“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Kinston in Lenoir County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

John Taylor Wood, CSN

And the Sinking of the USS Underwriter

John Taylor Wood, CSN Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, May 7, 2010
1. John Taylor Wood, CSN Marker
Inscription.  In January 1864, General Robert E. Lee wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis that "a bold party" could descend the Neuse River to New Bern at night, capture Federal gunboats and use them to assist an assault on Union-held New Bern by a 5,000 man/16 artillery piece Confederate force from Kinston, under command of General George Pickett.

On January 31, 1864 a Confederate Navy raiding party left Kinston and rowed down the Neuse River to New Bern. CSN Commander John Taylor Wood, nephew of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis and grandson of former U.S. President Zachary Taylor, commanded the expedition. Previously, Wood commanded several other "cutting out" expeditions that captured and burned Federal ships. The Confederate handpicked naval force consisted of 250 to 300 men, 35 officers, 25 marines, and 14 boats.

At New Bern the Confederates found the USS Underwriter, a side-wheel steamer 186 feet long, carrying two 8-inch shell guns with a 30-pound and a 12-pound Howitzer. The Underwriter was one of the largest federal gunboats in North Carolina waters and had seen extensive duty as part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Markers at the River Overlook image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain
2. Markers at the River Overlook
Wood divided his force into two divisions - one under his command, the other under Lieutenant Benjamin P. Loyall. At 2:30 a.m. on the morning of February 2, 1864 the Confederates boarded the Underwriter and, after 10 minutes of brutal hand-to-hand fighting, captured the ship. Unable to move the Underwriter because its coals were banked, and coming under fire from nearby Union Fort Stevenson on the South Bank and Fort Anderson on the North Bank of the Neuse River, Wood ordered the ship burned and the raiders returned to their launches. A few minutes later, Wood sent Lt. Francis Hoge back on board the Underwriter to make sure it was indeed on fire. Once that task was completed, the Confederates made their escape back up the Neuse River to Kinston. At 4:30 a.m., the Underwriter exploded. The Confederates lost five killed, 15 wounded, and four missing; and captured 26 Union prisoners. The Federals lost approximately nine killed and 20 wounded.

(Sidebar): Lt. Loyall was later promoted to the commander of the CSS Neuse ironclad ship then being outfitted at Kinston. Lt. Hoge was later appointed executive officer of the CSS Neuse. Sixteen days after the attack, James Wickes, a CSS enlisted man on the Underwriter expedition, died on the submarine H.L. Hunley when it sank the USS Housatonic in the Union blockade of Charleston, S.C.

The wreckage of the Underwriter remains in the Neuse River and its location was pinpointed in 1964.
Erected by Lenoir County Battlefields Commission.
Location. 35° 15.599′ N, 77° 34.984′ W. Marker is in Kinston, North Carolina, in Lenoir County. Marker is at the intersection of South Heritage Street and West Caswell Street, on the right when traveling south on South Heritage Street. Touch for map. Located in a river overlook park with ample parking space. Marker is in this post office area: Kinston NC 28501, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Cat Hole (here, next to this marker); CSS Neuse Confederate Ironclad Gunboat (within shouting distance of this marker); CSS Neuse (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Town Of Kingston (about 700 feet away); Lenoir County WW I and WW II Memorial (about 700 feet away); Caswell (about 700 feet away); Harmony Hall (approx. 0.2 miles away); Kinston Hangings (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Kinston.
More about this marker. On the left is a Sketch of the Sinking of the USS Underwriter. On the upper right is a portrait of Commander John Taylor Wood, circa 1858. In the sidebar is a reconstructed portrait of Boatswain Mate James A. Wickes, CSN.
Also see . . .
1. Attack on the Underwriter. A short narrative on the raid from North Carolina History. (Submitted on May 9, 2010, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 

2. USS Underwriter. Official history of the Underwriter. (Submitted on May 9, 2010, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
Categories. War, US CivilWaterways & Vessels
More. Search the internet for John Taylor Wood, CSN.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 9, 2010, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,197 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on May 9, 2010, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.
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