An American author, literary journalist, opera librettist, playwright, and poet, he is particularly known for his poem, "The Old Oaken Bucket," which was set to music by George F. Kiallmark. His other poetic works include The Hunters of Kentucky, The Heroes of the Lake, and An Excursion of the Dog-Cart.
Early in his career, he worked as an apprentice to Benjamin Russell, the editor of the Columbian Sentinel.
The USS Woodworth naval ship was named in his honor.
He married Lydia Reeder in 1810; they subsequently had ten children.
He and Armstrong Sperry both lived in New Haven, Connecticut.