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John Summerfield Staples (August 14, 1845 – January 11, 1888) was an American soldier who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He is notable as the paid "stand-in" for President Abraham Lincoln.


Staples was born in 1845 in Stroud Township in rural Monroe County, Pennsylvania. During the Civil War, he enlisted in late 1862 as a private in Company C of the 176th Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, but only served a few months due to illness, likely typhoid fever.

Following his medical discharge, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked with his father as a carpenter. In October 1864, he was approached by a representative of the president. During the Civil War, it became customary for many citizens to pay for "substitutes" to serve in the army in their place. Hoping to set a good example, President Lincoln selected Staples as his substitute and offered him a bounty of $500. Staples saw little action during the year he served as the president's representative, primarily working as a clerk and prison guard. He mustered out in September 1865.

Following the war, Staples returned to Pennsylvania where he died in 1888. He is buried in Stroudsburg Cemetery.

In 1910 a bill appropriating funds to erect a memorial to Summerfield was introduced in the United States House of Representatives[1]. In 1999, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Monroe County Historical Associationa erected a historical marker on West Main Street in Stroudsburg to commemorate John Summerfield Staples and his ties to President Lincoln.

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  1. "Statue of President's Personal Substitute May be Erected""The New York Times", 1910-02-04. Retrieved on 2010-02-04.