Liddiard, Herod T.

Place of Birth: London

Date of enlistment: 4 December 1872

Age given at enlistment: 21

Rank: Private

Company: E

Location on 25 June 1876: Pack train escort and hilltop fight



According to the Census of England & Wales (1861 & 1871) Herod Thomas Liddiard was born in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, not London as he stated on enlistment, and freely quoted elsewhere.  His actual date of birth has yet to be established.

A Cotswold Lad

  • The Early years
  • Thomas Liddiard1 and Martha Wheeler were married in Stroud, Gloucestershire, in the autumn of 1849.  Thomas, a ‘rougher,’ and Martha, a ‘mule spinner,’ both worked in one of the many woollen cloth mills for which this south-east corner of the Cotswolds was famous. The newlyweds set up home in Butterrow, in the nearby parish of Rodborough, where it is most likely that their first child, Herod Thomas, was born sometime during the final quarter of 1851 or early in 1852. Unfortunately, his birth was never formally registered nor is there a record of him being baptised in the parish church of St. Mary Magdalene so, for the time being at least, the exact date of his nativity must remain a mystery.
  • Herod’s paternal grandparents, Charles Liddiard and Elizabeth Julia English, were married at St. Mary’s in April 1819 and his father baptised there in January the following year. March 1841 finds the Liddiards living in Tabernacle Walk, on the slopes of Rodborough Common, by which time they may well have ‘switched allegiance’ from the Established Church to the non-conformist Rodborough Tabernacle. However a diligent search of the chapel’s registers confirmed that this was not the case2 and, consequently, the search for Herod’s date of birth must continue.
  • Herod’s only sibling, Mary Elizabeth Julia, was born in 1857.

St. Mary Magdalene, Rodborough, as it would have appeared during Herod Liddiard's time. Illustration from 'Rodborough and its Parish Church,' by Rev. L. V. Miller, published in 1933. Thanks to Julie Mountain, Chair of the 'Remembering Rodborough Project,' for submitting this image - see footnote 3.

  • The 1861 Census reveals that the family had moved to the neighbouring hamlet of Dudbridge, which lies between Stroud and Stonehouse on the south bank of the old Stroudwater Navigation. This seven-mile long canal provided a vital trade link between the 150 woollen cloth mills, that once crowded the surrounding valleys, and the River Severn. Nine year-old Herod and his sister were attending school, while both parents are listed as woollen cloth workers.
  • Mary died, age nine, in 1866.
  • A Fall from Grace
  • Nothing further is heard of young Herod until February 1870 when he was found guilty at Stroud Petty Sessions on the charge of stealing a whip, the property of H.C. Cooper, for which he was sentenced to one month’s hard labour.  He was further charged by P.C. George with stealing two iron pulley blocks, the property of Mr William Poole, and sentenced to three months’ hard labour, the second term to commence at the expiration of the first and served in Gloucester County Prison. [Western Daily Press, 19 February 1870]
  • Clearly a stretch behind bars did nothing to rehabilitate the wayward cloth workers’ son and it wasn’t long before 18 year-old Herod was back in the same prison serving another 12 months, followed by seven years’ Police Supervision, for stealing £4 from a James Hyde, at Stroud.  [Gloucestershire Quarter Sessions, sentence of prisoners, Western Daily Press, 21 October 1870]

Extract taken from Census (1871) for Gloucester County Prison, Kingsholm, Gloucestershire.

  • The decennial census taken on 2 April 1871 lists Herod Liddiard, simply as ‘H L’, a prisoner in Gloucester County Prison (see above): his age and place of birth being consistent with the survey taken ten years before. It came as something of a surprise to discover he been employed as a ‘hotel waiter’ at the time of his arrest and not as a ‘boatman’ as it is universally accepted.  However, I have found no evidence of a family tradition that linked the Liddiards with the Stroudwater Navigation or, indeed, any other waterway in the county. Grandfather Charles Liddiard, was a millwright, Herod’s father and Uncle Nelson were woollen cloth mill workers, and Uncle Pharoah was a farm labourer. The occupation and fate of his namesake, Uncle Herod, are unknown.4
  • On 19 October 1871, the day following Herod’s release from prison, his 49 year-old mother, Martha Wheeler Liddiard, died of ‘Disease of Mitral Valves of Heart’ in Thrupp, near Stroud, another village famous for its woollen cloth mills.
  • Emigration to America
  • It is hoped that Martha had been able to visit her son in prison or at least seen him before she passed away. Did he stay around long enough to pay his last respects and attend her funeral? We do know that on 27 October 1871 Herod, listed as a 19 year-old labourer, was on board the 2,387-ton S.S. Virginia at Gravesend, Kent [part of the Port of London]. Three days later the emigrant ship slipped her moorings off Deal, also in Kent, and sailed for America, via Le Havre, France: arriving in New York on 15 November.

