On this day in 1831, Confederate General Edward Aylesworth Perry is born in Richmond, Massachusetts. The transplanted Yankee led a Florida brigade during the Civil War, and served as governor of the state after the war.
Perry received his education at Lee Academy in Massachusetts and Yale University. In 1852, he moved to Georgia to teach school and study law. After a sojourn in Alabama, he settled in Pensacola, Florida. When the war erupted, Perry took up arms for his adopted state, becoming a captain in the Pensacola Rifle Rangers. His company was later absorbed into the 2nd Florida Infantry. Perry participated in the occupation of the Pensacola navy yard before joining the Confederate army in Virginia.
The 2nd Florida fought in the 1862 Peninsular Campaign, defending Yorktown, Virginia, in the face of General George B. McClellan’s invading Union army. Perry become the regiment’s commander when Colonel George Ward was killed near Williamsburg, Virginia, and Perry led the unit through hard fighting during the Seven Days’ Battles in June 1862. Three months later, the Floridians fought at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland and suffered heavy losses. Perry was promoted to brigadier general and received command of two other Florida regiments. He fought at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, but typhoid fever caused him to miss the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in July 1863, where his brigade lost more than half of its men.
Perry returned to command, but was seriously wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia in May 1864. He was forced to relinquish control of his brigade, and after recovering spent the rest of the war commanding reserve troops in Alabama. He served as governor of Florida from 1884 to 1888, and in that post signed a bill providing pensions for Confederate veterans. Perry died from a stroke on October 15, 1889, in Kerrville, Texas, and was buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Pensacola.