Collection Title: Dr. Nathan A. Pennypacker Papers

Collection Number: Ms. Coll. 176

Dates of Collection: 1849-1888

Box Numbers: 3 boxes, 68 folders, 1 linear feet

RepositoryChester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA 19380

Language: English

Project Archivist: Margaret Miles Baillie


 Dr. Nathan A. Pennypacker (October 20, 1835 – December 17, 1886) was born in Schuylkill Township to James and Ann Pennypacker.  He married Eliza Davis on February 24, 1857, when he was twenty-one.  It was said she didn’t like her first name so preferred to be called Lydia[1] or Lide.  Eliza was the daughter of Martha and Capt. Samuel Davis.  Nathan and Eliza had two daughters, Lelia and Martha, and a son.  Lelia, a toddler, died in 1859 due to burns suffered when her clothes caught fire while she was in the kitchen.[2]  Their son, James A., died September 22, 1867, at 8 years of age.[3] Martha, who did not marry and lived to be 95 years old, was the first woman to be employed by the National Bank of Phoenixville.[4] She was a member of the Chester County Historical Society. She died on September 3, 1964.

 Nathan attended the Freeland Seminary, a Mennonite preparatory school for boys, and graduated as a Doctor of Medicine from the Philadelphia College of Medicine on July 5, 1850.  He farmed and practiced medicine in Charlestown, Pennsylvania until the Civil War broke out. An active citizen, he also was on the school board from March 1859 to May 1861, and established the Charlestown Cornet Band in 1857.[5]

Dr. Pennypacker was mustered into service as a 1st Lieutenant in Co. K, 4th Pennsylvania Reserves on June 6, 1861.  He was promoted to Captain April 10, 1863, and was mustered out June 17, 1864.  The regiment was formed in Easton and consisted of 847 men from Chester, Monroe, Montgomery, Lycoming, and Susquehanna counties and Philadelphia.  In July 1861, after a circuitous route via Harrisburg, they went by rail to Baltimore and reported to General Dix.  Their first order was to rendezvous at Tenallytown where they were assigned to the 2nd Brigade under the command of Gen. George G. Meade. (It is interesting to note that Company K was outfitted with the Harper’s Ferry Musket[6].) 

Pennypacker’s work was praised in a report dated May 27, 1862, to Secretary of War Stanton by H. Haupt, Aide-de-Camp, Chief of Construction and Transportation, Dept. of Rappahannock.  Nathan was detailed permanently as part of a construction corps due to the speed and efficiency that he and others had shown when rebuilding destroyed rail lines and bridges.[7]

The 4th PA Reserves were present at the battle of Mechanicsville on June 26, 1862, but were held in reserve during the fight. Their first engagement was at the battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia, at Gaines’ Mill, June 27, 1862, where they were a support unit to Duryea’s Zouaves and Col. Sickel of the 3rd Regiment.  On June 30 they supported Randall’s Battery at New Market Road.  A bayonet fight ensued with the oncoming Confederate troops who had penetrated the area due to the cannoneers’ instructions to the infantry not to advance between the cannons[8].  These instructions had countermanded the infantry’s orders.

            On February 8, 1863, the Reserves were ordered to Washington D.C. to rest and recruit after participating in the second Battle of Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam Creek and the Battle of Fredericksburg.  They were involved in various duties throughout their stay and it was during this time that Dr. Pennypacker formed the regimental band.  The band, which consisted of officers and privates from the 3rd and 4th regiments, became well known and especially praised because the members did not go to the rear during battle as was the norm, but sent their instruments to the rear and fought in their assigned positions.[9] 

            1864 brought forced marches in rainy weather to the 4th Regiment.  January’s orders sent them to Martinsburg, West Virginia, and in February they were marched and countermarched for six days and nights in an attempt to halt Confederate troops who had attacked a wagon train going to Petersburg.  The Confederates were not thwarted and escaped with a majority of the wagon train’s supplies and 500 cattle from area farms.[10]

            Fallen trees and rain interrupted the next march and the brigade was sent to Brownstown, West Virginia, via an ice boat down the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers.  Col. R. H. Woolworth now commanded the 4th.  They continued marching to Fayette in the rain and snow.  Their mission was to tear up the V & T Railroad track at Wytheville and Dublin and burn the bridge at New River in order to cut off Lee’s supplies.  By May 9, 1864, they had arrived at Cloyd Mountain.  A fierce battle ensued with hand to hand fighting[11] and Col. Woolworth died in this engagement.  Chaplin Pomeroy buried him and six other soldiers there.[12]

