You might be asking why this Florida Rabbit is discussing a grave and monument to a New York native located in downtown New York City. Well, not only does General Worth have an historic connection to this part of the country, but there may be a family connection too.
The Seminole Wars in Florida dragged on for decades and became hugely unpopular and a political hot potato. In 1841, then Colonel Worth took command of the Florida army and in May of 1842 President Tyler decided it was time for this war to come to an end. Colonel Worth made that happen – officially. In reality, sporadic skirmishes with the Seminoles continued until the beginning of the Civil War.
Promoted to brevet brigadier general for his Florida accomplishments, Worth went on to become a hero in the Mexican-American War for his actions at Matamoros, Monterrey and Veracruz. He died in San Antonio of cholera in 1849 while commanding the Department of Texas. His popularity continued to grow after his death.
In 1857, Worth’s remains were re-interred with much pomp and ceremony in New York City at what is now known as Worth Square. Below is a copy of the commemorative booklet printed for the occasion. After his death, his widow, Margaret Stafford Worth, returned to St. Augustine where she lived until her death in 1869. She is buried in the St. Augustine National Cemetery along with her daughter, Mary Worth Sprague who died in 1876. Colonel Sprague, Mary’s husband, served as Worth’s adjutant during the Florida campaign and was the military governor of Florida during Reconstruction.
Somehow a copy of this booklet has been passed down in my family – possibly through our Worth cousins in Savannah – and was donated to our historical society by my father. General Worth had one son – who also became a general in the U.S. Army. His son had no children so we have no direct line to the general. What connection, if any, there may be through the Savannah Worths is yet to be discovered. Today it remains an intriguing mystery.
- The Handbook of Texas Online. “Worth, William Jenkins“, accessed 2 November 2008.
- The Handbook of Texas Online. “Sprague, John Titcomb“, accessed 2 November 2008.
- Edward S. Wallace, General William Jenkins Worth, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1933.