War-dated LS signed "Jeff'n Davis," one page, lightly-lined, 7.75 x 10, Confederate States of America, Executive Department letterhead, February 9, 1863. Letter to his nephew and aide-de-camp, Colonel J. Taylor Wood, also the grandson of President Zachary Taylor. In full: "You are hereby directed to proceed to Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, Port Hudson and Vickburg for the purpose of inspection and report. You will inspect, at each of these places, the naval defences & the vessels afloat with reference to their personnel, armament, and powers of offence and defence. You will ascertain the character, progress and probable time of completion of vessels upon the stocks. You will examine the Naval and machine works, and the work now on hand-the measures that have been adopted to obstruct the channels of harbor and rivers, and the facilities for ingress and egress to vessels running the blockade. You will notice the character and position of the guns bearing upon the shipping, and whatever, in your judgment, may require attention, with reference to our water defences. You will keep me advised; by letter or otherwise, of your progress, and, upon your return to Richmond will report the results of your observations." Includes a partly-printed document signed by Secretary of War James A. Seddon, appointing Col. John Taylor Wood as "Aide-de-Camp with the rank and pay of Colonel of Cavalry." In fine condition, with old adhesive residue on the back of the Seddon document.
Following his exploits as an officer aboard the CSS Virginia—during which he participated in its engagement with the USS Monitor, the most famous naval battle of the Civil War—Wood was appointed as an aide-de-camp to his uncle, President Davis, and soon undertook an extensive survey of Confederate coastal defenses. Departing the day after having received this letter, Wood traveled for months on his inspection tour, stopping at each of the requested sites to relay the status of "water defences." On February 13, 1863, Wood sent word of naval and land defenses from Wilmington, North Carolina, reporting on Forts Caswell and Fisher, and asserting that 'the absolute necessity of the place, if it is to be held against naval attack, is heavy guns, larger caliber.' Davis listened and a larger, more formidable artillery was mounted on the referenced forts, a decision that ultimately discouraged Union forces from attacking until late in 1864.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.