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Charles Carleton Coffin 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

War Correspondent, Traveller, 
Author, and Statesman 


William Elliot Griffis, D. D. 

Author of " Matthew Calbraith Perry," " Sir 

William Johnson," and " Townsend 

Harris, First American 

Envoy to Japan." 


Estes and Lauriat 



Copyright, 1898 

Colonial Press . 
Electrotyped and Printed by 
C. II. Simonds &> Co. 
Boston, U. S. A 

Dedicated to 

The Generation of Young People whom 

Helped to Educate for American Citizenship. 


AMONG the million or more readers of " Carle- 
ton s " books, are some who will enjoy knowing 
about him as boy and man. Between condensed 
autobiography and biography, we have here, let us 
hope, a binocular, which will yield to the eye a 
stereoscopic picture, having the solidity and relief 
of ordinary vision. 

Two facts may make one preface. Mrs. Coffin 
requested me, in a letter dated May 10, 1896, to 
outline the life and work of her late husband. u Be 
cause," said she, " you write in a condensed way 
that would please Mr. Coffin, and because you could 
see into Mr. Coffin s motives of life." 

With such leisure and ability as one in the active 
pastorate, who preaches steadily to " town and gown" 
in a university town, could command, I have cut a 
cameo rather than chiselled a bust or statue. Many 
good friends, especially Dr. Edmund Carleton and 
Rev. H. A. Bridgman, have helped me. To them 
I herewith return warm thanks. 

w. E. G. 

ITHACA, N. Y., May 24, 1898. 



I. Introductory Chapter . . . .13 

II. Of Revolutionary Sires . . .19 

III. The Days of Homespun 30 

IV. Politics, Travel, and Business . . 41 
V. Electricity and Journalism . . 5 5 

VI. The Republican Party and Abraham Lin 
coln ...... 66 

VII. The War Correspondent ... 79 

VIII. With the Army of the Potomac . . 95 

IX. Ho, for the Gunboats, Ho ! . .107 

X. At Antietam and Fredericksburg . . 119 

XI. The Ironclads off Charleston . .132 

XII. Gettysburg : High Tide and Ebb . . 141 

XIII. The Battles in the Wilderness . .151 

XIV. Camp Life and News-gathering . .162 
XV. " The Old Flag Waves over Sumter " . 175 

XVI. With Lincoln in Richmond . . . 183 

XVII. The Glories of Europe . . .189 

XVIII. Through Oriental Lands . . . 204 

XIX. In China and Japan . . . .215 

XX. The Great Northwest . . 229 




The Writer of History 

. 238 


Music and Poetry 

. 256 


Shawmut Church 

. 268 


The Free Churchman . 

. 284 


Citizen, Statesman, and Reformer , 

. 294 


A Saviour of Human Life 

. 308 


Life s Evening Glow . 

. 321 


The Home at Alwington 



The Golden Wedding 


Charles Carleton Coffin 



V^_>i a face that helped one to believe in God. 
His whole life was an evidence of Christian 
ity. His was a genial, sunny soul that cheered 
you. He was an originator and an organizer 
of happiness. He had no ambition to be rich. 
His investments were in giving others a start 
and helping them to win success and joy. He 
was a soldier of the pen and a knight of truth. 
He began the good warfare in boyhood. He 
laid down armor and weapons only on the day 
that he changed his world. His was a long 
and beautiful life, worth both the living and 
the telling. He loved both fact and truth so 
well that one need write only realities about 
him. He cared little for flattery, so we shall 


*iy* : "" Chile s* Carleton Coffin 

not flatter him. His own works praise him in 
the gates. 

He had blue eyes that often twinkled with 
fun, for Mr. Coffin loved a joke. He was 
fond to his last day of wit, and could make 
quick repartee. None enjoyed American hu 
mor more than he. He pitied the person who 
could not see a joke until it was made into 
a diagram, with annotations. In spirit, he was 
a boy even after three score and ten. The 
young folks " lived in that mild and magnifi 
cent eye." Out of it came sympathy, kind 
ness, helpfulness. We have seen those eyes 
flash with indignation. Scorn of wrong snapped 
in them. Before hypocrisy or oppression his 
glances were as mimic lightning. 

We loved to hear that voice. If one that 
is low is " an excellent thing in woman," one 
that is rich and deep is becoming to a man. 
Mr. Coffin s tones were sweet to the ear, per 
suasive, inspiring. His voice moved men, his 
acts more. 

His was a manly form. Broad-footed and 
full-boned, he stood nearly six feet high. He 
was alert, dignified, easily accessible, and re 
sponsive even to children. With him, acquaint- 


anceship was quickly made, and friendship long 

preserved. Those who knew Charles Carleton 
Coffin respected, honored, loved him. His 
memory, in the perspective of time, is as our 
remembrance of his native New Hampshire 
hills, rugged, sublime, tonic in atmosphere, 
seat of perpetual beauty. So was he, a moral 
invigorant, the stimulator to noble action, the 
centre of spiritual charm. 

Who was he, and what did he do that he 
should have his life-story told? 

First of all, he was the noblest work of God, 
an honest man. Nothing higher than this. 
The New Hampshire country boy rose to one 
of the high places in the fourth estate. He 
became editor of one of Boston s leading daily 
newspapers. On the battle-field he saw the 
movements of the mightiest armies and navies 
ever gathered for combat. As a white lily 
among war correspondents, he was ever trusted. 
He not only informed, but he kept in cheer 
all New England during four years of strain. 
With his pen he made himself a master of 
English style. He was a poet, a musician, 
a traveller, a statesman, and, best of all and 
always, a Christian. He travelled around the 

l6 v * ttiarlfes^ Carleton Coffin 

globe, and then told the world s story of liberty 
and of the war that crushed slavery and state 
sovereignty and consolidated the Union. With 
his books he has educated a generation of Amer 
ican boys and girls in patriotism. He died 
without entering into old age, for he was al 
ways ready to entertain a new idea. Let us 
glance at his name and inheritance. He was 
well named, and ever appreciated his heritage. 
In his Christian, middle, and family name, is 
a suggestion. In each lies a story. 

"Charles," as we say, is the Norman form of 
the old Teutonic Carl, meaning strong, valiant, 
commanding. The Hungarians named a king 

" Carleton " is the ton or town of Carl or 

"Coffin" in old English meant a cask, chest, 
casket, box of any kind. 

The Latin Cophinum was usually a basket. 
When Wickliffe translated the Gospel, he ren 
dered the verse at Matt. xiv. 20, " They 
took up of that which remained over of the 
broken pieces, twelve coffins full." 

The name as a family name is still found in 
England, but all the Coffins in America are 

Introduction 17 

descended from Tristram Coffin, who sailed 
from Plymouth, England, in 1642, and in 
1660 settled in Nantucket. The most an 
cient seat of the name and family of the 
Coffins in England is Portledge, in the par 
ish of Alwington. To his house, and last 
earthly home, in Brookline, Mass., built under 
his own eye, and in which Charles Carleton 
Coffin died, he gave the name of Alwington. 

" Carleton s " grandfather, Peter Coffin, 
married Rebecca Hazeltine, of Chester, N. H., 
whose ancestors had come from England to 
Salem, Mass., in 1637, and settled at Bradford. 
Carleton has told something of his ancestry 
and kin in his "History of Boscawen." In his 
later years, in the eighties of this century, at 
the repeated and urgent request of his wife, 
Carleton wrote out, or, rather, jotted down, 
some notes for the story of the earlier portion 
of his life. He was to have written a volume 
had his wife succeeded, after due persever 
ance, in overcoming his modesty entitled 
" Recollections of Seventy Years." To this, 
we, also, that is, the biographer and others, 
often urged him. It was not to be. 

