Henry A. Wise

Henry Alexander Wise (1806–1876) was a Virginia lawyer and politician, serving as a U.S. Representative from 1833 to 1843 and Governor of Virginia from 1856 to 1860. As governor, Wise oversaw the imprisonment, trial, and execution of John Brown for his attack on the Harpers Ferry arsenal. Ironically, Wise organized an armed seizure of Harpers Ferry and the Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk by Virginia militia before Virginia formally voted to secede from the United States in 1861.

Despite not having any military experience, he was commissioned as a brigadier general and led a brigade, styled the “Army of the Kanawha” in western Virginia. His small force won the Battle of Scary Creek, but he proved to be an ineffective commander overall and was reassigned. After the war, he espoused abolitionist sentiments and said “while I can not recognize as lawful and humane the violent and shocking mode in which it [slavery] has been abolished, yet I accept the fact most heartily as an accomplished one, and am determined not only to abide by it and acquiesce in it, but to strive by all the means in my power to make it beneficent to both races and a blessing especially to our country.”