Eleazer Derby Wood

From http://penelope.uchicago.edu/

Page 72 of the Cullum Register – http://digital-library.usma.edu/libmedia/archives/cullum/volume_1_cullum.pdf

Eleazer Derby Wood: Born Dec., 1783, Lunenburg, MA.

Military History – Cadet of the Military Academy, May 17, 1805, to Oct. 30, 1806, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to
Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, Oct. 30, 1806.

Served: as Asst. Engineer in the construction of the defenses at Governor’s Island, New York harbor, 1807; at the Military Academy,
(First Lieut., Corps of Engineers, Feb. 23, 1808)

1807 – CE as Asst. Engineer at Fts. Norfolk and Nelson, Va., 1808 – 1810; at West Point, N. Y., 1810 – 1812, as Military Agent; and in the War of
(Captain, Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1812)

I can find no proof that Wood is buried at West Point – site administrator.

1812- 1815 with Great Britain, in General Harrison’s Campaign of 1813, in the Northwest, and in the Campaign of 1814, on the Niagara Frontier, being engaged in the Defense of Ft. Meigs, Apr. 28-May 9, 1813, participating in the Sortie of May 5, on the British batteries and approaches, (Bvt. Major, May 6, 1813, for Distinguished Services in the Defense of Ft. Meigs)

Skirmish at Chatham, U. C. (in command of the Artillery), Oct. 4, 1813, Battle of the Thames, U. C., Oct. 5, 1813, Capture of Fort Erie, U. C., July 3, 1814, Battle of Chippewa, July 5, 1814, Reconnoissance of Ft. George, July 21, 1814, Battle of Niagara, July 25, 1814, and Defense of Fort Erie, Aug. 3-Sep. 17, 1814, including its(Bvt. Lieut. Colonel, July 25, 1814, for Gallant Conduct in the Battle of Niagara, U. C.) Bombardment, Aug. 13 – 15, Repulse of the enemy’s Assault, Aug. 15, and Sortie from it, Sep. 17, 1814, when, while gallantly leading and directing a column on the British batteries and siege works, he was Killed, Sep. 17, 1814, in the Sortie from Fort Erie, U. C.: Aged 31.


Considered by many of his contemporaries as the ideal professional soldier and cited often for his bravery, Wood was honored by General Brown with a monument placed on the parade ground at West Point.

Buried (? – no record), Possibly West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY.

Eleazer Derby Wood: Hero of the War of 1812

From http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/2010_summer_fall/1812-war-hero.html By C. F. William Maurer

From 1802 to 1812, the number of cadets at the military academy at West Point was small. The military academy had been established by an act of Congress, on March 16th, 1802. and the total number of graduates by 1812 was only seventy-one. In the beginning ten cadets were attached to the corps of engineers stationed there. This was the first introduction of “cadet” as a grade of officers in the army of the United States. The term cadet, derived from the French, signifying a younger son, was previously applied in England to those young gentlemen who were trained for public employment. The course of instruction was a little over a year long.

Eleazer Derby Wood* was admitted to West Point on 17 May 1805 from Lunenburg, Massachusetts, graduated 30 October 1806 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers on that same day. He was the seventeenth graduate of the United States Military Academy and was almost 23 years old.

After graduation he served as an Assistant Engineer in the construction of the defenses at Governor’s Island in New York harbor. The following year, in 1808, he was promoted to First Lieutenant. He then spent several years in Virginia, as his engineering skill, military experience and rank increased. By the beginning of the War of 1812, Wood was a Captain.

Captain Wood was then assigned to the staff of Maj. General William Henry Harrison’s Northwestern Army. Harrison placed Wood in charge of the construction of two critical forts on the Lake Erie frontier opposite Canada. In November, 1812, he found himself doing the work of the chief engineer due to the illness of Captain Charles Gratiot, who officially held that post. His service in this capacity included overseeing the construction of Fort Meigs, some work on Fort Stephenson (at present day Fremont, Ohio), and assisting in the movement of Harrison’s army into Canada. On May 6, 1813, during the first siege of Fort Meigs, for his exceptional service, General Harrison accorded Wood his first “palm of merit” [1] and had him brevetted major. Each fortification withstood British-Indian sieges and helped establish the reputation for excellence of West Point trained military engineers.