The much-restored Gravesend Pier was built in 1834 and is the oldest cast iron pier in the world. William Crisfield sailed to America from here on 22 January 1851. (Author's collection)

Extract taken from the 'New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, index entry for W. J. (sic) Liddiard' - S.S. Virginia, which arrived in New York on 15 November 1871. Although the first initial 'H' could possibly be mistaken for a 'W,' the second initial is clearly a 'T' when compared with first letter of 'Thomas (Sharpe),' see three lines below.

  • Was it the ill-gotten gains from crime, the hard-earned savings of a despairing father seeking a fresh start and a better life for his errant son in America, or something else that financed Herod’s travel to London and paid for his steerage accommodation when crossing the Atlantic? Three more questions that are unlikely ever to be answered. So much for seven years’ Police Supervision!
  • A register entitled ‘Duplicate returns of habitual criminals’ [Q/Gc/10/1] containing the name and aliases, age on discharge, physical details of height, eye and hair colour, (complexion), place of birth, marital state, trade/occupation, intended residence after liberation, place and date of conviction, sentence and the offence of each prisoner is held at the Gloucestershire Archives but unfortunately page 245 (referring to Herod Liddiard) has been torn out, which is a great pity. We do know that the year ‘1869’ was tattooed on his left arm and an anchor of his left hand.
  • Perhaps grieving from the loss of his dear departed Martha and the self-imposed exile of his only surviving child, Thomas Liddiard found solace in the arms of Hester (aka Esther) Davis, from Rodborough, for the couple were married in Stroud a few months later.
  • Enlists in the United States Army
  • For a second time Herod Liddiard falls into obscurity until he was enlisted in the U.S. Army at Troy, New York, on 4 December 1872, by Civil War veteran, Captain Theodore J. Wint, 4th Cavalry, and assigned to the celebrated 7th Cavalry. On enlistment Liddiard was described as being age 21, having blue eyes, light brown hair, a fair complexion, a diminutive 5’ 5 1/4″ tall, born London,5 England.  Soon after arriving in the United States Herod may well have found employment on the busy Hudson River – which is tidal as far north as Troy – and is a rational explanation of why he gave ‘boatman’6 and not ‘hotel waiter’ or ‘laborer’ as his occupation on enlistment.

Oath of Enlistment and Allegiance signed by Herod T. Liddiard, at Troy, NY, 4 December 1872.

