A member of the Democratic Partyand the Tammany Society, he was elected to Congress (1841-43) before becoming mayor of New York City in 1854. Wood helped establish Central Park but his administration was marked by widespread graft and crime. Defeated in 1859 he returned to power in 1861.
Opposed to the American Civil War, Wood suggested that New York City should also leave the Union. Wood made several speeches attacking President Abraham Lincoln and was blamed for causing the Draft Riots in the city. Wood also joined with Clement Vallandigham to form the Peace Democrats (Copperheads). Unlike Vallandigham, Wood was never charged with treason.
Wood also served in the House of Representatives (1863-65 and 1867-1881) where he was a staunch opponent of the Radical Republications.
Fernando Wood died at Hot Springs, Arkansas, on 14th February, 1881.