Excepting, then, these hastily jotted notes, 

1 8 Charles Carleton Coffin 

Mr. Coffin never indicated, gave directions, or 
prepared materials for his biography. To the 
story of his life, as gathered from his own 
rough notes, intended for after-reference and 
elaboration, let us at once proceed, without 
further introduction. 



THE Coffins of America are descended 
from Tristram Coffin of England and 
Nantucket. Charles Carleton Coffin was born 
of Revolutionary sires. He first saw light in 
the southwest corner room of a house which 
stood on Water Street, in Boscawen, N. H., 
which his grandfather, Captain Peter Coffin, 
had built in 1766. 

This ancestor, "an energetic, plucky, good- 
natured, genial man," married Rebecca Hazel- 
tine, of Chester, N. H. When the frame of 
the house was up and the corner room par 
titioned off, the bride and groom began house 
keeping. Her wedding outfit was a feather 
bed, a frying-pan, a dinner-pot, and some 
wooden and pewter plates. She was just the 
kind of a woman to be the mother of patriots 
and to make the Revolution a success. The 
couple had been married nine years, when the 


2O Charles Carleton Coffin 

news of the marching of the British upon 
Lexington reached Boscawen, on the afternoon 
of the 2oth of April, 1775. Captain Coffin 
mounted his horse and rode to Exeter, to take 
part in the Provincial Assembly, which gath 
ered the next day. Two years later, he served 
in the campaign against Burgoyne. When the 
militia was called to march to Bennington, in 
July, 1777, one soldier could not go because 
he had no shirt. Mrs, Coffin had a web of 
tow cloth in the loom. She at once cut out 
the woven part, sat up all night, and made the 
required garment, so that he could take his 
place in the ranks the next morning. One 
month after the making of this shirt, the father 
of Charles Carleton Coffin was born, July 15. 

When the news of Stark s victory at Ben 
nington came, the call was for every able- 
bodied man to turn out, in order to defeat 
Burgoyne. Every well man went, including 
Carleton s two grandfathers, Captain Peter 
Coffin, who had been out in June, though 
not in Stark s command, and Eliphalet Kil- 
born. The women and children were left to 
gather in the crops. The wheat was ripe for 
the sickle, but there was not a man or boy to 

Of Revolutionary Sires 21 

cut it. With her baby, one month old, in her 
arms, Mrs. Peter Coffin mounted the horse, 
leaving her other children in care of the oldest, 
who was but seven years old. The heroine 
made her way six miles through the woods, 
fording Black Water River to the log cabin 
of Enoch Little, on Little Hill, in the present 
town of Webster. Here were several sons, 
but the two eldest had gone to Bennington. 
Enoch, Jr., fourteen years old, could be spared 
to reap the ripened grain, but he was without 
shoes, coat, or hat, and his trousers of tow 
cloth were out at the knee. 

" Enoch can go and help you, but he has no 
coat," said Mrs. Little. 

" I can make him a coat," said Mrs. Coffin. 

The boy sprang on the horse behind the 
heroic woman, who, between the baby and the 
boy, rode upon the horse back to the farm. 
Enoch took the sickle and went to the wheat 
field, while Mrs. Coffin made him a coat. She 
had no cloth, but taking a meal-bag, she cut 
a hole in the bottom for his head, and two 
other holes for his arms. Then cutting off 
the legs of a pair of her stockings, she sewed 
them on for sleeves, thus completing the gar- 

22 Charles Carleton Coffin 

ment. Going into the wheat field, she laid her 
baby, the father of Charles Carleton Coffin, in 
the shade of a tree, and bound up the cut grain 
into sheaves. 

In 1789, when the youngest child of this 
Revolutionary heroine was four months old, she 
was left a widow, with five children. Three 
were daughters, the eldest being sixteen ; and 
two were sons, the elder being twelve. With 
rigid economy, thrift, and hard work, she reared 
her family. In working out the road tax she 
was allowed four pence halfpenny for every cart 
load of stones dumped into miry places on the 
highway. She helped the boys fill the cart with 
stones. While the boy who became Carleton s 
father managed the steers, hauled and dumped 
the load, she went on with her knitting. 

Of such a daughter of the Revolution and of 
a Revolutionary sire was Carleton s father born. 
When he grew to manhood he was " tall in 
stature, kind-hearted, genial, public-spirited, 
benevolent, ever ready to relieve suffering 
and to help on every good cause. He was 
an intense lover of liberty and was always true 
to his convictions." He fell in love with 
Hannah, the daughter of Deacon Eliphalet 

Of Revolutionary Sires 23 

Kilborn, of Boscawen, and the couple lived in 
the old house built by his father. There, after 
other children had been born, Charles Carleton 
Coffin, her youngest child, entered this world 
at 9 A. M., July 26, 1823. From this time 
forward, the mother never had a well day. 
After ten years of ill health and suffering, she 
died from too much calomel and from slow 
starvation, being able to take but little food 
on account of canker in her mouth and throat. 
Carleton, her pet, was very much with her 
during his child-life, so that his recollections of 
his mother were ever very clear, very tender, 
and profoundly influential for good. 

The first event whose isolation grew defined 
in the mind of " the baby new to earth and 
sky," was an incident of 1825, when he was 
twenty-three months old. His maternal grand 
father had shot a hawk, breaking its wing, and 
bringing it to the house alive. The boy baby 
standing in the doorway, all the family being 
in the yard, always remembered looking at 
what he called "a hen with a crooked bill." 
Carleton s recollection of the freshet of August, 
1826, when the great slide occurred at the 
White Mountains, causing the death of the 

24 Charles Carleton Coffin 

Willey family, was more detailed. This event 
has been thrillingly described by Thomas Starr 
King. The irrepressible small boy wanted to 
" go to meeting " on Sunday. Being told that 
he could not, he cried himself to sleep. When 
he awoke he mounted his "horse," a broom 
stick, and cantered up the road for a half mile. 
Captured by a lady, he resisted vigorously, 
while she pointed to the waters running in 
white streams down the hills through the 
flooded meadows and telling him he would 
be drowned. 

Meanwhile the hired man at home was 
poling the well under the sweep and " the 
old oaken bucket," thinking the little fellow 
might have leaned over the curb and tumbled 
in. Shortly afterwards he came near disappear 
ing altogether from this world by tumbling 
into the water-trough, being fished out by his 
sistef Mary. 

In the old kitchen, a pair of deer s horns 
fastened into the wall held the long-barrelled 
musket which his grandfather had carried 
in the campaign of 1777. A round beaver 
hat, bullet, button, and spoon moulds, and 
home-made pewter spoons and buttons, were 

Of Revolutionary Sires 

among other things which impressed them 
selves upon the sensitive films of the child s 

Following out the usual small boy s instinct 
of destruction, he once sallied out down to 
the "karsey" (causeway) to spear frogs with a 
weapon made by his brother. It was a sharp 
ened nail in the end of a broomstick. Stepping 
on a log and making a stab at a "pull paddock," 
he slipped and fell head foremost into the mud 
and slime. Scrambling out, he hied homeward, 
and entering the parlor, filled with company, 
he was greeted with shouts of laughter. Even 
worse was it to be dubbed by his brother and 
the hired man a " mud lark." 

Carleton s first and greatest teachers were 
his mother and father. After these, came 
formal instruction by means of letters and 
books, classes and schools. Carleton s relig 
ious and dogmatic education began with the 
New England Primer, and progressed with 
the hymns of that famous Congregationalist, 
Doctor Watts. When five years old, at the 
foot of a long line of boys and girls, he toed 
the mark, a crack in the kitchen floor, - 
and recited verses from the Bible. Sunday- 

26 Charles Carleton Coffin 

school instruction was then in its beginning 
at Boscawen. The first hymn he learned 
was : 

" Life is the time to serve the Lord." 

After mastering 

" In Adam s fall 
We sinned all," 

the infantile ganglions got tangled up be 
tween the " sleigh " in the carriage-house, and 
the act of pussy in mauling the poor little 
mouse, unmentioned, but of importance, in 
the couplet : 

" The cat doth play, 
And after slay." 

