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 John Taylor Wood

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John Taylor Wood

  • Birth 13 Aug 1830 Fort Snelling, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA
  • Death 19 Jul 1904 Halifax, Halifax County, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Burial Halifax, Halifax County, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Memorial ID 9075

Civil War Confederate Naval Officer. He was born at Fort Snelling, Iowa Territory, and was the son of army surgeon Robert Crooke Wood, Sr. Choosing a naval career, the young officer graduated from the Annapolis Naval Academy on June 10, 1853, and went to sea aboard the Cumberland. An instructor of gunnery tactics at the Academy in 1861, with strong family ties to the South (his mother was a daughter of Zachary Taylor; his aunt had married Jefferson Davis), he resigned his commission on April 21 after Federal troops occupied Maryland. The Navy Department refused the resignation and dismissed him from the service. Fleeing in September to Richmond with his wife and daughter, he entered Confederate service and became one of the staunchest advocates of Southern independence. His close relationship with Davis added weight to his professional achievement, and he emerged as one of the most influential men in the capital. Given rank as Second Lieutenant and sea duty aboard the CSS Virginia, he fought in the first duel between ironclads on March 8 and 9, 1862. After the Virginia was destroyed to prevent its capture, he led the crew to victory manning heavy gun emplacements at Drewry's Bluff on May 15, thwarting Major General George B. McClellan's best chance to take Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign. Largely for his success at Drewry's Bluff, Davis promoted him to First Lieutenant on September 29. Believing naval successes could boost sagging public morale and force the Confederate Congress to vote more money for shipbuilding, in mid-1862 the resourceful naval officer approached Secretary of the Navy Stephen R. Mallory with a plan to strike Federal craft in a series of midnight naval raids. The attacks, dependent on surprise and speed, were carried out by a crew of 15 or 20 handpicked men in specially built shallow draft boats light enough to be hauled overland in wagons and launched in small streams and inlets. The first raid against the transport schooner Frances Elmore, on Octobet 7, marked the beginning of his reputation as a coastal raider to be feared. On January 26, 1863, Davis appointed him his aide with rank as Colonel of cavalry, making the officer liaison between the army and navy and one of the few men to hold dual rank in the Confederacy. His inspection tour of the Southern ports and vessels that spring resulted in strengthened coastal and river defenses and in the establishment of a Provisional Navy as a means of promoting talented younger officers over veterans of the old navy reluctant to adapt to advances in naval warfare. Back at sea in July, he raided into Chesapeake Bay, and in February 1864 he received the Thanks of Congress for his capture the previous fall of the Underwriter, the largest Federal gunboat at New Berne, North Carolina. That July he put to sea aboard the Tallahassee, the faster steamer afloat. Eluding Federal pursuers, in less than 3 weeks he terrorized the coast from New York to Maine, capturing or destroying 31 coastal and fishing craft. He was promoted to Captain on February 10, 1865. He was with Davis at St. Paul's Episcopal Church when the President learned of General Robert E. Lee's retreat from Petersburg and accompanied Davis on his flight from Richmond. Captured with the presidential party near Irwinville, Georgia, on May 10, he managed to escape by bribing a guard. Making his way to Madison, Florida, a refugee town for Confederates, he met Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge. They and four other men traveled a perilous route to Fort Butler on the St. John's River, sailing from there on May 26 in a captured lifeboat. They arrived at Cardenas Bay, Cuba, on June 11, having survived near starvation, an encounter with pirates, and a violent storm in which he nearly lost his life. Learning that Federal authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest, he arranged to meet his family in Canada, where they settled in the expatriate community in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There he established a profitable merchant commission house with former blockade runner John Wilkenson, remaining a devoted Confederate until his death in Halifax.

Bio by: Ugaalltheway

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 8 Apr 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9075
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Taylor Wood (13 Aug 1830–19 Jul 1904), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9075, citing Camp Hill Cemetery, Halifax, Halifax County, Nova Scotia, Canada ; Maintained by Find A Grave .