William Francis Wood was born March 23, 1826 in Ireland. As many people did during this time he eventually traveled to America to start a new life. He soon married and was living in Indiana when the Civil War began. He joined the First Indiana Cavalry as chaplain on August 18, 1861. Wood was then promoted to Major on October 10th and to Lieutenant Colonel on November 7th. In this capacity he and his regiment would join the Army of the Southwest under General Samuel Curtis as he invaded and moved across northern Arkansas. On July 7, 1862 Lieutenant Colonel Wood led the First Indiana Cavalry at the Battle of Hill’s Plantation along the Cache River in Woodruff County. After their victory, the regiment joined the rest of the army in Helena.
In early 1863 the Union army began to recruit African American men into the military. Officers of these new regiments would be white while the enlisted would be African American. Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas traveled to Helena in order to help raise some of these new African American regiments and to recruit officers. After hearing his speech hundreds of men enlisted and Wood decided to join this crusade. He resigned April 2nd from the First Indiana Cavalry to assume the colonelcy of the First Arkansas Infantry of African Descent. This new regiment was mustered in May 1, 1863 at Helena. On the 6th, Colonel Wood was ordered to report with his regiment to Lake Providence, Louisiana. They would be support for General U.S. Grant’s investment of Vicksburg. Because of seniority Wood would assume command of the African Brigade a Goodrich’s Landing. He and his men would remain in that section of Louisiana for the next year. Tired and unwell Colonel William F. Wood resigned August 15, 1864 from the army.
Moving to Florida after the war ended, William Wood worked at establishing the Baptist Church in Cuba. In fact he became the first Baptist missionary to that island. He also held a number of government officers at his home in Florida. William F. Wood passed away on August 11, 1890 and is buried in the Bosque Bello Cemetery in Fernandina, Florida.
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