John Woolard – War of Independence

Early Woolard family

John Woolard was born in Virginia in about 1752, and died in late 1809 in Hardy County, West Virginia.  He was married to Margaret Wilkins.  John is my Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather.

Their son was Henry Woolard, born on 30th July 1788 in Rockingham County, Virginia, and died on 23rd December 1878 in Richland, Fairfield County, Ohio.  He was married to Sarah (said to be a native American), who was born in August 1791 in Virginia, married around 1807 in Virginia, and died 3rd June 1831 in Richland, Fairfield County, Ohio,

Their son Isaac Woolard, born 1811 Virginia, married around 1833 Licking County, Ohio, and died 16th October 1867, Fairfield County, Ohio.  He was a drover/farmer by profession.  He married Elizabeth Miller, born 15th August 1816 in Ohio, and died 12th October 1902 in Ohio.


So we have a family who first appear in Virginia, a colony of Great Britain, who transition to West Virginia after the Revolutionary War, and then appear to migrate to Ohio as part of the push westwards of the boundaries of the United States.  I’m hoping to detail further research of records for this early family, and try to place in a historical context.


Known issues with the records from this period:

Records mention Woolard/Wollard/Woller – these are all the same people.  It’s clear that names were often written down differently, but are in fact the same person.  We can validate this by seeing there are no birth/marriage/death records for John Woller, and yet he appears in the same county as John Woolard or John Wollard.

There are records for another John Woolard in South Carolina (so not too geographically distant from Virginia); it’s not clear if this is another branch of the same family, but it’s made record searching difficult.  I’m making an assumption, that if records mention Virginia, they relate to my direct ancestor.


John Woolard’s Revolutionary War

The first piece of evidence for John Woolard’s involvement in the Revolutionary War was a military census taken in November 1775 to determine the local manpower.  From (Revolutionary war records … by Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh. 1936).  This is titled “A List of all the Persons in Dunmore, Distinguishing Whether They Be Male or Female, White or Black, and of the Males Whether They Be Under or Over 16 Years Old, Taken By Capt. John Denton, Nov. 1775, (Now Page County, Va.)”.  John Wollard is the 13th on the list.



All White Males over 16, No., Do. under, No, Females, no.

Jno. Wollard 2W, 2, , , 6W, 6

(Revolutionary war records … by Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh. 1936)

So this census in November 1775, tells us that John’s household had two white males over the age of 16, no male children under 16, and six white females.  This census was clearly an important step prior to any muster.

The second record shows that John Woolard (or John Woller here) signed up to Captain Alexander Machir’s (or Macher) Company of Militia from the Strasburg District of Dunmore County, Virginia. We know he lived in Dunmore county, we know there are no other records for a John Woller in Dunmore County, and we know that John Woolard was of age to join the Militia and was on the Military census (above) for able bodied adult males to join up, and we know that there was an obligation to serve.  We can safely assume John Woller and John Woolard are one and the same, and that this was one of many spelling mistakes or different spellings of the surname which are prevalent through many families histories.  There are other records to support John Woolard serving in the Continental Militia/Army, which will be detailed later.

The scans of records below, show the Virginian’s from Dunmore County who joined the Virginia Militia in 1775.

Machir1  Machir2Machir3

It’s interesting that Captain Machir made a note on this list list that

“There are Several in this List that never appeared at Musters they Pretending to be in Communion with the Menonists as also the Officers Ommited to be inserted at the Beginning Viz. Philip Huffman Lieutenant, Law. Snapp, Junr. Ensign, Alexr. Machir”.

[Note: Mennonites were a pacifist church – known as one of the peace churches.  The comment for Captain Mchir about ‘Pretending’ clearly shows intolerance to residents who were of age, and who did not do their duty and join the Militia, one can imagine the censure they must have had from their neighbours.]

