Woods, Peter Cavanaugh (1819–1898)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: September 1, 1995

Peter Cavanaugh Woods, Confederate army officer, was born on December 30, 1819, at Shelbyville in Franklin County, Tennessee, the son of Peter and Sarah (Davidson) Woods. He graduated from Kentucky's Louisville Medical Institute in 1842 and in 1850 established a practice in Water Valley, Mississippi, where he married Georgia Virginia Lawshe. Woods moved to Texas in 1851. He settled first at Bastrop and in 1853 moved to San Marcos, where he established himself as a planter. At the outbreak of the Civil War Woods raised a company of cavalry, primarily from Hays County, later to become Company A of the Thirty-sixth Texas Cavalry regiment. This regiment was mustered into Confederate service at Camp Woods on Salado Creek on March 22, 1862, and Woods was elected colonel when the regiment was organized. The Thirty-sixth (often called the Thirty-second) Texas Cavalry regiment was recruited within a fifty-mile radius of San Antonio. Nathaniel Benton, a brother-in-law of generals Ben and Henry E. McCulloch served as the regiment's lieutenant colonel. W. P. Woods, one of the colonel's seven children, served as a trooper in his father's regiment. After instruction in drill and tactics at Camp Clark near San Marcos in July and August 1862, the regiment patrolled the area around Fredericksburg, then the scene of considerable unrest due to the large number of Union sympathizers among its German citizens. Other companies of the regiment were posted along the Rio Grande, with headquarters at Fort Ringgold in Rio Grande City, and along the Gulf Coast at Port Lavaca, with the general responsibility for maintaining order in the Corpus Christi-Brownsville-Eagle Pass triangle, protecting the ports, keeping Mexico trade open, and preventing deserters and draft evaders from crossing the international border. In June 1863 elements of the regiment were moved up the coast as far as Indianola in response to the threat of invasion from Union general Nathaniel P. Banks. On July 12 Woods was given command of the First Cavalry Brigade of Gen. Hamilton P. Bee's division, which included Woods and Charles L. Pyron's Second Texas Cavalry regiments. On September 9 the regiment was ordered dismounted. It was to be moved by rail to Beaumont, and its horses, the personal property of the men, were preempted by the Confederate government. Woods protested the order and refused to obey it. After marching and countermarching the Texas coast for several months in response to invasion alarms, 157 of Woods's troopers deserted on the night of February 1, 1864. Granted thirty days leave, Woods followed his deserters to their homes and returned with them to his camp. On February 20 the highly unpopular dismounting order was finally executed, but on February 28 the regiment was ordered to Louisiana for the Red River campaign, and remounts were hastily procured. The regiment marched for Richard Taylor's army on March 12, arriving at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, on April 9, too late for the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill. They were attached to Gen. Thomas Green's cavalry division and immediately marched for Blair's Landing in pursuit of Banks's defeated army. On April 12 Woods and his men received their baptism of fire at the battle of Blair's Landing, where General Green was killed. They skirmished daily with the retreating federals through Grand Ecore, fought a determined holding action at Monett's Ferry, and continued a running fight with the enemy until a spirited action at Yellow Bayou on May 18 in which Woods was wounded halted the chase. A rifle ball entered Woods's left hand and traversed his forearm, exiting his elbow. Although he returned to service after only two weeks of convalescent leave, he never fully regained the function of his left arm.

In the reorganization that followed Green's death and Bee's removal from command, Woods's regiment became part of Xavier B. Debray's brigade of John A. Wharton's division. During the next seven months the Thirty-sixth Texas Cavalry remained in Louisiana, patrolling the Atchafalaya River from Alexandria to Opelusas. In February 1865 the regiment returned to Texas, and at Houston on May 21, 1865, by order of Gen. John B. Magruder, it divided its public property and disbanded. Following the war Woods returned to San Marcos to resume his medical practice and farming. He was elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1866. Upon the death of his first wife, Woods married Ella Reeves Ogletree in 1874; the couple had five children. Woods died in San Marcos on January 27, 1898, and is buried there.

Carl L. Duaine, The Dead Men Wore Boots: An Account of the Thirty-Second Texas Volunteer Cavalry, CSA, 1862–1865 (Austin: San Felipe, 1966).

  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Woods, Peter Cavanaugh,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/woods-peter-cavanaugh.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: