A Stout Heart and a Hearty Soul:
James Woodworth of the 44th NY Volunteers
by Chris Hunter

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). He enjoyed reading, and his library at home included books such as Don Quixote. At least two of 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] 

     James Woodworth, shortly after the census, married Phebe Burroughs, the 21 year old daughter of Thomas Burroughs, 64 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 a call for 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 son" to the absence of motherly love and warnings. His sister Elizabeth raised him from the age of nine, and even though she did taught him as best as possible the difference between right and wrong, her lessons lacked the sternness and love of a "Mother's warning voice." 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 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 pre-war 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 "enjoying" camp life, a long social function broken on by the interruptions of duty.[8] 


     Never considering himself an overly religious man before the war, religion soon served as the foundation of Woodworth's life as a soldier. In Varick he attended the Old Methodist Church at the corner down from his house on at least a semi-regular basis. But upon entering the service, he soon found himself exposed to religion on a regular basis. While in camp at Albany, the religious men of the company, numbering nearly 40 according to Woodworth, led nightly prayer meetings. The men sang hymns from a book of prayers and hymns given them by the female students of the Normal School. Several, including Woodworth, procured passes from the officers and attended mass at local churches. Once attached to the 44th regiment and in Virginia, although the regiment lacked a chaplain, the men managed to maintain a spiritual influence. While commanding the regiment, Colonel Rice often led prayer meetings. Eugene Douglass, who studied for the ministry, led prayer meetings within Company E. And services, occasionally held by Private McKendree Shaw of Company D, drew large numbers of the regiment.[9] 

     His wife's old Bible, given to him before leaving Varick, became so valuable to Woodworth that before the march began for Chancellorsville in April 1863, when the regiment dismantled its fixed camp and sent all surplus clothing and personal items into storage in Washington, he included the Bible, worn and ragged after 9 months in the field. The Bible provided a physical connection to home in addition to spiritual guidance. Besides being a gift, it also provided a deeper connection with home, as he imagined himself reading the same book as his wife at the same time. But he did not abandon religion after sending his Bible away. He acquired a testament book filled with writings and hymns to carry on the march.[10] 

     Woodworth considered himself a "changed man" in regards to his sordid past. The above Bible became Woodworth's best friend and "constant companion," reading it often during his leisure time when not writing to his wife or friends. He opened his Bible "each day, even on the battlefield" in order to get closer to the God he had neglected prior to the war. Woodworth promised to read as often as possible, and constantly urged his wife to attend church, read the Bible often, and pray regularly, tasks they both regularly ignored before the war. Prayer also ingrained itself as a regular part of his routine. He regretted neglecting prayer in the past, and now thanked God for the blessings of health and the opportunity for redemption while nearly all his fellow soldiers suffered from some sort of disease. Prayer for his family's safety and for an earthly reunion with his loved ones often dominated his thoughts. And with prayer came mercy and thankfulness for God's mercy towards himself and his family and the expectation that "He will crown our cause with victory." [11] 

     Although it may seem obvious that a soldier facing death would embrace religion, Woodworth carried it through the monotonous times as well, and especially through pay day, when many an otherwise noble soldier fell to vice. While certain others gambled, drank, or "had a fine time with the Dixie girls," Woodworth kept on his ideal path, sending almost all his money home and decrying the vices present in camp.[12] 

     His religion helped sustain him through the thickest of battle; lying for 30 hours on the battlefield at Fredericksburg where his knapsack was shot and his folded blanket riddled with 11 holes; and at Chancellorsville, while on detail guarding Colonel Rice's horse and the regiment's extra mules in the rear, the animal pen fell under heavy shelling, and with several of the guards and many of the guarded killed. Protecting the animals at all cost, he retired back to the camps, finding his way to shelter through dark, rain, and a narrow trail in unfamiliar territory. While on guard, he witnessed a tremendous storm and a fire in between the lines of battle which consumed many of the wounded. But nothing, not even death within the company, could challenge in his faith in his Creator.[13] 

     Woodworth had close connections to the first two deaths in the company, John L Barrick and Albert Smith. Barrick, who lived within a mile of Woodworth and next to the Burroughs; and Smith, Woodworth's first tentmate, both died of disease within the first two months after Company E's arrival in the field. But the death and suffering surrounding him failed to deter him. He instead thanked God for his and his family's good health and prayed for its continuance, for an earthly reunion with his family, and for a speedy end to the gruesome war in which his fate invariably rested.

