Civil War Image Shop

Rare Carte View Virginia Governor and Brigadier General Henry A. Wise


Item No. CV4861DS Category


Extremely scarce carte view of Henry A. Wise, who served as both Governor of Virginia and as a brigadier general in the Confederate army. Henry A. Wise was born in Virginia in 1806. He practiced law there until he was elected to various senior public offices, first to Congress in 1833 and as governor in 1855. While serving as Virginia’s governor, he was heavily involved in the aftermath of John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry, and signed Brown’s death sentence. Brown was captured and tried by the state of Virginia, who sentenced him to death. Wise had the power to commute his sentence to imprisonment for life. Moderates and abolitionists urged him to commute the sentence, and he almost considered having Brown sent to a mental hospital instead, believing the man was insane. However, when he visited Brown in his jail cell, he decided that Brown was far from insane and allowed the death sentence to stand. At the outbreak of Civil War, Wise was appointed a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. He commanded the Department of North Carolina and then a Division of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia during the Peninsula Campaign. Later, he commanded troops who defended Petersburg during the initial assault on the city in 1864. Wise was appointed as a brigadier general in the Army of Northern Virginia for political reasons as he had no military experience. He performed poorly in operations in the Kanawha Valley in 1861 and on Roanoke Island in 1862. However, Wise’s military leadership improved as the war went on, serving with distinction at Petersburg and during the Army of Northern Virginia’s final retreat to Appomattox. He was temporarily promoted to major general at Sailors Creek but surrendered as a brigadier. After the war, Wise never sought out an official pardon, but rather deemphasized the large role he played in Virginia’s secession. In 1872, he supported his former adversary Ulysses Grants re-election to the presidency. He worked as a lawyer until he passed away in Richmond on September 12, 1876. This seldom seen photograph shows Wise dressed in a military heavy great coat, with a slouch hat in his hands. A pencil inscription to his left simply reads, “Gen. H. Wise,” while a second inscription below the image reads “Gen. Wise.” Verso bears the imprint and official cancellation stamp of Charles R. Rees, perhaps the best-known southern portrait photographer in operation during the war. Slightly trimmed along the bottom but otherwise fine. Rare view.

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