Born in Richmond, Massachusetts, Perry moved to Greenville, Alabama in 1853, after briefly attending Yale University. In Alabama, he taught and studied law with Hillary Herbert (who was a hero at Gettysburg and Secretary of the Navy under Grover Cleveland). He soon moved to Pensacola, Florida and passed the bar exam. He served as a judge for Escambia County, Florida, from 1857 through 1861. He married Wathen Virginia Taylor on February 1, 1859, a granddaughter of Hillary Herbert and a cousin of the Hillary Herbert who served in the Cleveland administration
During the Civil War, he fought with distinction for the Confederacy, rising from the rank of private to brigadier general. In May 1861, he enlisted in Company A of the 2nd Florida Infantry and was elected as its captain. A year later, he was elected colonel of the regiment.
In June 1862, he was wounded during the fight at Glendale during the Peninsula Campaign and furloughed. On August 28, 1862, he was appointed as a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of the Confederacy and returned to active duty the following year. He led an all-Florida brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Chancellorsville, but was stricken with typhoid fever and missed the Gettysburg Campaign, where Col. David Lang commanded Perry's Brigade.
Perry returned to the Army of Northern Virginia to command his brigade for the Bristoe Campaign in the fall of 1863. However, he was severely wounded in the fighting at the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. He briefly returned to the trenches during the Siege of Petersburg, but had not recovered sufficiently for active duty. Hence, he was sent to Alabama for the duration of the war, serving on reserve duty in the Confederate Invalid Corps.
He returned to Florida and became a prominent lawyer and Democratic state politician. Elected governor in 1884, he assumed office on January 7, 1885. During his administration, Florida adopted a new constitution and established the state board of education. He was an outspoken opponent of the carpetbaggers.
His antebellum home is now the Scottish Rite Temple in downtown Pensacola and the Confederate Monument on Palafox Street bears a plaque honoring his wife, Wathen Virginia Taylor, who raised the funds for its erection. After leaving office on January 8, 1889, he returned home to Pensacola. He died suddenly of a stroke while visiting Kerrville, Texas later that year, aged 58.
He and his wife are buried in St. John's Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida where the grave marker and central monument in the Perry plot shows the name of his wife to be Wathen Virginia Perry as does the historic marker at the former Perry home at 1 E. Wright Street.
|- style="text-align: center;"
|width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
William D. Bloxham |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Governor of Florida
January 7, 1885 to January 8, 1889 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Francis P. Fleming |- |}
Template:Governors of Florida
de:Edward Perry sv:Edward A. Perry