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The Woodhull family of Long
Descendants of Foulk Wodhull
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
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.
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
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
german by his mother, to Lord Crewe, father of the Bishop of
whose niece was mother to the present Earl of Walgrave or Waldgrave."
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.")
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.)
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.
Richard Lawrence Woodhull had in his possession a Patent from
Sir Edmund Andros, Colonial Governor of the Province of New York, the
which is September 29, 1677, but in the Town Records.
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
Abercrombie, intended for the reduction of Ticonderoga and
Point, and distinguished himself by his daring and bravery in the
Nathaniel Woodhull, of Suffolk, and Major Richard Hewlett, of
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.
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
government. In connection with George Clinton and General
General Woodhull assisted to bring about the crisis which inaugurated
Revolution in this Colony."
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
Congress of New York, in which body sat Jay, Livingston, Benson
Schuyler, and he also held the same office in the Congress that
July 9th, 1776, under the new form of government.
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
of the Revolutionary Army, and no one in this State promised to make a
better general officer."
to carry out the orders of Congress, it is evident that he
knew himself and his men to be in a perilous strait. He
"I am now at Jamaica, with less than one hundred men. I will continue
as long as I can, in hopes of a re-inforcement." Seemingly
of any personal danger, General Woodhull returned to his headquarters
the Inn of Increase Carpenter, where it is said, "he tied his horse to
rail-fence, entered the old Dutch farm-house, and had just seated
when the dragoons of Delancey's 17th British Regiment rode up to
the Inn door.
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
intercepted and captured him." To quote once again, "The
of sickening murder which followed is scarcely paralleled in history
civilization forbade the slaughter of prisoners as the privilege of a
wretched and cowardly officer, who first reached the General has
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.
however, was not enough, for with uplifted sword, the British
advanced furiously exclaiming, 'Say, God save the King.' "In
of dignity and courage, General Woodhull replied, 'God save us all.'
God save the King,' shouted the brutal officer. Whereupon he
the swift blows of his sabre at the defenceless head of the General."
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
while other accounts declare that he was fearfully neglected, both then
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
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.
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
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.