Having heard of and seen the sleigh before 
learning the synonym for " kill," the little 
New Hampshire boy was as much bothered 
as a Chinese child who first hears one sound 
which has many meanings, and only gradually 
clears up the mystery as the ideographs are 

From the very first, the boy had an ear 
sensitive to music. The playing of Knoch 
Little, his first school-teacher, and afterwards 
his brother-in-law, upon the bass viol, was 

Of Revolutionary Sires 27 

very sweet. Napoleon was never prouder of 
his victories at Austerlitz than was little 
Carleton of his first reward of merit. This 
was a bit of white paper two inches square, 
bordered with yellow from the paint-box of 
a beautiful young lady who had written in 
the middle, " To a good little boy." 

The first social event of importance was the 
marriage of his sister Apphia to Enoch Little, 
Nov. 29, 1829, when a room-full of cousins, 
uncles, and aunts gathered together. After a 
chapter read from the Bible, and a long ad 
dress by the clergyman, the marital ceremony 
was performed, followed by a hymn read and 
sung, and a prayer. Although this healthy 
small boy, Carleton, had been given a big 
slice of wedding cake with white frosting on 
the top, he felt himself injured, and was hotly 
jealous of his brother Enoch, who had secured 
a slice with a big red sugar strawberry on the 
frosting. After eating voraciously, he hid the 
remainder of his cake in the mortise of a beam 
beside the back chamber stairs. On visiting 
it next morning for secret indulgence, he 
found that the rats had enjoyed the wed 
ding feast, too. Nothing was left. His first 

28 Charles Carleton Coffin 

toy watch was to him an event of vast sig 
nificance, and he slept with it under his pil 
low. When also he had donned his first pair 
of trousers, he strutted like a turkey cock and 
said, " I look just like a grand sir." Children 
in those days often spoke of men advanced in 
years as " grand sirs." 

The boy was ten years old when President 
Andrew Jackson visited Concord. Everybody 
went to see " Old Hickory." In the yellow- 
bottomed chaise, paterfamilias Coffin took his 
boy Carleton and his daughter Elvira, the 
former having four pence ha penny to spend. 
Federal currency was not plentiful in those 
days, and the people still used the old nomen 
clature, of pounds, shillings, and pence, which 
was Teutonic even before it was English or 
American. Rejoicing in his orange, his stick 
of candy, and his supply of seed cakes, young 
Carleton, from the window of the old North 
Meeting House, saw the military parade and 
the hero of New Orleans. With thin features 
and white hair, Jackson sat superbly on a white 
horse, bowing right and left to the multitude. 
Martin Van Buren was one of the party. 

Another event, long to be remembered by a 

Of Revolutionary Sires 29 

child who had never before been out late at 
night, was when, with a party of boys seven or 
eight in number, he went a-spearing on Great 
Pond. In the calm darkness they walked 
around the pond down the brook to the falls. 
With a bright jack-light, made of pitch-pine- 
knots, everything seemed strange and exciting 
to the boy who was making his first acquain 
tance of the wilderness world by night. His 
brother Enoch speared an eel that weighed 
four pounds, and a pickerel of the same weight. 
The party did not get home till 2 A. M., but 
the expedition was a glorious one and long 
talked over. The only sad feature in this rich 
experience was in his mother s worrying while 
her youngest child was away. 

This was in April. On the 2oth of August, 
just after sunset, in the calm summer night, 
little Carleton looked into his mother s eyes 
for the last time, and saw the heaving breast 
gradually become still. It was the first great 
sorrow of his life. 



/^ARLETON S memories of school-days 
\^J( have little perhaps that is uncommon. 
He remembers the typical struggle between 
the teacher and the big boy who, despite resist 
ance, was soundly thrashed. Those were the 
days of physical rather than moral argument, 
of punishment before judicial inquiry. Once 
young Carleton had marked his face with a 
pencil, making the scholars laugh. Called up 
by the man behind the desk, and asked whether 
he had done it purposely, the frightened boy, 
not knowing what to say, answered first yes, 
and then no. " Don t tell a lie, sir," roared 
the master, and down came the blows upon 
the boy s hands, while up came the sense of 
injustice and the longing for revenge. The 
boy took his seat with tingling palms and a 
heart hot with the sense of wrong, but no tears 


The Days of Homespun 31 

It was his father s rule that if the children 
were punished at school, they should have the 
punishment repeated at home. This was the 
sentiment of the time and the method of dis 
cipline believed to be best for moulding boys 
and girls into law-abiding citizens. In the 
evening, tender-hearted and with pain in his 
soul, but fearing to relax and let down the bars 
to admit a herd of evils, the father doomed 
his son to stay at home, ordering as a punish 
ment the reading of the narrative of Ananias 
and Sapphira. 

From that hour throughout his life Carleton 
hated this particular, scripture. He had told 
no lie, he did not know what he had said, yet 
he was old enough to feel the injustice of the 
punishment. It rankled in memory for years. 
Temporarily he hated the teacher and the 
Bible, and the episode diminished for awhile 
his respect for law and order. 

The next ten years of Carleton s life may be 
told in his own words, as follows : 

"The year of 1830 may be taken as a gen 
eral date for a new order of social life. The 
years prior to that date were the days of home 
spun. I remember the loom in the garret, the 

32 Charles Carleton Coffin 

great and small spinning-wheels, the warping 
bars, quill wheel, reels, swifts, and other rude 
mechanisms for spinning and weaving. My 
eldest sister learned to spin and weave. My 
second sister Mary and sister Elvira both could 
spin on the large wheel, but did not learn to 
weave. I myself learned to twist yarn on the 
large wheel, and was set to winding it into balls. 

" The linen and the tow cloths were bleached 
on the grass in the orchard, and it was my busi 
ness to keep it sprinkled during the hot days, 
to take it in at night and on rainy days, to pre 
vent mildew. In those days a girl began to 
prepare for marriage as soon as she could use 
a needle, stitching bits of calico together for 
quilts. She must spin and weave her* own 
sheets and pillow-cases and blankets. 

"All of my clothes, up to the age of fourteen, 
were homespun. My first c boughten jacket 
was an olive green broadcloth, a remnant 
which was bought cheap because it was a rem 
nant. I wore it at an evening party given by 
my school-mate. We were twenty or more 
boys and girls, and I was regarded by my 
mates with jealousy. I was an aristocrat, all 
because I wore broadcloth. 

The Days of Homespun 33 

"It was the period of open fireplaces. 
Stoves were just being introduced. We could 
play blind man s buff in the old kitchen with 
great zest without running over stoves. 

" It was the period of brown bread, apple 
and milk, boiled dinners, pumpkin pies. We 
had very little cake. Pork and beans and 
Indian pudding were standard dishes, only 
the pudding was eaten first. My father had 
always been accustomed to that order. His 
second marriage was in 1835, anc ^ m 7 step 
mother, or rather my sister Mary, who was 
teaching school in Concord and had learned 
the new way, brought about the change in the 
order of serving the food. 

"Prior to 1830 there was no stove in the 
meeting-house, and the introduction of the 
first stove brought about a deal of trouble. 
One man objected, the air stifled him. It was 
therefore voted that on one Sunday in each 
month there should be no fire. 

"It was a bitter experience, riding two 
and one-half miles to meeting, sitting through 
the long service with the mercury at zero. 
Only we did not know how cold it was, not 
having a thermometer. My father purchased 

34 Charles Carleton Coffin 

one about 1838. I think there was one earlier 
in the town. 

