Documenting the American South Logo
Collections >> First-Person Narratives >> Document Menu >> Summary

John M. Copley
A Sketch of the Battle of Franklin, Tenn.; with Reminiscences of Camp Douglas
Austin, Tex.: Eugene von Boeckmann, 1893.


John M. Copley, a Tennessee resident, volunteered for the Confederate army at the beginning of the Civil War, when he was only fifteen years old. He fought in Company B of the 49th Tennessee Infantry, which was assigned to Fort Donelson, Tennessee. He was taken prisoner twice; first after the fall of Nashville in 1862, and second after the Battle of Franklin in 1864, when he was incarcerated as a prisoner of war at Camp Douglas, Illinois until the end of the war.

Copley's memoir, A Sketch of the Battle of Franklin, Tenn.: With Reminiscences of Camp Douglas (1893), is a history of his activities during the Civil War. At the beginning of the war, Fort Donelson fell to Federal troops in 1862, but Copley was not at this battle because he had been hospitalized in Nashville for pneumonia. Federal troops soon gained control of Nashville, as well, and Copley became a prisoner in the hospital. A Union soldier, whom Copley had known in his childhood, learned Copley was sick and helped remove him from federal control so he could recover from his illness at his home in Tennessee. Copley remained with his family until members of his regiment, who had been taken prisoners in 1862, were exchanged for Federal prisoners. He and his regiment then rejoined the Confederate army and fought in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee in 1864. They were captured at that battle and became Union prisoners again. However, this time they were taken to prison in Camp Douglas, Illinois, where they spent the remainder of the war. Copley describes prison life and tells of watching Federal troops celebrate the end of the war. He recounts the end of his Confederate service in a detached manner, without revealing his feelings at the time or in hindsight. He and his fellow prisoners were released from captivity and they swore an oath of allegiance to the United States.

Harris Henderson

Document menu