Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Copley, John Sibbet, 1832-1862
John S. Copley Civil War Letters
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1


Consists of 24 letters by Union soldier John S. Copley to his friend Robert Moody throughout the first two years of the American Civil War. Copley, who served with the 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry (38th Volunteers), includes detailed accounts of battles and life in various military camps.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

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.

Collection Creator Biography:

Copley, John Sibbet, 1832-1862

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).

Collection History


Gift of Ledlie I. Laughlin, Princeton Class of 1912, 1961 (AM 17333).


No material was separated during 2014 processing.

Processing Information

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.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

John S. Copley Civil War Letters; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1

Find More


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.

Subject Terms:
Malvern Hill, Battle of, Va., 1862
Soldiers -- Pennsylvania -- 19th century -- Correspondence.
Genre Terms:
Correspondence -- 19th century
United States. Army. Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, 9th (1861-1864).
Maryland -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
Pennsylvania -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
Virginia -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.