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Jefferson Davis authorizes his aide to mount a daring raid on the Union P.O.W. camp at Point Lookout, Maryland to free and arm Confederate prisoners
Richmond, July 4, 1864. 7.75" x 7.25". "A most cryptic and important Autograph Letter (unsigned), 1 page, 7.75"" x 7.25"", Richmond, July 4, 1864 to his aide-de-camp, Col. John T. Wood, authorizing him to undertake ""the distant service to which you have been assigned..."" Lightly toned at corners, else fine condition.Davis' letter reads in full: ""Sir, You will proceed to execute the orders and instructions otherwise communicated to you in connection with the distant service to which you have been assigned. You will use your discretion in the modification of your orders as circumstances may require and may our heavenly Father inspire you with wisdom and crown your efforts with success.""With the situation rapidly deteriorating on the Southern home front as Grant's army pushed relentlessly toward Richmond, Davis chose to undertake several risky operations to both boost Confederate morale and dampen the reelection prospects for President Lincoln that fall. One of the measures was a planned expedition to the Union prisoner of war camp established at Point Lookout, Maryland, located at the confluence of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. The plan, which was co-commanded by G.W. Custis Lee and John Taylor Wood, was to lead a detachment from Jubal Early's army, who were then advancing north into the Shenandoah Valley to make an attempt on Washington. Wood was to secure two steamers at Wilmington, North Carolina capable of capturing the Union gunboats guarding Point Lookout. Davis also ordered that Wood secure arms to distribute to the freed prisoners so they could join in Early's planned attack on Washington. However by July 10, it had become obvious to Davis that the plan had been compromised and instead ordered that he take command of the converted blockade runner, Atlanta, re-christened as the C.S.S. Tallahassee, to raid Union shipping along the eastern seaboard. Wood commenced his cruise on August 4, 1864. By the time he reached Halifax, he had captured thirty-three Union vessels. 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. "
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