Fernando Wood: A Political Biography

By Jerome Mushkat | Go to book overview
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The Politics of Loyalty

N EW Yorkers swept Wood along as they flocked to defend the Union. On April 15, he issued a proclamation summoning citizens "irrespective of all other considerations or prejudices" to obey the law, preserve order, and protect property. The next day, he literally draped the flag around his shoulders at the city's first Union rally. Speaking rapidly, he exhorted "every man, whatever had been his sympathies, to make one great phalanx in this controversy, to proceed to conquer a peace. I am with you in this contest. We know no party now."1

Wood's martial spirit soared. After proposing a special $1-million tax levy to raise troops and defray costs, he told aldermen, "Let us vote the required funds and trust to the patriotism of the people to sustain us." When it came to finding those troops, Wood sponsored his own "Mozart Regiment." He took a paternal interest in its training at Camp Wood near Yonkers, inspected rations and equipment, and, after a review, presented it "with a handsome strand of colors" that he had bought. Tammany formed its own regiment, the Jackson Guards, under Sachem William D. Kennedy, setting off a race full of bravado over which would be first in the state's quota of seventeen regiments. Wood once more swung into action, and pulled strings with the military for "an early opportunity" to show Mozart's "zeal in the defense of [its] country." By June, his men, the 40th New York Volunteer Infantry, won and entrained for Washington.2

During these turbulent days, Wood was everywhere. He became an ex officio member and active participant of the Union Defense Committee. When Colonel Robert Anderson, the "hero of Ft. Sumpter," visited the city, Wood clutched his coattails. He commissioned Anderson's portrait and purchased a gold snuffbox, presenting them with maximum publicity. Wood even volunteered. He sent Lincoln a public letter offering "my services in any military capacity consistent with my position as Mayor of New York City."3

Wood's transformation from a noncoercionist to a warhawk puzzled many New Yorkers who assumed that he had reverted to his old tricks. One critic


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