John L. Hodge Confesses to Embezzlement
September 10, 1871

In this letter, John L. Hodge confessed to embezzling nearly $450,000 from the army.

A Defaulter’s Confession

The following is the letter sent by Maj. Hodge to Paymaster Gen. Brice, on the discovery of his huge defalcation. It is dated, Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon, Sept. 10th. Hodge says:

Gen. B. W. Brice: Sir,--I have to inform you that I am unable to close my account, and I owe the frightful amount of about four hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which sum I have lost during the last years in stock speculations, going deeper and deeper, in hope of retrieving myself. I have no excuse or mitigation of my course to offer, and propose to take the full consequences of my sin. I thought a week of escaping from New York, but I believe I have done better in returning to deliver myself up, as I felt I was bound to do. I can, of course, make no pretension of excuse for the systematic deceit I have practiced on you and the advantage I have taken of the special position I have held, and feel that you especially have cause to be justly inexorable against me. I have been led on by the infatuation which always attends the course I entered upon, hoping always to recover my loss and conceal my crime. I believe it is really a relief to be discovered, for I have been in a hell on earth for years, and the alternations of hope and constant care to avoid detection, are becoming too strong. I desire to turn over any property I have as a small set-off against my deficiency, and after giving any information will assist in settling my accounts, or, if possible, in recovering a portion of what I have lost. I expect to take the full punishment awarded for my offence. In justice to two parties in this city, through whom I have made some speculations, I wish to say that they are perfectly innocent of any knowledge that I was using public funds. There are small balances with each of these parties to my credit whenever the accounts are closed. The losses I made almost entirely in New York, with one house there, whose accounts I hold subject to your order. I endeavored to induce them to make good the amount lost with them, which they knew was public money, but they have refused. I have been trying to make up my mind to this confession for some days, and was on the point of doing so this morning in your office, but I could not bring myself to say it, and wanted time to write to my innocent wife, whom this frightful information will kill. God forgive me for what I have done to her and my children. All I ask of you or the authorities is if possible that some small sum may be left her. I enclose the keys of my safe and a box containing all my old accounts, &c. My present vouchers, receipts, &c, are in the hands of my clerks, who are all of them perfectly innocent of any knowledge of my deficiency. I shall remain at the house No 1423 K street till informed what action you have taken concerning me. There is no fear that I will go away now.

[Signed] J. Ledyard Hodge.


Vermont Journal (South Royalton, Vermont), September 23, 1871