     He served as a pallbearer for several funerals, including one for a drummer boy killed by a mule. He also served in the funeral of Albert Smith, the first of the company to die in camp and his tentmate and new friend. Smith, a young Normal School student whose qualities Woodworth admired quickly developed typhoid fever and died shortly before Fredericksburg. What he saw was horrible, but found it impossible to wish it not to happen to any one. Only success for the army and a fast conclusion to the war, which he often prayed for could ever possibly end the horrors of war. All he could do was realize he had little control over his fate and place his trust in God.[14] 

     John Barrick died November 26 in Washington, making one final journey to the Methodist Church where he joined his late father in eternal sleep. The many mourners included Barrick's mother Mary and Phebe Woodworth in physical presence, with James Woodworth, there "in spirit." He felt glad that his wife, despite a broken ankle, attended with other mothers and wives of the company adding a physical presence to his spiritual one.[15] 

Family and Home

     Despite the deprivations of war, Woodworth's greatest concerns often laid a thousand miles away, at his home in East Varick. Despite his absence, work on the farm needed to continue and debts still came due. Planting, sowing, harvesting, threshing, and caring for horses and cattle not only needed to be done, but also on time, to pay the mortgage to Mr. Dysinger, pay for necessaries for his family and his farms. Phebe assumed certain farm and business duties, but neighbors assumed many of the chores. Phebe's brother Daniel helped periodically. Neighbor Charley White often tended the field. James Warne, the owner of the adjoining farm assisted with haying and cared for a calf birthed by Woodworth's cow. Finally, another neighbor, Dan Bryant, cared for Frank, his favorite Bay Horse, a little temperamental, and too difficult for his wife to handle. Ralph Roberts, the country store owner at the bottom of the hill, not only extended the Woodworth's the usual credit, but granted them extra latitude to repay certain purchases, including a reaper.[16] 

     Despite the aid of Thomas Burroughs, the help of the neighbors, and the revenues generated by the harvests, money still often came up short. Woodworth sent money home whenever possible, but often went two or four months between pay musters. With pay of $13 each month, he almost certainly did not enter the service for any financial benefit, having a new family, and a new, well-situated, fertile farm still producing today, located on a hill overlooking Cayuga Lake in the heart of wine country. But to make ends meet, Woodworth orchestrated the sale of some of his wagons and horses, selling them to Charley White for $200.[17] 

     Woodworth show both his devotion and his concern towards his family and their welfare, apologizing for past indiscretions and ignorance. Shortly after first arriving in Virginia in late October 1862, he learned that a broken ankle caused by a jump from a runaway wagon had immobilized his wife. The anguished soldier, helpless from such a great distance, could offer no more than written encouragement and prayer while family and friends took over almost all her farm and domestic duties, including care for little Frankie.[18] 

     He displayed his love for his wife throughout his letters to her, only berating her for when she sent short or sporadic letters. Woodworth often wished he could be home to be with her, but never wished her to come to Virginia. His heart longed for her, always looking forward to the great reunion at the end of the war. He urged her to continue to socialize, that he already suffered enough for the both of them. His love for her "grew "stronger and purer" every day as he eliminated his "wicked" nature that prevented him from being able to "lavish upon you the love that now burns within me." If God allowed them to reunite on earth, Woodworth promised a "rapturous joy" and the "dawning of a new love." He had discovered that their separation brought upon him a "purer, higher, nobler love."[19] 

     And how he missed little Frankie's, "flaxen" colored haired and "plump little form", only two years old in early 1863, just beginning to learn to talk as his father left for war. His earliest words included "Soldier Pa" after seeing a photo of his father taken in Albany. Woodworth expressed a great interest in his son's actions, the games he played, the words he learned. And what frightened Woodworth, probably more than any battle, was a scarlet fever epidemic that attacked Seneca County. Heightening this anxiety, he soon discovered in a letter of his son's fever, along with chronic soreness in his ears, eyes, and mouths. Offering much prayer, hope, and encouragement from his distant location, danger soon passed, and young Frankie soon chattered to his mother for hours, singing his songs, telling her his stories, and eagerly writing letters to his Uncle Sidney. Frankie survived this epidemic and others, and affirmed his father's sacrifice to protect prosperity for the future.[20] 

