John R. Woodward, physician and Confederate officer, son of Thomas Woodward and Julia Amanda Rice Woodward, was born in South Carolina in 1831. He had seven brothers and sisters—Sarah A., Charles, Ellen, Hermione, Minerva, Benjamin, and Nannie. Not much is known about the family's time in South Carolina, but by 1850 they relocated to Talladega, Alabama.
At some point in the mid-1850s, Woodward moved from Alabama to Palestine in Anderson County, Texas, where he began practicing medicine. There, he and a woman named Mary Skilton had a child, John, in 1857. The couple wed shortly afterward on May 10, 1859. The family owned no slaves and was not wealthy when compared to many of their neighbors—the total value of their property was less than $1,000 in 1861.
The twenty-eight-year-old Woodward joined the First Texas Infantry on June 23, 1862, as captain of its G Company. Joined to Hood's Texas Brigade, the First Texas Infantry participated in some of the most intense fighting of the war. The First, as a part of the Army of Northern Virginia, fought at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and numerous other battles in the year from Woodward's enlistment until the battle of Gettysburg. Woodward, however, may have missed some of this fighting. In September of 1862, he was temporarily relieved of command due to being "on arrest" and was later placed on sick leave in Richmond for a short time at the beginning of 1863.
Woodward returned to Company G before the battle of Gettysburg where the soldiers under his command performed admirably, particularly in the assault of Devil's Den. In this confrontation, the First Texas rushed a fortified Union position and inflicted serious casualties but suffered a number of losses themselves. Company G was particularly effective in clearing opposition for the Third Arkansas, allowing the regiment to proceed deep into Union lines.
As described in Rags and Hope, the published memoirs of Valerius C. Giles, Woodward died shortly after Gettysburg. On July 22, 1863, the captain, while fanning himself with his hat on a break from leading his men over a Blue Ridge mountain pass, suddenly collapsed to the ground. When his men went to help, Woodward indicated that his leg was broken. In fact, he had been shot in the hip with a small bullet. The men nearest to Woodward had heard no shots and saw no gun smoke prior to his collapse. An inspection of the immediate area yielded only a fleeting glimpse of a few men on horseback. Some of the soldiers of Company G transported Woodward to the small town of Front Royal in the Shenandoah Valley to recover. The wound, however, proved to be fatal. Woodward died on August 26, 1863. His attacker, likely a hidden Union sharpshooter, was never found. Woodward was survived by his wife and son.
It should be noted that another account holds that Woodward died of wounds sustained at Gettysburg. This version of events has Woodward being struck in the head with a shell fragment during the advance on Devil's Den. Incapacitated, but not dead, he was unable to flee when Union soldiers advanced. He was taken to a Union Hospital where he died of his wounds on August 26. In this account, his remains were buried on the Gettysburg battlefield and remained there until being reinterred in the 1870s with other Confederate dead at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Although this scenario is plausible, evidence from his service record indicates that Giles's account of Woodward's death is more likely.
Woodward is buried at at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal, Virginia.
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Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Record Service, Washington. Mary Lasswell, comp. and ed., Rags and Hope: The Memoirs of Val C. Giles (New York: Coward-McCann, 1961). Harry W. Pfanz, Gettysburg: The Second Day (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987). Stewart Sifakis, Compendium of the Confederate Armie: Texas (New York: Facts on File, 1995). Harold B.Simpson, Hood's Texas Brigade: Lee's Grenadier Guard (Waco: Texian Press, 1970).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Woodward, John R.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 12, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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