William Goodrich was born on December 1, 1821, in Wilna, Jefferson County, New York, the oldest son of Hubbard Goodrich. His father was killed in a well accident when William was 14, and he became almost the sole support for his family. He worked his way through Wesleyan Seminary, graduating in 1839 and becoming a teacher. Shortly after he moved to Wisconsin, where he became a merchant.

With the coming of the Mexican war William made his way to St. Louis and became the adjutant of the Missouri Battalion of infantry. After the war he carried dispatches to California and remained there for a year as a trader.

He returned east to study law at Ballston Spa, New York. After passing the bar in 1850 he became a lawyer in Madrid, New York, at which time he also became judge advocate of the 33rd New York Militia Regiment. He married Lydia Hildreth in 1851 and had a daughter, Stella, in 1853, moving to Canton in the same year. While continuing his law practice he partnered with Seth Remington (father of the painter, Frederick Remington) to publish the abolitionist St. Lawrence Plain Dealer.

With the outbreak of the war Goodrich raised and became the captain of a company of men from the Canton area which became the first company in the 60th New York Infantry Regiment. When the regiment was mustered in Goodrich became its lieutenant colonel. In May of 1862 he was promoted to colonel. On September 16th, the day before the battle of Antietam, he temporarily took command of his brigade, the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division of the 12th Army Corps.

Goodrich asked a friend, Sergeant Major Wilson, to make sure his body was sent home if he were killed in the coming fight. His premonition came true the next day as he led his brigade south across the Miller farm and into the West Woods. A bullet struck him in the chest and he fell from his horse with a severed artery. He briefly regained consciousness in a field hospital in a nearby barn, talking of his family and asking of his men before he affirmed, “I have always tried to do my duty.”

Sergeant Major Wilson carried out Goodrich’s wish, and William returned home to be buried in Canton. He has since been reinterred in Brooklyn’s Green Wood Cemetery.

William’s daughter, Stella, went on to marry Charles Russell of Kings County, N.Y., a prominent lawyer who became a U.S. Senator. She founded Camp Goodrich in New Jersey, a convalescent home for soldiers and sailors.


A Child’s History of the United States, Vol. 2, John Gilmary Shea, 1872

St . Lawrence University Library materials