Monday, May 14, 2012

S.A.M. Wood: Alabama General

Sterling Alexander Martin Wood

       S.A.M. Wood as he came to be called was born in Florence, Alabama on 17 March, 1823. There is a street in Florence today that is called Wood Avenue which is actually named for Wood's brother, a prominent Florence lawyer. S.A.M. Wood would soon return to Florence and become his brother's law partner. In 1857, Wood was elected to the Alabama state legislature and later become editor of the Florence Gazette
       When the war began, Wood organized Company K, 7th Alabama Infantry which was known as the Florence Guards. He would only remain a captain for a very short time. The unit was sent to Pensacola, Florida and Wood was there elected Colonel of the regiment. 

Flag of Company K, 7th Alabama Infantry

       On 7 January, 1862, Wood was promoted to brigadier general by Jefferson Davis. Braxton Bragg, Wood's commanding officer fired off an angry letter to Richmond about Wood being promoted ahead of James Patton Anderson, one of Bragg's favorite officers. 
       Just before the Battle of Shiloh, Wood's brigade (which consisted of the 16th Alabama, 8th and 9th Arkansas, 27th, 47th, and 55th Tennessee, and the 3rd Mississippi Battalion, all infantry regiments, including an artillery battery) was placed into Hindman's Division, William Hardee's Corps. This brigade was credited with the opening shots of the Battle of Shiloh. Wood was wounded when he fell from his horse there and momentarily gave up command of his brigade, but soon returned to lead them through the rest of the battle. 
       General Hindman had nothing good to say about Wood's leadership. There was a formal inquiry to Wood's actions as brigade commander, but no wrong doing could be found. He then led his brigade in action at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky and while his brigade helped to capture an artillery battery there, Wood was wounded by a artillery shrapnel. 

S.A.M. Wood (seated in dark uniform) with members of his staff

       Following the Kentucky Campaign, Wood's brigade was placed into the elite division of Patrick Cleburne. Cleburne commended Wood for his performance at the Battle of Murfreesboro. It seemed Wood's star was on the rise. 
       On the second day of the Battle of Chickamauga, General Wood lost control of his brigade which became separated and only one regiment got in the action. Wood then got the rest of his brigade into a field where they attacked alone and were repulsed with heavy losses. Cleburne was furious with Wood and ordered him to take the remainder of his brigade to the rear. 
       Cleburne failed to mention Wood in his report following the battle, which was considered an insult or a sign of failure in that time period. S.A.M. Wood saw the writing on the wall and resigned his commission on 17 October 1863. It would be the last time he would see action during the war. He moved his family to Tuscaloosa and continued his law practice. He later reentered politics and became a member of the faculty at the University of Alabama. He died there on 26 January 1891.

Timmy and I at the grave of S.A.M. Wood in Evergreen Cemetery less than a hundred yards from Bryant Denny Stadium


  1. The photo of S.A.M. Wood with his staff - do you know if the gentleman standing on the left is the Brigade medical officer?

    1. Actually the guy standing at far left is brigade surgeon Doctor William Cordwell Cross. The guy standing in the middle may be 16th Alabama Chaplain and volunteer staff officer Rev. Alexander Lockett Hamilton. The young guy standing far right is Martin Vanburen Walt, quartermaster and eventually became a major. The guy sitting next to Wood is his younger brother Henry Clay Wood, aide de camp.

    2. Sorry, you are correct. I misread your question.

  2. that's my great great grandfather. Would be interested in any help you could give to find out more information. Thank you, Ed Cooper

  3. You should read Wood's adjutant, Orlando Palmer's description of their attack at Chickamauga. 3 people wrote official reports of it, Wood, Palmer and Mark Lowrey (as well as some of regimental commanders who survived it (3 majors were mortally wounded)). They do not support your view. Also, Wood brought in Alex Stewart & all three of his brigadiers to help with Cleburne's suicidal charge; they corroborate Wood, Palmer & Rev. Lowrey's accounts. Wood & Cleburne's problem predated the battle and was not combat related. Wood had to leave, it was no resignation. The Alabama Dept of Archives & History and Fold3 have the documents, and the reasons Wood gave in his resignation note are not the reason he left, they were his big brother Billy's reason for resigning. Joe Bradley.