     But by April1863, confronting traumatic conditions far beyond one's wildest imagination for nearly nine months, over a third of his son's young life, Woodworth confessed to his wife that he had forgotten his son's appearance. It disturbed him, convincing him to ask for a picture of her and Frankie to carry as he begged forgiveness for his forgetfulness. Even her description of his hair and other features failed to revive the memory of one rapidly growing and altering in appearance.[21] 

     The photos he received of his son and wife served as but one of many physical connections Woodworth used to combat homesickness and to restore his belief in his cause. The loss of a gold pen, once belonging to his father and played with by Frankie, on the battlefield at Chancellorsville devastated Woodworth. His socks, darned by his wife, allowed him fond memories of home. Even the whistling of the train and Seneca County names imprinted on the cans and bags received in packages from home, made him homesick. When he visited a plantation in Pine View Virginia in early June 1863, the owner's young daughter, about the same age as Frankie, peaked Woodworth's interest and served as perhaps the closest connection of him to his son, outside of his son's own "letters." In the brief time spent with her, he imagined being home with son, remembering coming home from working the fields, and his son dashing out the door to greet his father. Though forgetting his appearance, he still strongly remembered the situations, which all came back during one brief respite from the war.[22] 

     Woodworth received other items from home, in addition to letters. He frequently received the Seneca Falls Courier, a local newspaper, from his wife, allowing him to connect back to his local community and gain an outsider's perspective on the progress of the war. In the papers, he often received little presents such as tobacco, writing paper, and stamped envelopes, all necessities for the soldier. All were available from the sutlers around the camps, but the high prices and the disappearance of the sutlers during marches and campaigns made it practical to have them sent from home. And to supplement the often meager army rations, individuals or whole communities joined together to prepare large boxes for the soldiers. The best boxes arrived with canned fruits and vegetables, preserved meats, tobacco, tea, and several letters, and weighed in excess of a hundred pounds.[23] 


     The handwritten letter, a lost form of communication in today's society, served as a soldier's primary connection to his past life. The letters received from and written to his wife Phebe, allowed him to briefly forget his situation and converse with the one he loved the most as "though I were close by your side." Woodworth wrote on any kind of paper available, including company stationary (which he found too small and expensive), large sheets, small sheets, and scraps, and in every possible situation. In fixed winter camps during lulls in duty, he promised to write every other day and Sunday. In these letters he described his appearance, living arrangements, the food he ate, and the condition of the Seneca boys. He also gave his opinion on military strategy, most notably his vehement protests against the removal of McClellan in November 1862. Although he liked "Mac" as a commander, and in the end preferred him to Burnside, he objected most to the timing of McClellan's removal, which occurred in the midst of a campaign that Woodworth and other soldiers viewed as a success in progress. He gave news of the other Varick soldiers, asked questions, gave advice, made attestations of love towards his family, and professed his religious faith. These letters, typically written in ink and in fine penmanship, illustrated the importance soldiers placed upon them.[24] 

     Not all letters were written from the relative comfort of a fixed camp. Woodworth also wrote letters while on picket duty, in bivouac (temporary camps normally used for a nights rest), on short rests during marches, on construction details, and occasionally even on the battlefield. These letters, often hastily written in pencil and often on the smaller sheets of papers, served primarily to inform his wife of his safety and make one final attestation of love in case he fell in battle.

     Soldiers prized the letters that they received. Woodworth kept all the letters he received, and sent them home in a packages in order to preserve them for the future. He sent the letters home when the load got too heavy, or when one of the soldiers received a furlough and it became convenient. His wife sometimes doubted that he appreciated her letters, or that he found them uninteresting. But he asked her to write every detail, every occurrence, as much as possible, and that "my greatest pleasure is derived from reading letters from you." He fought for his family and their prosperity, and the letters from home served the function of maintaining the contact with his source of motivation.[25] 

