John Sergeant Wise
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John Sergeant Wise

John Sergeant Wise
John S. Wise.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's At-large district

March 4, 1883 - March 3, 1885
District created
District abolished
(Virginia's House delegation when district re-established in 1933)
United States Attorney for the
Eastern District of Virginia

May 1882 - March 1883
Lunsford L. Lewis
Edmund Waddill, Jr.
Personal details
Born(1846-12-27)December 27, 1846
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
DiedMay 12, 1913(1913-05-12) (aged 66)
Princess Anne, Maryland
Resting placeRichmond, Virginia
Political partyReadjuster Party
Alma materVirginia Military Institute
University of Virginia
Professionlawyer, writer
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Branch/serviceVMI Cadets
 Confederate States Army
Years of service1864-1865
RankConfederate States of America First Lieutenant.png First Lieutenant
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
Battle of New Market

John Sergeant Wise (December 27, 1846 - May 12, 1913) was an American author, lawyer, and politician in Virginia. He was the son of Henry Alexander Wise, a Governor of Virginia, and Sarah Sergeant.

Early life

John was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1846, while his father was U.S. Minister to Brazil. He lived as a youth with his father and others at Rolleston, their plantation on the Elizabeth River outside Norfolk, Virginia. His father served as a US Congressman before being elected as Governor of Virginia in 1856. After being privately tutored as a youth, Wise attended Virginia Military Institute.

Still a student when the American Civil War began, Wise served with the VMI Corps of Cadets at the Battle of New Market. He was posted in charge guard of the Cadets' baggage train. Defying orders to stay there, he took part in the Cadets' famous charge. After the battle, he was commissioned in the Confederate States Army.[1]

Law and politics

After the war, Wise studied law at the University of Virginia, where he was initiated as a Brother of Beta Theta Pi fraternity in 1867. That same year he graduated and was admitted to the bar.

Wise practiced law in Richmond, Virginia for many years. In 1880, he was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Representative. In May 1882, he was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, serving until March 1883.

Later in 1882, Wise was elected U.S. Representative for Virginia's at-large seat as a "Readjuster" - a label used by a coalition of Republicans and dissident Virginia Democrats. He served in the 48th United States Congress, from 1883 to 1885.[1]

Before the 1884 elections, Virginia's districts were redrawn, abolishing the at-large seat. Wise did not seek re-election from a district. Instead, in 1885 he ran for Governor of Virginia as a Republican, but lost to Democrat Fitzhugh Lee.

Last years

Wise later moved to New York City, and practiced law there till his retirement. He died in 1913, near Princess Anne, Maryland, and was buried in Richmond.[2]

Literary career

John Wise wrote several books, most notably a memoir entitled The End of an Era (1899), which has been reprinted in numerous editions since its first publication. A full text edition is available online at the University of North Carolina's website, Documenting the American South.[3] It describes his boyhood in the last days before the Civil War, while he was living on his father's plantation "Rolleston" in Virginia, with a childhood slave companion and friend. He also discusses the war years, his father's role in the war, and his family.

Principal literary works

  • Diomed: The Life, Travels, and Observations of a Dog (1897)
  • The End of an Era (1899)
  • The Lion's Skin: a Historical Novel and a Novel History (1905)
  • Recollections of Thirteen Presidents (1906)


On November 3, 1869, he married Evelyn Byrd Beverly Douglas, daughter of Hugh Douglas and Nancy Hamilton. John and Evelyn had nine children, seven sons and two daughters:

  1. John Sergeant Wise (died young)
  2. Hugh Douglas Wise
  3. Henry Alexander Wise
  4. John Sergeant Wise (as was custom, he was given the same name as an older brother who died young, in order to carry on his father's name)
  5. Hamilton Wise
  6. Eva Douglas Wise
  7. Jennings Cropper Wise (recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross during the First World War, he became Commandant of Virginia Military Institute)
  8. Margaretta Watnough Wise
  9. Byrd Douglas Wise

New York State Senator Henry A. Wise (1906-1982) was his grandson.

In popular culture

Wise was portrayed by Luke Benward in the 2014 film Field of Lost Shoes, which depicted the Battle of New Market.


  1. ^ a b "Wise, John Sergeant". United States Congress. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ "John Sergeant Wise". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ Wise, John. "The End of an Era". University of North Carolina. Retrieved 2015.

External links

United States Congress. "WISE, John Sergeant (id: W000651)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
District established
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's At-large congressional district

Succeeded by
District abolished

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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