  • Liddiard joined Company E, known as the Grey Horse Troop, which was on Reconstruction duty at Unionville, South Carolina, on 13 February 1873.  He was listed as ‘sick’ on the steamer Western on 23 April on the journey from Yankton to Fort Rice and again in May and June. It remains unclear if he took an active part in the Yellowstone Campaign (1873).  According to Roger Williams (Military Register, p. 190) Liddiard was in confinement, no reason given, on 29 August 1873 and on detached duty as a driver with a detachment of artillery during the Black Hills Expedition in June 1874.  Four months later Company E arrived in Greensboro, Alabama, for a second spell of Reconstruction duty in the South but on 20 December set out on a 160-mile march to the town of Opelika, in the same state, which they reached on Christmas Day.  Williams tells us that Liddiard was again in confinement in February 1875 and sentenced in April “to hard labor for one month and loss of $5 for receiving a stolen army blanket and selling it to a civilian.” Nichols (Men With Custer (2010), p.230) quotes 20 March as the date of the latter sentencing. Much of the rest of 1875 was spent traipsing hundreds of miles across Dakota Territory during which time Company E was at Fort Randall; camped on the banks of the White River, White Clay Creek, and even Wounded Knee Creek; before going into winter quarters at Fort Totten, via forts Randall, Rice and Lincoln.  They were to return to Fort Lincoln on 17 April 1876 to “join an Expedition against the hostile Sioux.” Exactly one month later to the day all 12 companies of the 7th Cavalry marched west from the fort under the immediate command of [Brevet Major General] Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and into immortality.
  • The Battle of the Little Big Horn, 25-26 June 1876
  • On the first day of the battle Liddiard was assigned to the pack train escort and joined the remnants of Reno’s battalion and Benteen’s three companies on Reno Hill. According to Corporal George W. Wylie, Company D – in an interview with Walter M. Camp in Junction City, Kansas, on 16 October 1910 – “On Reno hill Liddiard, Co. E, was killed while taking aim at some Indians that Benteen was pointing out to the men. There were several men there talking, and Liddiard, who was a good shot, lay down to take aim talking at the same time. It was noticed that he had stopped talking, and seeing his face turned down and the blood running around the rim of his hat was the first intimation that he was dead.” However, Private Frank Berwald, Company E, and a fellow member of the pack train escort –  in an interview with Walter Camp on 11 October 1912 – said that “Liddiard died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen, the bullet entering the front and exited near the spine while unpacking mules on Reno Hill.” Clearly only one version of how Liddiard died can be correct. It should by borne in mind that these interviews with Camp took place 34 years and 36 years after the battle respectively. In 1900 [though only 48 years of age] Berwald was described as “being an old and simple man” and 12 years on perhaps his recollection on what happened on Reno Hill was not as clear as some would have others to believe.  Of course, if the word ‘simple’ was used to mean ‘uncomplicated’ or ‘straightforward’ then Berwald’s story could well be true.
  • The U.S. Registers of Death in the Regular Army, 1860-1889, give 25 June 1876 as the date of Liddiard’s demise but according to Military Register, Williams, he survived until the 27th, so it is interesting to note that the entry relating to Corporal George Lell, Company H, has been amended to show the correct date of 26 June and not 25 June as originally stated.  No such amendment has been made in the case of Liddiard.
  • He was buried on Reno Hill but in 1881 his remains were re-interred in the vault near the base the battle monument on which he is listed as H. T. LIDDIARD.
  • Whatever his checkered past Private Herod Liddiard, Company E, 7th United States Cavalry, will long be remembered on both sides of the Atlantic as a brave Cotswold lad who paid the ultimate price while in the service of his adopted country in arguably the most iconic battle in the history of the American West.
  • May he rest in peace.

  • The Aftermath
  • The Final Statement of Herod T. Liddiard signed by 1st Lieut. Charles C. De Rudio, Commanding Company E, at Fort Abraham Lincoln on 5 December 1876.
  • For retained pay under act of May 12, 1872 … 25.40
  • For clothing not drawn in kind … $49.37
  • For deposits with the USA Paymaster July 8, 1875 … $7.00
  • Proceeds of sale of effects [added September 1, 1877] … $17.70
  • For tobacco … $1.14
  • The above statement does not take into account basic pay due for the period 1 May to 25 June 1876.
  • Thomas Liddiard died age 68, in Thrupp on 31 August of 1888. His widow, Esther Davis Liddiard, who proved his will, was the sole beneficiary of his estate which was worth £320 10s. 8d. Esther herself died aged 81 on 10 May 1906: her estate being valued at £951 2s 9d.
  • Notes & Comments
  • 1. In the old records the surname Liddiard was also written as Lidiard; Lidyard; Lydiard; Lydeard and Lediard but to avoid confusion ‘Liddiard’ has been used throughout this paper.
  • 2. Thanks go to Steve Pitman for searching the Rodborough Tabernacle registers that are held at Gloucestershire Archives, Gloucester.
  • 3. You are invited to search ‘REMEMBERING RODBOROUGH’ – an excellent local community website which is about celebrating and making visible what makes this village special to its inhabitants.  My thanks go to Steve Pitman for searching the parish church and chapel records held at Gloucestershire Archives, Gloucester.
  • 4. The colourfully-named Nelson Lord Hood, Herod Owen and Pharoah Charles – half brothers of Thomas Liddiard – were sons of Charles Liddiard and his second wife, Susan (maiden name not disclosed) who died in Rodborough in 1845.
  • 5. Men With Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry (Ed. Nichols, 2000 edition); Military Register of Custer’s Last Command (Williams); Participants in the Battle of the Little Big Horn (Wagner) and Wild Geese of the Greasy Grass (Norman) all maintain that the U.S. Army’s records are correct and wrongly state that Herod Liddiard was born in ‘London, England.’ 
  • 6. Workers on the rivers or canals in Gloucestershire in the middle of the 19th century would commonly have styled themselves as a ‘waterman’ [e.g. “William Walkley, age 44, Dudbridge, Waterman” (Census 1861)]. The term ‘boatman’ however had long been used in upstate New York [refer to Boatman’s History of the Hudson River, by Norman A. Tardiff] and adds credence to this writer’s supposition that Herod Liddiard did, indeed, work on the Hudson immediately prior to his enlistment.
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