" The Sunday noons were spent around 
the fireplaces. The old men smoked their 

"In 1835, religious meetings were held in 
all the school districts, usually in the kitchens 
of the farmhouses. There \vas a deep religious 
interest. Protracted meetings, held three days 
in succession, were frequently attended by all 
the ministers of surrounding towns. I became 
impressed with a sense of my condition as a 
sinner, and resolved to become a Christian. I 
united with the church the first Sunday in 
May, 1835, in my twelfth year. I knew very 
little about the spiritual life, but I have no 
doubt that I have been saved from many 
temptations by the course then pursued. The 
thought that I was a member of the church 
was ever a restraint in temptation." 

The anti-slavery agitation reached Boscawen 
in 1835, and Carleton s father became an ar 
dent friend of the slaves. In the Webster 
meeting-house the boy attended a gathering 
at which a theological student gave an address, 
using an illustration in the peroration which 

The Days of Homespun 35 

made a lasting impression upon the youthful 
mind. At a country barn-raising, the frame 
was partly up, but the strength of the raisers 
was gone. " It won t go, it won t go," was 
the cry. An old man who was making pins 
threw down his axe, and shouted, " It will go," 
and put his shoulder to a post, and it did 
go. So would it be with anti-slavery. 

The boy Carleton became an ardent aboli 
tionist from this time forth. He read the 
Liberator^ Herald of Freedom^ Emancipator , and 
all the anti-slavery tracts and pamphlets which 
he could get hold of. In his bedroom, he had 
hanging on the wall the picture of a negro in 
chains. The last thing he saw at night, and 
the first that met his eyes in the morning, 
was this picture, with the words, " Am I not 
a man and a brother ? " 

With their usual conservatism, the churches 
generally were hostile to the movement and 
methods of the anti-slavery agitation. There 
was an intense prejudice against the blacks. 
The only negro in town was a servant girl, 
who used to sit solitary and alone in the col 
ored people s pew in the gallery. When three 
families of black folks moved into a deserted 

36 Charles Carleton Coffin 

house in Boscawen, near Beaver Dam Brook, 
and their children made their appearance in 
Corser Hill school, a great commotion at once 
ensued in the town. After the Sunday evening 
prayer-meeting, which was for " the conver 
sion of the world," it was agreed by the 
legal voters that " if the niggers persisted 
in attending school," it should be discontinued. 
Accordingly the children left the Corser Hill 
school, and went into what was, " religiously 
speaking," a heathen district, where, however, 
the prejudice against black people was not 
so strong, and there were received into the 

Thereupon, out of pure devotion to prin 
ciple, Carleton s father protested against the 
action of the Corser Hill people, and, to show 
his sympathy, gave employment to the negroes 
even when he did not need their services. So 
ciety was against the Africans, and they needed 
help. They were not particularly nice in their 
ways, nor were they likely to improve while all 
the world was against them. Mr. Coffin s idea 
was to improve them. 

About this time Whittier s poems, especially 
those depicting slave life, had a great influence 

The Days of Homespun 37 

upon young Carleton. Learning the poems, he 
declaimed them in schools and lyceums. The 
first week in June, which was not only election 
time, but also anniversary week in Concord, 
with no end of meetings, was mightily enjoyed 
by the future war correspondent. He attended 
them, and listened to Garrison, Thompson, 
Weld, Stanton, Abby K. Foster, and other 
agitators. The disruption of the anti-slavery 
societies, and the violence of the churches, 
were matters of great grief to Carleton s father, 
who began early to vote for James G. Birney. 
He would not vote for Henry Clay. When 
Carleton s uncle, B. T. Kimball, and his three 
sons undertook to sustain the anti-slavery agi 
tator, and also interrupter of church services, 
in the meeting-house on Corser Hill, on Sunday 
afternoon, the obnoxious orator was removed 
by force at the order of the justice of the 
peace. In the disciplinary measures inaugu 
rated by the church, Mr. Kimball and his 
three sons and daughters were excommuni 
cated. This proved an unhappy affair, re 
sulting in great bitterness and dissension. 

Carleton thus tells his own story of amateur 
soldiering : 

3 8 Charles Carleton Coffin 

" Those were the days of military trainings. 
In September, 1836, came the mustering of the 
2 ist Regiment, New Hampshire militia. My 
brother Frederic was captain of the light in 
fantry. I played first the triangle and then 
the drum in his company. I knew all the 
evolutions laid down in the book. The boys 
of Boscawen formed a company and elected 
me captain. I was thirteen years old, tull of 
military ardor. I drilled them in a few evolu 
tions till they could execute them as well as 
the best soldiers of the adult companies. We 
wore white frocks trimmed with red braid and 
three-cornered pasteboard caps with a bronzed 
eagle on the front. Muster was on Corser 
Hill. One of the boys could squeak out a 
tune on the fife. One boy played the bass 
drum, and another the small drum. 

" We had a great surprise. The Bellows 
Falls Band, from Walpole, New Hampshire, 
was travelling to play at musters, and as none 
of the adult companies hired them, they of 
fered their services to us free. 

" My company paraded in rear of the meet 
ing-house. My brother, with the light infantry, 
was the first company at drill. He had two 

The Days of Homespun 39 

fifes and drums. Nearly all the companies 
were parading, but the regimental line had 
not been formed when we made our appear 
ance. What a commotion ! It was a splen 
did band of about fifteen members, two 
trombones, cornets, bugles, clarionets, fife. 
No other company had more than fifes or 
clarionets. It was a grand crash which the band 
gave. The next moment the people were as 
tonished to see a company of boys marching 
proudly upon the green, up and down, 
changing front, marching by files, in echelon, 
by platoons. 

" We took our place in line on the field, were 
inspected, reviewed, and complimented by Maj.- 
Gen. Anthony Colby, afterwards governor of 
the State. 

" When I gave the salute, the crowd ap 
plauded. It was the great day of all others in 
my boyhood. Several of the farmers gave us 
a grand dinner. In the afternoon we took 
part in the sham fight with our little cannon, 
and covered ourselves with glory against 
the big artillery. 

" I think that I manifested good common 
sense when, at the close of the day, I com- 

4O Charles Carleton Coffin 

plimented the soldiers on their behavior, and 
resigned my commission. I knew that we 
could never attain equal glory again, and that 
it was better to resign when at the zenith of 
fame than to go out as a fading star." 



LET us quote again from Mr. Coffin s 
autobiographical notes : 

"In 1836 my father, catching the specula 
tion fever of the period, accompanied by my 
uncle and brother-in-law, went to Illinois, and 
left quite an amount of money for the pur 
chase of government land. My father owned 
several shares in the Concord Bank. The 
speculative fever pervaded the entire commu 
nity, speculation in lands in Maine and in 
Illinois. The result was a great inflation of 
prices, the issuing of a great amount of 
promises to pay, with a grand collapse which 
brought ruin and poverty to many households. 
The year of 1838 was one of great distress. 
The wheat and corn crop was scant. Flour 
was worth $16 a barrel. I remember going 
often to mill with a grist of oats, which was 


42 Charles Carleton Coffin 

bolted into flour for want of wheat. The 
Concord Bank failed, the Western lands were 
worthless. Wool could not be sold, and the 
shearing for that year was taken to the town 
of Nelson, in Cheshire County, and manufac 
tured into satinets and cassimeres, on shares. 
One of the pieces of cassimere was dyed with 
a claret tinge, from which I had my first Sun 
day suit. 

