Charles Carleton Coffin
The Boston Journal's real Army Correspondent,
Charles Carleton Coffin. Born in 1823 and raised upon a New Hampshire farm,
Charles Coffin's formal education was limited to the local district school,
the academy on the Plain, and one term at Blanchard academy in Pembroke,
supplemented by extensive reading and self-tutoring. During the winter of
1842, he took up the study of land surveying and the rudiments of civil
engineering. In 1845, he joined the engineer corps making the preliminary
surveys of the Northern Railroad and was later employed in its construction
the following year. He then conducted the preliminary surveys of the
Concord & Portsmouth and later the Concord & Claremont roads.
On February 18, 1846, he married Miss Sallie Russell Farmer. Charles Coffin
bought a farm of his own in 1848, but soon found that failing health was an
obstacle to any success and he abandoned it. He returned to his previous
career as a civil engineer and in the fall of 1849 constructed the
telegraphic time line between Harvard's Astronomical observatory and Boston'
s main railway station. In 1851, he was in charge of the construction of
Boston's first telegraphic fire alarm and sent out the first signal over the
system on April 29, 1852.
Having previously written for several New Hampshire newspapers and journals,
he began contributing articles to Boston newspapers in 1851. From 1855 to
1860, he held several positions with the Boston newspapers "Journal,"
"Atlas," and "Traveller." During the last year before the war, Mr. Coffin
served as a reporter for the Boston Journal, traveling to Canada to cover
the visit of Britain's Prince of Wales - the future King Edward VII. Mr.
Coffin attended both the Democratic and Republican Party conventions
choosing candidates for the 1860 election. Thus he was able to accompany
the Republican Party Convention delegation that traveled to Springfield,
Illinois to inform Abraham Lincoln that he had won the party's nomination.
He spent the last winter before the war, 1860-1861, as the Journal's Night
Editor, preparing much of its reporting on the election won by Abraham
With the beginning of the war, Charles Coffin became Army Correspondent for
the "Journal," writing under the pen-name of "Carleton," and served in that
capacity throughout the war. He was present at the first battle of Bull
Run, reaching Washington during the night and sending a full account of the
action on the following morning. That fall, he joined the Army of the West,
reporting on the fall of Fort Henry. He was at the surrender of Fort
Donelson, and reported on the Army of the West from Pittsburg Landing to
Corinth, the operations at Island No. 10, New Madrid, Fort Pillow, and the
battle of the gunboats at Memphis, viewing it from the deck of one of
Admiral Davis's vessels.
Returning to the East, he reported upon the battles of Antietam and
Fredericksburg. He then visited the Department of the South, witnessing the
attack and repulse at Fort Sumter and the failure at Fort McAllister.
During the Gettysburg campaign, Mr. Coffin rode between 250-300 miles in the
saddle and another 900 miles by railway, and was on the battlefield three
days and nights, producing one of the earliest and most authoritative
accounts of that battle. In 1864, when Gen. Sherman reached the sea, Mr.
Coffin again went south and was the first to report that the flag of the
Union was once more floating over Fort Sumter. During Grant's 1864
campaign, Charles Coffin witnessed every engagement from the Wilderness to
Petersburg, nearly all of the battles around Petersburg and Richmond, and
was one of the first Northern journalists to enter the fallen Confederate
capital upon its occupation by Union troops.