#52Ancestors: William Pace, Member of George Washington’s Revolutionary War Elite Bodyguard Unit

Washington's Life Guard
Banner of the Guard, illustrated by Benson Lossing, 1852.
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

My 7th week in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

This week’s ancestor is my husband’s 5th great grandfather, William Henry Pace (1745-1815). I have not spent much of my own time researching this line of my husband’s lineage because it has already been heavily documented and DAR certified by other family historians due to the family’s, and in particular, this ancestor’s, role in the Revolutionary War.

But, in honor of yesterday’s federal holiday celebrating the birthday of President George Washington, I am sharing this particular era in William Henry Pace’s history. Because it is possible that were it not for my husband’s ancestor, Washington might not have lived to become our nation’s founding President.

Joining the Continental Army

William Henry Pace, from Goochland, Virginia, enlisted 23 January 1777 for a 3-year stint in the 14th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army (Godfrey, 1904) as a Private under the command of Captain Henry Conway and Colonel Charles Lewis (Godfrey and DAR). According to the FamilySearch Wiki, Captain Conway was in charge of the 4th Company.

Formation of the Commander-In-Chief’s Guard

Almost a year prior, on 11 March 1776, General George Washington–while overseeing the Siege of Boston–issued a General Order to his commanding officers directing them to select four men from each Continental Army regiment to form Washington’s personal guard (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association).

The unit was to assemble the next day at Army headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Washington’s Order gave specific instructions as to what type of men he was looking for.

His Excellency depends upon the Colonels for good Men, such as they can recommend for their sobriety, honesty, and good behaviour; he wishes them to be from five feet, eight Inches high, to five feet, ten Inches; handsomely and well made, and as there is nothing in his eyes more desireable, than Cleanliness in a Soldier, he desires that particular attention may be made, in the choice of such men, as are neat, and spruce.(General Order)

This elite bodyguard unit has been referred to by many titles. But the most common seem to be the formal name of Commander-In-Chief’s Guard used by the commanding officer, and the less formal name of Life Guard used by the enlisted men.

Most of the original Life Guard did not re-up for this assignment after the initial required one year term. Only a few volunteers remained by January 1777 when the Army was encamped at their Morristown, New Jersey winter quarters, requiring Washington to call up the formation of another guard unit (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association).

Joining the Commander-In-Chief’s Guard

Just three months after enlisting in the regular Continental Army, William Henry Pace was transferred on 6 May 1777 to to join this new guard unit in Morristown, New Jersey, under the command of Captain Caleb Gibbs (DAR and Godfrey).

Godfrey provides a detailed account of Pace’s service in the Guard unit:

  • (June and July 1777): Sick in the hospital.
  • (11 September 1777): Battle of Brandywine in Delaware.
  • (4 October 1777): Battle of Germantown in Pennsylvania.
  • (28 June 1778): Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey.
  • (18 January 1779): Reenlisted and took a 110 day furlough.
  • (1 September 1779): Returned from furlough.
  • (7 June 1780): Battle of Connecticut Farms in New Jersey.
  • (3 July 1781): Skirmish of King’s Bridge in New Jersey.
  • (19 October 1781): Battle of Yorktown, in Virginia
  • (4 June 1783): Promoted to Sergeant.
  • (6 June 1783): Furloughed in Newburgh, New York, until ratification of the peace treaty.
  • (3 November 1783): Discharged.

Pace, along with the Guard unit, wintered with Washington and the Continental Army at Valley Forge during the brutal winter of 1777-1778 (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association).

William Pace Sr. Headstone
Pace is buried at at the Jones Cemetery in Scotts Valley, Virginia. Courtesy of Find A Grave.
William Pace Memorial Bridge
A commemorative sign marks the road along the cemetery. Courtesy of Find A Grave.

Sources Used

General Order, 11 March 1776,” The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 4, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office).

Godfrey, C. E. (1904). The Commander-in-chief’s Guard, Revolutionary War. Washington, D. C.: Stevenson-Smith company. Retrieved from http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008555358

Lossing, B. J. (1852). The Pictorial Field-book of the Revolution: Or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the War for Independence. Harper & Bros.

Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. (n.d.). Life Guards. George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Retrieved February 18, 2014, from http://www.mountvernon.org/educational-resources/encyclopedia/life-guards

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. (n.d.). Ancestor Search | Pace, William. DAR Genealogical Research System. Database. Retrieved from http://services.dar.org/public/dar_research/search_adb/default.cfm

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0 thoughts on “#52Ancestors: William Pace, Member of George Washington’s Revolutionary War Elite Bodyguard Unit”

  1. I have been researching the veracity of William Henry Pace trying to verify my own line that other folks have put together and prove to SAR standards the children of William Henry Pace, particularly Joseph Pace (1776-1855). While researching I came upon a Revolutionary War pension application by George S Pace, claiming that the said William (Williamson) Pace was his father and he only had one other child, a Benjamin R Pace that died in 1813. He also states that his father, William Pace, died of smallpox during the war. This is very disturbing and would upend a lot of research and assumptions that others have compiled and I wish others would verify my findings.