Duty and Disease

     Letters also served as a way to positively utilize the little leisure time available to the soldiers. Many soldiers carried a portfolio, a folder where the soldier stored his paper, envelopes, stamps, and writing instruments. Woodworth used every spare opportunity afforded him to write to his wife and friends. When idle in camp after the daily drill and parades, a soldier's activities typically turned to either reading and writing, resting, singing, or gambling. Each soldier chose his own activity, and Woodworth's choice always included the nobler activities. He made his decision not only for the time just before a battle when a soldier disposed of vice to cleanse his soul and make peace with God, but for his entire time of service. He never gambled, rarely used profane language (even when quoting Joe Hooker in a letter, he censored his d-n), and drank only when issued as a ration (rarely) or offered by an officer. Instead of farming land in New York, he cultivated his soul in Northern Virginia, considering it an "atonement" for his past ignorance and irregularities. He spent much time writing, even at the expense of his dinner or sleep. Many of the men spent time singing hymns and popular songs of the day, sometime among themselves or to their visitors, and other times to the rebels. Guarding a ford of the Rappahannock against the confederates, when the rebels would sing a song such as "Dixie" the Union soldiers respond with their own patriotic favorites. Woodworth, apparently of "fine voice", led a serenade of "Red White and Blue."[26] 

     But not all soldiers maintained the convictions of Woodworth. Many soldiers, even in a model regiment as the 44th NY, and in as well educated a company as Company E, still fell to vice. Gambling became quite prevalent, primarily on the days immediately following the pay musters. Woodworth mentioned few names of those involved in gambling, but told his wife "you can imagine who some of them are and some you would not think would stoop so low." Drunkenness sometimes occurred when sutlers lurked near the camp. Some soldiers lost nearly their entire wages to better (or shiftier) gamblers. Others spent large sums with the sutlers, and certain others engaged with prostitutes, the "meanest, nastiest" ladies according to the moralistic Woodworth, though he considered the number engaged with prostitutes as surprisingly few, considering many men in the regiment had spent over 2 years away from home. While some soldiers turned to religion in the army, others attempted to live each day as their last and sank to the level of the depravities they faced every day.[27] 

     Woodworth discovered that his new outlook, "a good constitution and hard work," allowed him the ability to withstand long marches of 20 or even 30 miles on even the hottest of days. But not all soldiers possessed the physical or mental capabilities to withstand such a march. Many soldiers, on the verge of falling out of the march, sacrificed long-term benefit for short-term comfort and throw their equipment away along the side of the road. The tired soldier disposed of knapsacks, overcoats, suitcoats, blankets, boots, and basically anything short of his gun (probably more valuable than the soldier) and his haversack (containing his food). But the sturdier soldiers, including Woodworth and his early tentmate Albert Smith, aided their troubled companions and carried their possessions for them through the remainder of the march.[28] 

     Tiredness brought on by night duty, such as digging trenches after a regular day's duty or starting a march late at night, or by marching for consecutive days, all increased the likelihood of sickness. Disease harmed more men than the bullet. While the bullet spared many men, almost no soldier escaped serious sickness. Woodworth managed to escape serious illness until the weeks after Gettysburg, catching nothing but a bad cold in his first 10 months in service. He attributed his success to his sturdiness and his renewed faith in God.[29] 

     A sick soldier often created a burden upon his fellow tentmates, creating a duty that many soldiers accepted reluctantly, though dutifully. Officers assigned each tent specific maintenance duties to perform, both within the tent and in maintaining their part of the company street. When Woodworth's tentmates Albert Smith and James Sperling were both taken ill in late November 1862, the situation forced him to assume all the duties assigned to their tent. He cooked all their meals, performed all the cleaning, maintained the camp fire, and even constructed their shanty, a combination of dirt floor, log walls, and tent cloth roof. But he also went above his required duty to specifically care for the men themselves, especially "poor Smith," quickly debilitated with typhoid fever. He washed their clothing, bathed them if necessary, sat with them, and gave them medical care. Having just concluded McClellan's campaign in western Virginia, the surgeon had not yet reestablished the regimental hospital, forcing even the sickest of men to remain in their assigned tents, the sole responsibility of their tentmates outside of brief visits from the surgeon.[30] 

     Woodworth admired Smith's qualities, except for one, his stubbornness. Smith, ill for a short while, had kept to his duty and refused to report sick until the disease progressed to a point almost beyond cure. Smith soon fell into periods of dementia and required 24 hour care. The requirements of constant care cost Woodworth much of his sleep during this period, although he depended upon Sperling, not nearly as ill as Smith, or one of his fellow soldiers to spell him for brief periods. A guard found Smith one night lying on the ground after he wandered from his tent, as Woodworth slept. Vomiting and diarrhea forced Woodworth to clean him regularly. And during one episode of delirium during one of Woodworth's absences from the camp to perform picket duty, Smith attacked Sperling with a hatchet, severely cutting his hand and returning him to the sick list. Despite the discouragement of the situation, Woodworth both performed and exceeded his required duty. Within a day or two of his death on December 7, the surgeon finally placed Smith in the hospital, where he died. The doctor appointed Woodworth a hospital steward in recognition of his tender care of Smith, for a period that lasted until after Fredericksburg. After befriending Albert's uncle when he arrived in Virginia to claim his body, Smith's mother and sister, grateful for the kindness Woodworth showed their loved one in his last difficult days, sent him letters and a couple of large boxes (one exceeding 140 pounds), and requested a meeting with him in Washington in late March 1864.[31] 