" Up to this period, nearly all my clothing 
was manufactured in the family loom and 
cleaned at the clothing and fulling mill. In 
very early boyhood, my Sunday suit was a 
swallow-tailed coat, and hat of the stove-pipe 

" The year 1840 was one of great political 
excitement, known to history as the Log 
Cabin and Hard Cider Campaign. General 
Harrison, the Whig candidate, was popularly 
supposed to live in a log cabin and drink hard 
cider. On June iyth, there was an immense 
gathering of Whigs at Concord. It was one 
of the greatest days of my life. Six weeks 
prior to that date, I thought of nothing but 
the coming event. I was seventeen years old, 
with a clear and flexible voice, and I quickly 

Politics, Travel, and Business 43 

learned the Harrison songs. I went to the 
convention with my brothers and cousins, in a 
four-wheeled lumber wagon, drawn by four 
horses, with a white banner, having the words 
c Boscawen Whig Delegation. We had flags, 
and the horses heads labelled c Harrison and 
Tyler. We had a roasted pig, mince pies, 
cakes, doughnuts and cheese, and a keg of 
cider. Before reaching Concord we were joined 
by the log cabin from Franklin, with coon 
skins, bear traps, etc., dangling from its sides. 
Boscawen sent nearly every Whig voter to the 
meeting. I hurrahed and sung, and was wild 
with excitement. I remember three of the 
speakers, George Wilson, of Keene, Horace 
Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, a 
young man, and Henry Wilson, also a young 
man, both of them natives of New Hampshire. 
Wilson had attended school with my brother at 
the academy in Concord, in 1837, then having 
the high-sounding name of Concord Literary 
Institute. Wilson was a shoemaker, then re 
siding in Natick, Mass., and was known as 
the c Natick Cobbler. The songs have nearly 
all faded from memory. I recall one line of 
our description of the prospective departure 

44 Charles Carleton Coffin 

of Van Buren s cabinet from the White 
House : 

" Let each as we go take a fork and a spoon. 

" There was one entitled c Up Salt River/ 
descriptive of the approaching fate of the 
Democratic party. Another ran : 

" Oh, what has caused this great commotion the country 

through ? 

It is the ball, a rolling on 
For Tippecanoe and Tyler too. 

" Then came the chorus : 

" Van, Van, is a used-up man. 

" In 1839, I na ol a fancy that I should like 
to be a merchant, and was taken to Newbury- 
port and placed with a firm of wholesale and 
retail grocers. I was obliged to be up at 4.30, 
open the store, care for the horse, curry him, 
swallow my breakfast in a hurry, also my din 
ner and supper, and close the store at nine. 
It was only an experiment on my part, and 
after five weeks of such life, finding that I was 
compelled to do dishonest work, I concluded 
that I never would attempt to be a princely 
merchant, and took the stage for home. It 
was a delightful ride home on the top of the 

Politics, Travel, and Business 45 

rocking coach, with the driver lashing his whip 
and his horses doing their best. 

"I think it was in 1841 that Daniel Web 
ster attended the Merrimac County Agricul 
tural Fair at Fisherville, now Penacook. I 
was there with a fine yoke of oxen which won 
his admiration. He asked me as to their age 
and weight, and to whom they belonged. He 
recognized nearly all of his old acquaintances. 
I saw him many times during the following 
year. He was in the prime of life, in per 
sonal appearance a remarkable man." 

Thus far it will be seen that there was little 
in Mr. Coffin s life and surroundings that could 
not be easily told of the average New England 
youth. Besides summer work on the farm, 
and " chores " about the house, he had taken 
several terms at the academy in Boscawen. 
During the winter of 184142, while unable to 
do any outdoor work, on account of sickness, 
he bought a text-book on land-surveying and 
learned something of the science and art, yet 
more for pastime than from any expectation of 
making it useful. 

Nevertheless, that book had a powerful in 
fluence upon his life. It gave him an idea, 

46 Charles Carleton Coffin 

through the application of measurement to 
the earth s surface, of that order and beauty of 
those mathematical principles after which the 
Creator built the universe. It opened his 
eyes to the vast modification of the landscape, 
and the earth itself, by man s work upon 
its crust. It gave him the engineer s eye. 
Henceforth he became interested in the capac 
ity of every portion of the country, which came 
under his notice, for the roads, fields, gardens, 
and parks of peace, and for the making of 
forts, military roads, and the strategy of battle. 
In a word, the book and its study gave him an 
enrichment of life which fitted him to enjoy 
the world by travel, and to understand the 
arena of war, theatres of usefulness to which 
Providence was to call him in after-life. 

In August, 1843, m ms twenty-first year, 
he became a student at Pembroke Academy. 
The term of ten weeks seemed ever afterwards 
in his memory one of the golden periods of 
his life. The teacher, Charles G. M. Burn- 
ham, was enthusiastic and magnetic, having 
few rules, and placing his pupils upon their 
honor. It was not so much what Carleton 
learned from books, as association with the one 

Politics, Travel, and Business 47 

hundred and sixty young men and women of 
his own age, which here so stimulated him. 

From the academy he advanced to be teacher 
of the district school on Corser Hill, in West 
Boscawen, but after three weeks of pedagogy 
was obliged to leave on account of sickness. 
He passed the remainder of the winter in lum 
bering, rising at 4 A. M. to feed his team of 
horses. While breakfast was preparing he 
studied books, ate the meal by candle-light, 
and then was off with his lunch of cold meat, 
bread, and apple pie. From the woods to the 
bank of the Merrimac the distance was three 
miles, and three or four trips were made daily 
in drawing the long and heavy logs to the 
water. Returning home after dark, he ate sup 
per by candle-light, fed his horses, and gave an 
hour to study before bedtime. 

The summer of 1 844 was one of hard toil 
on the farm. In July he became of age, and 
during the autumn worked on his brother-in- 
law s farm, rising at five and frequently finish 
ing about 9 P. M. It is no wonder that all 
through his life Mr. Coffin showed a deep 
sympathy, born of personal experience, with 
men who are bound down to physical toil. 

48 Charles Carleton Coffin 

Nevertheless, the fine arts were not neglected. 
He had already learned to play the " sera- 
phine," the instrument which has been devel 
oped into the reed organ. He started the 
project, in 1842, of getting one for the church. 
By great efforts sixty dollars w r ere raised and 
an instrument purchased in Concord. Mr. 
Coffin became the " organist," and also taught 
singing in the schoolhouse. Three of his 
nieces, excellent singers, assisted him. 

The time had now come for the young man 
to strike out in the world for himself. Like 
most New England youth, his eyes were on 
Boston. With a recommendation from his 
friend, the minister, he took the stage to Con 
cord. The next day he was in Boston, then 
a city of 75,000 people, with the water dashing 
against the embankment of Charles Street, op 
posite the Common, and with only one road 
leading out to Roxbury. Sloops and schooners, 
loaded with coal and timber, sailed over the 
spot where afterwards stood his house, at No. 
8 1 Dartmouth Street. In a word, the " Back 
Bay" and "South End" were then unknown. 
Boston city, shaped like a pond lily laid flat, 
had its long stem reaching to the solid land 

Politics, Travel, and Business 49 

southward on the Dorchester and Roxbury 

Young Carleton went to Mount Vernon 
Church on Ashburton Place, the pastor, Dr. E. 
N. Kirk, being in the prime of his power, and 
the church crowded. The country boy from 
New Hampshire became a member of the choir 
and enjoyed the Friday night rehearsals. He 
found employment at one dollar a day in a 
commission store, 84 Utica Street, with the 
firm of Lowell & Hinckley. The former, a 
brother of James Russell Lowell, had a son, 
a bright little boy, who afterwards became the 
superb cavalry commander at the battle of 
Cedar Creek in 1864. Carleton boarded on 
Beacon Street, next door to the present Athe 
naeum Building. The firm dissolved by Mr. 
Lowell s entering the Athenaeum. Carleton 
returned to his native town to vote. He 
became a farm laborer with his brother-in-law, 
passing a summer of laborious toil, frequently 
fourteen and sixteen hours, with but little 

It was time now for the old Granite State to 
be opened by the railway. The Northern 
Railroad had been chartered, and preliminary 

50 Charles Carleton Coffin 

surveys were to be made. Young Carleton, 
seizing the opportunity, went to Franklin, saw 
the president, and told him who he was. He 
was at once offered a position as chainman, and 
told to report two weeks later. The other 
chainman gave Carleton the leading end, in 
tending that the Boscawen boy, and not him 
self, should drag it and drive the stake. 
Carleton did not object, for he was looking 
beyond the chain. 

