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John Sword diary

Ms. Coll. 1103

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Sword, John, 1845-1911
John Sword diary
Date [inclusive]:
Call Number:
Ms. Coll. 1103
1 volume
A diary kept by John Sword of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania spanning the years 1860 to 1862. The diary details Sword's participation in a local militia, his education, and family.
Cite as:
John Sword Diary, 1860-1862, Ms. Coll. 1103, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
PDF Version:

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Sword was born in China to a prominent trade merchant and supercargo John Dorsey Sword (1805-1850) and Mary Parry (1812-1845). John Sword had three siblings, Eleanor Walsh (1838-1918), Sophia (b. 1844), and James Brade (1839-1915). In the 1860s Sword served in the Pennsylvania Zouave Cadet Corps from its inception as the Atlantic Guards. He attended Central High School in Philadelphia and then studied bookeeping at Critteden's Philadelphia Commercial College. In 1877 Sword was ordained a minister to the Episcopalian Church by Bishop Potter at New York in 1877. Sword served as rector to several churches in the United States.

Scope and Contents

A ruled notebook containing a diary kept by John Sword from age fifteen to seventeen, spanning the years 1860 to 1862. On the cover are the initials A. G. in black ink referring to the Atlantic Guards, later named the Pennsylvania Zouave Cadet Corps. This military group with eight original members formed on April 26, 1860. Sword wrote a complete list of members. There are detailed descriptions written about each meeting of the Atlantic Guards by date and occasionally by drill number. On September 9, 1860 Sword noted the name of the company was changed to the Pennsylvania Cadets Corps and included a description of the gray and crimson uniform. Sword wrote about drills, arguments among members, and the election and promotion of members. In October 1861 the group became known as the Pennsylvania Zouave Cadet Corps, Company B and a regulation added that no member was to be under sixteen or 5' 3" in height. Sword wrote of the corps' march from Philadelphia to Valley Forge. He also recorded in his journal all the regulations of the Zouaves. The last entry regarding the corps appeared in December 1861. The journal begins again from the back cover on 8 September 1862. In this portion of the diary Sword discussed his education, family, friends, books he is read, religion, and his thoughts. He wrote excitedly about his self-guided education and exploration of philosophy at the Mercantile Library in Philadelphia. Sword wrote of his sisters Sophy and Ellen, his brother Jim, who became a prominent painter; and his friends Chester Farr and Laura Pierce. In September 1862 Sword noted he was recruiting a military company. He enlisted as a private in the Keystone Artillery and traveled to Harrisburg by train. He described the city of Harrisburg as "mean, low and dirty." Upon returning to Philadelphia Sword mentioned the Civil War noting that the rebels occupy Chambersburg. This is last entry about militia or war. In 1862 Sword wrote of his desire to study the sciences noting his Uncle Rowly was dissatisfied by this notion. He was disciplined in his studies and divided his days into a schedule that included German, philosophy, literature, and history. Sundays had a different routine. Sword would go to church and study the bible, one of his favorite books to read. There are several quotations in the volume including Shakespeare and Longfellow. In this portion of the diary at the top left-hand corner of most pages Sword noted his age by year and month. Some leaves in volume have been torn or cut out.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,  November 2015

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Donna Brandolisio

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Source of Acquisition

Sold by Michael Laird Rare Books (Lockhart, Texas), 2015.

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Controlled Access Headings

  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts, American--19th century
Geographic Name(s)
  • Pennsylvania. Militia. Pennsylvania Zouve Cadets. Company B.
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social life and customs--19th century
  • American diaries--19th century--Specimens
  • American diaries--Male authors--19th century

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Collection Inventory


John Sword diary, 1860-1862. 1 volume.