Brown, 
244, 248, 254, 256; — Edward A., in- 
ventor of an ironclad, 63, 64; — 
Robert L., brother of Edward, 64. 

Stevenson, Andrew, 35, Speaker of the 
House, 1833, 42. 

Stewart, John, 6. 

Stickney, Lieut., his meeting with 
Wise after Appomattox, 370. 

Stockton, Mr., 99. 

Stone, James W., 228. 

Stoueman, Gen., in command at Rich- 
mond after the war, 381. 

Stuart, Alexander H. H., 183, 256. 

Sturdivant, Nat, 349. 

Sturdivant's Battery, 342. 

Sturgis, Rev. J. R., 123. 

Summers, Geo. W., of Kanawha. 147 
151, 171, 178 ; - Lewis, 131, 147. 

Sumner, the Hon. Charles, 229, 259. 

Sumter, the fall of, 267, 274. 

Syme, John, editor of the Petersburg 
Intelligencer, 178. 



Tabb, Col. Wm. B., 318-322, 336, 362. 

Taliaferro, Gen. William B. 104, 249; 
— Col., 342, 343. 

Taylor, Farmer, 318, 319 ; — Robert B. , 
131, 140. 

Tazewell, Littleton W., 131, 141, 151. 

Terry, Gen. Alfred H., 247 note, 339, 
373, 381. 

"Test Oaths," Mr. Wise's views on, 
376; correspondence between Wise 
and B. E. Lee on, 376, 377. 

Texas, annexation of, 95, 96, 101. 

Thayer, Eli, 210, 211, 241, 242. 

Thoreau, Henry, 259. 

Tod, David, 119. 

Tompkins, Col. Christopher Q., 286, 
291, 294, 296. 

Tremont Temple, Lectures on Slavery, 
227-230; meeting in, on the day of 
John Brown's execution, 259. 

Tucker, Henry St. George, 22, 23, 25, 
34, 407; — Mrs., 23, 24. 

Turner, Nat., the insurrection of, 45. 

Tyler, Col.E. B., 293, 294 ; — John, nom- 
inated for vice-president, 90 ; at the 
Whig convention, 1840, 91 ; becomes 
president on the death of Harrison, 
92; his administration, 93-104, 414; 
the nomination of Calhoun as sec- 
retary of war, 96-101 ; sends to Con- 
gress the name of Wise as minister 
to Brazil, 104 ; in the Convention of, 
61, 272, 280; his memoir in "Seven 
Decades of the Union," 418; — 
Robert, letter from Mr. Wise to, on 
nomination to the presidency, 207. 

United States Bank, 43; Jackson's 
hostility to, 43, 88 ; charter of, vetoed 
by Tyler, 92, 94. 

Upham, Charles W., 229. 

Upshur, Abel P., 39, 102, 131, 141, 148, 
149; the death of, 95, 96, 99. 

Van Buren, Martin, 35, 66, 87, 90, 101; 
Administration, the, 87, 91, 94. 

Virginia, breach between the western 
and the tidewater districts, 130-137 ; 
— in 1850, political conditions of, 129 ; 
absence of cities, 134, 135, 140, 215; 
tidewater, 26, 129, 131, 136, 138 ; west- 
ern, 129, 132 ; railroads of, 137, 220, 

283, 341 ; travel in, 138 ; the straggle 
for equality of representation in, 
143-151; — in 1855, economic condi- 
tion, 215-220; financial condition, 
220-226; difficulties of canvassing 
in, 187; the campaign of 1855 in, 
165-204 ; in 1857, material condition 
of, 217-220; revenues of, Mr. Wise's 
message to legislature, 221 ; after the 
war, 382-389. 

Virginia-Maryland Boundary Line 
Commission, 418. 

Von Hoist, on the attitude of the 
South to the Anti-Romanist feeling 
in the American party, 176 ; on the 
nomination of Buchanan, 208; on 
Mr. Wise's treatment of John Brown, 

Wallace, Gen. W. H., 358, 361, 362. 
Wallace's Brigade, 359-363. 
Warwick, Lieut. Barksdale, 360. 
Washburn, W., 228. 
Washington, George, 10, 12, 232, 260 ; 

— Col. Lewis, 244, 247. 
Washington College, 17, 18, 20,21. 
Ward, Capt., 289. 
War Department, of the Confederate 

States, 298, 303, 305, 307, 308, 313- 

317, 322, 334, 337. 
Warrington, Commodore, 102. 
Webb, James Watson, 80, 81, 85. 
Webster, 42, 75, 91, 96; protests 

against the " expunging," 69. 
West Virginia, formation of, 397. 
White, Hugh Lawson, 66, 76, 87, 88; 

Capt. John H., 354. 
White Sulphur Springs, 284, 290, 291. 
Whiting, Gen. W. H. C, 336-339. 
Whitman, 93. 
Whitney, Reuben M., 66. 
Wiatt, Chaplain W. E„ 360. 
WUley, Waitman T., of Monongalia, 

147, 269. 
Williams, George F., 228. 
WilUamsburg, 320, 322. 
Wilmot, Hon. David, 229, 
Wilson, Henry, 210, 249 ; — Prof. Wood- 
row, on the " new generation " led 

by Jackson, 43. 
Winchester, 22, 25 ; the battle of, 289. 
Wirt, William, 6, 12. 



