John Ledyard Hodge

John Ledyard Hodge was born on October 17, 1834, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Ledyard Hodge and Sarah Bayard. His father was a Whig politician and editor who became assistant secretary of the treasury under President Milliard Fillmore. In the late 1830s, the family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where William became the editor of the New Orleans Bulletin.

John attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) from 1849 to 1853 and graduated as valedictorian of his class. He then enrolled at the University of Virginia in 1853 to study law and modern languages. He graduated two years later with a Bachelor of Law degree. He spent the next year at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1856 he was admitted to the bar in both Virginia and Pennsylvania.

He settled in Philadelphia, where he worked as a lawyer for the next five years. On June 1, 1861, he received a commission as an additional paymaster in the Union army. He spent the Civil War in Washington, DC, where he served as an assistant to the Paymaster General. He married Susan Savage Wilson in DC on June 9, 1862, and they had four children together: Sally, born 1864; Henry, born 1865; William, born 1869; and Ellen, born 1872.

On March 13, 1865, Hodge received a promotion to brevet lieutenant colonel. He remained in the military after the Civil War, and on January 17, 1867, he was promoted to major and paymaster. Four years later, however, the army cashiered him for misappropriating $445,000. He began embezzling army money in 1866 to use on the stock exchange, and a series of bad investments forced him to go “deeper and deeper, in hope of retrieving himself.” He spent the next few years “in a hell on earth,” tormented by “alternations of hope and fear” as he struggled to avoid detection. Around 1870, detectives discovered that his “financial affairs were in a loose condition,” and on September 10, 1871, Hodge confessed his guilt in a public letter. The army held him in solitary confinement at Fort McHenry and court martialed him on September 26. He was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment in the Albany Penitentiary, where he worked as a librarian and supervised the prison hospital.

President Ulysses S. Grant pardoned Hodge on November 25, 1872. As one writer explained, Hodge’s “frank acknowledgement of the crime” and his willingness to surrender his private property evoked public sympathy. Hodge had “borne a high character for honesty” prior to the crime, and he had “already been severely punished by the stigma attached to him by the sentence.” By pardoning Hodge, the government also hoped to secure his testimony against the New York banking houses that received the embezzled funds.

Hodge returned to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a clerk. He died of apoplexy on August 26, 1902, and was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.


John L. Hodge Confesses to Embezzlement

John L. Hodge Arrested

Name:Hodge, John Ledyard
Alternative names:
  • Soldier
  • UVA (Union)
Paymaster's Department
Branch of service:Army
Muster In1861-06-01
Muster Out1871-10-09Cashiered
Residence at UVA:Washington, DC
UVA Begin Year:1853
UVA End Year:1855
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:
Rank Out:
Highest rank achieved:Major, Paymaster
Birth date:1834-10-17
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:Philadelphia, PA
Death date:1902-08-26
Death place:
Causes of death:
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Hodge, John Ledyardparent ofHodge, Henry Wilson
Hodge, John Ledyardparent ofHodge, Sally B.
Hodge, John Ledyardparent ofHodge, William L.
Hodge, John Ledyardparent ofHodge, Ellen M.
Hodge, Susan Savage Wilsonwife ofHodge, John Ledyard

Compiled Service Records for John L. Hodge, RG 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; 1880 U.S. Federal Census, accessed on; Index to the Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives for the First Session of the Forty-Seventh Congress, 1881-1882; Luther Tucker and Son, The Cultivator and Country Gentleman, Volume 36 (1871); Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Vol. 46 (1920); Army, Navy, Air Force Journal & Register, Volume 10 (1872); The Norfolk Virginian, September 14, 1871; The Evening Star (Washington, DC), September 14, 1871; Vermont Journal (South Royalton, VT), September 23, 1871; New York Herald, November 26, 1872; The Sunbury Gazette (Sunbury, PA), December 13, 1872; The Chicago Tribune, November 26, 1872.