     In the rapid marching south after Gettysburg, Woodworth developed diarrhea, but still missed no duty. At the time, he claimed that all but about 20 men in the entire regiment suffered from the same malady. He continued his day to day duties and maintained hope and faith in the face of constant pain and discomfort from diarrhea, toothaches, and headaches. But his case soon developed into a more serious ailment, an inflammation of the bowels. One night, while on guard duty, he suddenly felt sharp pains in his stomach, an attack, and needed assistance just to return to his tent. He missed duty for several days, with many men, including even the officers, concerned enough to check on his condition each day. His tentmates, now David Harris and Hicks Campbell, two more men from Seneca County, brought him items such as butter and milk from the sutler and performed many of his duties for him. Lieutenant Husted brought him extra rations of potatoes each daily. Another member of the regiment, in Company H, diagnosed with the same ailment only a few days after Woodworth, was considered beyond hope as his case transformed into typhoid fever. The illness discouraged Woodworth, especially his weakness, which limited him to short walks with the assistance of a cane.[32] 

     By early October, Woodworth, though not completely cured, felt enough to march with his regiment. While marching on October 14, first into line of battle and then to the support of the 2nd Corps, engaged at Bristoe Station, Woodworth suffered an injury during a confusion in which cavalry, artillery, and infantry all mobbed together on the same road. As a horseman rushed to rescue a cannon falling off a pontoon, the man inadvertently hit Woodworth, severely injuring his back. He continued on the march for a short time, but soon fell out and entered the hospital. Before long, the surgeon shipped him to Finley Hospital in Washington, where from a bed overlooking the construction of the Capitol dome, he enjoyed fine food (when they let him eat), a chaplain, and plenty of good reading. Despite his rest and good care, his weakness remained, preventing him from writing very often to his wife. His diarrhea had worsened after his injury, debilitating him further. Woodworth remained in Finley until the end of October, when the War Department ordered all New York soldiers in hospitals to New York City, perhaps in anticipation of some great battle requiring the use of all available beds.[33] 

     The government shipped Woodworth to St. Joseph's Hospital in Central Park. He admired the beauty of the park, which he and his wife previously imagined from descriptions in books. But he remained there only a short time before acquiring a furlough, and arrived home by November 7, when he paid $8.30 to Ralph Roberts to settle his account. Thompson Barrick, home also around this time, visited Roberts' store as well. Few details exist of James Woodworth's reunion with his family, but with imagination one can fill in many of the events. His wife and son running to greet him, the enormous dinners with his friends and families, who all eagerly sat in the parlor and listened to his tales from the war. He attended his church while, which probably carried so much more meaning for him, causing him to sing louder and clearer than anyone save perhaps his wife. Not the great reunion he imagined, the shortness of this furlough made his temporary reunion bittersweet. While in Virginia, he threatened to refuse a furlough if offered because "he would have to leave home again and it would only make him sad." He wished for one more night sleeping warmly in the bed alone with her. Apparently his son, so eager to see his Pa during his brief stay at home, slept with his mother and father every night during the furlough. But Woodworth regretted not praying or attending church often enough while home, and hoped God forgave him for this mistake and did not hold it against him.[34] 

     December 6 found him at Camp Convalescent in Alexandria, "a terrible place." By mid December Woodworth rejoined his regiment at Rappahannock Station, within only miles of the regiment's location in October when he entered the hospital. During December, Woodworth received the honor of a promotion to corporal, which obligated him to triple duty. He performed paymaster, commissary, and color guard duties within the company, which was greatly reduced in size. On January 24, the regiment was removed to Alexandria, where it received the assignment of guarding the six daily trains traveling between there and the front. At Alexandria the regiment built their "model" camp, which received the attention of a photographer from Matthew Brady's studio. Busy with constructing the camp, protecting the trains, and his new duties as corporal, Woodworth had but few opportunities to write to his wife during the winter of 1864.[35] 