Certificate of Promotion – “Brevet” majority for “Major” Wood [2]

While serving as Harrison’s chief engineer and chief artillerist, Wood became his operations officer during the invasion of Canada. After the Battle of the Thames, Major Wood transferred to the Niagara Frontier, where he became the assistant engineer in Maj. General Jacob Brown’s army. Wood continued in “operations” as well as his engineering duties. He designed an expansion of Fort Erie similar to that he had used at Fort Meigs. At the Battles of Chippewa (5 July 1814) and Lundy’s Lane (25 July), he commanded an artillery section. Following the latter engagement, General Brown paid Wood lavish compliments and had him brevetted again as a lieutenant colonel [3].

Brevet Commission for Lieutenant Colonel Wood after Lundy’s Lane, 25 July 1814

After Lundy’s Lane, the Americans withdrew to Fort Erie, and Wood received command of a defensive sector. When the British assaulted the U.S. position at Fort Erie (15 August), Wood’s battalion-sized command received the brunt of one British brigade’s attack and brilliantly repulsed it. The next day, Wood wrote a description of the battle and a letter of recommendation for his officers to his commander. An extract of this letter follows:

Erie /Augt. 16th 1814


In obedience to your instructions I have the honor to report the gallant conduct of my command during the attack which took place on the night of the fourteenth & next.

I cannot do greater justice to the troops which I had the honor to command on that occasion then to state that the –

Twenty First Infantry together with a small detachment of the Seventeenth under Captain Chunno in all about three hundred men aided by the artillery, the skill and activity of that distinguished officer, Capt Lawson of the Artillery, who commands the battery on Snake hill, met and repulsed five impetuous charges given by Colonel Fisher at the head of fourteen hundred British regulars these troops were formed in column of attack and stormed without flints in their muskets.

Our lines were completely manned and every wing ready to receive the Enemy when he approached. And perhaps a more signal example of firmness and deadly valour was seldom if ever given by the veterans of Europe. Finding himself repulsed at all points with great slaughter Colonel Fisher saw fit to retire with his shattered columns at dawn of day – Tho the happy result which crowned our arms at this particular point I am under great obligations to Captains Marston and Ropes(?) the former of whom commanded on the left and the latter commanded the Corps of Reserve which repulsed the Enemy at the edge of the water after he had turned the left of the abbatee and completely gained my rear – Capt Chunns who commanded on my right had not the good fortune to come in contact with the enemy until he was sent to reinforce the garrison at Fort Erie where he had a fair opportunity and behaved with great skill and bravery in expelling the enemy from that place, the small reinforcements of riflemen which arrived before the enemy made his final charge under that brave officer Capt Birdsall rendered me considerable service.

Lieuts Bowman, Riddle, Hall, Laerned and Ensign Kean, Nealy, Green, Jones, Cummings and Thomas were all extremely active and performed their duty with alacrity. I have to regret that the Army is deprived of the service of Lieut Bushnall and Ensign Liceny Both of whom are severely if not mortally wounded. Our trophy in the morning were about one hundred and twenty Prisoners and a considerable number of scaling ladders, picks, axes, etc.[4]

Two officers said to be Wood and Col.” James Gibson” are shown in a painting done in 1840 by E. C. Watmough “Repulsion of the British at Fort Erie, 15th August 1814”. At this battle Colonel Wood and Gibson were distinguished.

