Gen. William Tatum Wofford

The Courant American
Cartersville, Georgia
September 8, 1887, page 1
Transcribed by:  

William Tatum Wofford.
The Memorial Read at the Reunion of His Regiment, the Eighteenth Georgia.

Gen. William Tatum Wofford was born in Habersham county, Ga., on the 28th day of June, 1824, and died at his residence near Cass Station, in Bartow county, on the 22nd of May, 1884.  His ancestors were an old Virginia family.  His father died when he was a mere child.  He was educated at the common schools in his neighborhood, and was taught by his mother the noble traits and fine impulses which distinguished his long career.  He attended a high school at Lawrenceville, and was noted for his industry, perseverance, integrity and sociability.  After leaving this school he studied law at Athens, Ga., and was admitted to the bar in the year 1845, and soon thereafter located at Cassville, where he attempted eminence at the bar in competition with some of the brightest legal minds of the state.  In 1847, then quite a young man, he raised a company of cavalry and went to Mexico to join the war then raging between the United States and that country.  Here he distinguished himself in a skirmish with a large force of Mexican guerillas, displaying that cool courage that so highly distinguished him in the war between the states.  His company was in a battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James E. Calhoun, of Columbus, Ga.  For his conduct in Mexico he was complimented by a public resolution of the general assembly of Georgia in 1850.  After the conclusion of a treaty of peace with Mexico he returned to his home in Cass county, which then included nearly all of Gordon county.  He served this and the succeeding term of the legislature with credit to himself, though one of the youngest members.  In his election he received the highest vote in the county.  The legislature of 1851 was distinguished for the number of brilliant and experienced men it contained.  It was probably the ablest legislative body ever assembled in the State, consisting of such men as B. H. Hill, James A. Merriwether, Francis S. Bartow, James I. Seward, Dr. W. H. Felton and many others of like characters.  Yet General Wofford was said at the time to be one of the most useful members of the distinguished house.  He did not aspire to a seat in the next house, but was almost unanimously elected clerk, which position he filled to the satisfaction of all.  He continued to practice his chosen profession, the law.

On the 16th of August, 1859, he was united in marriage in Hopedale, in Murray county, Ga., with Miss Julia A. Dwight, daughter of Dr. Samuel B. Dwight.  Four daughters were born him, the three eldest dying in infancy, the other, Miss Lela Dwight Wofford, his only living child, now lives with her mother’s relatives in Murray county, a very popular, fascinating young lady, and truly a worthy daughter of an illustrious sire.  He was greatly opposed to secession, and his career, connected with his canvass and election as a delegate to the secession convention in 1861, is the most remarkable and illustrative of his life.  He ran as an anti-secessionist.  The fiery fervor of that day cannot be described.  Public feeling was at a white heat.  The blinding adumbration of war was over the land. Men lived in flaming excitement.  The contagious and irresistible fever of revolution, inspired by a believed wrong, was seizing a people.  It was a wild time, growing wilder, and in the delirious influences men threw themselves into the rushing currents with frenzied enthusiasm.  Opposition, remonstrance, protest, were unavailing.

It was suggestively characteristic of General Wofford in this feverish passion that he coolly and resolutely set his head against the popular current.  He opposed secession and took the field as an anti-secession candidate to the secession convention.  He was a decided union man from first to last during the whole war, though fighting with conspicuous gallantry to the end of the struggle, for the south.  He was elected by about one hundred majority, the county voting about 3,000.

His course in the convention was opposition to secession in any shape, but when the state, through her chosen representatives, spoke, he, as a loyal Georgian, accepted the situation and volunteered his services in defense of his state, and no more brave or gallant officer ever led a regiment or brigade into deadly conflict.

Entering the state service at the beginning of the war as captain of a company he was elected colonel of our regiment at Camp Brown in April, 1861.  Our regiment was at that time a part of General Phillips’ brigade, and was turned by Gov. Brown over to the confederacy in August, 1861.  He was placed in command of the famous Texas brigade and led through the Maryland campaign in 1862.

In January, 1863, he was commissioned Brigadier, and his brigade was composed of the 16th, 18th and 24th regiments and Phillip’s and Cobb’s legion.  In the battle of Chancellorsville, on the 5th of May, 1863, and the second battle of Fredericksburg, 6th of May, 1863, he did conspicuous service.  In the first fight his brigade was on the right of Lee’s army.  He saw the federal troops moving back when Jackson struck them, and begged to be permitted to charge the enemy’s flank.