The compass-man was an old gentleman 
dim of eyesight and slow of action. Young 
Carleton drove his first stake, at a point one 
hundred feet north of the Concord railway 
depot, which was opened in the month of 
August, 1845. The old compass-man then 
set his compass for a second sight, but before 
he could get out his spectacles and put them 
on, young Carleton read the point to him. 
When, through his glasses, the old gentleman 
had verified the reading, he was delighted. 
Promotion for Carleton was now sure. Before 
night he was not only dragging the chain, but 
was sighting the instrument. The result, two 
days later, was promotion to the charge of the 
party. What he had learned of land survey- 

Politics, Travel, and Business 51 

ing was producing its fruit. In the autumn 
he was employed as the head of a party to 
make the preliminary survey of the Concord 
and Portsmouth road. 

Unfortunately, during this surveying cam 
paign, he received a wound which caused 
slight permanent lameness and disqualified him 
for military service. It came about in this 
way. He was engaged in some work while an 
axe-man behind him was chopping away some 
bushes and undergrowth. The latter gave a 
swing of the axe which came out too far and cut 
through the boot and large tendon of Carle- 
ton s left ankle. With skilled medical atten 
tion, rest, and care, the wound would have 
soon healed up, but owing to lack of skill, 
and to carelessness and exposure, the wound 
gave him considerable trouble, and once re 
opened. In after-life, when overwearied, this 
part of the limb was very troublesome. 

It was not all toil for Carleton. The time 
of love had already come, and the days of 
marriage were not far off. The object of his 
devotion was Miss Sally Russell Farmer, the 
daughter of Colonel John Farmer, of Bos- 
cawen. On February 18, 1846, amid the win- 

52 Charles Carleton Coffin 

ter winds, the fire of a holy union for life was 
kindled, and its glow was unflickering during 
more than fifty years. In ancestry and rela 
tionship, the Farmers of Boscawen were allied 
with the Russells of England, Sir William, 
of bygone centuries, and Lord John, of our 
own memory. Carleton found a true " help 
meet " in Sally Coffin. Though no children 
ever came to bless their union, it was as per 
fect, though even more hallowed and beauti 
fied, on the day it was severed, as when first 

The following summer was one full of days 
of toil in the engineering department of the 
Northern railway, Carleton being engaged 
upon the first section to be opened from 
Concord to Franklin. The engineering was 
difficult, and the work heavy. Breakfast 
was eaten at six in the morning, and din 
ner wherever it could be found along the 
road. Seldom could the young engineer 
rise from his arithmetical calculations until 

Weary with such exacting mental and physi 
cal labor, he resigned his position, and became 
a contractor. First he supplied the Concord 

Politics, Travel, and Business 53 

railroad with 200,000 feet of lumber, which 
he purchased at the various mills. This ven 
ture being profitable, he engaged in the lumber 
trade, furnishing beams for a large factory, 
timber for a new railway station at Concord, 
and for a ship at Medford. It was while 
transacting some business in Lowell, that he 
saw President Polk, James Buchanan, Levi 
Woodbury, and other political magnates of 
the period, who, however, were rather coldly 
received on account of the annexation of 
Texas, and war with Mexico. 

Wishing for a home of his own, Carleton 
now bought a farm in West Boscawen, and 
began housekeeping in the following Novem 
ber. He carried on extensive lumber opera 
tions, hiring a large number of men and teams. 
He rose between four and five in the morning, 
and was in the woods, four miles away, at 
sunrise, working through the day, and reach 
ing home after dark to care for the cattle and 
horses and milk the cows. None of his men 
worked harder than he. 

Although railroad building stimulated prices 
and gave activity to business men, the flush 
times were followed by depression. To secure 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

the construction of a railway to the mast yard, 
Carleton subscribed to the stock, and, under 
the individual liability law of that period, was 
compelled to take as much more to relieve the 
company from debt. Soon he found, however, 
in spite of hard work for both himself and his 
wife, that farming and lumbering together ren 
dered no adequate returns. Relief to mind 
and body was found in the weekly arrival of 
LittelVs Living Age and two or three weekly 
papers, in agricultural meetings at Concord and 
Manchester, and in the formation of the State 
Agricultural Society, of which Carleton was one 
of the founders. 



THE modern age of electricity was ushered 
in during Mr. Coffin s early manhood. 
The telegraph, which has given the world a 
new nervous system, being less an invention 
than an evolution, had from the labors of Prof. 
Joseph Henry, in Albany, and of Wheatstone, 
of England, become, by Morse s invention of 
the dot-and-line alphabet, a far-off writer by 
which men could annihilate time and distance. 
One of the first to experiment with the new 
power old as eternity, but only slowly re 
vealed to man was Carleton s brother-in-law, 
Prof. Moses G. Farmer, whose services to sci 
ence have never yet been adequately set forth. 
This inventor in 1851 invited Mr. Coffin to 
leave the farm temporarily, to construct a line 
of wire connecting the telegraphs of Boston 
with the Cambridge observatory, for the pur 
pose of giving uniform time to the railroads. 


56 Charles Carleton Coffin 

In this Carleton was so successful that, in the 
winter and spring of 1852, he was employed 
by Mr. Moses Farmer to construct the tele 
graph fire alarm, which had been invented by 
his brother-in-law. The work was completed 
in the month of May, and Charles Carleton 
Coffin gave the first alarm of fire ever trans 
mitted by the electric apparatus. The system 
was a great curiosity, and many distinguished 
men of this country, and from Europe, espe 
cially from Russia and France, came to inspect 
its working. 

Commodore Charles Wilkes, of the United 
States Navy, who had returned from his bril 
liant expedition in Antarctic regions, but who 
had not yet made himself notorious by a 
capture of the Confederate commissioners, 
proposed to use this electric system in ascer 
taining the velocity of sound. Cannon were 
stationed at various points, the Navy Yard, Fort 
Constitution, South Boston, and at the Observ 
atory, in front of which was an apparatus and 
telegraph connecting with the central office. 
Each cannon, when fired, heated the circuit. 
Each listener at the various points was to snap 
a circuit key the moment the sound reached 

Electricity and Journalism 57 

him. In the central office was a chronograph 
which registered each discharge in succession. 
The distances from each cannon muzzle had 
been obtained by triangulation. In the calm, 
still night, Commodore Wilkes and Professor 
Farmer stood in the cupola of the State House 
with the chronograph, holding their watches, 
and noting the successive flashes. 

The experiments were not very satisfactory. 
Mr. Coffin, perhaps, possibly, because he was 
not a skilled artillerist, had the mortifying ex 
perience of seeing the apparatus in front of his 
cannon blown into fragments, but he made 
notes of the other reports. After a series of 
trials, the approximate result was obtained, 
that in a moderately humid atmosphere the 
velocity of sound was a little under nine 
hundred feet per second. 

The exactions of the fire alarm service, 
owing to its crude construction, which com 
pelled the attendants to be ever on the alert, 
told severely on Carleton s nervous system. 
He therefore resigned in October, and went 
to Cincinnati to get the system introduced 
there. Herds of hogs then roamed the 
streets, picking up their living around the 

58 Charles Carleton Coffin 

grain houses, and in the gutters. After 
three weeks of exhibition and canvassing, he 
found that Cincinnati was not yet ready for 
such a novelty, and so he returned to Boston. 

The following winter was passed in Boscawen 
without financially remunerative employment, 
but in earnest study, though in the spring a 
supply of money came pleasantly and unex 
pectedly. He undertook to negotiate a patent 
for an invention of Professor Farmer s, and 
after considerable time disposed of it to a 
New York gentleman. Carleton s net profits 
were $1,850. 