Dunmore County clearly had enough men to form two companies, as the roster is made up of two pages, Captain Machir’s list on page 2 follows “A List of Men Living in the Lower District Dunmore County Under the Command of Capt. Joseph Bowman” on page 1.  Bowman’s company had 86 men, Machir’s 45 men.  Bowman would go on to win renown as 2nd in command to George Rogers Clarke in the Illinois Country Campaign which dealt the British a serious defeat.


The third documented Revolutionary War record for John Woolard of Virginia is a land grant for service in the war, and states that

Wollard John, Va, Private. 9th Feb. 1784. 100 acres.

(Denizations and Naturalizations in the British Colonies in America,1607-1775 by Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck)

As previously stated there are no other records for a John Wollard in Virginia during this period, so this has to be John Woolard, my ancestor.  He was clearly a private in the Continental Army who had earned a land grant for serving the United States during the war.

The fourth piece of evidence supports the third , and is the “Virginia Military Land Warrants, Virginia Military District of Ohio, granted for Revolutionary War Services”, it states that:

Number, Warrantee (A), Person Who Performed the Service (B), Kind of Service (C)

2434, Warran, Thomas (Assignee). Wollard, John. State Line.

(Revolutionary war records … by Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh. 1936)


So the documentary evidence suggests John Woolard was recorded in a military census in November 1775, he joined the Militia under Captain Machir later in 1775.  At some point he joined the full Continental Army – as a Private in one of the Virginian State Regiments – he was a Virginia Line soldier (there is a clear distinction between Virginia Militia and Virginia Line soldiers in records), so definitely not still a Militiaman/Minuteman.  We do not know how long he served, but in 1784 (the year after the war ended) he was awarded 100 acres in Ohio for his time in service, which may explain the families later migration to Ohio (?).

100-200 acres seems to have been awarded to Virginia Line soldiers who were of Private rank, and served for several years. As a comparison, John’s original Company Commander, Alexander Machir, was granted three warrants totalling 1045 acres on the River Shannandoah (Shenandoah), rather than new land in a recently hostile Ohio.

It’s unclear why the Warantee for the land was one Thomas Warran, and not his son Isaac.


Virginia military context

In 1774 Lord Dunmore, the British Governor raised a Militia to fight hostile Indians from the Shawnee and Mingo nations on the Virginian borders, caused by Colonists moving into the area south of the Ohio River (later to become West Virginia).  Dunmore led the settlers to victory in “Dunmore’s War”, but this laid the foundations to years of conflict, which the British exploited in the war of Independence, by arming hostile tribes to fight the rebellious Virginians, and provide a constant threat to settlers/homesteads on the borders.

I think it’s safe to assume that most male Virginians in Dunmore could shoot; the would need to hunt, they were on the borders with potentially hostile native Indian tribes, and many had been called up to fight the Indians in a Militia in 1774, prior to calls for Independence in 1775.

On the 20th April 1775 with rebellion rising in Virginia, Lord Dunmore acted and sought to remove weapons and powder from the Militia he had helped to raise.  The situation worsened during May with clashes between British troops and rebels, and finally in June Dunmore fled to a British warship and proceeded to raid Virginia.  On November the 7th 1775, Dunmore issued a proclamation declaring martial law, and offering freedom to slaves who joined the royal forces.  This was the last straw for the Virginians, and they started formally raising Militia and Regiments of troops.

During August, Virginia was divided into sixteen districts, each with a ‘Committee of Safety’ which were to raise 1 Company of regular troops (for one years service), and to raise a 10-Company Battalion of Minutemen Militia to provide a well trained defence force.  The Minutemen Militia Companies replaced Volunteer Militia Companies formed in 1774 and 1775.

John Woolard was included in a Virginian Military Census in November 1775, and was mustered during the remaining few weeks of the year, so it is likely he formed part of one of the 10 Minuteman Companies mentioned above.  We know events occurred in this order, because the records are part of the famous ‘Bird-Samuels Papers’ which detailed the acts of the Dunmore District Committee of Safety formed in August 1775.

1st and 2nd Virginian Regular Regiments were formed 21st October 1775, followed by a further 7 Regiments, and these were moved to the Continental Army on the 28th December 1775.