However, a recent description of the painting describes Lieutenant John Watmough, later brevetted for his “gallant and meritorious” conduct at Fort Erie as being one of the two pictured. [5] (I have contacted the Chicago Historical Society for more details on the painting)

Lieutenant Colonel Wood was being considered for a third brevet promotion for his valor in this action when the following month, he led one of the columns attacking the British works outside Fort Erie on 17 September. This sortie was successful, but during a British counterattack, Wood and Gibson were mortally wounded. Later, the “fort” on Ellis Island was named for Col. Gibson.

Other honors followed upon his death. At Fort Meigs, Ohio – a fort Col. Wood designed – is a gun battery known as “Wood Battery” and Ohio has named the county containing Fort Meigs also in his honor.

Then there was the naming of a fort on Bedloe’s Island in New York harbor.

The army named this 2-1/2 acre fortification on Bedloe’s Island – now Liberty Island – “Fort Wood”. Today the fort surrounds the base for the Statue of Liberty. A statement from the Acting Secretary of War dated January 23, 1817 showing the “actual number of the Army of the United States and the Station of each corps,” [6] contained the following chart. While Fort Wood was “just a small fort in the harbor,” today, as the base for the Statue of Liberty, millions of people have become aware of Col. Wood and his supreme sacrifice for his country.

* Also spelled as Eleazor Darby Wood


[1] History of the War with Great Britain in 1812, John Lewis Thomson, J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, 1887, p. 145.

[2] From the Gilder Lehman Institute collection, PC-01043.07

[3] Ibid., PC-01043.05

[4] Ibid., PC-01043.04

[5] The Final Invasion by Jon Latimer, Osprey Books, 2009, pg. 65.

[6] From the Author’s Collection


From Wikipedia

Eleazer Derby Wood (December 1783 – September 17, 1814)

Wood was born in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. He was admitted to United States Military Academy at West Point on May 17, 1805 and graduated on October 30, 1806.
After graduation he served as assistant Engineer in the construction of the defenses at Governor’s Island in New York harbor, 1807. In February 1808 he was promoted to First Lieutenant. He assisted in the construction of Castle Williams in New York Harbor and Fort Norfolk in Virginia.

During the War of 1812 Wood was promoted to Captain conducted the defence of Fort Meigs during its siege, was engaged in the sortie of May 5, 1813, and was in command of the artillery at the battle of the Thames on October 5. He was appointed acting adjutant-general to General William Henry Harrison in October 1813 and was transferred to the northern army in 1814. Wood was engaged in all the battles of that northern campaign, including the capture of Fort Erie on July 3. Wood was also in the battles of Chippawa and Niagara Falls, and was brevetted Lieutenant Colonel for bravery at the last-named action. After the battle of Niagara the American army fell back to Fort Erie where Colonel Wood, then in command of the 21st Infantry Regiment, participated in the defense the fort on August 15, 1814. Colonel Wood was killed in a sortie from Fort Erie on September 17, 1814.

Wood was greatly admired by the Army’s commanding general Jacob Brown who commissioned a monument in his honor at West Point and also had Fort Wood on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor on which the Statue of Liberty was built.[1] Wood’s Monument at West Point is dedicated in his honor. He is also the namesake of Wood County, Ohio

From http://penelope.uchicago.edu/


Bvt. Lieut. Colonel Eleazer Derby Wood was born, Dec., 1783, at Lunenburg, Mass., and was descended from brave New England stock.

Except that young Wood commenced the study of medicine at Alburg, Vermont, we know little of his early history before going, May 17, 1805, to West Point. While a Cadet he was noted for his soldierly qualities, rigid compliance with regulations, devotion to duty, and fondness for the sciences, in which he displayed such proficiency that he was at times detailed for engineer duty in New York harbor. He was graduated from the Military Academy and promoted, Oct. 30, 1806, to be a Second Lieutenant of Engineers, U. S. Army, and was immediately placed on duty with Colonel Williams, the Chief Engineer, to assist in the construction of the defenses of Governor’s Island, New York harbor.

