‘A family of many patriots’: An interview with ‘Capt.’ Glenn Layton

Date Published: 
May 9, 2014

Glenn Layton — former president and current member of the Central Delaware Civil War Round Table — is proud of the generations of his family who defended their country, including service in the Union army during the Civil War. For the past several years, Layton has reenacted the role of a captain in the 2nd Delaware Volunteers, a regiment with a heroic combat record.

Layton’s ancestors helped secure the country’s freedom ever since arriving on these shores from Armaugh, Ireland, in 1799, and settling in Maryland and Delaware. Grandfathers-several-times-removed Stephen Mahoney and Samuel Armour served in the Revolutionary War and in the War of 1812, respectively.

The patriotic tradition continues with the current generation. Layton’s sons Ted and Tim both served in the Marines, and Tim has since joined the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot, now stationed in Kuwait.

In a recent interview, Layton expanded on his ancestors who participated in the Civil War:

Q. By the time hostilities erupted between the states in 1861, your family lineage was extensive. How many members served in the military during that period?

A. I do not have an exact number, but several grandfathers, uncles and cousins with the last names of Armour, Biddle, Townsend, Huss and Sharp joined the Union army.

Q. Can you describe these men?

A. John Armour was a second-generation Irishman and a stone mason from the Wilmington area. He served in the 7th Delaware Regiment, a 30-day unit formed in response to Confederate Maj. Gen. Jubal Early’s raid on Washington in July 1864. He was 50 years old at the time. He had three sons who also served during the conflict, John A., Samuel and Stephen.

John A. was a cavalryman in the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment, known as Rush’s Lancers. He was wounded on May 30, 1864, at Old Church, Va. Photos of him after the war show a sickly person who used a cane, which leads me to believe he never recovered from his wounds. He died at a young age in 1873.

Samuel, a farmer and blacksmith from lower Kent County, near Houston, served in the 7th Delaware, along with his father. Stephen was also in the 7th Delaware; and, when it mustered out of service on Aug. 12, 1864, he joined the 40th New Jersey Regiment as a sergeant until the end of the war.

Q. Who were your other ancestors who served?

A. Three brothers, Jonathon, Thomas and William Biddle, uncles from generations past, resided in Hazletville, Del., southwest of Dover. Jonathon and Thomas served in the hard-fighting 1st Delaware Regiment. Jonathan was wounded during the battles of Antietam and The Wilderness. Toward war’s end, he reenlisted in the 1st Delaware Veteran Volunteer Regiment as color sergeant. Thomas was also wounded in The Wilderness. William was a member of the 4th Delaware. Jonathan and Thomas have the distinction of having their names engraved on the Delaware State Monument at Gettysburg.

James H. Townsend was a native of Kent County. He joined the 3rd Delaware Regiment, a unit that was heavily engaged during Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign in 1864. James was killed in action on June 18 during the fighting near Petersburg, Va. The only personal belongings sent home were his pipe and gold watch. The watch has since disappeared, but I inherited his pipe and a photo of him.

Noah, Burr and Chaplain Huss were my third cousins. Originally from Lancaster County, Pa., their family moved to Ohio prior to the Civil War. Noah served in the 72nd Ohio Regiment, while Burr and Chaplain fought with the 169th Ohio.

My great-great-great-uncles, Jessie and Nehemiah Sharp, were from the Milford area. While still in their early 20s, they joined the 9th Delaware Regiment, and served as part of the Union garrison at Fort Delaware from October 1864 to January 1865.

Q. What motivated you to become a re-enactor with the 2nd Delaware Volunteers?

A. Coming from a family of many patriots, I find participation in the 2nd Delaware Volunteers a most rewarding experience. The original attraction was camping, cooking, drilling and visiting actual battlefield sites. As I learned more about my kinfolk fighting, sustaining wounds and dying during the Civil War, re-enacting became more personal.

Layton reminisced that he had no idea his ancestors had served during the Civil War until his aunt brought it to his attention some years ago. Since then, he has invested time and energy researching his family history and treasures the stories he has unearthed in the process.

Bethany Beach resident Thomas J. Ryan is the author of “Essays on Delaware during the Civil War: A Political, Military and Social Perspective” (available at Bethany Beach Books or from his website at www.tomryan-civilwar.com). Contact him at pennmardel@mchsi.com.