Woodford, William

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Woodford, William

WOODFORD, WILLIAM. (1734–1780). Continental general. Virginia. Son of Major William Woodford, an Englishman who settled in Caroline County and grandson of Dr. William Cocke, secretary of the colony, he received the normal education for a young Virginian of the better class and served as a militia officer in the French and Indian War. In 1774 he was a member of the county committee of correspondence and of the committee to enforce the Association. The next year he sat as Edmund Pendleton's alternate in the Virginia Convention from 17 July to 9 August.

On 5 August he was appointed colonel of the Third Regiment and at Hampton on 24-25 October 1775, Great Bridge on 9 December, and Norfolk on 1 January 1776, he had a leading role in the fight that drove Lord Dunmore out of the province. In the closing months of 1775, when he was given the mission of opposing Dunmore around Norfolk, Woodford got into a warm dispute with Patrick Henry over the scope of their respective commands. As colonel of the First Regiment, Henry was the senior officer and would normally have had the honor given to Woodford in making the principal military effort in the colony. On 13 February 1776 Woodford became colonel of the Second Virginia Continental Regiment. Woodford resigned in September because Andrew Lewis had been promoted over him, but Woodford returned when Congress appointed him brigadier general on 21 February 1777. He was wounded in the hand at Brandywine but fought at Germantown three weeks later (4 October 1777). During the army's encampment at Valley Forge he quarreled over the relative rank of Muhlenberg, Weedon, and himself in what Douglas Freeman has referred to as a "clash of jealous and ambitious men" (Freeman, vol. 4, p. 613 and n.). He took part in the Monmouth campaign and subsequent operations in New Jersey. On 13 December 1779 he received orders to lead 750 Virginia Continentals to the relief of Charleston. After marching 500 miles in 28 days during the dead of winter, his column arrived on 6 April 1780.

Taken prisoner with the Charleston garrison on 12 May 1780 and sent to New York, Woodford died in captivity on 13 November 1780 and was buried in Old Trinity Church Yard. Woodford County, Kentucky, was named for him in 1789.

SEE ALSO Charleston Siege of 1780; Great Bridge, Virginia; Hampton, Virginia; Norfolk, Virginia.


Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington. Vols. 3-5. New York: Scribner, 1951–1952.

Stewart, Catesby Willis. The Life of Brigadier General William Woodford of the American Revolution. 2 vols. Richmond, Va.: Whittet and Shepperson, 1973.

Ward, Harry M. Duty, Honor or Country: General George Weedon and the American Revolution. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1979.

                              revised by Harry M. Ward