In the winter of 1807 -1808, he was occupied in his professional studies at West Point, the headquarters of the Corps of Engineers, in which he became a First Lieutenant, Feb. 23, 1808. Soon after, he was ordered to Norfolk, Va., to aid in fortifying its harbor, where he remained until 1810, when he again returned to West Point, becoming then the Military Agent of the post till 1812. From there he was ordered to the charge of the defenses of New London harbor, Conn., and to erect a battery at Sag Harbor, Long Island, N. Y.

In November, after Hull’s surrender of Detroit, Wood received his much-coveted orders for service “where war is most active.” He had long felt the great wrongs suffered by our country, and deeply deprecated the apathy of the nation in not resisting continuing insults and British oppression.

p73 In General Harrison’s Campaign of 1813, in the Northwest, Wood was virtually the Chief Engineer, Captain Gratiot being most of the time absent on other duty, or too sick for active service. Wood’s comprehensiveness of mind, his remarkably mature judgment, and fertility of resources, were exhibited in every step and detail of this most arduous campaign. General Harrison, in his official despatch, says: “Captain Gratiot, of the Engineers, having been for a long time much indisposed, the task of fortifying the post devolved on Captain Wood. It could not have been placed in better hands. Permit me to recommend him to the President, and to assure you that any mark of his approbation bestowed on Captain Wood would be highly gratifying to the whole of the troops who witnessed his arduous exertions.” On the recommendation of his commanding general, Wood was brevetted, May 6, 1813, a Major “for distinguished services in the Defense of Ft. Meigs.” In his order of the day to his command, Harrison further says: “Where merit was so general, indeed almost universal, it is difficult to discriminate. The General cannot, however, omit to mention the names of those whose situation gave them an opportunity of being more particularly useful. From the long illness of Captain Gratiot, of the Corps of Engineers, the arduous and important duties of fortifying the camp devolved on Captain Wood, of that corps. In assigning to him the first palm of merit, as far as relates to the transactions within the works, the General is convinced his decision will be awarded by every individual in the camp who witnessed his indefatigable exertions, his consummate skill in providing for the safety of every point, and in foiling any attempt of the enemy, and his undaunted bravery in the performance of his duty in the most exposed situations.”

After raising the siege of Ft. Meigs, and being foiled in his attack upon Ft. Stephenson, Proctor, with his British forces and savages, retreated across Detroit Straits to Malden, Can., which he abandoned after Perry’s victory on Lake Erie, and was pursued by Harrison to the Thames River, where Proctor and Tecumseh were utterly routed, Oct. 5, 1813, Major Wood in this battle being again highly distinguished.

After spending a few weeks at West Point, the headquarters of the Corps of Engineers, deeply absorbed in study and preparation for coming events, he joined the “Army of the Niagara” as assistant to Major McRee, its Chief Engineer. In the campaign of 1814 of this army, he was much distinguished in the Action of Chippewa, Battle of Niagara, and Defense of Ft. Erie, in the sortie from which, at the head of a column of 400 regulars and 500 volunteers under his command, he was mortally wounded, Sep. 17, 1814, and died the night after, professing the most ardent attachment to his country, and a jealous solicitude for the honor of her arms, commending her, with his last breath, to the favor and protection of the Almighty.

Thus ended the brief and brilliant career of this noble soldier, who had few equals and was surpassed by none of his profession and peers. Young in age, he was a veteran in the art of war. His eight years of army life “had uniformly been an exhibition of military skill, acute judgment, and heroic valor;” and, in the language of his commanding General, “no officer of his grade could have contributed more to the safety and honor of the Army.” He was truly the soul and genius of every enterprise in which he was engaged; one of “the immortal names that were not born to die.” His daily companions loved him, for he was social and genial, the most honorable and generous of men, and as affectionate and gentle as a maiden. His official superiors vied in their tributes to his worth, for he was the intellectual light of the council and the lion of the battlefield. Though extremely retiring and modest in manner, his form, features, military air and bearing disclosed the beau-id – soldier, the real preux chevalier, who, wherever danger appeared, p74was there as calm, fearless, and self-possessed as upon a quiet parade.