     Woodworth's appointment as one of the eight color bearers, the greatest honor of an enlisted soldier, carried with it a high mortality rate. He took the appointment with pride, carrying the regimental colors during the visit from Brady's photographer, though he thought poorly of the picture because the flag cast a shadow over his face. Woodworth's surviving letters end on March 27. The regiment remained in Alexandria until April 29, when it moved back to Rappahannock Station for the beginning of Grant's Wilderness Campaign. Prior to the Battle of the Wilderness, which commenced May 5 and ended the 6th, the 44th quickly revisited many of the places where they camped in 1863, including Beverly Ford, Brandy Station, and Culpepper Court House. They crossed the Rapidian River for the final time on May 3. Woodworth's brother-in-law Sidney, recently rejoining the regiment after an extended sick leave that had begun before Gettysburg, fell severely wounded at the Wilderness on the first day of battle and died two days later, on the 7th. Hicks Campbell and William Oliver from Seneca both received non-fatal wounds, recovering to rejoin the regiment.[36] 

     Leaving the Wilderness, the regiment started down the road to Spottsylvania Court House. On the morning of May 8th, General Joseph Bartlett, the 3rd Brigade commander, after an all night march begun on May 7, ordered the 44th NY and 83rd Pennsylvania to dislodge a few dismounted cavalry from an eminence, Laurel Hill, which commanded the road to Spottsylvania. The 44th took the left of the road, the 83rd the right, and assured of the presence of only cavalry in their front, charged the quarter to half mile between them and the position of the Rebels. When within range of the enemy lines, the well-entrenched Confederate infantry opened fire. Additional Confederate Infantry then attacked on the left flank and the rear of the 44th, decimating the regiment. The 83rd Pennsylvania reached the opposing entrenchments and began a furious bayonet battle with the enemy. But a glacis of logs and sharp branches protected the Rebel entrenchments facing the 44th. With no chance of moving forward and the enemy closing in the rear the regiment retreated, protecting the flag, but leaving many dead and wounded on the field, including James Woodworth. Shot during the battle, he died. Listed as missing on the early reports, that designation soon changed to killed in action. Phebe Woodworth lost her loved one and Frankie Woodworth his father in a battle that should not have been fought and accomplished nothing.[37] 

     Woodworth died at the battle along with Robert McDuffee, recently returned from a furlough to see his ill wife in Seneca County. He returned home in a coffin, having made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, his life. His wife remained in Varick, a widow, remaining unmarried as late as 1883, when she purchased paint from the same store her husband visited on furlough in 1863. Woodworth did not die in vain, as his son Frankie grew and married, enjoying the prosperity his father helped protect. James Woodworth grew into a man on the battlefield, and while never enjoying a long earthly reunion with his wife, hopefully they attained an eternal reunion next to their Creator.[38] 


[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. Return to Text

[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. Return to Text

[3] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 13, 1862, August 12, 1863. Return to Text

[4] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, January 7, 1863, January 26, 1863, January 28, 1863, August 17, 1863. Return to Text

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

[6] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 12, 1862, February 22, 1863. Return to Text

[7] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 13, 1862, November 16, 1862, April 22, 1863. Return to Text

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

[9] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, September 21, 1862, September 28, 1862, December 28, 1862, April 22, 1863, June 1, 1863. Return to Text

[10] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 16, 1862, April 14, 1863 Return to Text

[11] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 12. 1862, November 15, 1862, November 16, 1862, November 22-25, 1862, December 17, 1862, December 28, 1862, March 27, 1863. April 14, 1863. Return to Text

[12] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, January 28, 1863. Return to Text

[13] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, December 15, 1862, December 17, 1862, December 28, 1862, May 8, 1863, May 10, 1863. Return to Text

[14] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, December 8, 1862, January 5, 1863, March 15, 1863. Return to Text

[15] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, December 22, 1862, December 28, 1862. Return to Text

[16] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, December 25, 1862, January 12, 1863, March 2, 1863, May 27, 1863. Return to Text

[17] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, January 28, 1863, March 8, 1863. Return to Text

[ ] 18.Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 13, 1862, November 15, 1862. Return to Text

