Portrait of Maj. Gen. Mortimer D. Leggett, officer of the Federal Army Aug. 21, 1865
Mortimer Leggett was an attorney, educator and military leader in nineteenth century Ohio.
Leggett was born on April 19, 1821, in Ithaca, New York. The year of his birth is commonly incorrectly reported as 1831. His parents moved to Ohio when he was sixteen years old. The family settled in Geauga County, where they were active in the local Quaker church. Leggett had limited formal schooling, but his parents helped him study at night. In 1843, Leggett passed the bar examination, but he did not form a law practice until 1849. In the intervening years, Leggett played an important role in education.
Leggett was the first superintendent of the Akron public schools. He also served as a teacher and as a principal. He resigned this position in 1849, due to a salary dispute with the school board. Leggett then established a law practice at Warren, Ohio, but he returned to education in 1857. In that year, he became the superintendent of the Zanesville, Ohio, city schools. He held that position until the outbreak of the American Civil War.
In 1861, Governor William Dennison authorized Leggett to recruit a regiment for the Union army. Leggett's men formed the basis of the Seventy-Eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Leggett served as the regiment's colonel. He led his men into battle at Fort Donelson, at Shiloh, and at Corinth during 1862, and played an active role at the siege of Vicksburg during 1863. Because of his leadership ability, Leggett was promoted to the rank of major general by war’s end. In 1864, Leggett accompanied William T. Sherman's army against Atlanta and on the March to the Sea. He remained with Sherman's army as it invaded South Carolina in 1865. Leggett retired from military service at the war's end. During the Civil War, Leggett was wounded at least six times.
Following the Civil War, Leggett returned to Zanesville, where he resumed his law practice. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Leggett to be the United States Patent Commissioner. After leaving this position, Leggett returned to Ohio and continued to practice law, now in Cleveland, Ohio. He died in Cleveland on April 26, 1896.
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