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The Woodhull family of Long Island

Descendants of Foulk Wodhull
    In early colonial history the name of Odell, as well as Wodhull frequently appears. After a close study of the subject there seems little doubt but that the Wodhulls and Odells can claim the same line of descent from Walter Flanderensis the first Baron de Wahull.  Richard Wodhull I., is frequently mentioned in Public Records as Richard Odell, but signatures to deeds and other papers seem  invariably to have been written Richard Wodhull. The records of Richard Odell of Southampton, Long Island, are not to be confused with those of Richard Wodhull of Brookhaven or Setauket, Long Island. The Odell and Wodhull families in America are entirely separate and distinct, although either might have reason to be proud to claim  kinship with the other.
    The date of Richard Wodhull's marriage, and his wife Deborah's surname are uncertain. The tombstones of Richard Wodhull I., and Richard Wodhull II., with those of their wives, were ruthlessly destroyed during the Revolutionary War. The original Family Bible is  also missing, the oldest obtainable, being that of Richard IV., who was born in the year 1712.
     It is strongly believed by some that Richard Wodhull I., married Deborah Crewe. According to Dr. Samuel Johnson, first President King's College, in a letter to his son in the year 1757, Richard Wodhull II., was "cousin german by his mother, to Lord Crewe,  father of the Bishop of Durham, whose niece was mother to the present Earl of Walgrave or Waldgrave."
    This seems for several reasons highly possible, but so far, it has been impossible to secure access to the private pedigrees of the  Crewe family.   The Crewe motto "Sequor nec Inferior" was adopted by the Woodhull family and, as will be seen further on, the families of Crewe and Wodhull were intimately associated as friends and kinsmen.   (See Beardsley's "Life and Letters of Dr. Samuel Johnson, First President of King's College.")
    The exact date of Richard Wodhull's arrival in this country is uncertain, but it was prior to April 29th, 1648, as on that date he witnessed a deed at Easthampton, Long Island.   (See Thompson's "History of Long Island," Vol. I., p. 294.)
    The name of Richard Wodhull appears among the early settlers of the town of Jamaica, but he is said to have had a distaste for the  policy of the Dutch Government, and hence removed to another part of the Island. He finally settled permanently at Setauket  Harbor, then called Cromwell Bay, or Ashford, in the year 1656.
     Mr. Richard Lawrence Woodhull had in his possession a Patent from  Sir Edmund Andros, Colonial Governor of the Province of New York, the date of which is September 29, 1677, but in the Town  Records.
    NATHANIEL WOODHULL, (General), fourth generation from Richard Wodhull I., Patentec of Brookhaven, Long Island, was  the eldest son of Nathaniel Wodhull and Sarah Smith. He was born at St. George's Manor, Mastic, Long Island, December 30,  1722.  His early life was spent in assisting his father to cultivate the possessions he had inherited.    His first public employment was in a military capacity in the war between Great Britain and France 1754-1760.   He was appointed Major in the Provincial forces of New York, and served as such in the army under General Abercrombie,   intended for the reduction of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and distinguished himself by his daring and bravery in the assault on Ticonderoga.
     "Major Nathaniel Woodhull, of Suffolk, and Major Richard Hewlett, of Queens, with six hundred and sixty-eight men under  Captain Bradstreet captured Fort Frontenac, June, 1758."   In the year 1760 he served as Colonel of the Third Regiment, New York Provincials, under General Jeffrey Amherst, which  marched against Montreal and effected the final reduction of Canada.
     The original journal kept by Colonel Woodhull, written during the memorable expeditions against Montreal, is in the possession of  one of his descendants at Mastic, Long Island. It was published in Boston in the year 1760, under the title of "All Canada in the  Hands of the English."   Colonel Woodhull was a representative from Suffolk County, New York, in the Colonial Assembly in 1769, and "for the six  consecutive years which preceded the Revolution, one of the ablest opponents of the colonial government. In connection with  George Clinton and General Schuyler, General Woodhull assisted to bring about the crisis which inaugurated the Revolution in this  Colony."
