Description[John Taylor Wood]. Union Colonel Dr. Robert C. Wood: Group of Three Letters with Medical Content. Dr. Robert Crooke Wood (1801-1869) had served as a surgeon in the United States Army since 1825. In 1829 he married Anne Taylor, the eldest daughter of future president, Zachary Taylor. Wood served during the Black Hawk War and Mexican War, rising to the rank of major. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he remained in the Union, though his two sons, John Taylor Wood and Robert C. Wood Jr., joined the Confederate forces under the command of his former brother-in-law, Confederate President Jefferson Davis (Wood's wife's sister, Sarah Taylor, was the first wife of Davis).
Maj. Wood was serving as assistant surgeon general when the war broke out. The department was reorganized in 1862 and he was given the rank of colonel. On April 25, 1863, he was transferred to St. Louis, Missouri, and placed in charge of medical affairs in the Department of the West. He was still serving in this capacity a year later when he received two letters; one from Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and one from Gen. William T. Sherman, both of whom were operating against the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
In a letter dated March 6, 1863 (the period copy of which is presented in this lot), Grant showers praise on Dr. Wood for his efforts to supply the army, in part: "Your letter showing the efforts you have been making to supply everything necessary pertaining to the Medical Department in this Army is received. . . . No Army ever went into the field better provided with medical stores and medical attendants than is furnished the Army now in front of Vicksburg." He continues by telling Wood that he has ordered Dr. Saub away due to his own health concerns: "Surgeon Saub has been sick ever since he arrived here and entirely unfit to attend to any of his duties. The Dr is not willing, or at least has never intimated a willingness to give up. I have however found it necessary for my own relief to order him away. . . . I have assigned Surgeon McMillan Act. Med. Director for the present, but leave the place for you to fill. McMillan is the senior Surgeon in my Dept. but belongs to the Volunteer service."
Gen. Sherman gave similar praise in a letter dated March 15, 1863 (similar to the Grant letter above, the Sherman letter contained in this lot is also a period copy), in part: "Since January 20th we have been encamped on the low alluvial land on the neck opposite to and in sight of Vicksburg. To give an intelligent account of the Hospital and Sanitary arrangements would require statements of acts that you already possess in great detail and I need not do more at this time than assert my belief that no Army composed as this . . . ever had better hospital facilities, care and treatment." He too continues by discussing Dr. McMillan whom he says has "been all the time my chief Surgeon and I know that he has labored unceasingly, has exhibited a wonderful foresight and has not failed to avail himself of every means to provide for the wants of the wounded and sick soldiers."
In October 1863, Dr. Wood was transferred once again, this time to Louisville, Kentucky. On November 21, 1863, Wood wrote to Gen. Grant "unofficially on some matter of interest, respecting the details of Medical Officers and the State of Medical Supplies in the extensive Department under your orders, and over which I have exercised a Medical Supervision." He goes on to discuss the assignment of medical supplies; the state of medical supplies: "From personal inspection, and reports from the Medical Surgeons I have ascertained that they are abundant, their transmission depends on the facilities for transportation"; hospitals: "Two large hospitals have been established at Jeffersonville, and another one mile from this City - one is finished, its capacity 800 - the other, capacity 1500, will soon be in readiness"; and hospital transports: "The 'McDougale' and the 'Wood' have been ordered down the Mississippi to bring surplus stores from Vicksburg to Memphis and to transport sick."
Dr. Wood remained in Louisville, Kentucky, until the end of the war. In March 1865, he was breveted brigadier general. He returned to his home state of Rhode Island and retired from service in February 1869, one month before his death.
Condition: The Grant and Sherman letters show some light foxing and toning. The later Wood letter shows total separation along the central horizontal fold, light soiling near the upper right corner, and toning along the vertical fold.
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