Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

Hunter Liggett (1857–1935), born and raised in Reading, Berks County, was a senior officer in the U.S. Army during World War I. When America entered the war, he was given command of the 41st Division, which arrived in France in late 1917 as part of the American Expeditionary Forces. He then commanded I Corps and later the First Army.

Liggett had graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1879. He spent much of his early military life in North Dakota and Montana patrolling and providing security for new settlements and then served as a commander in the Philippines on two separate occasions. In 1909-10 he attended the Army War College, located at that time in Washington, D.C., and was subsequently selected to be director and then president of the institution.

One of the characteristics that distinguished Liggett as an effective leader was his thirst for knowledge about all things military. He studied the history of warfare, gleaning lessons from past mistakes. He also had an expert knowledge of modern methods of war and was adamant that troops under his command had adequate training for any scenarios they would face. In January 1918, as I Corps commander, he began preparing his troops for action. Most of these men would not be assigned to the front lines for several months, so Liggett took this opportunity to equip, supply and train both military staff and enlisted men to be fully prepared for battle.

Gen. Hunter Liggett.

Gen. Hunter Liggett.
Library of Congress

I Corps was activated in July and through September under Liggett it captured 5,000 German prisoners and more than 130 guns. The Allied forces then moved in for a general offensive against the entrenched German army in the Argonne Forest. The objective of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was to cut off the Germans’ lines of communication and eventually drive them out of France. Liggett’s strategy was to undertake a risky flanking offensive. His superior leadership and the readiness of his corps led to the ultimate success of clearing the Argonne Forest of German forces.

Additionally, the attack was instrumental in relieving the “Lost Battalion.” This unit, the subject of a number of books and films, was cut off from the Allied line while they advanced into France’s dense forest. They lost communications and became trapped while surrounded by the Germans. The Germans, who had occupied the forest for months, had been able to slowly reduce the Americans’ numbers due to superior defensive positions and familiarity with the terrain. Although more than half of the unit was lost, I Corps’ advance enabled the surviving men to escape.

Following the Meuse-Argonne victory, Liggett became commander of the First Army and had continued success throughout the remainder of the war. He received many military honors, including the Army Distinguished Service Medal, and several foreign awards for his leadership in World War I. The USS Hunter Liggett is a U.S. Coast Guard vessel that was renamed for him in 1939. The Fort Hunter Liggett Military Installation in California was named for him in 1941. An Army airfield at Fort Stewart in Georgia and a barracks at Fort Jay on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor also bear his name.

The Pennsylvania Historical Marker for Liggett was dedicated in 1984 at his birthplace in Reading on the 49th anniversary of his death.


Karen Galle is on the staff of PHMC’s State Historic Preservation Office and has been the coordinator of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program since 2005.