            The men pushed on with twenty days of marching until they reached Meadow Bluff on May 19, 1864.  They were hungry and most had no soles on their shoes.  On May 30, 1864, the 3rd and 4th regiments began their journey eastward.  Their terms of service had expired and they had been ordered home. The regimental band played as they returned home and thus greeted people as they went.  The 4th was mustered out on June 15, 1864[13]

            After the war, Nathan was elected to represent the Phoenixville area in the State Assembly from 1865-1867.[14]  He participated in the supervision of the building of the State Hospital for the Insane in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1877, which the state legislature had established to be built in 1876 under Public Law 121.[15] Appointment to the hospital’s ground committee came in 1878.[16]    He was a Lt. Col. on the staff of Gov. Hoyt.  He served some time on the Schuylkill Township school board and was an active participant, writer, and speaker for the Schuylkill Lyceum and the Phoenixville Young Men’s Literary Union.

[1] CCHS newspaper clippings file.

[2] Ibid. February 2, 1859.

[3] Village Record. October 1, 1867.

[4] Ibid. September 4, 1964.

[6] Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-5. Vol. 1, 1869.  p. 638.

[7] Alger, R. A. The War of the Rebellion. Series I, Vol. LI, Part 1.  GPO, 1897, pp. 636-638.

[8] Ibid. pp. 637-638.

[9] Ibid. p. 645.

[10] Ibid. p. 640.

[12] Ibid. pp. 641-643.

[13] Ibid. p. 645.

[16] Ms. Coll. 176, Box 2, Folder 52.


The collection spans the years 1849 -1888 and contains Dr. Nathan A. Pennypacker’s correspondence, poetry and other manuscripts.  He fought in the Civil War with Company K of the 4th Pennsylvania Reserves from 1861 to 1864. His correspondence during that time reveals a personal view of life as an officer and soldier and of the great affection he had for his wife. Before and after the war, he was active in his community and well-respected for his integrity. 

Collections Scope:

The collection spans the years from 1849 to1888.  It consists of personal correspondence, books, invitations and photographs. 

Information For Researchers:

  • Access:
    Collection is open for research.
  • Publication Rights:
    For permissions to reproduce or to publsih, please contact the Librarian of the CCHS library.
  • Preferred Citation:
    Dr. Nathan A. Pennypacker papers, 1849-1888. Ms. Coll. 176. Chester County Historical Society Library. West Chester, Pennsylvania.
  • Acquisition Information:
    Miss Martha Davis Pennypacker, Primary donation May 24, 1941. Subsequent donations in 1951 and 1961.
  • Processing History:
    Processing and finding aid prepared using DACS by Margaret Miles Baillie, 2009.

Collection Arrangement:

The primary arrangement of the manuscripts is chronological and they are housed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes.  The secondary arrangement is by author. 

The documents were transferred from the general manuscript and letter collections at CCHS which, in the past, used an alpha-numeric cataloging system and are still marked accordingly.  This allows for in-house cross-referencing between the two systems.

Related Material:

Dr. Nathan A. Pennypacker’s Medicine Recipe Book 1867-1876, Ms. 4325. Dr. Pennypacker’s manuscript of medicine recipes and formulas and accounts of treatment of patients and their prognosis.  Recipes for treatment of horses with poll evil and swelled legs. Back of the book contains account for the administration of the estate of Janette Davis.

–         Music Book of N. A. Pennypacker, Capt. 4th Regt. P.R.M.C., December 30, 1863. Music Manuscript book. Ms. 76205.   He writes in the book, “No. 45, not copied it is Dixie Land and very few wish to go to Dixie, according to the number trying to get exempt.”  Also has written in it an account of the 4th PA Reserves movements from April 30, 1864-May 16, 1864.

–          1794 Recipe Book.  CCHS Cookbook Collection. Box 22.  This is a handwritten recipe book that Dr. Pennypacker retrieved from an empty house in Virginia during the Civil War.

–          Eliza Davis Pennypacker’s Diary 1884-1894. CCHS Diary Collection.

–          Guide to Civil War manuscripts at CCHS.

–     CCHS clippings files, Surname files and manuscript collection.

–     CCHS Photo Collection

–     CCHS Museum Collection for military swords, clothing and accoutrements.

Collections Contents:

Box 1 – Correspondence 1849 – 1863.

Folder 1 – Letters from father, James A. Pennypacker. 1849-1851, and Freeland    Seminary Address Book and Diary of N.A. Pennypacker, 1850-1852. 6 items.

Folder 2 – Letters from E. Davis. 1854-1855. 2 items.

