Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Captain William L. Ditto, CSA
Scope and Content
The collection represents the Civil War correspondence of Captain William L. Ditto of the First Louisiana Cavalry, who was imprisoned during the Civil War at Johnson’s Island, Ohio. Further information on Johnson’s Island and Confederates imprisoned there is available in the Charles E. Frohman Vertical File, Johnson’s Island Papers (LH-250) and the Library’s Local History File.
Captain William L. Ditto was commander of Company K of the First Louisiana Cavalry (also known as the Louisiana Dragoons). The regiment was organized in September of 1861 at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Company K was recruited at Catahoula. As part of Albert Sidney Johnston’s Confederate force, the Louisiana Dragoons wintered near Bowling Green, Kentucky. The regiment took part in the Battle of Shiloh in April of 1862 and fought in several skirmishes in northern Alabama in May. The cavalry, under Colonel Scott, raided into Kentucky in August of 1862. Skirmishes were fought at Loudon, Big Hill, and Richmond. Under General Edmund Kirby Smith, the regiment captured Frankfort on September 3. The unit also took part in the Battle of Perryville. While skirmishing near Lancaster, Kentucky in July 1863, Ditto, along with 100 men from his regiment, was captured. He was imprisoned at Johnson’s Island for the remainder of the war. Although little is known about Ditto, he survived captivity and returned to his family in Louisiana.
Scope and Content
The collection contains eleven letters written by Captain Ditto while imprisoned at Johnson’s Island, Ohio, during the Civil War. The letters, written between June of 1864 and February of 1865, are directed to his wife in Natchez, Mississippi. Two post war letters, written from New Orleans in January 1866, and photocopies of Ditto’s service record are also part of the collection. Ditto’s correspondence recounts rumors about the progress of the war, information regarding other prisoners known to his wife, religious services held in camp, and weather, particularly its impact on the availability and prices of food. Ditto also passes along information about family and friends who have corresponded with him. Highly religious, Captain Ditto encourages his wife to maintain a positive attitude through her faith. The post war letters tell of Ditto’s efforts to find a girl, perhaps from an orphanage, to work as an apprentice for his wife. He also relates the financial difficulties of family and friends experiencing post war economic changes in the South. Ditto’s service record includes copies of pay records, requisitions for fuel and forage for horses, and his resignation from the captaincy of his company on October 12, 1862.
1. Ditto correspondence: June - August 1864
2. Ditto correspondence: November 1864 - February 1865
3. Ditto correspondence: January 1866
4. Service record of Captain William L. Ditto