Charles Van Wyck

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Charles Henry Van Wyck
VAN WYCK, Charles Henry.jpg
United States Senator
from Nebraska
In office
March 4, 1881 – March 3, 1887
Preceded byAlgernon Paddock
Succeeded byAlgernon Paddock
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th district
In office
February 7, 1870 – March 3, 1871
Preceded byGeorge W. Greene
Succeeded byCharles St. John
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1867 – March 3, 1869
Preceded byCharles H. Winfield
Succeeded byGeorge W. Greene
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 10th district
In office
March 4, 1859 – March 3, 1863
Preceded byAmbrose S. Murray
Succeeded byWilliam Radford
Member of the Nebraska Senate
In office
Personal details
Born(1824-05-10)May 10, 1824
Poughkeepsie, New York
DiedOctober 24, 1895(1895-10-24) (aged 71)
Washington, D.C.
Political partyRepublican

Charles Henry Van Wyck (May 10, 1824 – October 24, 1895) was a Representative from New York, a Senator from Nebraska, and a Union Army brigadier general in the American Civil War.

Early life and political career[edit]

Van Wyck was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. He was a distant cousin of Robert Anderson Van Wyck and Augustus Van Wyck; their common ancestors were Theodorus Van Wyck (1668-1753) and his wife Margretia Brinckerhoff Van Wyck.[1] He completed preparatory studies and graduated from Rutgers College, New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1843. Van Wyck studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1847 and commenced the practice of law. He then moved to Bloomingburg, New York, where he was a district attorney 1850-1856.

Van Wyck was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from New York to the Thirty-sixth and Thirty-seventh Congresses (March 4, 1859 – March 3, 1863). He served as chairman, Committee on Mileage (Thirty-sixth Congress) and on the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions (Thirty-seventh Congress).

Assassination attempt[edit]

Van Wyck delivered a harsh anti-slavery speech on the House floor on March 7, 1860, which denounced the Southern states for the "crime against the laws of God and nature."[2] The speech was widely reported. On February 22, 1861, Van Wyck was assaulted near the United States Capitol by three men in an assassination attempt, an attack which was reported as related to the prior year's speech.[3] Van Wyck fought off the attack, surviving only because a notebook and copy of the Congressional Globe which he had kept in the breast pocket of his coat had blocked the blade of a Bowie knife.[3] The three men fled and were never identified. This was also the same night as an alleged attempt was made to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln in Baltimore, Maryland.[3]

Civil War[edit]

Van Wyck entered the Union Army as colonel of the 56th New York Volunteer Infantry and commanded it during the American Civil War. Part of the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula Campaign, Van Wyck was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Fair Oaks. Much of the war was then spent in South Carolina taking part in the Siege of Charleston Harbor and the Battle of Honey Hill. He was brevetted brigadier general for services during the war.[4]

Postbellum career[edit]

Van Wyck was elected to the Fortieth Congress (March 4, 1867 – March 3, 1869); successfully contested the election of George Woodward Greene to the Forty-first Congress and served from February 17, 1870 to March 3, 1871.

He moved to Nebraska in 1874, where he settled on a farm in Otoe County, and engaged in agricultural pursuits. Van Wyck was a delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1875. He was elected to the State senate 1877, 1879, 1881. That year, he was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate from Nebraska and served from March 4, 1881 to March 3, 1887. He served as chairman, Committee on the Mississippi River and Its Tributaries (Forty-seventh Congress) and on the Committee on the Improvement of the Mississippi River and Tributaries (Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Congresses). Van Wyck was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection. In 1892, he was an unsuccessful Populist candidate for Governor of Nebraska. Van Wyck then retired from political life and active business pursuits. He died in Washington, D.C., and was interred in Milford Cemetery, Milford, Pennsylvania.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Portrait and Biographical Record of Suffolk County (Long Island) New York. New York, NY: Chapman Publishing Co. 1896. pp. 958–961.
  2. ^ "Speech of Hon. C. H. Van Wyck, of New York. Delivered in the House of representatives, March 7, 1860". True democracy--history vindicated. Republican executive congressional committee. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Goodheart, Adam (Mar 16, 2011). "Guns, Blood and Congress". New York Times. Retrieved Mar 17, 2011.
  4. ^ "Rutgers in the Civil War," Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries Vol. 66 (2014), page 105

Other sources[edit]

  • Dictionary of American Biography; Harmar, Marie V. and James L. Sellers. "Charles Henry Van Wyck: Soldier-Statesman of New York and Nebraska."
  • Nebraska Historical Magazine 12 (April–June 1929): 80-129, 12 (July–September 1929): 190-246, 12 (October–December 1929): 322-73.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ambrose S. Murray
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 10th congressional district

Succeeded by
William Radford
Preceded by
Charles H. Winfield
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
George Greene
Preceded by
George Greene
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th congressional district

(challenge) February 7, 1870 – 1871
Succeeded by
Charles St. John
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Algernon S. Paddock
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Nebraska
Served alongside: Alvin Saunders, Charles F. Manderson
Succeeded by
Algernon S. Paddock