Folder 3 – Letters to mother, Ann Buckwalter. 1861. 3 items.

Folder 4 – Letters to mother, Ann Buckwalter. January – June 1862. 14 items.

Folder 5 – Letters to mother, Ann Buckwalter. September – November 1862. 9 items.

Folder 6 – Letters to mother, Ann Buckwalter. January – July 1863. 19 items.

Folder 7 – Letters to mother, Ann Buckwalter. August – December 1863. 15 items.

Folder 8 – Letters to mother, Ann Buckwalter. 1864. 4 items.

Folder 9 – Letters to wife, Lydia. June-July 1861. 8 items.

Folder 10 – Letters to wife, Lydia. August – September 1861. 10 items.

Folder 11 – Letters to wife, Lydia. October – November 1861. 14 items. (One item on letterhead with Gen. McClellan’s image on it.)

Folder 12 – Letters to wife, Lydia. December 1861. 14 items.

Folder 13 – Letters to wife, Lydia. January – February 1862. 15 items.

Folder 14 – Letters to wife, Lydia. March 1862. 11 items.

Folder 15 – Letters to wife, Lydia. April 1862. 8 items.

Folder 16 – Letters to wife, Lydia. May – June 1862. 12 items.

Folder 17 – Letters to wife, Lydia. July – August 1862. 9 items.

Folder 18 – Letters to wife, Lydia. September – October 1862. 13 items.

Folder 19 – Letters to wife, Lydia. November – December 1862. 13 items.

Folder 20 – Letters to wife, Lydia. January – February 1863. 10 items.

Folder 21 – Military Pass for wife, Lydia, and her sister(s). March 4, 1863.  Leave of Absence for N.A. Pennypacker, March 19, 1863. 2 items.    

Folder 22 – Letters to wife, Lydia. March – April 1863. 6 items.

Folder 23 – Letters to wife, Lydia. May – June 1863. 8 items.

Folder 24 – Letters to wife, Lydia. August – September 1863. 8 items.

Folder 25 – Letters to wife, Lydia. October 1863. 6 items.

Folder 26 – Letters to wife, Lydia. November 1863. 9 items.

Folder 27 – Letters to wife, Lydia. December 1863. 9 items.

Box 2 – Correspondence 1864 – 1888.

Folder 28 – Letters to wife, Lydia. January – February 1864. 11 items. Also contains a letter to W. Townsend regarding Lydia’s injuries from a train wreck.

Folder 29 – Letters to wife, Lydia. March 1864. 8 items.

Folder 30 – Letters to wife, Lydia. April – May 1864. 8 items.

Folder 31 – Envelopes for letters to wife, Lydia. 1861-1864. 123 items.

Folder 32 – Letter to wife, Lydia. 1873. 1 item. Letter reports on Nathan and Mattie’s time at home while Lydia is away.

Folder 33 – Letter to wife, Lydia. 1882. 1 item.

Folder 34 – Letters from E. S. Christman. 1862. 6 items.

Folder 35 – Letters from L. Evans. 1862. 2 items.

Folder 36 – Letters from J. Little. 1862. 6 items.

Folder 37 – Letters from N. Davis. 1864-1865. 4 items.

Folder 38 – Letters from H. L. Karr. 1864-1865. 2 items.

Folder 39 – Letters from Warren G. Moore. 1864-1865. 4 items.

Folder 40 – Letters from John R. R. 1865. 2 items.

Folder 41 – Letter from J.W. P. 1867.  Eulogy on death of  N.A. Pennypacker’s son. 1 item.

Folder 42 – Letters from A.G Curtin. 1868-1869. 2 items.

Folder 43 – Letters from W. Wayne. 1869-1882. 6 items.

Folder 44– Correspondence with Samuel W. Pennypacker. 1873-1883. 18 items.

Folder 45 – Letters from J.F. Hartranft. 1877-1882. 10 items.

Folder 46 – Correspondence from sister, Janette Davis. 1877. 4 items. Two telegrams November 2 & 3, 1877, from St. Louis, MO, and Omaha, NE. One letter November 21, 1877, from Stockton, CA. One from N. A. Pennypacker to Janette.

Folder 47 – Correspondence regarding sister, Janette Davis. 1878. 5 items. Three telegrams March 5, 6, and 9, 1877, regarding the death and funeral of  Janette Davis. Two letters March 8, 1878, and April 5, 1878, recounting the funeral and responding to Nathan’s letter.

