This 1859 photo of Henry Wilson, Senator from Massachusetts, Thirty-fifth Congress by Julian Vannerson belongs to Brady Handy Collection at the Library of Congress.
Funk and Wagnalls give us this short bio of Wilson.
Wilson, Henry (1812–75), 18th vice-president (1873–75) of the U.S. A native of New Hampshire, Wilson served as an indentured farm laborer in his youth. Subsequently he learned shoemaking and in the late 1830s acquired ownership of a shoe factory in Natick, Mass. In 1840 he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature and became a U.S. senator from Massachusetts in 1855. Having been a member of the Whig, Free-Soil, and Know-Nothing parties, he joined the newly formed Republicans in 1855. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs during the American Civil War, Wilson played an important role in recruiting, equipping, and training Union forces. He served as vice-president under Ulysses S. Grant.
Henry Wilson was born in Farmington, New Hampshire. Two historical markers mark the spot.
Born in Farmington February 16, 1812, Jeremiah Jones Colbath, this self-educated farm boy changed his name when of age to Henry Wilson. He became a teacher, member of Congress, United States Senator and took office as Vice President under President Ulysses S. Grant March 4, 1873. He suffered a stroke and died in the Vice President’s chambers in the Capitol, November 22, 1875.
U.S. Grant, “The Galena Tanner”, running for his second term, headed the Republican ticket. This “Working-Man's Banner” poster emphasized the working-class origins of the Republican candidates.
During the Civil War, Senator Wilson was chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs. In 1861 he raised a brigade of Massachusetts Militia, The 22nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. He held, thereby, the rank of Brigadier General in the Massachusetts Militia and Colonel in the U.S. Army. This engraving of “Col. Henry Wilson of Mass.” by John Chester Buttre after Mathew B. Brady shows him in uniform.
Col. Henry Wilson of Mass.
Wilson famously carried a picnic basket when he went out in his carriage to witness the Battle of Bull Run. He was caught up in the subsequent chaos of the rout and had to walk back to Washington. A rumor blamed Wilson for the loss, accusing him of revealing military plans to Confederate spy, Rose O'Neil Greenhow.
Wilson's Abolition Act fulfilled a pledge made 26 years before when he first came to Washington. He boarded for a month on Capitol Hill and visited William's notorious slave pen at Seventh and B streets. “I saw slavery beneath the shadow of the flag that waved over the Capitol,” he said, “I saw the slave pens. I left the Capital of my country with the unalterable resolution to give all that I had to the cause of emancipation in America.” From Washington he returned to Dartmouth College and at the close of the school year spoke on the affirmative side of the question: “Ought slavery to be abolished in the District of Columbia?” -- Will P. Kennedy
Harriet M. Howe, born in Natick, Nov. 21, 1824;
married to Henry Wilson Nov. 28, 1810;
died May 28, 1870.
She made home happy.But oh for the touch of a vanquished hand.
And the sound of a voice that is still
On the front face, in large raised letters, is the inscription: “Henry Wilson, the Soldiers' Friend;” on the opposite face: “Erected by the Enlisted Men of the Army;” and on the end: “Died, Vice-President of the United States, November 22, 1875.”
In 1872 a veteran named Fred Eberle, in The Indianapolis Journal, gave an example of why Henry Wilson had the sobriquet “The Soldiers' Friend;” (or is it “The Soldier's Friend?”).