A Biography of Ferdinand O'Neal

The article below was researched and written by
TOGA Member, Dorothy Tribble and contributed 12/02/2002.

One of my ancestral lines goes back to one Ferdinand O'Neal/O'Niel/O'Niel.
One family legend says he came to America from France, but I am dubious at
best. I have several anecdotal pieces of information and am trying to sort
out fact from fiction. We know that Mary Ann "Polly" Woodruff, the daughter
of Joseph Woodruff (c. 1735, Eng - 1799, GA), married a Ferdinand O'Neal ca
April 1787 in Liberty County GA.

Source: "The Georgia Gazette", 19 April 1787: states that lately in Liberty
County, Miss Polly Woodruff, daughter of Col. Joseph Woodruff was married to
Capt. Ferdinand O'Neal.
Also: "O'Niel, Col. Ferdinand and Woodruff, Miss Polly, daughter of Joseph
Woodruff, married lately in Liberty County." 19 April 1787 Georgia Gazette,
as cited in Heitman, Francis B., Historical Register of Officers of the
Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April 1775 to December
1783, The Rare Book Shop Publishing Co., Inc., 1914.

[It appears either the paper got things confused, or perhaps I, or Mr.
Heitman made a transcription error since Ferdinand is referenced as Capt
O'Neal in one account and Colonel O'Neal in another, but the one that calls
him Colonel O'Neal leaves out the reference to Joseph Woodruff as a

[I do not have any other notes from Heitman's Register, which should have
contained some additional information on Ferdinand O'Neal as a soldier in
the Revolution; however, I suffered the catastrophic loss of many of my
records a few years ago and can only say I need to repeat this research]

Family legend states that Ferdinand O'Neal served with Lee's Legion, and I
have located the following VA Bounty Land Warrant applications:

(1) Voucher 1783 -- "I certify that Capt Ferdinand O'Neal has served as an
officer in Lee's Legion from 1 May 1778 to this 7th of July 1783 for two
years of which he has been entitled to the rank of Captain. He was when he
entered the service and is now a Citizen of Virginia. [signed] Jos.
Eggleston, Major: Lee's Legion."
(2) Certificate Joseph Eggleston, Major, 1802: -- "I hereby certify that
Ferdinand O'Neal enlisted as a Dragoon in Bland's Regiment when it was first
raised in this state & that he continued in said regiment untill he was
appointed an officer in Lee's Corps in 1778. He served in said Corps until
the end of the War at which time he had attained the rank of Captain. He was
always mustered as a Virginian and I believe he was born and enlisted in the
County of Loudon [Loudoun]. Given under my hand this 26th of December 1801.
[signed] Jos. Eggleston, formerly Major, Lee's Legion.
     [Additional endorsement] I was a member of the Assembly of Virginia
when Col Bland and a number of other Gentlemen were appointed officers of
Cavalry which was previous to the 12th November 1776 when I was appointed
Colonel of the 12th Virginia Regiment. I continued from my appointment to
the end of the war & _____ my ____ of Land for seven years service. 7
January 1802. James Wood, late B.G."
(3) Certificate Henry Lee, late Colonel, 1807: "I hereby certify that
Ferdinand O'Neal enlisted as a private in Cavalry under my command in July
or August 1776 shortly after I was appointed Captain & that he was promoted
to the rank of Captain of Dragoons in the P. [looks like a P, but may be a
R] Legion in which character he served to the end of the war. August 24,
1807." [signature unreadable]
(4) Certificate George Mathews 1810: "Georgia, Oglethorpe County. I do
hereby certify that Ferdinand O'Neal served as a Captain in the Virginia
Continental Line in the service of the United States, for seven years and
two [ten?] months for which he is entitled to Land as an officer in said
service. Given under my hand this 4th day of August 1810. [signed] Geo.
Mathews, Col of the __ late VA __." [It appears this certificate is also
signed by "His Excellency the Governor of Virginia."]

The History of Georgia by Capt Hugh McCall, orig. Savannah GA 1818-1819,
Cherokee Publishing Company, Atlanta GA, reprinted 1909, 1969 edition, p.
516: "Capt Ferdinand O'Neal commanded a cavalry troop of Dragoons under Col.
Henry Lee during the Revolutionary War. Capt Rudolph also served under Col.
Lee and their lives touched in later years."

I also have reference to an article published in the William & Mary
Quarterly, Volume 2.23, Number 3, July 1943, Article: Capt. Ferdinand O'Neal
of Lee's Legion by Caldwell Woodruff, page 328.  I have not yet obtained
copies of this article, although I am quite familiar with the author and
find his work usually of very high quality.

I do not have any record of what land Capt O'Neal drew, although two of the
above bounty land certificates are annotated that Land had been drawn,
perhaps that is how he obtained the land he owned at Creighton Island in
McIntosh County GA.