This was an immense sum to him, and he 
once more resolved to try Boston, and did so. 
He made his home, however, in Maiden, rent 
ing half of a small house on Washington Street. 
Having inked his pen on agricultural subjects, 
descriptive pieces, and even on a few poems, 
he took up newspaper work. Entering the 
office of the Boston Journal^ he worked with 
out pay, giving the Journal three months 
service in writing editorials, and reporting 
meetings. This was simply to educate him 
self as a journalist. At that time very few 
reporters were employed on the daily papers. 

Electricity and Journalism 59 

What he says of this work had better be told 
in his own words : 

" It was three months of hard study and 
work. I saw that what the public wanted was 
news in condensed form ; that the day for stately 
editorials was passing away ; that short state 
ments and arguments, which went like an ar 
row straight to the mark, were what the public 
would be likely to read. I formed my style 
of writing with that in view. I avoided long 
sentences. I thought that I went too far in 
the other direction and clipped my sentences 
too short, and did not give sufficient ornamen 
tation, but I determined to use words of Saxon 
rather than of Latin or Norman origin, to use 
begin/ instead of commence/ as stronger and 
more forcible. 

" I selected the speeches of Webster, Lord 
Erskine, Burke, and other English writers, for 
careful analysis, but soon discarded Brougham 
and Burke. I derived great benefit from 
Erskine and Webster, for incisive and strong 
statement, also Shakespeare and Milton. 
At that time I read again and again the 
rhapsodies of Christopher North, Professor 
Wilson, and the ( Noctes Ambrosianae/ and 

60 Charles Carleton Coffin 

found great delight, also, in reading Bryant s 

" It was the period of white heat in the anti- 
slavery struggle, when the public heard the 
keenest debates, the sharpest invective. At 
an anti-slavery meeting the red-hot lava was 
always on the flow. The anti-slavery men 
were like anthracite in the furnace, red hot, 
white hot, clear through. I have little 
doubt that the sharpness and ruggedness of 
my writing is due, in some degree, to the curt, 
sharp statements of that period. When men 
were feeling so intensely, and speaking with 
a force and earnestness unknown in these later 
years, a reporter would insensibly take on some 
thing of the spirit of the hour, otherwise his 
reports would be limp and lifeless. I was in 
duced to study stenography, but the system 
then in use was complex and inadequate, 
hard to learn. I was informed by several 
stenographers that if I wanted a condensed 
report it would be far better to give the 
spirit, rather than attempt the letter." 

During the summer of 1854, Mrs. Coffin 
being in poor health, they visited Saratoga to 
gether, passed several weeks at the Springs, and 

Electricity and Journalism 61 

visited the battle-field where his grandfather, 
Eliphalet Kilborn, had fought. Carleton 
picked up a bullet just uncovered by the plow, 
and in that bright and beautiful summer s day 
the whole scene of 1777 came back before him. 
From the author s map in " Burgoyne s De 
fence," giving a meagre sketch of the battle, 
he was able to retrace the general lines of the 
American breastworks. This was the first of 
scores of careful study on the spot and repro 
duction in imagination of famous battles, which 
Carleton made and enjoyed during his life. 

He was also present at the International 
Exhibition in New York, seeing, on the open 
ing day, President Franklin Pierce and his 
Cabinet. The popular idol of the hour was 
General Winfield Scott, of an imposing per 
sonal appearance which was set off by a showy 
uniform. He was the hero of the two wars, 
and expected to be President. In personal 
vanity, in bravery, and in military science, Scott 
was without a superior, one of the ablest offi 
cers whose names adorn the long and brilliant 
roll of the United States regular army. 

Carleton wrote of General Scott : " A man 
of great egotism, an able general, but who 

62 Charles Carleton Coffin 

never had any chance of an election. He was 
the last candidate of a dying political party 
which never was aggressive and which was 
going down under the slave power, to which 
it had allied itself." 

Mr. Coffin writes further : " The passage of 
the Compromise Measures of 1850 gave great 
offence to the radical wing of the anti-slavery 
party. The members of that wing were very 
bitter towards Daniel Webster for his part in 
its passage. I was heart and soul in sympathy 
with the grand idea of anti-slavery, but did not 
believe in fierce denunciation as the best argu 
ment. I did not like the compromise, and 
hated the odious fugitive slave law, but I never 
theless believed that Mr. Webster was sincere 
in his desire to avert impending trouble. I 
learned from Hon. G. W. Nesmith, of Frank 
lin, president of the Northern railroad, that 
Mr. Webster felt very keenly the assaults upon 
him, and the manifest alienation of his old 
friends. Mr. Nesmith suggested that his old- 
time neighbors in Boscawen and Salisbury 
should send him a letter expressive of their 
appreciation of his efforts to harmonize the 
country, and that the proper person to write 

Electricity and Journalism 63 

the letter was the Rev. Mr. Price, ex-pastor of 
the Congregational church in West Boscawen, 
in whom the county had great confidence. A 
few days later, at the invitation of Mr. Price, 
I went over the rough draft with him in his 
study. The letter was circulated for signatures 
by Worcester Webster, of Boscawen, distantly 
related to Daniel. It is in the published works 
of the great statesman, edited by Mr. Everett, 
together with his reply." 

In May, 1854, Carleton saw the Potomac 
and the Capitol at Washington for the first 
time. The enlargement of the house of the 
National Legislature had not yet begun. He 
studied the paintings in the rotunda, which 
were to him a revelation of artistic power. 
He spent a long time before Prof. Robert 
W. Weir s picture of the departure of the 
Pilgrims for Delfshaven. 

Here are some of his impressions of the 
overgrown village and of the characters he 
met : 

c< Washington was a straggling city, thor 
oughly Southern. There was not a decent 
hotel. The National was regarded as the 
best. Nearly all the public men were in 

64 Charles Carleton Coffin 

boarding-houses. I stopped at the Kirkwood, 
then regarded as very good. The furniture 
was old ; there was scarcely a whole chair in 
the parlor or dining-room. It was the period 
of the Kansas struggle. The passions of men 
were at a white heat. The typical Southern 
man wore a broad-brimmed felt hat. Many 
had long hair and loose flowing neckties. 
There was insolence and swagger in their 
deportment towards Northern men. 

" I spent much time in the gallery of the 
Senate. Thomas Benton, of Missouri, was 
perhaps the most notable man in the Senate. 
Slidell, of Louisiana, whom I had seen in 
New Hampshire the winter before, speaking 
for the Democracy, and Toombs, of Georgia, 
were strongly marked characters. Toombs 
made a speech doubling up his fists as if about 
to knock some one down." 

From Washington, Carleton went to Har- 
risburg, noticing, as he passed over the railway, 
the difference between free and slave territory. 
" A half dozen miles from the boundary 
between Maryland and Pennsylvania was suf 
ficient to change the characteristics of the 
country." The Pennsylvania railway had just 

Electricity and Journalism 65 

been opened, and Altoona was just starting. 
Carleton visited the iron and other industries 
at Pittsburg, and described his journey and 
impressions in a series of letters to the Boston 
Journal. Having inherited from his father 
eighty acres of land in Central Illinois, near 
the town of Lincoln, he went out to visit it. 
At Chicago, a bustling place of 25,000 inhabi 
tants, he found the mud knee-deep. Great 
crowds of emigrants were arriving and depart 
ing. Going south to La Salle he took steamer 
on the Illinois River to Peoria, reaching there 
Saturday night. Not willing to travel on Sun 
day, he went ashore. After attending service 
at church, he asked the privilege of playing on 
the organ. A few minutes later, he found a 
large audience listening with apparent pleasure. 



THE time had now come for the forma 
tion of a new political party, and in this 
Carleton had a hand, being at the first meeting 
and making the acquaintance of the leading 
men, Henry Wilson, Anson Burlingame, 
George S. Boutwell, N. P. Banks, Charles 
Sumner, and others. His connection with the 
press brought him into personal contact with 
men of all parties. He found Edward Ever 
ett more sensitive to criticism than any other 
public man. 

