William Ward, a native of Macon, Georgia, recruited and organized the three original companies of what became the Georgia Battalion under James W. Fannin, Jr., in the Goliad Campaign of 1836. In response to appeals from Texas patriots, Ward proposed at a public meeting in Macon on November 12, 1835, to form a company of infantry to aid the cause. With the aid of Dr. Robert Collins, he enlisted 120 men from Macon, Milledgeville, and Columbus, formed them into three companies, and armed, supplied, and transported the unit to Texas at his personal expense and with the aid of the State of Georgia arsenal. As colonel of this "nobel company of Riflemen," Ward left Georgia with a letter of introduction to Gen. Stephen F. Austin from Dr. Collins, and with a letter to the government of Texas asking "that you will permit them to occupy such post, where `most danger is to be met and most Honor won.'" En route to Texas Ward brought the unit through Knoxville, Georgia, where Joanna Troutman presented them with a lone star flag (see FLAGS OF THE TEXAS REVOLUTION). Ward proceeded through Mobile, Alabama, to New Orleans, picking up recruits along the way until the force numbered 220. The men sailed aboard four chartered vessels and landed at Velasco, Texas, on December 20, 1835, where they were greeted personally by Fannin, himself a native Georgian, to whom the volunteers presented their service on December 23. Ward was elected major when the battalion was mustered into Texas service.
The official organization of the Georgia Battalion took place on February 7, 1836, when Ward and his men reached Refugio, at which time Ward was elected lieutenant colonel. On February 12 the battalion followed Fannin to Goliad, where Ward served on Fannin's staff until March 12. In February Ward also became involved in the General Council's charges against Provisional Governor Henry Smith, based in part on a letter from Smith to Ward in which the governor was alleged to have libeled the General Council and the volunteer army (see PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT). In what proved to be a disastrous and naive division of his forces, Fannin ordered Ward and the Georgia Battalion on March 13 to relieve Amon B. King's command, which Carlos de la Garza's rancheros, serving as advance forces for the Mexican army, held under siege at Nuestra Señora del Rosario Mission in Refugio. Though Ward successfully reinforced King, the two quarreled over who held command-King, on the basis that he was first on the ground, or Ward, by virtue of his rank. This conflict led to a division within the Texian force and contributed to the defeat and execution of King's command and the defeat of Ward's force during the ensuing battle with Mexican general José de Urrea's army. Ward was able to escape with most of his command towards Victoria during the night of March 15 (see REFUGIO, BATTLE OF). His route took them within sound of the battle of Coleto, ten miles distant, where Fannin himself had engaged the Mexican army. Ward emerged from the swamps above Victoria on March 21 to find the town occupied by Mexican forces. His men became scattered after a skirmish with Urrea's cavalry. Ward and the remnants of the Georgia Battalion then tried to get to Dimmitt's Landing on Lavaca Bay but were overtaken. Weary, dispirited, famished, and out of ammunition, they voted to surrender despite Ward's warning. Marched back to Goliad and imprisoned with Fannin's command, Ward was executed with most of his men in the Goliad Massacre on March 27, 1836. He is memorialized at the Fannin Burial Monument in Goliad County, Texas.