May 9, 2012

Sypher Dispatches: From Lancaster to Louisville

Location: Louisville, KY, USA
Another company from Lancaster--Company B, 1st Penna. Reserves--in 1863
I suspect the civilian on the right of the picture is J. R. Sypher, who traveled with the Army of the Potomac as a journalist.  (Mathew Brady via

The following post is the first in a series of a dozen or so letters by Lancaster lawyer, journalist, and civilian adventurer J. R. Sypher during his travels through the Western Theater as a sort of "embedded reporter" in May and June 1862.  

J. R. Sypher (suspected)
(Enlargement of above photo)
On May 2, 1862, former Daily Evening Express assistant editor Josiah Rhinehart Sypher left Lancaster for a two-month tour of the Western Theater, where he had spent time as a correspondent before the war.  I've written about Sypher--and brother James Hale Sypher of Standard's Ohio Artillery Battery and brother A.J., Armorer on the USS St. Louis ironclad--several times before on this blog, including his letter after having been chased out of Memphis in June 1861 and a quarrel with the Democratic Intelligencer in August 1861 over dueling rallies in Drumore Township (which Sypher coincidentally refers to in the opening to his letter below).

Only a week before leaving, Sypher was admitted to practice law, passing a "highly creditable examination."  He studied under none other than Thaddeus Stevens--with whom he shared many political beliefs--although it's unclear how much Sypher personally interacted with Stevens.  As a progressive-minded Republican, Sypher seems to show up in just about every reform movement and civic activity in Lancaster, such as the Lancaster County Bible Society and Temperance picnics. Just several weeks earlier, he was one of six founding members of the Linnaean Society of Lancaster City and County, a very active science and natural history society whose collection formed the basis of what is now the North Museum near Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster. [DEE 4/26/1862]

The Express sent Sypher off with the following announcement published on May 3, 1862:  
J. R. Sypher, Esq., formerly our Southern and Western correspondent, and more recently our editorial assistant, started for the seat of war in the department of the Mississippi, on Friday morning.  He goes as special correspondent of the Express, being provided with a military pass from the War Department, authorizing him to go anywhere within the lines of the armies of the United States.  For this we are indebted to the kindness of Secretary Stanton and Col. Sandford.  The conditions of the parole attached to the pass are very stringent, but the Express has no cause to fear them, as we have never yet published a line involving the censure of the war department, although important information has been frequently in our possession in advance of its publication elsewhere.

Mr. Sypher intended going direct to Corinth, and thence with Gen. Halleck's army to Memphis.  Being familiar with the country in the southwest, and having a pretty extensive acquaintance with the people there, his letters will no doubt be as interesting as valuable.  
George D. Prentice
Editor, Louisville Journal(Source)
Sypher penned his first letter in Louisville, the gateway to the Western Theater for Lancasterians during the Civil War.  Lancaster maintained a strong patriotic and logistical connection to Louisville, cheering on border state warriors like Louisville Journal editor George D. Prentice and relying on the soldiers' aid infrastructure there to distribute goods to Lancaster soldiers and others in need.  

From the May 8, 1862, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

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