John Taylor Wood

This article is about the US Naval officer. For other people with similar names, see John Wood (disambiguation).
John Taylor Wood

John Taylor Wood (August 13, 1830 July 19, 1904) was an officer in the United States Navy and the Confederate Navy. He resigned from the U.S. Navy at the beginning of the American Civil War, and became a "leading Confederate naval hero" as a captain in the Confederate Navy.[1] He was a Lieutenant serving aboard the CSS Virginia when it engaged the USS Monitor in 1862,[2] one of the most famous naval battles in Civil War and U.S. Naval history.[3] He was caught in 1865 in Georgia with Confederate President Jefferson Davis' party, but escaped and made his way to Cuba.[3] From there, he got to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he settled and became a merchant. His wife and children joined him there, and more children were born in Canada which is where he lived out the remainder of his life.

Early life

John Taylor Wood was the son and first child of Robert Crooke Wood from Rhode Island, an army surgeon, and Anne Mackall Taylor, eldest daughter of Zachary Taylor, (who would become a major general in the United States Army, a hero of the Mexican-American War, and who would serve as 12th President of the United States, 1849–50).[2][4] Robert Crooke Wood and Zachary Taylor served together in the U.S. Army. Along with being the grandson of a U.S. president, John Taylor Wood was also the nephew of future Confederate president Jefferson Davis, whose first wife, Sarah Knox Taylor (1814–1835), was the second daughter of Zachary Taylor and Margaret Mackall Smith.[5]

Wood was born on August 13, 1830,[4] at Fort Snelling then in the Northwest Territory near present-day St. Paul, Minnesota. Wood was delivered by his father and is claimed to have been the first white child born in Minnesota.[6] From 1832 until 1837, the Wood family lived at Fort Crawford located at the junction of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. Young Wood grew up in the frontier at the time of the Black Hawk War.[4]

Royal Military College memorial

Marriage and family

Wood married Lola Mackubin in 1856,[7] after getting his first assignments in the Navy. He and his wife had eleven children. Zachary Taylor Wood (1860-1915), the oldest son, became Acting Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Commissioner and Commissioner of the Yukon Territory from 1902 to 1903. Charles Carroll Wood (b. 1876 - d. 1899), the youngest son, graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada 1896 (student #352). He served as a lieutenant for Canada in the Boer War and died in battle in 1899. He is memorialized on the Royal Military College Memorial Arch.

Military career

Wood became a U.S. Navy Midshipman on April 7, 1847. He joined the crew of the frigate Brandywine which sailed to Brazil. Soon after he transferred to the USS Ohio and sailed for the west coast of Mexico in 1847. Soon after arriving off the Mexican port of Mazzatan later that year Wood joined a thousand sailor force that landed to capture the port city where he first experienced combat while commanding a gun crew. At the end of the Mexican War in 1848, Wood returned to the Ohio and saw service in the newly acquired California territory during the gold rush. After serving at sea on the Ohio for three years, Wood's ship returned to Boston where he was given a three month leave-of-absence. During his time aboard the Ohio Zachary Taylor had become president.[6]

Wood served for a time aboard the USS Ohio alongside William Hall and later supported Hall's US Navy pension claim.[8]

Suppression of African slave trade

Wood served at sea during the last part of the Mexican-American War, performing shore duty as a Naval Academy officer. During the last part of the war he sailed to Africa off the coast of Africa suppressing the African slave trade and in the Mediterranean. He served aboard the USS Porpoise patrolling in the Gulf of Guinea when it captured a Spanish slave ship. His first command of a ship occurred when he was ordered to bring the captured Africans to Liberia and set them free. He was responsible for his ship, his crew, and three hundred and fifty prisoners. The voyage lasted three weeks and was pitted against stormy seas but Wood succeeded in reaching Monrovia with his ship and passengers intact. The authorities in Liberia denied Wood the right to land his human cargo in the capital and he was forced on another one hundred and fifty mile voyage to Grand Bassa. Once again Wood was confronted by governmental authorities and was told he could not land his cargo of captured and would be slaves. However this time he did not comply, asserted his authority, and landed his human cargo. Wood returned to the Porpoise and at age 21 had gained confidence as a commander from the experience.[6][9]

Other service

Wood graduated second in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1852. He then went on to serve on the USS Cumberland on voyage about the Mediterranean which last two years. The Cumberland was a ship that he would later fight against as a Confederate officer in the American Civil War. After returning to Annapolis in September 1855, he received promotion to lieutenant. Wood returned to Maryland and met Lola Mackubin, daughter of a prominent Maryland politician. They were married on November 26, 1856. Their daughter, Anne, was born on September 18, 1857.[7] In 1858 he served as a gunnery officer for eighteen months aboard the USS Wabash.[7] During this time, he suffered the loss of his infant daughter in 1859.[6]

Civil War

Lieutenant Wood taught gunnery tactics at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland at the beginning of the Civil War. Due to his southern sympathies, he resigned his commission on April 2, 1861 and took up farming nearby. He later went to Virginia and in October 1861, received a commission as a Confederate Navy First Lieutenant, where he was appointed as officer in the Confederate States Navy by October and assigned to the CSS Virginia in November.[10]

Following service with shore batteries on the Potomac River,[11] he became an officer in the newly converted ironclad USS Virginia serving under commander Buchanan. He was wounded in the Battle of Hampton Roads.[2][6] Wood commanded the stern pivot gun during the battle and fired the shot that seriously wounded Captain Worden, commander of the Monitor.[12]

In May 1862, after Virginia was destroyed, Wood assisted with the defense of Drewry's Bluff, on the James River. During the next two years, Wood led several successful raids against Federal ships and also served as naval aide to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Promoted to Commander in May 1863, he simultaneously held the rank of Colonel in the cavalry. These dual ranks, with his reputation for extraordinary daring and his family connections to Confederate leaders, allowed him to play an important liaison role between the South's army, navy and civil government.

In August 1864, Wood commanded CSS Tallahassee, a Confederate commerce raider and blockade runner against U.S. shipping off the Atlantic coast capturing an astonishing 33 Union ships during a ten-day period off the coast of New England.[13]

[14][15] He received the rank of Captain in February 1865. A few months later, as the Confederacy was disintegrating, he accompanied President Davis in his attempt to evade capture and leave the country.

Though briefly taken prisoner, Wood escaped to Cuba. He subsequently went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he became a businessman. His wife and family joined him there and they lived the rest of their lives in Nova Scotia. Wood died there on July 19, 1904. His obituary appeared in the New York Times the next day.[6] He is buried in Halifax's Camp Hill Cemetery.[16]


See also


  1. Bell, 2002, p.68
  2. 1 2 3 Bell, 2002, p.1
  3. 1 2 Bell, 2002, p.41
  4. 1 2 3 Bell, 2002, p.12
  5. Bell, 2002, p.20
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Winstead, 2009
  7. 1 2 3 Bell, 2002, p.19
  8. States, David W. "William Hall VC of Horton Bluff, Nova Scotia Nineteenth Century Naval Hero",
    Collections of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society Vol. 44,
  9. Bell, 2002, p.18
  10. Field, 2011, p. 35
  11. Bell, 2002, p.22
  12. Field, 2011, pp. 35, 37
  13. Symonds, 2009, p.84
  14. Bell, 2002, pp.62, 67
  15. Tucker, 2006, p.293
  16. Bell, 2002, p.64
  17. Halifax Street Names; An Illustrated Guide. p. 148


Other sources

Further reading

External links

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