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Brigadier General Otho Holland Williams Artist: Charles Willson Peale Year: 1786 Collection: Private
On March 1, 1749 in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Prudence Holland Williams gave birth to her first son, Otho Holland Williams. The following year, Joseph Williams moved his family to Frederick County, Maryland near Conococheague Creek. At age thirteen, Otho’s father died. Under the care of his brother in law, Otho accepted an appointment in the clerk’s office for Frederick County. He later moved to Baltimore and continued within the same business. At age eighteen, Williams traveled back to Frederick Town and engaged in commercial trade. At this young age, a family friend described Otho as "about six feet high,
elegantly formed; his whole appearance and conduct much beyond his years; his manner, such as made friends of all who knew him."1 During the summer of 1775, Williams joined Captain Thomas Price’s rifle company as a second lieutenant. That summer, Williams marched to Boston. In 1776, Otho received a promotion to captain and later major and saw his first action on November 16, 1776 at Fort Washington. Williams placed his riflemen in thick woods in front of the fortification. His men faced multiple assaults from Hessian soldiers, until pushed back into fort where they were captured. During the fight, Williams suffered a severe wound in the groin.2 Over the next fifteen months, Williams recovered from his wound while imprisoned on Long Island. After the surrender of General Burgoyne, General Gates exchanged British Major Ackland for Major Williams. Just before the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, Otho Williams took command of the 6th Maryland Regiment. The Maryland Line performed gallantly at Monmouth, driving the British off the field.3 With the War for American Independence changing theaters of operation, Williams and his regiment moved south into Georgia. While writing to his brother in 1780, Otho recalled There are a few virtuous good men in this State, and in Georgia; but a great majority of the people is composed of the most unprincipled, abandoned, vicious vagrants that ever inhabited the earth. The daily deliberate murders committed by pretended Whigs, and reputed tories, (men who are actually neither one thing nor the other in principle,) are too numerous and too shocking to relate. The licentiousness of various classes and denominations of villains, desolate this country, impoverish all who attempt to live by other means and destroy the strength and resources of the country, which ought to be collected and united, against a common enemy. You may rely on it, my dear brother, that the enemy have had such footing and influence in this country that their success in putting the inhabitants together by the ears, has exceeded even their own expectations: the distraction that prevails surpasses any thing I ever before witnessed, and equals any idea, which your imagination can conceive, of a desperate and inveterate civil war.4 The tough conditions of the Southern Campaign plagued the army. Williams wrote The affairs of our little southern army are much deranged, and we find ourselves under very considerable embarrassments in our present position; the want of provisions is an inconvenience we have often experienced, but we have never been in a country so unwilling to supply us as at present. By Osmond Tiffany, A Sketch of the Life and Services of Gen. Otho Holland Williams, (Baltimore: John Murphy & Co, 1851), 1 -4. 2 Ibid., 6-8 3 Ibid., 9-11 4 Ibid., 13.
military authority, we collect a kind of casual subsistence that can scarcely be called our daily bread. The fatigue of campaigning in this country is almost inconceivable. I have slept, when I have had time to sleep, in my clothes. I seldom divest myself of my sword, boots or coat; my horse is constantly saddled, and we eat when provisions are to be got, and we have nothing else to do. The dangers of the field are neither more frequent, nor more fatal, than those attending the fatigues and accidents that reduce an army—from long experience, I find myself so capable of sustaining the fatigue, and by my good fortune (the favor of Providence) I have so often escaped the danger, that I am contented to do my duty, and submit myself to that fate which Heaven ordains.5 Williams and his Regiment fought at the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780 and purportedly gave General Horatio Gates the idea to display the undisciplined militia troops in front of the Continental Army. Williams claimed “He who has never seen the effect of a panic upon a multitude can have but an imperfect idea of such a thing. The best disciplined troops have been enervated and made cowards by it. Armies have been routed by it, even where no enemy appeared to furnish an excuse. Like electricity, it operates instantly; like sympathy, it is irresistible where it touches.”6 Williams saw action at Battle of Cowpens, Guildford Courthouse, Siege of Ninety-Six, and Eutaw Springs. At the close of the war, the Continetenal Congress made Williams a Brigadier General by brevet and he also joined the Society of Cincinnati. At the young age of 46, Williams died in Woodstock, Virginia in 1794. Uniform: Otho Williams wears the typical blue coat faced in buff and buff small clothes of a Continental Army staff officer. The coat has two gold epaulettes with a silver star and gilt buttons. His waistcoat is trimmed with gold lace and gilt buttons. The fine linen shirt ruffles are pinned to the side with a gilt heart shaped shirt buckle. Williams’s hair is brushed back into a queue and wears a black stock around his neck.
An original silver shirt buckle in the collection of Neal Hurst.
Ibid., 14. Ibid., 16.
Brother Jonathan’s Images Consortium Neal T. Hurst firstname.lastname@example.org John U. Rees R. Scott Stephenson Matthew C. White _______________________________________ (July 2012) Welcome to the military artwork series, Brother Jonathan’s Images. We will be following the same premise as Redcoat Images moderated by Dr. Greg Urwin (now nearing 1,900 installments). Greg began this new series, originally called Continental Images, in August 2010 with two contributions. His Redcoat Images project continued on and eclipsed the newcomer. Our small consortium thought that artwork showing the soldiers and uniforms of the fledgling republic’s military forces is well worth disseminating and we now continue with Dr. Urwin’s blessings. The series will cover the period 1753 to the end of 1799, the first date denoting George Washington’s rise in military service and the latter coinciding with his death after serving as commander-in-chief and first president of the United States. Images will include militia, officers (including foreign volunteers), and soldiers of the Confederation and early Republic. The narratives will focus on clothing and officers’ careers, but other pertinent information will be presented as well. Guest contributors will be considered, and anyone with information, images, or artwork sources they wish to share please email Neal Hurst at email@example.com. With that in mind, we hope to make this an informative and entertaining, as well as a collaborative effort. Our first installments will begin with Greg Urwin’s Continental Images Nos. 1 and 2, renamed Brother Jonathan’s Images to reflect the wider umbrella. Our initial contribution, No. 3, will immediately follow. ______________________ “The British were very civil, and indeed they generally were after they had received a check from Brother Jonathan for any of their rude actions.” Connecticut soldier Joseph Plumb Martin writing in his 1830 memoir of the October 1776 Battle of White Plains.
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