Source:  Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater, the Story of McIntosh County &
Sapelo by Buddy Sullivan. Darien News Press. 4th Edition, 1995, p. 272, 274:
"FERDINAND O'NEAL owned Creighton Island, McIntosh Co. He had died and Feb
1818 the Island (1000 acres) and 60 slaves were auctioned off."

In 1789, Joseph Woodruff executed a deed of trust, now on file in the Court
Records at Hinesville, Liberty County, GA, creating his son-in-law, Capt.
Ferdinand O'Neill and the widow, Mrs. Susannah Graves, trustees of his
personal estate, for the benefit of his three minor sons, George, Joseph,
and James. In the deed of trust mentioned, Col. Woodruff provides that in
case of decease of his three minor sons, George, Joseph, and James, his
personal property is to go to his wife Mary, and their daughter, Mary Ann
(Mrs. Ferdinand O'Neal).

On the 20th of February, 1790, Thomas Houston, yeoman, deeded to Susannah
Garvin and Ferdinand O'Neal as Trustees, all of Liberty County, "700 acres
on south side of north branch of Sapelo River at place called Black Bluff,
granted Robert Hamer by his son and heir John Hamer deeded Dec 24, 1767 to
Nathaniel Porter and Samuel Elbert, and ½ interest deeded by Porter to
Elbert, and by Elbert and wife Elizabeth deeded Apr 12, 1775 to Joseph
Woodruff, and then deeded by Jos. Woodruff and Mary his wife to Houston.
This deed made in trust for George, Joseph, James Woodruff, sons of said
Joseph Woodruff, Esq.  Witnesses:  John Cooper, J.P., James Gignilliat,
James Nephew." Source: Huxford, Folks, editor,  The Georgia Genealogical
Magazine, Southern Historical Press, Easely SC. 1965, Issues 15-18, p.
1101-1102, cites GA Courthouse Records, Liberty County, Deed Book "B", Part
II, page 319.

On the 23rd of July 1790, Joseph Woodruff filed a petition in the Superior
Court of Liberty County in Sunbury GA asking that Col. Ferdinand O'Neal,
John Cooper, Hepworth Carter, James Gignigliat, and James Nephew be
appointed Commissioners "to open and keep in repair a public Road from South
Newport Bridge to Sutherland's Bluff on Sapalo River."   Source: Joseph
Woodruff folder, loose records, Liberty County GA Probate office, Hinesville
GA. (1997).  Copies in possession of Dot Tribble, 1045 Hwy 31, Verbena AL

Caldwell Woodruff's Sketch of Col. Joseph Woodruff, Revolutionary Soldier,
of Broro Neck, McIntosh County, Georgia, with list of his descendants,
(Hyattsville, MD, 1917, copy located in Library of Congress, Washington DC.)
shows three children of Mary Ann and Ferdinand O'Neal:
1)   Henry Lee O'NEAL.  Planter and Soldier. Born about 1790.  Died prior to
1840.  Unmarried.  Ensign 8th U.S. Infantry, 20th of May 1813. Resigned 31st
of December 1816 as 2nd Lieutenant, 7th Inf.
2)  Ferdinand Armstrong O'NEAL.  Soldier.  Born about 1792.  Died 20th of
Sept, 1814.  Unmarried.  2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Sea Fencibles.
3)  Charles O'NEAL      Planter and Sheriff of McIntosh Co.  Born 1800.
Died 1854 of yellow fever, at Darien, GA  Married Mary Calder, born 1818,
died 1862 or 1863, without issue.

In my research I have found an Eliza O'Neal who I believe is also a
Source:  Marriages and Obituaries from Early Georgia Newspapers, abstracted
by Judge Folks Huxford, F.A.S.G., Southern Historical Press, Inc, Easley,
POB 738, SC 29641-0738, 1989. p. 164: "In Bryan County on the 27th ult.,
MRS. ELIZA MANN, consort of LUKE MANN, age 31 years and 13 days, dau. of
COL. FERDINAND and MARY O'NEAL.  She had been a member of Midway Church in
S.C. for a number of years."  April 6, 1820. [The Columbian Museum &
Savannah Advertiser]  Book on file at SC State Archives, Columbia, SC (Dec
1999) and p. 440: "In McIntosh County on Jan. 23rd by REV. WM. MCWHIR, MR.
1806. [The Columbian Museum & Savannah Advertiser] Book on file at SC State
Archives, Columbia, SC (Dec 1999).

