Charles Erskine Scott Wood was born on February 20, 1852 in Erie, Pennsylvania. He lived in Baltimore with his maternal uncle while his father served in the Civil War as a US Navy Surgeon. He was educated at Baltimore Schools. In 1869 he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where his career was marked by numerous discipline infractions.
In 1874 he was commissioned as second lieutenant and joined the 21st Infantry in California. He worked as a surveyor in northern California and served as judge advocate of the Department of the Columbia.
In 1877 he was relieved from active military duty to join the Taylor Expedition to Alaska, of which he assumed leadership. That same year he served in campaigns against Nex Percé, and against the Bannock and Piute the following year, and was appointed aide-de-camp to General Oliver Otis Howard.
He married Nannie Noale Smith in 1879. Two years later he entered Columbia University. While there he met the sculptor Olin Warner and the painter Albert Pinkham Ryder. After he graduated he returned to active military duty in Boise, Idaho.
In March of 1884 he resigned from the army after threat of a court martial. He then began a successful legal practice in Portland, Organ.
In 1888 he helped to found the Portland Art Association. He defended the Lazard Fréres banking house, which held to a large tract of land in Oregon, against the U.S. government. In 1901 he published A Book of Tales, Being Myths of the North American Indians followed by A Masque of Love in 1904. He became a contributor to Liberty: The Pioneer Organ of Anarchism and to Emma Goldmann’s journal Mother Earth.
In 1911 he began a lifetime affair with the journalist and feminist Sara Ehrgott.
In 1915 a long poem called The Poet in the Dessert was published . Some of his other published poetry includes Maia in 1918, Circe in 1919 and Poems from the Ranges in 1929.
In 1918 he and Ehrgott settled in San Fransisco. He published a series of satirical dialogues in The Masses, which were later collected as Heavenly Discources in 1927.
In 1931 he published a collection of essats as Too Much Government. When he learned he had been named a Communist by the House of Representative’s Special Committee on Un-American Activities he wrote a letter of protest to the committee’s chairman, Martin dies.
He served on the Committee for the Defense of Trotsky and was appointed president of the anti-fascist Association of Western Writers in 1936. He died the following year of a heart attack.