1865: Thomas Layton to Diana Layton

This letter was written by 37 year-old Thomas Layton (1828-1874) who mustered into Co. I, 45th Pennsylvania Infantry on 21 February 1864. He mustered out of the service on 17 July 1865. [Note: Thomas was carried on the muster rolls as Thomas Lawton.]

Thomas wrote the letter to his wife, Dianna (Head) Layton (1826-1892), the daughter of John Head (1791-1875) and Charity Hunt (1792-1873). The couple had two children, Sarah Delphine Layton (1849-1938) and Lydia Alice Layton (1853-1911). The Lawton family lived in Clymer, Tioga county, Pennsylvania. Thomas was a Canadian by birth.

In this letter, Thomas informs his wife of the fighting at the Battle of Fort Stedman, also known as the Battle of Hare’s Hill, which was fought on March 25, 1865. In a last desperate attempt, the Confederates attempted to break the siege of Petersburg but were eventually driven back by the Union Ninth Corps.


Camp of the 45th Regiment P.V. Infantry
Right in front of Petersburg
March 25, 1865

Dear woman,

I must tell you that I am well at present but I must tell you that we had a hard time here today for a little time. I tell you, the Rebs made a break on us and we whipped them like the devil today. We have taken in four thousand prisoners and about three hundred killed. And killed and wounded of our men was about five hundred. None of our boys hurt from up in our place here. I went all over the battle ground. It looked hard, I tell you, but we feel only [?] just now for I tell you, we have got thirty offers from the Rebs. But it looked hard to see the Rebs lay there. But then we had rather see them lay out than see our men laid out there and we lost out of 207 regiments one man killed, twelve wounded. We lost in all about five hundred killed, wounded and taken prisoners and now I hope they will make another break here and then they will be gone up—little more than they be now—for we will lick the devil out of them every time.

They are fighting on our left today. Our fellers is the best for they have taken a lot of prisoners. I don’t know how many yet. Dianna, I think this rebellion is about played [out]. We have got them about starved out—that is what they say themselves. I think that I will come out all right yet. Never mind about Tom. He is all right yet. That is all I can tell you now about this matter just now.

Dianna, I sent you a book and I want you to write when you get it. It is a nice book and I want you and the girls to take good care of that. Sarah and Allie, you must be good girls. If nothing happens worse than this, I will soon be home with you so see up good courage. I will be there soon.

I must tell you before I close my letter that we have just heard from the left f our line and  our men has taken five thousand prisoners. I hain’t heard how many was killed. This has been a got time here but we don’t care a damn for we are all right.

Do goodbye for this time, give my love to all. Sarah, write t me. I ain’t had a letter in three weeks. Write and tell me where George Radford is.

This is from Thomas Layton

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