A Good Southerner: The Life of Henry A. Wise of Virginia

By Craig M. Simpson | Go to book overview

Chapter 14 Confederate Past, Yankee Future

Few men ever gave more to a cause whose righteousness they doubted. Besides the blood sacrifices of his family, Wise lost perhaps $15,000 to 20,000 in direct donations to the Confederacy. This figure included Confederate bonds, forever worthless, and out-of-pocket expenses to equip himself and his troops. His farm was ransacked, his library pilfered. Friends and relatives kept him alive for several weeks after the surrender at Appomattox while he roamed Virginia attempting to determine where his best opportunities might lie. For some time, he occasionally accepted "loans" with no intention of repaying. He also benefited from public fund- raising activities undertaken in the South. Remembering his antebellum services, Catholics and Irish predominated in these efforts. In poor health throughout this period, he barely survived a cholera attack in the summer of 1866. 1

His prospects were grim. Certainly no option of further fighting remained. At a public meeting in Halifax County late in April 1865, he counseled his listeners to accept defeat and rebuild their fortunes. 2 He would himself extract as much hope as possible from mournful circumstances. If he could reclaim his land in order to sell it--farming was now out of the question--and launch a law practice, his reputation might see him through. But hard times render good names precious and frail. Wise therefore insisted on proclaiming his achievements. Given his dubious record during the war, he could justify himself only by memorializing the Confederacy's accomplishments. In dozens of letters and addresses until his death in 1876, he glorified the Lost Cause, extolled the virtues of Confederate fighting men, and remembered the burdens borne by widows and orphans. Once merely a good Southerner, Wise now aspired to the part of best Southerner.

As always, he found it a goal impossible to attain. The Republicans later claimed his loyalty, for good reason, as we shall see. He simply protested too much, not only about the record of his brigade but about secession. Indignantly, he repudiated the charge of treason. Virginians had fought under the authority of their state, he

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A Good Southerner: The Life of Henry A. Wise of Virginia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Maps x
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Chapter 1 the Character and Politics of a Young Virginian 3
  • Chapter 2 a Long Farewell to Jackson 16
  • Chapter 3 Defending Shaky Outposts 29
  • Chapter 4 Supporting Tyler and Escaping the Consequences 45
  • Chapter 5 the Good Slaveholder 61
  • Chapter 6 Political Compromise and the Protection of Slavery 78
  • Chapter 7 Political Entitlements 87
  • Chapter 8 Saving Virginia, Preserving the Union 106
  • Chapter 9 a Futile Effort to Revive the Old Dominion 135
  • Chapter 10 Kansas 157
  • Chapter 11 Two Men at Harpers Ferry 203
  • Chapter 12 Failed Hope and the Choice of War 219
  • Chapter 13 Steadfast to the Last 252
  • Chapter 14 Confederate Past, Yankee Future 285
  • Abbreviations 315
  • Notes 319
  • Bibliography 395
  • Index 435
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