Joseph Tarr Copeland

Joseph Tarr Copeland was born at Newcastle, Maine, on May 6, 1813. After graduation from Harvard College, he studied law in the office of Daniel Webster and in the early 1840's moved to Michigan. There he settled in St. Clair; was judge of the county court from 1846 to 1849; and was elected circuit judge in 1851, an office which made him automatically a justice of the supreme court of Michigan. (He is reputed to have built the first sawmill in Bay City, Michigan.) In 1859, Judge Copeland, now retired from the bench, bought an estate near Pontiac, Michigan, where he was living when the war came. In August 1861, he was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, which formed a portion of the forces of General N. P. Banks in the Shenandoah Valley the following spring. In August, 1862, Copeland was commissioned colonel of the 5th Michigan Cavalry and was appointed brigadier general of volunteers to rank from November 29, 1862, and assigned to the command of the Michigan cavalry brigade, with duty in Washington. On the eve of the battle of Gettysburg, Copeland's regiments were taken from him and assigned to General George A. Custer; a week after the battle Copeland was assigned to command the depot for drafted men at Annapolis Junction, Maryland. From then until the end of the war, General Copeland was in charge at Annapolis, at another draft rendezvous at Pittsburgh, and lastly of the post and military prison at Alton, Illinois. He resigned on November 8, 1865. There seems to have been no reflection on Cope-land's integrity or patriotism in his relief from active field service: he was overage for a cavalry commander and with the change of army commanders from Joseph Hooker to George G. Meade, the entire Cavalry Corps was overhauled. After his retirement General Copeland lived on his Pontiac estate, which he operated as a resort hotel until 1878, when he moved to Orange Park, Florida. There he died on May 6, 1893, and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery. Senator Royal S. Copeland (1868-1938) of New York was his nephew.

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Reference:  Generals in Blue.  Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Louisiana State University Press.  Baton Rouge.