Historical Society to Present “Day in the Life” Series on Facebook in 2013

Project to focus on 1863 Civil War Diary of Capt. B. J. Coffin of the 9th NY Cavalry

Members of the 9th NY Cavalry during its 25th Anniversary Reunion in 1886. Capt. Coffin is believed to be the 4th person from the left. (Photo courtesy of County Historian Michelle Henry).

Members of the 9th NY Cavalry during its 25th Anniversary Reunion in 1886. Captain B. J. Coffin is believed to be somewhere in this photo. (Photo courtesy of County Historian Michelle Henry).

Starting the week of Jan. 13, 2013, the Chautauqua County Historical Society will feature diary entries from Capt. Benjamin “B. J.” J. Coffin, a Chautauqua County resident who served in the 9th NY Cavalry – also known as “Stoneman’s Cavalry” (in honor of General George Stoneman) and the “Westfield Cavalry” – during the Civil War. Coffin was Captain of Company E. The diary entries will appear periodically throughout the year on the historical society’s Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/ChautauquaCountyHistory.

Coffin was born in Nantucket, Mass. on July 30, 1821. He came to Chautauqua County as a young adult and worked as a carpenter in Sherman and Westfield. Prior to the war, he served one year as Sherman Town Supervisor (1854). He also left the Chautauqua Region for one year in 1860 to work in the oil regions near Rouseville, Pa. When Civil War broke out in the United States, Coffin returned to New York and enlisted.

The 9th Cavalry Flag, presented by then U.S. Representative R. E. Fenton to the 9th NY Cavalry in 1863 on behalf of the residents of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties.

The 9th Cavalry Flag, presented by then U.S. Representative R. E. Fenton to the 9th NY Cavalry in 1863 on behalf of the residents of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties.

The 9th NY Cavalry was mustered in between Sep. 9 and Dec. 13, 1861. Coffin was 40 years old when he joined the cavalry in Sherman, N.Y. on Sept. 28, 1861. On Oct. 5 of that same year, he was  mustered in as First Lt., Company E. On July 19, 1862, he was promoted to the rank of Captain in command of Sherman Company, which was consolidated with Randolph Company (E) on Nov. 30, 1862. Coffin was mustered out of service with the rank of Captain on Oct. 27, 1864.  The 9th NY was finally mustered out on March 25, 1865.

At the time Coffin’s diary was written, the 9th NY Cavalry served in the in the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, from February to May, 1863 and in the 2d Brigade, 1st Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, from May 1863 until the end of the year. Much of that time was spent in Virginia, although Coffin’s Co. E also spent time in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The 9th NY Cavalry monument at Gettysburg.

The 9th NY Cavalry monument at Gettysburg.

During 1863, the Capt. Coffin and the rest of the 9th NY Cavalry was involved in several key engagements, including the Battle of Chancellorsville, (April and May 1863) Battle of Brandy Station (June 1863), Battle of Gettysburg (July 1863), the second engagement at Brandy Station (August 1863), and the Bristoe Campaign (September and October 1863), where the 9th NY saw some of its most significant number of casualties.

Following the Civil War, Coffin remained in Sherman for the rest of his life. In addition to being a businessman in the community, he again served as Town Supervisor from 1885 to 1891. He died at the age of 85 on Dec. 11, 1906 at his residence in Sherman.

For a more detailed biography of Coffin, we present an entry in the book – Biographical and portrait cyclopedia of Chautauqua County, New York (1891):

BENJAMIN J. COFFIN, a prominent resident of Sherman, who at first became well known as a gallant soldier, and later, through his business abilities, was born at Nantucket, Massachusetts, on July 30, 1821, and is a son of John G. and Rebecca (Joy) Coffin.

Captain John G. Coffin was a member of the Presbyterian church and married Rebecca Joy, who was born October 29, 1798, and is still living (1891), and enjoying good health. They had three children— B.J. Coffin, and two daughters: Keziah J. now lives at Nantucket with her mother on the old homestead; and Mary A., who married George Simpson, now dead, and she, too, is living with her mother.

Benjamin J . Coffin was educated in the common schools of his native town, and as they ranked with the average of their day, the extent of his instruction may be imagined. When he left home he went to New York City and Brooklyn and learned sash and blind making.

In March, 1843, he united in marriage with Elizabeth G. Paddock, a daughter of George Paddock, a Bay State mariner. He was master of a vessel and while at New Orleans was attacked with yellow fever and died. Mr. and Mrs. Coffin have been blessed with two children: John G., who married Adaline Miller, now lives in Westfield, NY, where he owns and operates a sawmill—he has five children: George, Ruth, Elizabeth A., Mary and Lucretia; and Rebecca, now the wife of A. Jerome Peck, a gents’ furnisher and clothing dealer at Sherman, N.Y.—they have a daughter Louise.

Benjamin J. Coffin first worked at carpentering in Sherman and Westfield up to 1860, and then went to the oil regions of Pennsylvania and lived at Rouseville for one year, but in July, 1861, he returned to Sherman and recruited Company E, 9th regiment, New York Cavalry, and they were mustered out of service in October, 1864.

Mr. Coffin was captain of his company for two years and eight months. After leaving the army he returned to the oil regions and engaged as a superintendent for two or three years, and then came back to Sherman, where, soon after, he was elected justice of the peace on the Republican ticket, and he has been re-elected at every election since. This is complimentary to the gentleman’s integrity and personal popularity.

In addition to his office of trust he does a large business in conveyancing and settling up estates, most of that working this community coming to him. He has been supervisor of his town for eight years—first in 1856, and for the last seven years has served consecutively. Benjamin J . Coffin is a member of Sheldon Post, No. 295, G. A. R., and also belongs to the Equitable Aid Union.

Old residents of Sherman, taken about 1903.  Sitting in the foreground is Archibald Dorman, first white child born there.  Enoch Sperry is to his right, and Samuel P. Hall.  Others in the photograph are Benjamin Coffin (to Dorman’s right with chin whiskers); William H. Coville; Mrs. Dewey (Effie Ripley’s mother); Mr. and Mrs. Charles Sheldon; John Bly; Justin Newell; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hart; Mr. Voigt; Thomas Coveney; Mrs. Walker Vincent; John and Jennie Beeman; John Green; and William Robbins. (Image from Paul Gifford via www.rootsweb.ancestry.com)

Old residents of Sherman, taken about 1903. Sitting in the foreground is Archibald Dorman, first white child born there. Enoch Sperry is to his right, and Samuel P. Hall. Others in the photograph are Benjamin Coffin (to Dorman’s right with chin whiskers); William H. Coville; Mrs. Dewey (Effie Ripley’s mother); Mr. and Mrs. Charles Sheldon; John Bly; Justin Newell; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hart; Mr. Voigt; Thomas Coveney; Mrs. Walker Vincent; John and Jennie Beeman; John Green; and William Robbins. (Image from Paul Gifford via www.rootsweb.ancestry.com)

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