Born in St. Lawrence County, New York, on Christmas Day, 1830, Lay Whitney Richardson came at some point to Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, by the time of the 1860 census. He lived in a hotel run by Samuel and Roseanna Steedman and worked as a collector - no explanation was given for that occupation. Lay was 29 years old, single, and had $200 in personal items.
When the Civil War began, Lay enlisted almost immediately on April 22, 1861, into Company F, 14th Ohio Infantry for a three month stint. He served there until August 13, 1861, three months and 21 days and attained the rank of Sergeant.
Then, after a short furlough, he reenlisted and reported again into the Ohio Volunteer Infantry as a veteran soldier. He joined Company G, 68th O.V.I. where he remained for the next three years, two months and 23 days until his mustering out at Toledo, Ohio on January 3, 1865 as a Lieutenant.
On August 4, 1864, he wrote home to his sister, Eliza, from Atlanta and the horrible battle there. With permission from one of his descendants, I offer this letter here as he wrote it with no corrections except for spacing for easier reading:
"Camp 68th Regt OVI, Near Atlanta,Ga., August 4th, 1864
My Dear Sister
Your welcome letter bearing date July 10th but post marked 20th came safe to hands on the 26th. I was glad to hear from you and to learn you were all enjoying so good health and were getting allong so well
your letter found me in very good health but prety well worn out by constant fatigeuge Knight watching fighting as we had just passed through a severe battle in which our corps divis brigade and regt were all engaged with considerable loss
it was a severe contest as the enimy made a desperate effort to turn and cut off the left wing of our army from the right which consised of our 17th corps under Blair and the 16th under Gen Dodge
One had got within 1 1/2 miles of the city of Atlanta and in some places our line was not over 3/4 of a mile from the out skirts of the city The rebs had laid a trap to take us in by letting us come up that close with little resistance during the knight of the 21st
they massed nearly all their force on our left and on the 22nd
about 11 pm they came down on our left flank in full force expecting to crush us cut us off from the rest of the army capture our train and take us prisoners or drive us into the Chatahousee river
They made a desperate charge and did take us a little by surprise at first but our men met them and stood their ground and fought like tigers which saved our army from a severe repulse
the enemy completely failed in their object and were forced to retreat with very heavy loss 3 times as much as ours
They left the most of their dead and wounded in the field in the front of our lines
it was a hard sight the next day to witness
Our regt lost about 65 in all killed wounded and missing
My co lost 2 killed and 8 wounded
The capt was slightly scratched and left the field and the co with me as I was the only comsd officer left with them and have been since and it has confined me very close
The capt is more able for duty now and has been all that time than I am
The col says he shal come to the co and I guess he will know
This campaign has been a very hard one and we all feel prety well worn out
We have the city of Atlanta pretty well surrounded now and have had several prety hard fights lately and have come out victorious Everytime and I think the enimy has prety much concluded they can not drive us back as they have tried it very hard all most every day for the last week and have been badly whiped every time
we keep closeing in around them more and more every day
I think the object is to capture their main force if possible and so end the war in this department as I think we could take Atlanta now any day
Well now I shal have to close
our corps now occupy the centre and are about 2 miles from the city
it has been very qiet with us for several days and we have had a prety good chance to rest which we could appreciate if we remain where we now are on the line
I dont think we will have much to do as the fighting I think will mostly be done on the right and left
I got a letter from Boyd dated 16th July was qite well
I also get letters from home qite often
You and E must write oftner to me
Ps Direct Lieut L. W. R. Co. G 68th OVI, 2 Brigade, 3 divis, 17 a.c., Atlanta, Ga"
The city was actually surrendered on September 2, 1864, a major boost for the Union forces.
Living on Canal Street in Defiance in 1880, Lay and Mary had expanded their family to include Ralph and Nelly. Lay worked as the pension agent for the area; many veterans were filling out pension applications in 1880.
Being a pension agent was not always easy. There were many opportunities for fraud in the system and, because of the plethora of complaints, pension authorities became very exuberant in looking for such cases. Lay Richardson was caught up in this wave and found himself in court over it.
The Defiance Daily Crescent reported on May 16, 1895 on the dispute:
Lay Richardson was not found guilty of fraud, except for one minor incident, and, in a letter to the editor of the Defiance Republican Press, he expressed his opinion of the system and its flaws.
In 1900, the enumerator assumed Lay's name was Lawrence and wrote it that way on the census, but the age of 69 and the fact that wife Mary, 62, and daughter Nellie were there confirmed Lay's presence. Still working, now as a real estate agent, Lay was very active in the workings of the Bishop Post.
Lay Richardson died on March 25, 1912. His obituary provided a wonderful photo of him as a young man as well as a detailed history of his life. In the Daily Crescent-News on March 26, 1912:
|www.findagrave Old Riverside Cemetery|
(This is part of a series on Civil War veterans of Defiance County who were part of the G.A.R., Bishop Post, that headquartered in the city. Formed in 1879, the post was named after a local man, Captain William Bishop, Company D, 100th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Army who died as a result of wounds received in battle. The veterans' photos are part of a composite photo of members that has survived. If you have other information or corrections to add to the soldiers' stories, please add to the comments!)