These letters were written by James Liggett, Jr. (1838-1916) and Cyrus Spink Liggett (1834-1908), both sons of James Liggett (1797-1891) and Maria Quick (1803-1883) of Washington township, Holmes county, Ohio. During the summer of 1864, James & Cyrus signed up together to serve 100 days in the 166th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI)—recruited to garrison the forts of Washington D. C. while the old garrisons were sent an infantrymen to the battlefront with Grant’s army.
Mentioned in one of the letters is their younger brother “Tip”—William Henry Harrison Liggett (1840-1863)—who enlisted in the spring of 1861 to serve in Co. H, 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). Tip’s letters may be found published on Spared & Shared at 1861-62: William Henry Harrison Liggett to his Family.
The 166th OVI left for Washington on 15 May 1864 and were assigned to garrison duty at Fort Richardson, Fort Barnard, Fort Reynolds, Fort Ward, and Fort Worth (with regimental headquarters at Fort Richardson), defenses of Washington south of the Potomac River, until September. They participated in the repulse of Early’s attack on Washington July 11–12. Both brothers mustered out on 9 September 1864.
May 21, 1864
Respected Parents & Sister,
This morning finds me seated in a very comfortable place to write you a history of our journey to the land of Dixie. We left camp Camp Cleveland last Sunday evening, marched to the depot, got in the cars and stayed in them till about four o’clock in the morning. Then started for Pittsburg. Arrived there about nine o’clock in the evening. Was marched to the City Hall & had a very nice supper prepared by the people of Pittsburg, then went back to the cars. Left for Harrisburg about 11 o’clock, arrived opposite the city the next day about 3 o’clock but did not change cars or go into the city. Left it to the left and went to Baltimore. Arrived there about 11 o’clock the next day. Marched to the Soldier’s Rest, got dinner, and supper, then left for the city of Washington. Arrived here about two o’clock in the morning after being on the road four days and three night.
Marched to the Soldier’s Home Boarding House and got something to eat and then to quarters & slept till morning very well. Then went to breakfast. After that the Colonel ordered the captains to march the men up to the Capitol by companies so you may bet that this order was obeyed promptly by the boys. By the bye generally, this child in particular. There we saw the images of several of the things of note such as the image of George Washington and the Indian Chief Tecumseh & Col. Johnson in the death struggle, & the dying Blackhawk—the very bullet hole in his head. Then there is a great many other things that I cannot describe.
The Senate chamber is a very nice place though I cannot give you a description of it. The Capitol is a very magnificent building though the city is a very inferior place to be—the metropolis of this great Nation. Tip used to give us descriptions of this place so that I wasn’t disappointed in not finding any greater show of things than I did.
The White House and the Smithsonian Institute that he used to talk so much about I did not get to visit though intend to visit them when we are returning home, let be the consequence what it may. The City of Baltimore is far the nicest city of the two with the exceptions of the public buildings.
From Washington we marched to Fort Richardson.
May 29, 1864
Girt, respected sister,
I seat myself this morning to let you know how we are getting along in this God forsaken land. This is Sunday and it appears more like hell on earth than anything I can think of. Now do you think that I have got the blues when I talk this way for I might as well tell the truth as a lie. I do not believe the government can or will ever prosper while there is so much unnecessary wickedness going on. I will tell you this—it’s no place for a young boy to be nor an old one neither if he respects his family.
I don’t want to make a public talk of it, but when I get out this time I will stay out if it takes my last dollar. The army is getting along. I suppose you get more correct news than we do. They say that Grant is within 8 miles of Richmond but you can’t believe one word you hear here.
I wish you could be here and see this country. We are on Old General Lee’s property now and I have not [seen] one rail fence since we have been here. There is hundreds of acres laying here to the commons and no kind of grain being raised scarcely, but all kinds of fruits. We can see Washington every day from here. Oh! how I [wish] you could see the Capitol House and the nice yard and the pool of water with those yellow fish in it. I’ll bet Father would like to see them. Tell him and mother to take the world easy for what they work for, some person will spend in the future.
Well Girt, have written three letters home since I have been here and have not received one. I want you to sit right down as soon as you get this and write me an answer and tell me how they get along, how the children is, and so on. It is probably they did not direct them right.
The boys are all well but myself and I feel some better than I did yesterday. I have got my old disease or rather the camp diarrhea. I will tell you the truth about it. We are starved sick here, out in day after day on two hard tack and a little colored water, cold coffee without sugar or cream. Still the government is not to blame for it but the Quartermaster and the Orderly is to blame for it. I have seen my dogs and your dogs eat more and better than we get sometimes–that is the truth of it. I care not what the rest of the boys says.
Well, I must close for the want of time. You may show this to Martha and [ ]. If I had time I could write you another sheet. When you write, direct to Fort Richardson, Virginia, 166th Regiment OVI, Co. K in care of Capt., Kirnerer
Your brother, C. S. Liggett
June 12, 1864
Your letter of the sixth came to hand in due time and found us in the best of health. I was glad to hear that you were all getting along so well. This is Sunday but it don’t seem very much like Sunday, notwithstanding we was to hear a sermon. It seemed more like going to a political meeting than to church. The preacher’s name is Whiteman—I believe a Congregationalist—and not very much of a preacher.
You said you was sorry to hear of our suffering for the want of something to eat. We have plenty of soft bread, pork, beans, potatoes, rice, sugar, coffee, tea and sometimes dried apples and twice a week, fresh beef. I think this is a plenty for any person. To be sure, it is not got up in as good style as it would be at home, but we can stand it for one hundred days. There was a few days that we did not have very much to eat but that was because we was moving and carelessness of the officers but we have plenty & more than we want to eat.
You wanted me to give you a description of the place & fort that we are at now. This fort is not finised yet. It stands on a very high place commanding the country for miles around. The timber is all destroyed & grown up with young sprouts so that the face of the country is perfectly green. When this fort is finished, it will take a very superior force to take it. The number of guns that will be mounted I can’t tell. There is about twenty now and several mortars. I cannot give you a satisfactory description today for I don’t feel in a writing humor.
You wanted to know what I sent home. I sent one pair of boots [and] one pair of shoes. Cy had some things in the carpet sack. They were all packed in that caret sack that had Tom’s name on & packed in a box and sent to Cleveland & was to be sent home from there. I want you to get Father to enquire of some of the enrolling officers whether we will be subject to the draft and write immediately and let us know how it is for we get different reports respecting the draft.
The five dollars that you sent come safe. Mother can keep that money for I don’t want it at present. If her & Father would come down here they would be repaid for the money that it would take to bring them. I suppose that Lawrences are at home by this time so you can all read this and answer it together.
Gert, your Rilla is here. He is, I think, one of the easiest frustrated fellows that ever I saw though I guess pretty fine fellow other ways. Well, I can’t write today worth a cent. When you write, tell me whether Jake Quick has paid Father and how does my [ ] nag look by this time, &c. Tell Father he had better not pitch in too hard. He had better buy some kind of stalk that will make beef in the fall or let them eat the grass. Cows sell here from [ ] & ffty dollars a head.
Panter was here. He has one hundred & fifty cattle on the way for Washington City. You must excuse this letter for I was on picket last night and don’t feel very much like writing. Write soon. Direct to Fort Richardson as before. All well. — James Liggett