William Tatum Wofford was born on June 28, 1824 in Habersham County, Georgia. His parents died when he was young. He graduated from Franklin College in 1844, and in 1847 served in the Mexican War as a captain in the Georgia Mounted Volunteers.
After the war Wofford returned to Georgia and became a planter and attorney. He was elected to the Georgia General Assembly for two terms and was elected Clerk of the House. He was also editor of a local newspaper, the Athens Banner.
In 1859 he married Julia Dwight. The couple had six children, only three surviving infancy.
He was elected to Georgia’s Secesion Convention, where he spoke against secession. Nevertheless, after Georgia voted to leave the Union Wofford became a captain and then colonel of the 18th Georgia infantry Regiment. The regiment was sent to North Carolina in October of 1861 before being sent in November to Virginia, where it was attached to Hood’s Texas Brigade.
Wofford led his Georgians at Yorktown, Eltham’s Landing and at Seven Pines. At the Second Battle of Manassas he temporarily commanded the brigade, and continued to command the brigade at Sharpsburg after Hood was given command of a small division.
In November the 18th Georgia was transferred to Cobb’s Brigade in McLaws’ Division as part of President Davis’ plan for brigades to be made up of regiments from the same state. Cobb was killed at Fredericksburg, and Wofford was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the brigade (the 16th, 18th and 24th Georgia Infantry and Cobb’s and Phillip’s Legions) in January of 1863.
Wofford commanded his brigade of Georgians at Chancellorsville, where they suffered over 500 casualties, and at Gettysburg, where they advanced along the Wheatfield Road to the foot of Little Round Top before they were ordered back, losing 350 casualties (see the monument to Wofford’s Brigade at Gettysburg).
The brigade went west with Longstreet in November of 1863, although they did not arrive in time for Chickamauga. Returning to the Army of Northern Virginia in the spring of 1864, Wofford was wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness and then again in the Battle of Spotsylvania.
In December of 1864 Governor Brown of Georgia requested that Wofford be made commander of the District of North Georgia. He took up the new command in January of 1865, raising 7,000 local troops to combat the lawless elements that infested the area in the aftermath of Sherman’s invasion. On May 12 Wofford surrendered his command at Kingston and was paroled at Reaca, the last surrender of Confederate troops east of the Mississippi River.
After the war Wofford returned to his plantation near Cass Station and his legal practice. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1865 but was denied his seat, as Georgia had not satisfied the government’s requirements to rejoin the Union. But Wofford stayed involved in politics, serving as presidental elector in two elections.
Julia Wofford died in 1878, and in 1880 Wofford married Margaret Langdon. The couple had a daughter, Lena.
Wofford played a major role in organizing the Cartersville & Van Wert and the Atlanta & Blue Ridge Railroads, and was a Trustee of the Cherokee Baptist College and the Cassville Female College. in 1877 he was elected to the state Constitutional Convention.
William Wofford died on May 22, 1884. He is buried in Cassville Cemetery.