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Forgotten Founding Father: William Woodford

1044730_10152162836888021_5648231528498039279_nNot every one who played a part in the Revolution made it to sign the Declaration. This is a picture of Brigadier General William Woodford. I am a direct descendent of his. We talk about the “founding fathers” often enough – but there were so many who gave their lives and had their names forgotten to break away from England.

According to history, “He served in the French and Indian War as an ensign in Colonel George Washington’s Virginia Regiment, and was promoted to lieutenant in 1761. During that year he served in the Cherokee expedition under William Byrd and Adam Stephen.

As war with Great Britain loomed, Woodford was a delegate to the Third Virginia Convention, and there was appointed colonel in command of the 2nd Virginia Regiment. He drove the royal governor, Lord Dunmore from the Norfolk peninsula after the Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775, the first significant battle of the Revolution on Virginia soil.

Woodford was promoted to brigadier general in February 1777. He was wounded later that year at the Battle of Brandywine, where he and his troops performed well. In 1778 he led his brigade at the Battle of Monmouth where he took control of Comb’s Hill and with artillery was able to pound the British left flank.. In late 1779 he and his brigade were sent to join the Southern army, only to be captured at the Siege of Charleston in 1780. He was sent to New York, where he died on board a British prison ship later that year. He was buried at Trinity Church, New York.”

So driving out governors is genetic. Anyway, I’ve read a lot of the letters between him and George Washington. Woodford was very concerned about the humane treatment of prisoners of war and torture issues. He brokered a peace treaty with the Natives in Virginia that lasted ten years.

This letter from George Washington is striking.

“Cambridge, November 10, 1775.

DEAR SIR: Your favour of the 18th September came to my hands on Wednesday last, through Boston, and open, as you may suppose. It might be well to recollect by whom you sent it, in order to discover if there has not been some treachery practised.

I do not mean to flatter when I assure you that I highly approve of your appointment, The inexperience you complain of is a common case, and only to be remedied by practice and close attention. The best general advice I can give, and which I am sure you stand in no need of, is to be strict in your discipline; that is, to require nothing unreasonable of your officers and men, but see that whatever is required be punctually complied with. Reward and punish every man according to his merit, without partiality or prejudice. Hear his complaints. If well founded, redress them; if otherwise, discourage them, in order to prevent frivolous ones. Discourage vice in every shape, and impress upon the mind of every man, from the first to the lowest, the importance of the cause, and what it is they are contending for. Forever keep in view the necessity of guarding against surprises. In all your marches, at times, at least, even when there is no possible danger, move with front, rear, and flank guards, that they may be familiarized to the use; and be regular in your encampments, appointing necessary guards for the security of your camp. In short, whether you expect an enemy or Dot, this should be practised; otherwise your attempts will be confused and awkward when necessary. Be plain and precise in your orders, and keep copies of them to refer to, that no mistakes may happen. Be easy and condescending in your deportment to your officers, but not too familiar, lest you subject yourself to a want of that respect which is necessary to support a proper command. These, Sir, not because I think you need the advice, but because you have been condescending enough to ask it, I have presumed to give as the great outlines of your conduct.

As to the manual exercise, the evolutions and manoeuvres of a regiment, with other knowledge necessary to the soldier, you will acquire them from those authors who have treated upon these subjects, among whom Bland (the newest edition) stands foremost; also an Essay on the Art of War; Instructions for Officers, lately published at Philadelphia; the Partisan; Young, and others.

My compliments to Mrs. Woodford; and that every success may attend you in this glorious struggle, is the sincere and ardent wish of, dear Sir, your affectionate humble servant, GEORGE WASHINGTON.”

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3 Responses to “Forgotten Founding Father: William Woodford”
  1. Zyxomma says:

    Wow, Shannyn, I had no idea you qualify for DAR. I’m only second generation, myself. For anyone wondering, the antique meaning of condescending is “yielding” or “assenting.” Happy Fourth.

  2. mike from iowa says:

    Not a single mention of god this or god that. Commie bugger.

    Where in the world did you find such correspondence,Ms Moore?

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