On the field of Niagara, meeting Brown almost fainting from his wound, Wood exclaimed, with great emotion: “Never mind, my dear General, you are gaining the greatest victory which has ever been won for your country.” He thought not of physical pain, but, amid the carnage of battle, his heroic soul glowed with lofty enthusiasm for his country’s glory. His nobility of nature impressed every one.

It was Wood’s peculiar good fortune to be prominent in every branch of his profession; whether as an engineer, making the daring reconnoissance, or directing defenses; as an artillerist, pursuing the flying foe to the Thames, or serving in the battery at Chippewa; as a Paladin cavalier, in the final rout of Proctor’s last fugitives or the accomplished infantry commander leading the column and charging the besiegers at Ft. Erie. While first in battle, he was also first in the estimation of those he so faithfully served. Harrison assigns to him “the first palm of merit” at Ft. Meigs, and highly praises his efficiency in the invasion of Canada; Brown reports his marked distinction at Niagara, where his “high military talents were exerted with great effect,” and to whose “assistance a great deal is fairly to be ascribed;” Gaines says, “In the command of a regiment of infantry he has often proved himself well qualified, but never so conspicuously as in the repulse of the British assault on Ft. Erie;” Ripley, on the same occasion, acknowledges his indebtedness to “this officer’s merits, so well known that approbation can scarcely add to his reputation;” Porter, under whom he led a column in his sortie from Ft. Erie, reports to Brown, “You know how exalted an opinion I have always entertained of him;” and his Commanding General, when this pillar of his power lay prostrate in death, pronounced this truthful eulogy on his worth: “Wood, brave, generous, and enterprising, died as he had lived, without a feeling but for the honor of his country and the glory of her arms. His name and example will live to guide the soldier in the path of duty so long as truth true heroism is held in estimation.”

All authority warrants us in saying that, during the whole operations on the Niagara, no terms of praise could do justice to Wood’s gallantry, zeal, skill, and perseverance, whether in reconnoitring the enemy, ascertaining and reporting his position, encouraging the troops, conducting columns to their destination, planning judicious movements, providing against emergencies, devising defenses, seeing the key-point of the battlefield, or grasping the whole problem of the campaign.

After the termination of the war, Major-General Brown ordered, Sep. 12, 1816, a monument to be erected to Wood’s memory on West Point, at his expense, as a testimonial of his “respect for the hero and the man.” This simple shaft, so well known to all the earlier graduates of the Military Academy, was removed, in 1885, from its conspicuous position, where it was a marked feature of that exquisite view of the Hudson above West Point, as was also the graceful mound upon which it stood, – a natural moraine of the glacial period. All appreciators of this memorial tribute to true heroism, every devotee of geological science, and the many lovers of the picturesque who often gazed upon that fitting foreground to one of the most beautiful panoramas of land and water in the world, must regret this unnecessary iconoclastic sacrifice to some unexplained caprice.a2

Thayer’s Note:

a1 a2 Prof. Rickey’s page, in addition to valuable and detailed bibliographical information on primary sources at the U. S. M. A. Library, has nearly a dozen photographs of the Wood Monument, now in West Point Cemetery. The inscriptions on the monument give no indication that Wood is actually buried beneath it, and the earliest explicit statement I can find to that effect is in Taps, a supplement to Assembly Magazine, Vol. LXVII, No. 1 (Sept. – Oct. 2008); I don’t believe it – the one-page article otherwise contains at least one definite mistake, if a small one – but I haven’t found any other trace of Wood’s grave.

Castle Williams







Fort Norfolk





Fort Meigs




Skirmish at Chatham, Upper Canada


Fort Erie








One Comment

    Posted September 20, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Wood is buried in the West Point Cemetery

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