William Woodford was a Revolutionary War general from Caroline County. The son of William Woodford Sr. and Anne Cocke, daughter of William Cocke, secretary of the Virginia colony, he grew up on his father's plantation, Windsor, ten miles outside of Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock River. In 1762 he married Mary Thornton. They had two children. Woodford started his military career as a captain in the Virginia militia in October 1755. When the French and Indian War began, he became an ensign in George Washington's 1st Virginia Regiment and was later promoted to lieutenant. After the war he conducted a party of Cherokee Indians to Williamsburg to conclude a peace treaty, and 1771 he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Caroline County militia. As relations between England and the colonies worsened, Woodford served as an inspector for the Caroline County committee, formed to enforce the boycott of British goods, and also sent provisions to aid the citizens of Boston in 1774.
In the summer of 1775, Woodford attended the third Virginia Convention as a substitute for Edmund Pendleton, of Caroline County, who represented Virginia in the Second Continental Congress. The convention appointed Woodford colonel and commanding officer of the 2d Virginia Regiment. Patrick Henry was colonel of the 1st Virginia Regiment and commander in chief. In the autumn, the Virginia Committee of Safety ordered Woodford's regiment to the vicinity of Norfolk, where on December 9, 1775, he defeated a British attack on his headquarters at the Great Bridge, the first land battle of the Revolutionary War in the South.
Promoted to brigadier general in the Continental army in February 1777, Woodford distinguished himself and was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11 of that year when his men stopped advancing British troops. Woodford commanded his brigade at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778 and later marched to South Carolina to reinforce the army at Charleston. With the surrender of Charleston in May 1780, Woodford became a prisoner of war and died on November 13, 1780, aboard the British prison ship Packet off New York. Woodford County, Illinois, and Woodford County, Kentucky, were named for him, as was the town of Woodford in his native Caroline County, Virginia.