[19] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, September 16, 1862, December 10, 1862, February 5, 1863. Return to Text

[20] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 15, 1862, November 16, 1862, February 13, 1863, April 8, 1863, April 17, 1863, August 6, 1863; Woodworth Papers, Phebe Woodworth to James Woodworth, March 20, 1863. Return to Text

[21] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, April 17, 1863. Return to Text

[22] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, December 10, 1862, December 19, 1862, January 16, 1863, March 12, 1863, May 27, 1863, June 7, 1863. Return to Text

[23] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, December 8, 1862, January 16, 1863. Return to Text

[24] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 13, 1862, November 27-28, 1862, December 19, 1862, February 26, 1863. Return to Text

[25] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, December 10, 1862, March 15, 1863, March 17, 1863, April 22, 1863. Return to Text

[26] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, April 5, 1863, May 8, 1863, June 1, 1863. Return to Text

[27] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, January 28, 1863, April 10, 1863, October 18, 1863, January 29, 1864. Return to Text

[28] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 4, 1862, November 27-28, 1862. Return to Text

[29] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 15, 1862, December 19, 1862. Return to Text

[30] .Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 27-28, 1862, November 30, 1862, December 3, 1862. Return to Text

[31] Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, November 27-28, 1862, November 30, 1862, December 3, 1862, December 10, 1862, March 2, 1863, March 27, 1864. Return to Text

[32] Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, April 8, 1863, August 6, 1863, August 14, 1863, September 29, 1863, October 4, 1863, October 7, 1863. Return to Text

[33] Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, October 16, 1863, October 18, 1863, October 23, 1863, November 1863. Return to Text

[34] .Ralph P Roberts Ledger Book, Seneca Falls Historical Society, Ledger no. 58, entry dated November 7, 1863; Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, January 31, 1863, November 22, 1863, December 10, 1863, January 10, 1864. Return to Text

[35] .Eugene A Nash, A History of the Fourty-Fourth Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, (Chicago: RR Donnelley and Sons, 1910): 179; Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, December 6, 1863, January 10, 1864, January 29, 1864, March 13, 1864. Return to Text

[36] .Nash, 231, 367, 431; Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, June 10, 1863, March 6, 1864, March 13, 1864. Return to Text

[37] .Nash, 187-190, 238-239, 286-288. Return to Text

[38] .Nash, 238-239; Woodworth Papers, James Woodworth to Phebe Woodworth, March 16, 1864, Ralph Roberts Ledger Book, Seneca Falls Historical Society, Ledger No. 57, page 353; Military Pension Index,1861-1934. National Archives and Records Administration, Northeast Region, Pittsfield Branch.


Microfilmed Sources:

Lawrence Hotchkiss Collection-Woodworth Papers. William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan. On microfilm at State University of New York at Albany Library.
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.
1880 Federal Census of Seneca County, New York State. On microfilm at the National Archives and Records Administration, Northeast Region, Pittsfield Branch, Series T9, Reel 932.
Military Pension Index, 1861-1934. On microfilm at the National Archives and Records Administration, Pittsfield Branch.
War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Volume 36 Part I, Reel 31. (Washington, 1880-1910). On microfilm at State University of New York at Albany Library.

Manuscript Sources:

Ralph P. Roberts Ledger Books, Ledger nos. 57, 58. Seneca Falls Historical Society.

Printed Sources:

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). Fischer, Carl W., compiled.
Descendants of Some Early Settlers of the Trumansburgh-Covert Area, New York: The Woodworth Family. (Unpublished typescript, 1967).
Fischer Carl W. and Swick, Jackson, compiled, Some Cemeteries of Between the Lakes Country. 3 volumes. (Interlaken: Interlaken Review, 1974).
History of Seneca County, New York. (Philadelphia, Everts, Ensign, and Everts, 1876).
McGrane, Agnes. Varick; A History of Varick, Seneca County, New York. (Waterloo: K-Mar Press, 1975).
Nash, Eugene A. A History of the Fourty-Fourth Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry. (Chicago: RR Donnelley and Sons, 1910).
Nichols, Beach. The Towns of Romulus and Varick, Seneca County, New York From the Surveys of Beach Nichols. (Philadelphia: Pomeroy, Whitman, 1874).
Willey, Bell Irvin. The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union. (Baton Rogue: Louisiana State University Press, 1983).
Woodhead, Henry, Ed. Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Union. (Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1998).