Thomas J. Wood

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For other people named Thomas Wood, see Thomas Wood (disambiguation).
Thomas John Wood
Thomas J Wood.jpg
Thomas John Wood
Born (1823-09-25)September 25, 1823
Munfordville, Kentucky
Died February 26, 1906(1906-02-26) (aged 82)
Dayton, Ohio
Place of burial West Point Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Union
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1845–68
Rank Major General
Commands held 2nd Cavalry Regiment
IV Corps
Battles/wars

Mexican–American War

American Civil War

Thomas John Wood (September 25, 1823 – February 26, 1906) was a career United States Army officer and a Union general during the American Civil War.

Early life and career[edit]

Wood was born in rural Munfordville, Kentucky, the son of George Thomas Wood, an army officer, and Elizabeth Helm (through his mother, he was a cousin of Confederate general Benjamin H. Helm). He was an 1845 graduate of the United States Military Academy, finishing 5th in a class of 41 cadets. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1846, Wood joined General Zachary Taylor's staff for a few months as the Mexican–American War erupted. He soon transferred at his request to U.S. 2nd Dragoons and was cited for valor at the Battle of Buena Vista in February 1847. After the war, he served in a succession of cavalry postings on the open frontier in the American Old West. Wood traveled in Europe from 1859 until early 1861 on a leave of absence from the army.

Civil War service[edit]

During early days of the Civil War, Wood helped organize, train, and equip several volunteer regiments in Indiana. In October 1861, he was promoted to brigadier general of Indiana volunteers. The following month, he married Caroline E. Greer of Dayton, Ohio.

Wood commanded a brigade in the Tennessee and Mississippi campaigns at the beginning of the war. He commanded a division in the Army of the Ohio, then in the Army of the Cumberland. Wood was present at second day of the Battle of Shiloh. Wood was wounded during the Battle of Murfreesboro in December 1862. He suffered controversy at the Battle of Chickamauga, where he was blamed for contributing to William S. Rosecrans's defeat. On September 19, 1863, a breakdown in situational awareness by Rosecrans and poor staff work resulted in Wood receiving a seemingly senseless order that, if literally obeyed, required him to pull his division out of the line to the support of another division further to his left, dangerously creating an unprotected gap in the right of the line. Instead of verifying his commander's actual intent, Wood elected to regard the order as imperative and moved his division out of its position.[1]

Historian Peter Cozzens wrote:

While Wood read the order, [Col.] Starling began to explain its intent. Wood interrupted. Brannan was in position, he said, there was no vacancy between Reynold's division and his own. "Then there is no order," retorted Starling. There the matter should have ended.

And with anyone but Tom Wood, it most assuredly would have. Rosecrans had upbraided Wood twice for failing to obey orders promptly. ...[including] the dressing down just 90 minutes earlier in front of Wood's entire staff. The barbs of Rosecrans's invective pained the Kentuckian. Anger clouded his reason. No, he told Starling, the order was imperative, he would move at once."[2]

Less than 30 minutes after Wood moved his division, Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's men poured through the resulting gap and cut Rosecrans's army in two. Rosecrans was eventually relieved from command of the Army of the Cumberland following this Union defeat, while Wood retained his division.

Cozzens finds fault with Wood "for letting petty bitterness get the better of him" and Rosecrans for "not checking the order to make sure it reflected his intent. Rosey was tired and it showed."[3]

Wood redeemed himself during the successful assault on Missionary Ridge and at the Battle of Lovejoy's Station, where despite a badly shattered leg, he stayed on the field encouraging his men. He commanded the IV Corps of the Army of the Cumberland at the Battle of Nashville, and pursued John Bell Hood's Confederates after the Union victory. President Abraham Lincoln appointed Wood to the grade of major general of volunteers on February 22, 1865, to rank from January 27, 1865.[4] On February 14, 1865, the U.S. Senate had confirmed the President's January 30, 1865 nomination of Wood's appointment.[4] Wood was mustered out of the volunteers on September 1, 1866.[4]

Postbellum career[edit]

After the Confederates surrendered, Wood was assigned to duty in Mississippi with the occupation army. Frustrated with administrative duty with the Freedmen's Bureau and the politics of Reconstruction, he retired from the service in June 1868, having achieved the same rank in the regular army. His old war wounds prevented him from achieving his desire of returning to active duty on the frontier.

He moved to Dayton and became active in the Grand Army of the Republic, a social organization for Union Army veterans. He also served as a member of the board of visitors at the Military Academy. Before he died in 1906, Wood was the last survivor of his West Point class.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lee, Dan (2012). Thomas J. Wood. NC, USA: McFarland. p. 130. ISBN 9780786471300. 
  2. ^ Cozzens, p. 363.
  3. ^ Cozzens, p. 365.
  4. ^ a b c Eicher, p. 706

References[edit]

  • Cozzens, Peter. This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992. ISBN 0-252-02236-X.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
David S. Stanley
Commander of the IV Corps
December 1, 1864 – January 31, 1865
Succeeded by
David S. Stanley