STERLING ALEXANDER MARTIN WOOD, C.S.A.
THE GENERAL'S CAMP MAN
Harrison Wood was in the bloody battles of Shiloh, Perryville, and Stone River. As one of the local African-Americans to wear the Confederate gray, he served as camp man for Brigadier General Sterling Alexander Martin Wood, commander of the 7th Infantry Brigade. His primary duties could be compared, in some ways, to that of “general’s orderly” in the modern army.
Harrison, born in Virginia, was only twelve years old when he was acquired by Florence’s first mayor, Alexander Hamilton Wood. Harrison was trained as an apprentice in Mayor Wood’s furniture shop and soon became one of the town's most respected house painters. Mayor Wood established a partnership with Harrison, allowing the young painter to negotiate his own contracts, with provisions that they jointly share in the profits.
Harrison grew up with the Wood boys, William Basil, Sterling A. M., and Henry Clay. All three brothers became officers in the Confederate Army, and at times all three served under the same brigade banner. Sterling was the first of the three to enter the army; he was soon elevated to the rank of Brigadier General, 7th Infantry Brigade.
Harrison Wood was one of ten African-Americans in the estate of Alexander H. Wood, following the former mayor's death in November, 1860. In less than six months, Harrison was selected by Captain Sterling A. M. Wood as his camp man which took him to distant places where he participated in a number of fiercely-fought battles.
It was after the night of January 3, 1863, as General Braxton Bragg began his withdrawal from Tullahoma, that Harrison Wood suddenly found himself within federal lines. This was following the Battle of Stone River, or Murfreesboro, where General Wood's brigade had formed a part of General Patrick Cleburne's Division in General William Joseph Hardee’s Corps.
For all practical purposes, the war was over for Harrison Wood. Nine months later, following the Battle of Chickamauga, Brigadier General Sterling Alexander Martin Wood resigned his commission and joined his family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
When Harrison Wood, returned to Florence, he was given a piece of land by Judge William Basil Wood. The Judge, it was said, did the same for all of his and his father's former servants. According to a paper entitled “Servants of the Confederacy: Lauderdale County’s Black Confederates,” by Lee Freeman of the Florence/Lauderdale Public Library, this land may have been located near the present Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital, or perhaps in North Florence.
Harrison Wood's obituary appeared in the January 9, 1895, edition of the FLORENCE TIMES, under the caption: “An Old Landmark Gone.” The 81-year-old African-American's death notice was beautifully editorialized and ended with these words: “Such a man is worthy of a kind remembrance in the hearts of our people. One of the oldest, and in his humble way, the best landmarks of the city has gone. May he rest in peace.”
The Civil War Tales of the Tennessee Valley
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