On the 15th November, Dunmore defeated the Virginian Militia of Princess Anne County (Battle of Kemp’s Landing), before being himself defeated (Battle of Great Bridge) by a force of the 2nd Viginian Regiment, Continental Army, and the Culpeper County Militia/Minutemen.  He then fled to New York before returning to Britain.

In 1778, the Virginians renamed Dunmore County to Shenandoah County, because of the Governors actions in 1775.

Draft or volunteers usually joined a Company of a regular Regiment that originated in their County; the men of Dunmore County (Shenandoah) who joined the Continental Army, joined the 8th Virginian Regiment, which was formed in Germantown in January 1776 from Northern Virginian Counties. (Shenandoah County records)

We know that many regiments were formed from soldiers with Militia experience, and we know that John Woolard became a Line Infantry soldier at some point during the war, so I think it is a reasonable assumption that he joined the 8th Regiment with other residents of his County.  There are no records to support this, but it is a logical conclusion.

Being a Line Infantry soldier, must have been a terrifying proposition; standing a rows a short distance away from the enemy and shooting at them, and allowing them to shoot at you.  The key tenants behind this formation was the discipline of the troops to stay in formation regardless of losses.

“With the massive proliferation of hand guns (firearms that could be carried by hand, as opposed to cannon; not to be confused with handguns) in the infantry units from the middle of 17th century the battlefield was dominated by linear tactics, according to which the infantry was aligned into long thin lines and fired volleys. A line consisted of 2, 3 or 4 ranks of soldiers.

The relatively short range at which smooth bore muskets could accurately hit a target, added to the slow reload (2 to 3 rounds per minute), meant that massed formation firing was essential for maximising enemy casualties. The line was considered as the fundamental battle formation as it allowed for the largest deployment of firepower. Troops in skirmish formation, though able to take cover and use initiative, were highly vulnerable to cavalry and could not hold ground against advancing infantry columns. Line infantry provided an ‘anchor’ for skirmishers and cavalry to retreat to if threatened.” (wikipedia – Line Infantry)

The 8th Virginia Regiment (known as the German Regiment), was a unique Regiment made up of many Virginians with German ancestry, and and the commander was Colonel (Rev.) Mullenberg, who was a well known local figure.  The Regiment defended Charlestown in 1776, fought at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in 1777, Battle of Monmouth 1778, before being merged with the 4th Virginia Regiment in 1779.  A year later most of the 4th Regiment was captured by the British in the Battle of Charlestown.

We don’t know where John Woolard fitted into this, but he clearly survived the War to go on to claim his land grant in 1784 for services rendered during the War. He was awarded 100 acres in the newly colonised Ohio., part of the Virginian State Military District of Ohio.  Although only living to 60 years of age, he died before being able to claim his Revolutionary War Pension, so none of these valuable records exist.


One Reply to “John Woolard – War of Independence”

  1. Thank you all the work. I had not run across the information you presented above.
    I did find this info on the farm of John & Margaret’s. ” 20 Jun 1786 -John WOOLARD claim under CARRIER – – Cult. and in tolerable order 6a. best bottom, 9a. second rate bottom, 31a. second rate hight land; Improvements: two cabbins; two round log pens with 12 foot passage, the whole 50 by 24, cabbin roof; 15 small apple trees.” p 184 The Jonathan Clark Notebook (Excerpted from “Abstracts of Virginia’s Northern Neck Warrants & Surveys, Hampshire, Berkeley, Loudoun, Fairfax, King George, Westmoreland, Richmond, Northumberland & Lancaster Counties, 1697-1784,” Volume IV, Compiled by Peggy Shomo Joyner, 1987
    My 4th great grandmother was Mary Woolard b 1769 d/o John & Margaret Woolard. She married Conrad Smith in Shenandoah Co., Va in 1790. Their family and the families of three of his siblings moved to Clear Creek Twp., Fairfield Co, OH before 1819. Twenty years later Conrad, Mary and most of their family moved to Thompson twp., Delaware co.,OH.


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