Folder 48 – Letters to and from J. Latta. 1879-1882. 25 items. One indicating appointment of N. A. Pennypacker as Lt. Col. Aide de Camp of     the National Guard of Pennsylvania.  Others in regards to Union League Reception for Gen. U.S. Grant  and other receptions. (see box 3, folder 68 ) Receipt for uniform from Jacob Reeds’ Sons, Philadelphia. 

Folder 49 – Letter from F. D. Grant, (son of Gen. U.S. Grant), 1885. 1 item.

Folder 50 – Letters from Wallace W. Johnson. 1886-1888. 3 items.

Folder 51 – Correspondence to and from N. A. Pennypacker and others. 1856-1867. 6 items.  Dr. J. Pennypacker, Philadelphia; Charles Elliott, King of Prussia; Capt. S. Davis, Harper’s Ferry; Elwood Tyson, Village Green, PA; A.D. Harlan, Coatesville, PA; John Burnett, NY.

Folder 52 – Letters to and from N. A. Pennypacker and others. 1870-1879. 22 items.  W. Townsend, Phoenixville, PA (one regarding the pension of Jeremiah Long); Ellwood Tyson, Village Green, PA; E. Pennypacker, Schuylkill, PA; J. Wickersham, Harrisburg, PA;  M.S. Quay, Harrisburg, PA; Henry C. Conrad, Wilmington, DE; State Hospital for the Insane; Hugh B. Eastburn, Doylestown, PA; D. Stanley Hasinger, Phila., PA; Hon. William Ward, Phoenixville, PA. 

Folder 53 – Letters to and from N. A. Pennypacker and others. 1880-1886. 14 items. W. Townsend, Schuylkill, PA; George Sanderson, Phila,, PA; Henry Palmer, Harrisburg, PA; John A. Wilson, Phila., PA; John Passmore, Pottsville, PA; A. Patzo, Washington, D.C.; Richard Darlington, West Chester, PA; G. Eicholtz, Downingtown, PA; James A. Beaver, Bellfonte, PA.

Folder 54 – Letters to Lydia and Mattie Pennypacker on the death of Nathan. 1886. Includes resolution Co. K, 4th PA Reserves. 35 items.

Folder 55 – Financial papers. 1873 – 1866.  7 items. Judgment Note and Receipt, The Girard Saving Fund and Building Association vs. N. A. Pennypacker and Ann Buckwalter; 1873-1876.  Estate proceeds of Dr. Jacob Pennypacker, 1873; Bond and Warrant to Mrs. L. D. Pennypacker, 1876; Deed Ann Buckwalter to T.Y. de Normandie, 1886; Nathan A. Pennypacker’s Will and Estate Inventory. 7 items. 

Box 3 – Other Manuscripts 1856 -1881; Invitations 1870 -1880.

Folder 56 – Letter to J. Printz from N. A. Pennypacker.  1863. 1 item. Letter to John Printz from Nathan regarding action of Printz in relation to Nathan’s right to vote.

Folder 57 – Correspondence verifying Military Service, 1864.  4 items. Three letters recounting Nathan’s military service during the Civil War in   response to a derogatory article in the Jeffersonian newspaper. One envelope.

Folder 58 – Medical Degree and License. 1856, 1881. 2 items.

Folder 59 – Chess Strategies, Co. K, 4th PA Reserves. 1861-1864. 52 items.

Folder 60 – Music Manuscripts for Baritone and E b Cornet. 2 items.

Folder 61 – Lyceum Lectures and The Gleaner newspaper articles. 1870s. 21 items.

Folder 62 – Lyceum Lectures and The Gleaner newspaper articles. Undated. 22 items.

Folder 63 – Young Men’s Literary Union of Phoenixville. Lecture given on chemistry. Undated. Membership Certificate 1870. 2 items.

Folder 64 – Poems by N.A. Pennypacker 1876; 1874; 1881. 6 items. One entitled “To My Mother,”; “A Valentine to Anna P.W.”; the others to a sister and E. F.Pennypacker.  2 envelopes.

Folder 65 – Poetry by N. A. Pennypacker Undated. 14 items. Includes two copied poems dated 1829.  On reverse items listed for Nathan’s        office.

Folder 66 – Poem to the Pennypackers. Undated. 1 item.

Folder 67 – Invitation to and Correspondence regarding the Pennypacker Family Reunion. 1877. 4 items.

Folder 68 – Invitations to various events. 1879-1880. 11 items and envelopes. Union League Reception for General U. S. Grant, City of Philadelphia Reception for General U.S. Grant, Governor Hoyt’s Dinner Reception, 11th Reunion Society of the Army of the Cumberland, The Armory Fund, American Academy of Music, The Academy of Fine Arts, and the Young Republicans.