John Sergeant Wise

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John Sergeant Wise
John S. Wise.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's At-large district
In office
March 4, 1883 – March 3, 1885
Preceded by District created
Succeeded by District abolished
(Virginia's House delegation when district re-established in 1933)
United States Attorney for the
Eastern District of Virginia
In office
May 1882 – March 1883
Preceded by Lunsford L. Lewis
Succeeded by Edmund Waddill, Jr.
Personal details
Born (1846-12-27)December 27, 1846
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Died May 12, 1913(1913-05-12) (aged 66)
Princess Anne, Maryland
Resting place Richmond, Virginia
Political party Readjuster Party
Alma mater Virginia Military Institute
University of Virginia
Profession lawyer, writer
Military service
Allegiance  Confederate States of America
Service/branch VMI Cadets
 Confederate States Army
Years of service 1864–1865
Rank Confederate States of America First Lieutenant.png First Lieutenant
Battles/wars American 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[edit]

John was born in Rio de Janeiro, where his father was U.S. Minister to Brazil. He attended Virginia Military Institute. During the American Civil War, he served with the VMI Corps of Cadets at the Battle of New Market. He was posted in charge guard of the Cadets' baggage train and in defying orders, took part in the Cadets' famous charge. After the battle, he was commissioned in the Confederate States Army.[1]

Law and politics[edit]

After the war, he studied law at the University of Virginia, where he was initiated 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 "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[edit]

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[edit]

John Wise wrote several books, most notably a memoir entitled The End of an Era, reprinted in numerous editions since its first publication.[3] It describes his boyhood in the last days before the Civil War, on his father's plantation "Rolleston", with a childhood slave companion and friend, and the war years, and also his father's role in the war, and his family.

Principal literary works[edit]

  • 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
  2. Hugh Douglas Wise
  3. Henry Alexander Wise
  4. John Sergeant Wise
  5. Hamilton Wise
  6. Eva Douglas Wise
  7. Jennings Cropper Wise (recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross during the First World War and went on to become 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[edit]

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 21 May 2015. 
  2. ^ "John Sergeant Wise". Find A Grave. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Wise, John. "The End of an Era". University of North Carolina. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 

External links[edit]

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

United States 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