WOOD, Robert (b. ?1762), of Lime Grove, Putney, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. ?1762, o. surv. s. of Robert Wood† of Lime Grove by Ann, da. of Thomas Skottowe. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 3 June 1779, aged 16. m. Frances, 2s. suc. fa. 1771.
Cornet, 1778, 1 Drag. Gds. 1784, lt. 1785; capt. 36 Ft. 1788, 16 Drag. 1789; maj. 34 Ft. 1792, brevet lt.-col. 1796, ret. 1797.
Wood was a supporter of Pitt, brought in at East Looe on the Buller interest, after a defeat at Grimsby where he had been willing to pay £2,500 for a seat. In April 1791 he was listed among opponents of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. On 24 July 1793 he wrote to Pitt applying for the appointment of secretary, register and clerk of the council in Tobago, his mother having enjoyed the profits of such offices in several West Indian islands until deprived by a recent Chancery decision. Wood declared, ‘I already feel myself so much obliged to you on many occasions that I should not venture to trouble you with any new application if I did not feel myself peculiarly supported by the justice of the case’. He never joined the 34th Foot, to which he was appointed in 1792. He served on the Westminster election petition committee appointed on 16 Mar. 1795 and voted for the abolition of the slave trade on 15 Mar. 1796. No speech of his is known.1
On 1 Dec. 1794 Wood had received a letter of service instructing him to raise a battalion of fencible infantry, of which he was to have command with the temporary rank of colonel and the right to permanent rank and half-pay as a lieutenant-colonel on the reduction of the corps. The following spring his recruiting campaign was ‘suspended’ because of the success of a naval recruiting scheme with much larger bounties. Possibly as insurance against failure to complete his regiment, and ‘induced through connexions with particular channels of interest on the Continent’, he proposed to government early in 1795 that he should raise a battalion in Europe, delivering the recruits to Chatham at his own expense before receiving any payment for them. This battalion he was to command on similar terms to his fencibles. Accordingly he received orders to that effect on 8 May, and leaving his second-in-command to complete the fencibles he crossed to the Continent, with a private credit of £3,500 from Hammersley’s bank. Unfortunately for Wood, both his schemes then collapsed. A general made a sudden inspection of some of his fencibles—a detachment of 50 invalids at Colchester—and as a result of his report the order was given to stop recruiting for the regiment. Then as Wood himself was making his way to Hamburg with 500 recruits, he found his way barred by the Hanoverian government. Despite messages to London, Wood was unable to go forward and his men began to disperse, so, making arrangements ‘to retrieve past and prevent future expense’, he came back to England, where his complaints were passed from the commander-in-chief to the secretary for war and from him to the secretary at war, none of whom would admit it was a question for his office. Thus, financially in deep water—owing £8,000 for transports alone—and with litigation pending abroad, ‘he found it necessary about the dissolution of the last Parliament [June 1796] to return to the Continent’. At this point he was ordered to join the 34th Foot with his former rank of major. This he tried to avoid. Ordered to send in his accounts, he did so, at the same time tendering government his commission, but reserving his rank in the army. Then in December 1797 he found himself described in the Gazette as ‘retired’. Finding on inquiry that this was so, he applied to keep his rank and half-pay, but was refused on the grounds of his absence from the 34th Foot and of a debt of £5,000 to government, which he denied incurring. His private fortune had ‘suffered to an infinitely greater amount than that so heavily complained of by government’, he lamented to Pitt in a memorial from Hamburg dated 19 May 1798. He sought the restoration of ‘his rank in a profession which no earthly consideration can ever induce him voluntarily to abandon’.2 He appears to have had no success in his application. Wood was apparently still living in 1803.3