John Summerfield Staples and Abraham Lincoln

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

The Civil War affected the citizens of Monroe County as it did the nation. Men left their homes, families, and jobs to serve in the Union Army. Joining his fellow citizens, John Summerfield Staples fought in the Civil War – and became a celebrity.

John Summerfield Staples was born in Stroud Township on August 14, 1845. When the Civil War began, Staples enlisted in the 176th Company of the Pennsylvania Infantry. Actually, Staples enlisted on November 3, 1862 as a substitute soldier for Robert Barry. It was not uncommon in those days for a man to fight in another’s place. Staples served only a few months, for he suffered with a lingering fever (most likely typhoid), and he was medically discharged on May 5, 1863. Staples returned home to Stroudsburg for a long recovery, and in 1864, he traveled to Washington D.C. to work as a carpenter with his father.

While working in D.C., Staples and his father were approached by Noble D. Larner. Larner was the president of the 3rd Ward Draft Club and had an order to find a substitute to fight in the Civil War for President Abraham Lincoln. Larner brought Staples to the White House where President Lincoln met with him on October 1, 1864. Lincoln paid Staples $500 to serve as his “representative recruit.” Staples saw little action during his year served on behalf of the president. He was stationed in Alexandria, Va., and worked as a clerk for the provost general and as a prison guard. John Summerfield Staples was mustered out on September 12, 1865.

Staples returned to Monroe County with little fanfare. There were no newspaper articles or celebrations for this local man who had served for President Lincoln. It was not until Staples’ death in 1888, that Stroudsburg and all of Monroe County recognized Staples and his service to the United States. He is buried in Stroudsburg Cemetery.

John Summerfield Staples’ headstone reads:

J. Summerfield Staples
A Private of
Co.C. 176 Reg. PV
Also a member of the
2 Reg D.C. Vols as a
Substitute for
Abraham Lincoln
Jan. 11, 1888
Aged 43 Yrs 4 Mos &
27 Days

The original headstone for John Summerfield Staples from the Stroudsburg Cemeter, is now located in the basement of the Stroud Mansion. Because the writing was so worn, the headstone had to be replaced. In 1999, a historical marker was erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Monroe County Historical Association on West Main Street in Stroudsburg to commemorate John Summerfield Staples and his ties to President Abraham Lincoln.

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