At the fateful heights of Gettysburg he added to his deserved military reputation.  On the third day of this fight General Longstreet sent for General Wofford and carried him to General Lee, who questioned him closely as to the progress of the charge he had made the day before.  Gen. Wofford said he believed he could have taken the heights if supported.  General Longstreet asked him if he believed he could do it then.  Wofford, with deep reluctance, said he did not think they could be carried at all, strengthened as they may have been during the night.

General Wofford’s brightest service was at the battle of the Wilderness on the 16th of May, 1864. Hill’s corps was retreating.  Lee’s ordinance train was in danger.  Longstreet went in at the double quick to help Hill.  Wofford was at the right of the corps and the army.  He had a narrow escape.  A minie ball struck him in the breast, penetrated his overcoat, glanced upon a button and dropped into the lining of his vest.  The enemy was repulsed.  At this juncture, General Wofford discovered a chance to flank the enemy and applied for permission to make a charge.  It was granted.  It was royally made.  Wofford carried his brigade like a storm, sweeping everything before it, and literally uncovering Longstreet’s entire front.  But for Longstreet being wounded and thus being disabled from taking prompt advantage of the successful charge it would have been followed up. For this charge General Wofford was recommended for promotion to major-general.

General Longstreet, in his recommendation, said that General Wofford “was distinguished by the energy and rapidity of his attack, and the skill and gallantry which he handled his brigade.”  Lieutenant General Anderson indorsed: “General Wofford has constantly exhibited superior head courage and ability.”  General Lee indorsed that General Wofford had “Always acted with boldness and judgment, displaying great zeal and promptness.”  Ex-Governor Herschel V. Johnson, then confederate states senator, wrote to General Wofford: “The president esteems you very highly.  Your career has impressed him very favorably toward you as a brave, energetic and skillful general, and I am proud of you as a Georgian.”

At the battle of Spottsylvania, on the eighth of May, 1864, General Wofford again had a narrow escape.  He was putting a piece of artillery in position and a ball struck him, glancing one of his ribs.

On the 23rd of January, 1865, General Wofford, by the request of the authorities and people of Georgia, and by his own desire, entered upon duty as a department commander in North Georgia.  He made the last surrender this side of the Mississippi at Kingston, Ga., on the twelfth of May, 1865, to General Judah, commanding federal troops at Dalton.  It was through General Wofford’s instrumentality, in a conference by flag of truce with General Judah, that the starving people were furnished corn by the federal authorities.

After the surrender General Wofford asked General Thomas to loan the people 30,000 bushels of corn to feed them while making a crop.  That officer promptly granted the request and the corn was distributed.  General Wofford also applied to General Thomas to make an order that had been issued and let the people take and use the straggling government stock scattered over the country to help them farm.  This request was granted.

General Wofford was elected to congress in the fall of 1865 under an ordinance of the constitutional convention of that year; but none of the members from the seceded states were admitted to seats during that congress.

The only other place to which he was subsequently elected was a delegate from his senatorial district to the constitutional convention of 1877.  During the deliberations of that body he made an enviable reputation by his sensible and conservative course.  Had he been permitted to have his way many of the objectionable features in our present constitution would have been eliminated from it.

On the 2d day of October, 1880, General Wofford was united in marriage in Atlanta, Ga., with Miss Margaret Langdon, a very estimable lady, who still survives him, and at present resides in Marietta, Ga.

General Wofford was a very charitable man, as well as benevolent, and did more for the poor than he was really able to do, but it was his nature to disfurnish himself to relieve the distressed wherever he met them.

On Thursday, the 22d of May, 1884, General Wofford quietly passed over the river.  His remains were interred in the cemetery, at Cassville, by the side of his beloved wife, at 1 o’clock on Saturday.  In compliance with a request of his, made some time before his death, he was buried with only a simple Christian burial, Rev. Theo E. Smith, of the Presbyterian church, officiating, although he was a member of the Methodist church.

The large concourse of sorrowing friends that followed his remains to their last resting place testified the tender affection and high regard in which he was held by his fellow citizens.


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