Wise, Ann Jennings, 20 ; marriage to 
Mr. Wise, 27 ; death, 70 ; Mr. Wise's 
letter on the death of, 71-73; — Eliza- 
beth, 14; — George Douglas, 5, 354, 
378; — Henry A., the Rev., 368; — 
John, 3, 4; — John C, 262; — John 
James Henry, 5; — John Sergeant, 
117, 118, 372, 375, 380 ; —Lewis War- 
rington, 374 ; — O. Jennings, 285, 311, 
312; — Sarah Sergeant, 106, 367; — 
Sir William, 3; — Tully R., 30; — 
Legion, the, 286, 302, 308. 

Wise, Henry A., family of, 3; parents 
of, 5-8 ; birth of, 9 ; as a boy, a de- 
scription by himself, 13; education of, 
16-22 ; law practice of, in Nashville, 
26, 28-30 ; marriage of, 27 ; return to 
Accomack, 31 ; political views of, 
34, 39 ; entry into politics of, 35-38 ; 
election of to Congress, 39; duel 
with Coke, 40, 41 ; career of, in 
Congress, 42-107; in debates on 
abolition petitions, 47-50, 57-61; 
compared to Adams, 56; interest 
in naval affairs of, 63-65; appear- 
ance of in 1837, 67 ; loss of his wife, 
70, 71 ; temperance principles of, 73- 
75; reminiscences of Prentiss by, 
75-78; religious principles, 78; in 
the Graves-Cilley duel, 80-86 ; attack 
on by Adams, 58, 86; in the cam- 
paign of 1840, 87-91 ; in the Tyler ad- 
ministration, 91-101, 106 ; appointed 
minister to Brazil, 106 ; resignation 
from Congress, 107; life in Rio, 
109-118 ; views on the slave-trade in 
Brazil, 110-116; events leading to 
his return, 119; law practice of in 
Accomack, 120, 121; anecdotes of, 
122-128; political opinions, 139-143; 
addresses of in 1850, 144, 148; de- 
scription of, as seen in the Conven- 
tion of 1850, 152, 153 ; death of the 
wife of, 156 ; third marriage of, 155 ; 
views on slavery, 156; address to 
the Colonization Society, 156-162; 
on the Know-nothing Order, 168; 
nominated for Governor, 170 ; a de- 
scription of, by Gov. Cameron, 173 ; 
canvassing the State, 187-199 ; elec- 
tion, 202; on emigration, 211-213; 
on interference between Church and 

State, 214, 215; on economic con- 
ditions in Va., 216-220; messages to 
legislature, 220-224; "Territorial 
Government" by, 227; at Harper's 
Ferry, 245 ; impressions of John 
Brown, 246 ; message concerning 
John Brown, 251; unveiling the 
statue of Washington, 260; views 
on secession, 267-268; in the Con- 
vention of 1861, 270-281; in the 
Confederate Army, 282-371 ; the 
campaign in western Va., 282-304; 
on Roanoke Island, 305-315; in 
South Carolina, 3^3-328; return to 
Va., 336; in the defence of Peters- 
burg, 337-356; the retreat to Appo- 
mattox, 357-366 ; meeting with Gen. 
Meade, 367-369; surrender, 366-371; 
parole, 371; seizure of "EoUeston," 
the home of, 373 ; efforts to regain 
his property by, 372-376 ; indictment 
of, for treason, never pressed, 375, 
376; views on "test oaths," etc., 
376-378; return of to law practice, 
379-381; correspondence with Fer- 
nando Wood, 382-391; views of, on 
the situation after the war, 391-397 ; 
personal characteristics and habits 
of, 402-406 ; position of, in regard to 
slavery, 406-410 ; to the war, 412 ; the 
oratory of, 414-416 ; religious views of, 
419-420 ; love of the country, 420, 421 ; 
last illness and death of, 422 ; tributes 
to, by Judge Crump and others, 423. 

Wise's Brigade, 3, 338-341, 349, 351, 
364, 357-366. 

Writings of Henry A. Wise, quoted: 
76, 321, 323, 325-329, 338-342, 345, 
350, 391-393, 412; his first message 
to legislature, 220 ; message on John 
Brown, 251-264; on the revenues, 
221-224 ; reports to the War Depart- 
ment, 299, 308, 309 ; " Seven Decades 
of the Union," 20, 21, 26-28, 96-101, 
225,416; " Territorial Government," 
227 ; see also Letters. 

Wylie, Andrew, 18, 19, 20, 21. 

Wood, Capt., 358; — Hon. Fernando, 

Woodruff, Col., 289. 

York district, the, 35, 38. 




Vice-President of the Historical Society of South Carolina, 
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Author of "The Plantation Negro as a Freeman^' Corresponding Secretary 
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