Belknap, William Goldsmith (1794–1851)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 13, 2018

William Goldsmith Belknap, soldier, was born on September 7, 1794, in Newburgh, New York. He was commissioned a third lieutenant in the Twenty-third Infantry on April 5, 1813, and served in the War of 1812. He was promoted to captain of the Third Infantry in 1822 and to major of the Eighth Infantry in 1842. He was brevetted to lieutenant colonel on March 15, 1842, for "general good conduct" against the Florida Indians. With the annexation of Texas to the Union, Belknap accompanied Gen. Zachary Taylor's army of observation to Corpus Christi and on May 1, 1846, was given command of one of Taylor's brigades. At the battle of Resaca de la Palma Belknap led his new brigade with great distinction, riding ahead of it and seizing a Mexican flag. On May 9, 1846, he was brevetted to colonel "for gallant and distinguished service" at the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, and to brigadier general on February 23, 1847, for his role in the battle of Buena Vista. He was subsequently made inspector general on Taylor's staff. On September 26, 1847, he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Fifth Infantry. After the Mexican War Belknap served as commandant of Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, from December 1848 through May 1851. He also served as commander of Military Department Number Seven, the area west of the Mississippi River, south of the thirty-seventh parallel, and north of Texas and Louisiana. He died at Fort Belknap, a post named in his honor, on November 10, 1851. Gen. Belknap was married to Ann Clark. The couple were the parents of William Worth Belknap, secretary of war in the administration of Ulysses S. Grant.

Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). Raphael P. Thian, comp., Notes Illustrating the Military Geography of the United States, 1813–1880 (Washington: GPO, 1881; rpt., with addenda ed. John M. Carroll, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Belknap, William Goldsmith,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 13, 2018