    He was appointed by the Provincial Congress August 22, 1775, Brigadier-General of the Militia of Suffolk and Queens Counties, Long Island.   On the 28th of August, 1775--General Woodhull was elected President of the Provincial Congress of New York, in which body sat  Jay, Livingston, Benson and Schuyler, and he also held the same office in the Congress that succeeded July 9th, 1776, under the  new form of government.
     On August 25th, 1776, he was appointed to the command of the Militia at Jamaica.   Owing to what has been defined as the "unskilful generalship of the Provincial Congress," there followed, "the catastrophe of a  divided command." It has been well said, "the nature of the service in which General Woodhull was employed and the force placed  under him were alike unworthy of his command. He had more military experience than most of the officers of the Revolutionary Army, and no one in this State promised to make a better general officer."
     In preparing to carry out the orders of Congress, it is evident that he knew himself and his men to be in a perilous strait.   He wrote, "I am now at Jamaica, with less than one hundred men. I will continue here as long as I can, in hopes of a  re-inforcement." Seemingly unconscious of any personal danger, General Woodhull returned to his headquarters at the Inn of Increase Carpenter, where it is said, "he tied his horse to the rail-fence, entered the old Dutch farm-house, and had just seated himself, when the  dragoons of Delancey's 17th British Regiment rode up to the Inn door.
     "The General suddenly aroused by the sound of horses' hoofs, (which he seems not to have heard until they were at the door, owing  to the noise of the elements, a fierce thunder storm having arisen) sprang to a side door, and was out of the house in an instant. He  was about to clear the rail-fence to reach his horse, when some of the dismounted dragoons intercepted and captured him."   To quote once again, "The scene of sickening murder which followed is scarcely paralleled in history since civilization forbade the slaughter of prisoners as the privilege of a conqueror.
     "The wretched and cowardly officer, who first reached the General has had the rare good fortune to have a strange obscurity  thrown over his identity. The ruffian, whoever he was, approached the General with the exclamation, 'Surrender you damned rebel!'  upon which Woodhull at once tendered him his sword.
     "This, however, was not enough, for with uplifted sword, the British officer advanced furiously exclaiming, 'Say, God save the King.'  "In accents of dignity and courage, General Woodhull replied, 'God save us all.' 'Say, God save the King,' shouted the brutal officer.  Whereupon he aimed the swift blows of his sabre at the defenceless head of the General."
      It is said on good authority that the wounds received by Woodhull were ten in number, seven deep gashes on his arm, nearly  severing it in two places from his body, and three wounds on his head.    In this pitiful condition, he was mounted behind one of the British troopers, and hurried to Jamaica, the men fearing an interception from Woodhull's force.   Arriving at the village, one account declares that a British surgeon dressed the General's wounds "with much kindness and skill," while other accounts declare that he was fearfully neglected, both then and later.
    As a prisoner of war he with others, was then removed to the New Utrecht Church, "which was unceremoniously used as a prison"  by the British. Again he was removed, this time to the wretched quarters of a prison-ship, where witnesses declared he was left in a  pitiable condition dying from neglect and lack of care. Colonel Troop, later a personal friend and associate of Hamilton and Jay, testified to the horrors of the prison-ship and the  indignities showered upon the dying General. Not until they knew his life was fast ebbing away, did the inhuman officers of the ship  permit his removal to the De Sille house, adjacent to the New Utrecht Church.   Here he was permitted the blessings of his wife's gentle ministrations, and the care which earlier permitted, might have saved his life.
     "With his dying breath he greeted his beloved wife (Ruth, danghter of the Hon. Nicoll Floyd, and sister of General William Floyd,  one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence), and then calmly directed that the needs of the American prisoners, then in   an almost starving condition, should be supplied by his wife with money and provisions.   "With these words of noble self-forgetfulness upon his lips, the spirit of Nathaniel Woodhull took its flight."
     It is said that one of the battalions that was employed in the inglorious warfare against an unresisting individual was commanded by  Major Crewe, a distant kinsman of General Woodhull, and that when he came to be apprised of the circumstances of the case, he  was so disgusted that he either resigned his commission and quit the service, or obtained permission to leave the army and returned  to England.