A Ferdinand O'Neal appears on a List of Voters for Fairfax County, Georgia
on 11 Dec 1755 as a freeholder that polled for Capt John West and W:m Elzey.
Source: Clark, Murtie June.  Colonial Soldiers of the South 1732-1774,
Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., Baltimore MD, 1986. p. 960. p. 334
and 338. Book on file at the Alabama State Archives, Montgomery AL (1997).
[While my notes say Fairfax County GA, I may have botched it in copying.
The only Fairfax County I know of is in VA, the predecessor county to

I also have in my notes that Ferdinand shows up under Headrights and Bounty
Grants 1790-1795, on the Roster of Jurymen 1787-1790, and From old
newspapers--Augusta Chronicle & Gazette, Southern Centennial & Universal
Gazette.  Georgia Gazette. 1790-1795.  Again, the catastrophic loss of some
of my records has rendered this just another "do over" for me, so other than
the note, I can't add much.

Other miscellaneous O'Neal citations include:

From: Marriages and Obituaries from Early Georgia Newspapers, abstracted by
Judge Folks Huxford, F.A.S.G., Southern Historical Press, Inc, Easley, POB
738, SC 29641-0738, 1989.

p. 103: "Died lately at COL. O'NEAL'S in McIntosh County, MRS. MARGARET
MCLEOD, age 83 years, 56 of which she lived in that county." Nov 20, 1798.
[The Columbian Museum & Savannah Advertiser]

p. 107: "On June 28th, died in his 72nd year, at the seat of COL. F. O'NEAL,
JAMES ARMSTRONG, Esq., late Major in U.S. Army. Buried on 29th. July 29,
1800. [The Columbian Museum & Savannah Advertiser]

p. 193: "COL. JAMES ARMSTRONG died on the plantation of COL. FERDINAND
O'NEAL in McIntosh County on the 28th of June." July 31, 1800. [The Georgia

p. 418: "In Darien on the 22nd inst., MR. JOHN ROUGHTON of this place to
MISS HANNAH O'NEAL of Wayne County, Mar. 24, 1821. (Note: Other mention of
him in the same paper shows he was city marshall of Darien at the time.)."
[The Darien Gazette]

I am convinced since the line of Ferdinand O'Neal appears to be extinct,
this distinguished O'Neal Revolutionary War soldier has not been given the
recognition he seems to deserve.
I would appreciate any assistance anyone may be able to

Dorothy Tribble

The additional info below was sent by Dorothy Tribble on 12/02/2002

Capt. Ferdinand O'Neal of Lee's Legion, Garden's Anecdotes of the Revolution,
Vol. 1, page 111 (3rd Edition) (E-296-G232 Congressional Library)

Alex Garden in his Anecdotes of the Revolution says that "O'Neal was one of the officers of the Legion who rose
to rank and consideration by the force of extraordinary merit.  He entered the Army as a private trooper in
Bland's Regiment and was one of a gallant band who, when Capt. Henry Lee was surprised at the Spread Eagle
Tavern near Philadelphia, resolutely defended the position against the whole of the British Cavalry, and
ultimately compelled them to retire.

Lee on this occasion, addressing his companions and strenuously urging them rather to die than to surrender,
added "Henceforth, I consider the future of every individual person as inseperately connected with my own.
If we fall we will fall like brothers.  If successful in repelling the enemy and it needs but trifling exertion of your
energies to effect it, my fortune and interest shall be uniformly employed to increase your comfort and secure
your promotion."  Nor did he ever swerve from his promise.

Appointed shortly after with the rank of Major, to the command of a corps of horse, O'Neal and Winston another
of his faithful adherents received commission and to the last hour of the war, by uniform steadiness of conduct and
exemplary intrepidity gained increase of reputation.

It was said on this occasion that Tarleton, making his first essay as a military man, but for the accidental snapping
of  O'Neal's carbine, would have fallen victim to a bold effort which he made to enter by a window, at which he was
posted,  the muzzle of the piece being at the time within a foot of his head.  Tarleton behaved with great coolness,
for looking up he said with a smile, "You have missed it my lad for this time", and wheeling his horse, joined his
companions who, deceived by a false alarm were retiring with precipitation."

Page 74:

"At Dorchester (S.C.) Lt. Col. Laurens ordered a troop of dragoons and a company of infantry of the Legion to
cross the Ashley River and reconnoitre [sic].  But the rapidity of the streem [sic] determined Capt. O'Neal, who
was in command to await until a oat which had been sent for should arrive.

"Why this delay Capt. - were not orders given to cross".  "Yes Colonel, but look at the current and judge if it be
practicable."  "This is no time for argument" rejoined Laurens.  "You who are brave men follow me" saying this
he plunged into the river, but was instantaneously obliged to quit his horse and with extreme difficulty reached the
other shore.

O'Neal than who a braver man did not exist, indignant at the speech of Laurens replied.  "You shall see sir that
there are men here as courageous as yourself" and at the head of his troop entered the river.

I cannot do justice to the scene that followed.  All was tumult and confusion, for altho no life was lost several of
the men were so nearly drowned that it became necessary to use every means to make them disgorge the water
they had swallowed."