What role did George Randolph play in the Civil War — and how was he related to Thomas Jefferson and Pocahontas?
November 17, 1862 — Confederate States Secretary of War George B. Randolph resigned today. Appointed by Jefferson Davis as Secretary of War on March 18, Randolph helped reform the department, improving procurement and writing a conscription law similar to one he had created for Virginia.
He was most well known for his strengthening the Confederacy’s western and southern defenses, but came into conflict with Jefferson Davis over this. He resigned due to weakening health from tuberculosis. Randolph was portrayed on the $100 bill printed by the Confederate States of America.
Other claims to fame: Born in 1818 at Monticello near Charlottesville, he was President Thomas Jefferson’s youngest grandson by his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph. His father was Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., a descendant of the son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, Thomas Rolfe. Their youngest son, he was named in honor of George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and law professor of his grandfather Thomas Jefferson.
Randolph was also related to the seventh governor of Virginia, Edmund Randolph, who served in George Washington’s cabinet as the first Attorney General of the United States, as well as colonist William Randolph through both his mother and father’s sides of the family.
Randolph went on to found the Richmond Mechanics’ Institute, and was an officer in the Virginia Historical Society. His wife, Mary Randolph, was active in the Richmond Ladies Association, which organized welfare and relief for the war effort.
- "Genealogy of the Page Family in Virginia" by Richard Channing Moore Page
- "George Wythe Randolph (1818–1867)," by David E. Goldberg
- "The Randolphs of Virginia: America's Foremost Family," by Jonathan Daniels
- Will of George Wythe Randolph
Words of Wisdom
Will of George Wythe Randolph (Monticello) — I George W Randolph of the State of Virginia do make & publish this as my last Will hereby revoking all former Wills made by me at any time:
• 1st I wish my just debts paid
• 2nd I give to my wife for life the silver plate given me by my brother Jefferson and my sister Mrs Coolidge and at her death I give the same to my nephew Thomas Jefferson Randolph Jrif he then survives, otherwise I give it to his eldest Surviving Son.
• 3rd The residue of my Estate I give to my wife in fee simple, but I request that at her death she will leave one half of what may then remain or its equivalent in value, to my neice Mary B Randolph if she then survives. should my said neice be not then surviving I request my wife to bequeath the Said half to such of my blood relations as may stand most in need of it and may best deserve the same.
• 4th It is not my intention by the foregoing clause to prevent my wife from making and changing the investments of the Estate at pleasure or to make her responsible for casual losses and diminutions thereof.
• 5th I appoint my Said Wife the Executrix of this will and exonerate her from giving security for its execution
Witness my hand and seal this fourteenth day of December in the Year One thousand eight hundred and Sixty Six