The James Randolph Simpson papers contain 12 incoming letters to Simpson from several of his friends who served in the Civil War. The soldiers discussed in detail various aspects of camp life, their movements with the army, and skirmishes.
Throughout the war, Simpson's friends were stationed primarily in Virginia. Early letters, written just as the war began, reveal the boredom often felt by soldiers in camp. Isaiah D. Maize noted that he enjoyed receiving letters because "everything is so very dull in camp now," and complained at length about the Virginia weather (January 10, 1862). Another soldier, William H. Dieffenbach, voiced a similar complaint about the terrain: "I have often heard people talk of the sacred soil of Virginia but I guess we are not there yet, for I can hardly think that any man 'or any other man' would have the audacity to call this soil sacred" (January 23, 1862). Despite their boredom, Simpson's correspondents remained optimistic about their prospects for success against the Confederacy; Maize believed "The backbone of Rebellion is broken[.] 18,000 prisoners in 10 days is a big thing very nearly two Divisions of their army" (February 18, 1862). As the war progressed, the soldiers more frequently mentioned troop movements and potential engagements with the enemy. Jack Willoughby of the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves, for example, related his experiences during a skirmish with General Lee's army (October 18, 1863).
One undated item includes a large, green-shaded letterhead displaying a knight atop a rock labeled "Pennsylvania," brandishing a sword. In the sky above him is a large United States flag, a constellation spelling the word "UNION," and the Pennsylvania coat of arms.