A Stout Heart and a Hearty Soul:

James Woodworth of the 44th NY Volunteers

Early Life    Religion    Family and Home    Letters

Duty and Disease    Hospitals    Conclusion    Bibliography

Early Life

An obscure young farmer from Varick, Seneca County, James Woodworth led a somewhat privileged, yet slightly tragic early life. Born in nearby Ovid in January 1838 to Alanson, a farmer and former state assemblyman, and Nancy Woodworth, James attended school, and learned Latin (though admitting himself not very proficient with the language). He enjoyed reading, and his library at home included books such as Don Juan. At least two of his sisters taught at common schools. But both parents died early, his mother when he was nine and his father in 1856, when Woodworth was only 18. By 1860, he moved to Varick, residing at the residence of Le Roy Bradley, a relative. He worked as a farm laborer on Bradley's middle-sized farm, valued at $7000 in the 1860 census, along with his brother Frank, listed as 15 and a farm laborer attending school. His sister Ann, aged 18, and half-sister Elizabeth, 33, both taught at the common school, also lived with Bradley. (1)View of farm field and Cayuga Lake from the approximate site of the Woodworth home

James Woodworth, shortly after the census, married Phebe Burroughs, the 21-year-old daughter of Thomas Burroughs. Burroughs was 64-years-old and the wealthiest man in Varick by far with $40,000 in real estate. Phebe's brothers included Thomas "Sidney" W. Burroughs, but 16 years old in 1860. Listed as a farm laborer who attended school, Sidney left Varick to attend the New York State Normal School in Albany. Charley Updike, another future member of Company E, worked for the Burroughs as a farm laborer. (2)

As the summer of 1862 began, McClellan's withdrawal from the Peninsula and the depletion of existing regiments brought forth calls for 600,000 men to fill both proposed new regiments and existing regiments. Excitement filled Seneca County as many young men enrolled in the 126th and 148th regiments. James Woodworth, now 24, just over 2 years previous a farm laborer, now owned his own 50-acre farm, a house, and a mortgage. His life included a barn and granary, wheat, corn, hay, potatoes, cows, pigs, and horses, a dog named Rover, a flax-haired son named Frankie less than two years old, and a young wife. (3)

But Woodworth also possessed a self-professed extravagant lifestyle. He attended the Methodist church but did not consider himself an avid Christian. He attributed his "transgressions" as a "wayward" boy to the absence of motherly love and warnings. His sister Elizabeth raised him from the age of nine, and even though she taught him as best as possible the difference between right and wrong, her lessons lacked the sternness of a "Mother's warning." Woodworth liked to sing, and occasionally drank, though not to excess. He never gambled, and disliked profanity. But something, unmentioned, prompted him to express these dirty feelings of unworthiness. (4)

Woodworth, not in the ideal situation to leave home and join the Union Army, with a wife, young son, debts, and much work to do at the new farm, carried great plans for the future of his farm. Originally planning to replace the existing small house and irrigate his fields in the Summer of 1863, the arrival of the mail one day in late July or early August irrevocably altered his fortune and those of many in the town of about 1,900 persons. Sidney Burroughs, at home on break from the Normal School, and probably other current and past Normal School students from Varick, including Cyrus McDuffee, John L Barrick, and Thompson Barrick, received a circular from Rodney Kimball, a math professor at the Normal School, calling his current and former students to a duty that many fellow Americans had already answered. (5)

Sidney Burroughs enrolled in Albany on August 18, four days after the first enrollments in the company. By August 29, Lt. Kidd, the second in command for the company, arrived in Seneca County to recruit additional men. Encouraged to join by their friends from the Normal School, as well as their own sense of duty, the threat of a draft, and a $100 bounty, 15 additional men from the county enrolled into the company, including James Woodworth, finally called to protect the prosperity of his country and "the government that has always bestowed such blessings upon the governed," intending to preserve both for his son and for future generations. (6)

Enrolling in the company on August 30, Woodworth encountered hostility from both his wife and father-in-law over his enlistment. His wife's bitter tone, however, improved after he left Albany for the front. A combination of fear, pride, and resignation soon replaced her hostility. And Thomas Burroughs, or as Woodworth referred to him in an early letter, the "Old Foot," stood by and supported his daughter and grandson, as the early animosity soon faded into memory. (7)

Woodworth arrived in Albany on a packet boat with the other "Seneca Boys" on September 13, and quickly incurred the criticism of his wife. Perhaps the best extant example of his prewar extravagances, Woodworth rapidly spent the $25 of his bounty money received at Albany as he attempted to alleviate the "monotonous life of a soldier" at the Albany barracks, making frequent trips into the city with his friends and visiting various hotels and restaurants. On one such excursion, he partook of a local daguerreotypist for a picture to send to his wife. The men in the company acquired food from markets to supplement daily rations, visited the homes of local members of the company, and began to "enjoy"a camp life, a long social function broken on by the interruptions of duty. (8)

1. 1860 Federal Census of Seneca County, New York State. On microfilm at the National Archives and Records Administration, Northeast Region, Pittsfield Branch, Series M653, Reel 861, page 231; Carl W. Fischer, compiled.Descendants of Some Early Settlers of the Trumansburgh-Covert Area, New York: The Woodworth Family. (Unpublished typescript, 1967); Lawrence Hotchkiss Collection-Woodworth Papers. William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan (hereafter Woodworth Papers), James Woodworth to Mrs. James (Phebe) Woodworth, August 17, 1863, November 16, 1862, October 23, 1863.

2. An Historical Sketch of the State Normal College at Albany, NY and a History of its Graduates for Fifty Years: 1844-1894. (Albany: Brandow Printing Company, 1894): 18; 1860 Federal Census of Seneca County, New York State. On microfilm at the National Archives and Records Administration, Northeast Region, Pittsfield Branch, Series M653, Reel 861, page 243.

3. Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 13, 1862, August 12, 1863.

4. Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, January 7, 1863, January 26, 1863, January 28, 1863, August 17, 1863.

5. Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 27-28, 1862, April 22, 1863.

6. Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 12, 1862, February 22, 1863.

7. Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 13, 1862, November 16, 1862, April 22, 1863.

8. Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, September 14, 1862, September 21, 1862, September 28, 1862, January 31, 1863.

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