Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
James Randolph Simpson Papers, 1862-1864

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, August 2011

Summary Information
Title: James Randolph Simpson papers
Creator: Simpson, James Randolph, b. 1841
Inclusive dates: 1862-1864
Extent: 12 items
The James Randolph Simpson papers contain 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.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1992. M-2886.4.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

James Randolph Simpson Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


James Randolph Simpson was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, on December 13, 1841. He enlisted in company C of the 125th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment on August 7, 1862, and suffered a severe wound at the Battle of Antietam just one month later. After his honorable discharge in April 1863, Simpson returned to Huntingdon and became a teacher and, later, a successful lawyer. Among Simpson's public posts were prothonotary of Huntingdon County (1866-1870) and president of the Huntingdon County Bar Association.

Collection Scope and Content Note

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.

Subject Terms

    • United States. Army. Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery Regiment, 2nd (1862-1866)
    • United States. Army. Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, 125th (1862-1863)
    • United States. Army. Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, 34th (1861-1864)
    • United States. Army. Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, 83rd (1861-1865)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Virginia--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Cunningham, J. D.
    • Dieffenbach, William H.
    • Flood, Theodore S.
    • Maize, Isaiah D.
    • Willoughby, Arthur.
    • Willoughby, John A. (Jack)
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   79, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    James Randolph Simpson papers [series]
    Folder   11  
     January 10, 1862-August 24, 1863
    Folder   12  
     October 2, 1863-February 28, 1864, and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data


    • J. D. Cunningham
    • Private William H. Dieffenbach, 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment
    • 2nd Lieutenant Theodore S. Flood, 125th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment
    • Isaiah D. Maize, [William Farrar?] Smith's Division
    • Private A[rthur] Willoughby, 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery Regiment
    • 1st Lieutenant John A. Willoughby ("Jack"), 5th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment
    Related Materials

    The Henry Pippitt papers contain the correspondence of a soldier in the 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery Regiment.

    History of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1862-1863, by the Regimental Committee. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1906.


    Jordan, John W. (John Woolf). A History of the Juniata Valley and Its People. Volume 2. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1913.