John S. Copley Civil War Letters
Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
John Sibbet Copley was one of nine children born to Josiah Copley (1803-1885), a newspaper writer, editor, and publisher from Kittanning, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, and Margaret Chadwick Haas (1800-1886) of Philadelphia. Copley served in the Union Army during the United States Civil War as a member of Company A of the 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry (38th Volunteers) from May 1, 1861, when he enlisted at age 29--he had been working as a bookkeeper in Philadelphia--to September 14, 1862, when he fell at the Battle of South Mountain (Maryland).
Organized in Pittsburgh, the 9th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry (38th Volunteers), or the "Pittsburg Rifles," was active from July 1861 to May 1864. Attached to the Army of the Potomac, the regiment was involved in several skirmishes and battles in Maryland and Virginia during its first two years of fighting, including the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek, or the Battle of Mechanicsville (June 26, 1862), the Battle of Malvern Hill, or the Battle of Poindexter's Farm (July 1, 1862), the Second Battle of Bull Run or Second Manassas (August 28-30, 1862), and the Battles of South Mountain, (September 14, 1862) and Antietam (September 16-17, 1862).
The collection consists of 24 letters by John S. Copley to his friend Robert Moody in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, written between July 24, 1861, and August 20, 1862, from different military camps in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Describing his experiences serving with the 9th Pennsylvania Infantry Reserve, Copley's detailed letters provide a valuable record of military life during the first two years of the American Civil War by a soldier in the Union Army. They offer insight into camp life, battles, and the movements of Confederate troops, commentary about Copley's superiors, and descriptions of the landscape of the various places the 9th was stationed. Two letters note visits from President Abraham Lincoln and General George B. McClellan at Camp Tennally (August 28, 1861) and a camp site near Harrison's Landing (July 8, 1862). The letters show Copley as a fairly devout and religious man. For example, in a letter dated July 8, 1862, he writes: "I have seen war in its worst features and though I have no desire to quit till all is ended yet with what great joy would I hail the advent of peace. I pray it may not be long till that happy time arrives. But one thing is requisite my dear friend to that consummation--that is an acknowledgement of God's dealings with us because of our great national and individual sins. Until we as a nation and as individuals acknowledge this and repent our sins and turn to God and respect his laws I cannot expect this strife to cease."
The letters are arranged chronologically.
Armstrong County, Pennsylvania: Her People Past and Present, Embracing a History of the County and a Genealogical and Biographical Record of Representative Families J.H. Beers, 1914. Accessed May 16, 2014. https://archive.org/details/armstrongcounty00unkngoog
Gift of Ledlie I. Laughlin, Princeton Class of 1912, 1961 (AM 17333).
This collection was processed by Dina Britain on May 22, 2009. Finding aid written by Elizabeth Mulvey on June 11, 2009. Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (2015) in 2012. Finding aid updated by Faith Charlton in May 2014.
No material was separated during 2014 processing.
- Manuscripts Division
- Finding Aid Author
- Faith Charlton
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
Collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.