Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Harkness N. Lay
Scope and Content
The Harkness Lay diary is an annotated typed transcription of the original diary kept by Harkness Lay of Clyde, Ohio, during his service with the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. It was donated to the Hayes Presidential Center in 2006. Because the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center does not own the original diary, the transcription may be used for research purposes only. Please see Nan Card, Curator of Manuscripts.
Harkness N. Lay was born on December 8, 1836 on a farm south of Clyde, Ohio. He was the eldest son of William and Margaret Lee Lay. During the Civil War he enlisted in the 72nd O.V.I. and served as orderly sergeant. On June 10, 1864, Harkness and 247 other members of his regiment were taken prisoner at the Battle of Guntown and sent to Andersonville Prison. He survived the prison experience and mustered out on March 14, 1865 at Columbus, Ohio. Harkness married Jemmetta “Nett” Almond on October 4, 1865. They had three children: Francis Marion, Elizabeth “Bessie” (married Alfred Newman), and Jessie (died in infancy). Lay died in LaGrange, Illinois in 1928.
Alexander Almond was born in 1843 and died in Andersonville as a prisoner of war on July 23, 1864. Alex was the son of Thomas Almond and brother of Jemmetta Almond, later the wife of Harkness Lay.
Scope and Content
The Harkness Lay diary begins on January 22, 1862 and ends March 14, 1865, although there are gaps of several months between these dates where Lay made no entries. Lay recorded his departure from Columbus, Ohio, and arrival at Pittsburg Landing. Lay describes weather, health, countryside, marches, and his daily life as a soldier in the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Lay participated in the Battle of Shiloh, the march on Corinth, the Vicksburg Campaign, the Siege of Vicksburg, and the Battle of Guntown. Lay described his capture and his journey to Andersonville. He made frequent entries in his diary during his first months at Andersonville, describing the conditions, arrival of new prisoners, murders, deaths, food, weather, and his health as well as that of his comrades. Lay escaped from Andersonville and was recaptured, and imprisoned at Georgetown, South Carolina in December 1864. In late February 1865, Lay recorded his journey by rail from South Carolina to Wilmington, North Carolina. At Fair Bluff Station, Lay and several 72nd OVI comrades escaped from the train and walked to Union lines at Smithville, North Carolina. Lay then boarded the U.S.S. General Sedgwick bound for Annapolis, Maryland. In regular daily entries, Lay recorded his journey to Columbus, Ohio on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and his immediate discharge following his arrival in Columbus.
The transcription also contains a one-page epilogue, providing information on the Lay and Almond families.
A seven-page addendum to the diary consists of a typed transcription of the diary of seventeen-year-old Alex Almond. The diary dates from April 5, 1864 to June 9, 1864, with a single entry dated Feb. 26, 1864.
Annotated typed transcription of diary of Harkness N. Lay, with seven-page addendum consisting of entries for 1864 from the diary of Alex Almond