William Burnham Woods

William Burnham Woods, elder brother of General Charles R. Woods, was born on the family farm at Newark, Ohio, on August 3, 1824. He spent three years at Western Reserve College and then attended Yale, where he was graduated in 1845. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1847 and became interested in politics as a Democrat in the 1850's, becoming mayor of Newark and member and speaker of the Ohio house of representatives. Although at first violently at odds with the measures taken by the Lincoln administration, he later became a Republican stalwart. In February, 1862, Woods became lieutenant colonel of the 76th Ohio, his brother's regiment, and succeeded to the colonelcy in September, 1863, after the latter's promotion to brigadier general. Beginning with the battle of Shiloh, his Civil War career virtually paralleled that of his younger brother, whom he followed to Corinth, Chickasaw Bayou, Arkansas Post, the campaign in North Georgia, the "March to the Sea," and the Carolina campaign where he commanded the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division which was commanded by his brother. At the end of the war Woods was commissioned brigadier general of volunteers (May 31, 1865) and was also brevetted major general, although evidence is lacking that he had ever exercised divisional command for so much as a day. Curiously, his brother's ultimate volunteer rank, both full and brevet, was no higher than his own, although the younger Woods directed a division for months. After the war he settled in Alabama, taking full advantage of the opportunities presented by the prostrate white landowners; in 1869 President Grant appointed him a United States circuit court judge for the area which embraced Georgia and the Gulf States. Residing in Atlanta for the next eleven years, he was distinguished for moderation while adjudicating the vexing problems of the era arising from Reconstruction and the newly freed Negroes. In 1880 President Hayes appointed him associate justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. He died in Washington on May 14, 1887, and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, Newark, near his brother who had died two years before.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.