    1. Colleen Greene

      Hi Mike,

      I have not personally researched much on this line, other than reviewing what others have written. I am waiting for Family Tree DNA to finish processing (end of this month, or early August) a y-DNA test I had one of my husband’s male-line Pace cousins take, to confirm via the Pace DNA project if my husband’s family is descended from this Pace line, or from the Richard Pace/Jamestowne line, since DNA testing has debunked the paper trail claims made for generations that these two Paces are in a direct line of descent. Once I know which Pace is our ancestor, I’ll start digging into the actual records myself.

      Are you by chance a member of the Pace group on Facebook? There’s a lot of active researchers there, who can probably help answer your question.

      1. Shirley Adkins Meyers

        William pace had around ten kids he was my great great grandfather I am Shirley Adkins Meyers from Alabama my grandmother was Julia Ellen pace she was the granddaughter William pace my mother name was Julia Bessie potter ‘ William pace one of his son move to Jackson country Alabama his name was William pace jr pace have a pretty big family Meyers.shirley@Gmail.com my great great grandfather was George Washington Bodyguard

  2. David Chandler

    Hello. William Henry Pace is also my 5x great grandfather. I descend from his son Elisha. A lot of the Paces from Elisha moved from Virginia to Ohio then onward to Iowa. Elisha’s daughter Martha, married my 3x great grandfather, Howell Lewis Chandler. You will find lots of Paces in censuses from this line in Fayette county Ohio, and Decatur county Iowa. Ty

    1. Hi David! William is my 6th great grandfather. I also descend from his son Elisha. I am the great granddaughter of Annabelle Chandler (Yost) who was from Lincoln, NE.

      1. David A Chandler

        Oh my God. I finally found a descendant of Henry T Chandler, Annabelle’s grandfather,I think. I descend from his younger brother, George. I have tons of info on the Chandlers if you need it. Please email me directly at chanman74@gmail.com. do you have any pics of anyone? Was Anna the daughter of Oliver?

  3. Hello, my name is Jeremy Jones and William Pace is my Great Grandfather X5 and I am interested in connecting with other relatives. Also, I am working on my lineage during my off time because of a recent death in the family, My grandma, Wanda Lea (Thomas) Jones, which was the daughter of Alonzo and Tammar (Peterman) Thomas. I discovered your page on google and clicked the link, I hope I have contacted the correct people from my lineage. Thank you for your time, lets connect.

  4. CH (COL) Rick E. Morrow USA, Ret.

    William had a brother born 2 years after him (Benjamin Franklin Pace b. 28 JAN 1747, d. bef. 1820 Albemarle, VA. He is my 4x G-Grandfather. Anyone having information on him, especially during the revolution, please contact me. Both William and his brother Newsome are on the Valley Forge Muster Roll and I find it difficult to believe that both older and younger brothers served but that Benj. has no service records for the AmRev.

  5. William Ristuccia

    My Wife, Karen I Milburn-Ristuccia is a descendant of William Pace through her Father, Merle O Milburn’s lineage.

  6. Shirley Adkins Meyers

    I am William pace great great granddaughter his son William pace move to Jackson country Alabama my great grandfather is buried at pace Graveyard in Jackson co Alabama ‘ my grandmother was Julia Ellen potter she was a pace before she married ‘ Julia pace mother was a winnegars ‘ thier a town in Tennessee name after the winnegares ‘ I was proud to learn that my grandfather fought with George Washington their a lots of us in Alabama ‘ my mother name was Julia Bessie potter my father name was Elmer opal Adkins and my name is Shirley Adkins meyers of madison Ala .meyers.Shirley@Gmail.com

    1. Shirley, I think we are distant double-cousins! William Pace was my 6x great-grandfather through his daughter, Margery. Margery married George Wineinger who was born in Tennesse, but moved to Indiana. The Wineinger/Winegar/Winingar (pick your spelling), is quite large in the area of southern Indiana where my grandparents are from. In fact, both of them descended from different branches of the Wineingers. I was able to trace the name all the way back through Germany to Switzerland.

  7. Hello, my name is William Pace (no relation as my family came to the US in the 1870’s). I have been involved in Revolutionary War living history for close to 25 years now. I belong to the Commander and Chiefs Guard Reenactment unit here in PA and the 2nd PA Regiment. I’ve known of William Pace in the CNC guard for many years now but never knew much about him. It was great to read this and learn more about the man who’s name I share. I’m in my early 30’s and am the same age he was during the war which is somethings pretty cool. Thank you for your time and for doing this his research.



  9. William pace sr was my 6th great grandfather, through his granddaughter mary pace mcready, she was born in 1813, lived to 1902, I knew relatives that knew her, though they didn’t recount much info about her, it is still fun to look into the past of ones family tree

  10. Thanks for all of the information and the huge amount of research required. My connection with Col. William H. Pace is from my mother’s line which we have only begun to research after spending months on my father’s line, all the way back to Scotland in the 1500’s… so we know of the labor involved to produce the information that you have compiled.

    My connection is from Lorin Lincoln Lunn–1873-1954/Charlotte Jane Green–1842/1928
    S. Bellamy Green — 1800-1867/Nancy Pace–1774-1862/and finally, William H Pace… my 5th Great Grandfather.

    Again… thanks for your hard work and happy hunting, cousins!

    Jerry D. Murry

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