March 9, , Oct. 4, 1861. Manuscript Letter, 1 page, 4.75" x 6.5" on "Norfolk and Petersburg Rail Road Company's TELEGRAPH LINE" stationery, Norfolk, March 9, , to "Mrs. John T. Wood." Light adhesive remnants on verso, usual folds, else fine. Offered together with Stephen Mallory Partly-printed Document Signed, "S R Mallory," as Secretary of the Confederate States Navy, 1 page, 8" x 9.75", Richmond, October 4, 1861, appointing Taylor, "A Lieutenant in the Navy of the Confederate States..." Light toning along expected folds, else fine.A fine communication from Wood, who served as a lieutenant aboard the C.S.S. Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack), after concluding the first battle against the U.S.S. Monitor: the first engagement between two ironclads in the history of naval warfare. Although most historians have concluded that the battle ended in a stalemate with no clear victor, the crew of the Virginia viewed the two day action, in which the Confederate ironclad destroyed two Union warships and forced several others to run aground as well as forcing the Monitor to withdraw after an exploding shell scored a direct hit on its pilothouse, blinding Captain Worden. Taylor's message reads in full: "Thank Heaven all well Great Victory" Believing that they had won the day, the Virginia's captain Catesby ap Roger Jones ordered the ship back to port. Meanwhile, the crew of the Monitor regrouped, and returned to the scene under the command of its executive officer only to find that the Virginia, which had been badly damaged in the firefight, had withdrawn. John Taylor Wood (1830-1904) , the son of Union General Robert Wood and Anne Taylor, the daughter of President Zachary Taylor, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1852. Initially maintaining a neutral stance following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, his sympathies headed South after the Battle of Fort Sumter. On April 21, 1861, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Navy and retired to his Maryland farm. The farming life did not last long, however, as life was becoming too dangerous. Fearing for the safety of his family, the Woods moved south to Richmond, Virginias where his uncle, Jefferson Davis, was now presiding over the Confederate capital (Jefferson Davis' first wife, Sarah Taylor, was Wood's mother's sister).In October 1861, Taylor received a commission as a lieutenant in the Confederate States Navy and became an officer aboard the C.S.S. Virginia (the former U.S.S. Merrimack) and fought against he U.S.S. Monitor at the Battle of Hampton Roads. Wood commanded the rear pivot gun and fired the shot that wounded the Monitor's captain. Appointed an aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis, Wood was awarded the rank and pay of a colonel of cavalry, giving him simultaneous commands in both the Confederate Army and Navy allowing him to serve as an effective liaison between the services and the government in Richmond. In that capacity, Wood undertook an extensive survey of Confederate costal defenses. During the summer of 1863, he led a series of successful raids against Union shipping in Chesapeake Bay. In the summer of 1864, Wood commanded the C.S.S. Tallahassee, a raider and blockade runner. During his tenure aboard the Tallahassee, he captured an astounding 33 Union ships during a ten-day period off the coast of New England. By April 1865, the situation looked grim for the Confederacy. Wood was with his uncle on April 2, attending St. Paul's Church in Richmond, when a telegram from Lee arrived informing the president that Petersburg would soon fall and the government must evacuate. That evening, he, Davis, and other members of the Confederate government boarded a train for Danville, Virginia. They continued their flight south, where, on May 10, 1865, near the town of Irwinsville, Georgia, Davis and Wood were both captured by Union forces. Wood soon made his escape, with his uncle's permission, by bribing one of his captors and hiding in a nearby swamp until the Federals and their prisoners left the area. Wood made his way south to Florida and met up with Major General John C. Breckinridge. Acquiring a small boat, Wood, Breckinridge, and several other men first attempted to row east to The Bahamas, but abandoned the plan and decided to instead make their way south toward Cuba. He managed to trade with a crew of Union deserters his boat for their slightly bigger sloop. They reached the north shore of Cuban on June 10. He remained in Cuba for two weeks before heading north to Canada, where his family soon joined him. Reunited, they settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and remained there for the rest of their lives. John Taylor Wood died on July 19, 1904. (Inventory #: 60642)
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