In 1856 Carleton was offered a position on 
the AtlaS) which had been the leading Whig 
paper in Massachusetts. He attended the 
first great Republican gathering ever held in 
Maine, at Portland, at which Hannibal Ham- 
lin, Benjamin Wade, and N. P. Banks were 
speakers. On the night of the Maine elec 
tion, which was held in August, as the returns, 


The Republican Party 67 

which gave the first great victory of the Re 
publican party in the Fremont campaign, 
thrilled the young editor, he wrote a head-line 
which was copied all over the country, " Be 
hold How Brightly Breaks the Morning." 

In Maiden, where he was then residing, a 
Fremont Club was formed. Carleton wrote 
a song, to the melody " Suoni La Tromba," 
from one of the operas then much admired, 
which was sung by the glee men in the club. 
Political enthusiasm rose to fever heat. In 
the columns of the Atlas are many editorials 
which came seething hot from Carleton s brain, 
during the campaign which elevated Mr. James 
Buchanan to the presidency. 

When the storm of politics had subsided, 
Carleton wrote a series of articles for an edu 
cational periodical, The Student and School 
mate. Inspired by his attendance on the 
meetings of the American Association for the 
Advancement of Science, he penned a series of 
astronomical articles for The Congregationalist. 
He also attended the opening of the Grand 
Trunk railroad from Montreal to Toronto, 
celebrated by a grand jubilee at Montreal. 
During the winter, when Elihu Burritt, the 

68 Charles Carleton Coffin 

learned blacksmith, failed to appear on the 
lecture platform, Carleton was called upon at 
short notice to give his lecture entitled " The 
Savage and the Citizen." 

He was welcomed with applause, which he 
half suspected was in derision. At the end, he 
received ten dollars and a vote of thanks. The 
lecture system was then just beginning, and 
its bright stars, Phillips, Holmes, Whipple, 
Beecher, Gough, and Curtis were then mount 
ing the zenith. 

Carleton made another trip West in 1857, 
seeing the Mississippi, when the railway 
was completed from Cincinnati to St. Louis. 
When the crowd was near degenerating into a 
drunken mob, the native wine of Missouri 
being served free to everybody, the com 
mittee in charge cut off the supply of drink, 
and thus saved a riot. From St. Louis he 
went to Liverpool, on the Illinois River, to see 
about his land affairs. He enjoyed hugely the 
strange frontier scenes, meals in log cabins, and 
the trial of a case in court, which was in a 
schoolroom lighted by two tallow candles. 

The Boston Atlas^ unable to hold up the 
world, had summoned the Bee to its aid, yet 

The Republican Party 69 

did not even then stand on a paying basis. 
Finally it became absorbed in the Boston 
Traveller. Carleton again entered the service 
of the Boston Journal as reporter. Yet life 
was a hard struggle. Through the years 1857, 
1858, 1 8 59, Carleton was floating around among 
the newspapers getting a precarious living, 
hardly a living. He wrote a few stories for 
Putnam s Magazine* for one of which he was 


paid ten dollars. One of the bright spots in 
this period of uncertainty was his attendance, 
at Springfield and Newport, upon the meet 
ings of the American Association for the Ad 
vancement of Science. He also became more 
or less acquainted with men who were after 
wards governors of Massachusetts, or United 
States senators, with John Brown and Stephen 
A. Douglas. 

The political campaign which resulted in the 
election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency 
is described in Mr. Coffin s own words: 

"During the winter of 1859, George W. 
Gage, proprietor of the Tremont House at 
Chicago, visited Boston. I had known him 
many years. Being from the West, I asked 
him who he thought would be acceptable to 

yo Charles Carleton Coffin 

the Republicans of the West as candidate for 
the presidency. The names prominently be 
fore the country were those of W. H. Seward, 
S. P. Chase, Edward Bates, and J. C. Fremont. 

" We shall elect whomsoever we nominate, 
said Mr. Gage. c The Democratic party is 
going to split. The Northern and Western 
Democrats will go for Douglas. The slave 
holders never will accept him. The Whig 
party is but a fragment. There will certainly 
be three, if not four candidates, and the Re 
publican party can win. We think a good 
deal of old Abe Lincoln. He would make a 
strong candidate. 

"It was the first time I had heard the name 
of Lincoln in connection with the presidency. 
I knew there was such a man. Being a jour 
nalist, I had some knowledge of his debate 
with Douglas on the great questions of the 
day, but he had been defeated in his canvass 
for the Senate, and had dropped out of sight. 
It was about this time that he gave his lecture 
at Cooper Institute, New Haven, and Nor 
wich. I did not meet him in Boston. His 
coming created no excitement. The aristoc 
racy of Boston, including Robert C. Winthrop, 

The Republican Party 71 

Edward Everett, George S. Milliard, and that 
class, were Whigs, who did not see the trend 
of events. Lincoln came and went, having 
little recognition. The sentiment of Massa 
chusetts Republicans was all in favor of the 
nomination of Seward. 

u The remark of Mr. Gage in regard to 
Lincoln set me to thinking upon the probable 
outcome of the presidential contest. The en 
thusiasm of the Republican party was at fever 
heat. The party had nearly succeeded in 1856, 
under Fremont, and the evidences of success 
in 1860 multiplied, as the days for nominating 
a candidate approached. The disruption of 
the Democratic party at Charleston made the 
election of the Republican candidate certain. 

"I determined to attend the Convention to 
be held at Chicago, and also that of the Whig 
party, to be held earlier at Baltimore. 

"I visited Washington and made the ac 
quaintance of many of the leading Republican 
members of Congress. Senator Wilson gave 
me a seat on one of the sofas in the south 
chamber. He was sitting by my side when 
Seward appeared. He stopped a moment in 
the passage, and leaned against the wall. 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

" There is our next President/ said Wilson. 
He feels that he is to be nominated and 
elected. He shows it. 

"It was evident that Mr. Seward was con 
scious of the expected honor. It did not dis 
play itself in haughty actions, but in a fitting 
air of dignity. He knew the galleries were 
looking down upon him, men were pointing 
him out, nodding their heads. He was the 
coming man." 

The Whig Convention in Baltimore, which 
Carleton attended, " was held in an old church 
from which the worshippers had departed, - a 
fitting place to hold it. The people had left 
the Whig party, which had departed from its 
principles and was ready to compromise still 
further in slavery." 

On leaving Baltimore for Chicago, and con 
versing with people everywhere, Carleton dis 
covered in Pennsylvania a hostility to Seward 
which he had not found elsewhere. It was 
geographical antagonism, New York glorying 
in being the Empire State, and Pennsylvania in 
being the Keystone of the arch. " Pennsyl 
vania could not endure the thought of having 
New York lead the procession." Arriving 

The Republican Party 73 

in Chicago several days before the Convention 
opened, Carleton noticed a growing disposition 
to take a Western man. The contest was to 
be between Seward and Lincoln. On the sec 
ond day the New York crowd tried to make a 
tremendous impression with bands and ban 
ners. Entering the building, they found it 
packed with the friends of Lincoln. Carleton 
sat at a table next to Thurlow Weed. "When 
the drawn ballot was taken. Weed, pale and 
excited, thrust his thumbs into his eyes to 
keep back the tears." 

Mr. Coffin must tell the rest of the story : 
" I accompanied the committee to Spring 
field to notify Lincoln of his nomination. 
Ashman, the president of the committee, W. 
D. Kelly, of Pennsylvania, Amos Jack, of New 
Hampshire, Sweet, of Chicago, and others 
made up the party. We went down the 
Illinois Central. It was a hot, dusty ride. 
Reached Springfield early in the evening. 
Had supper at the hotel and then called on 
Lincoln. His two youngest boys were on 
the fence in front of the house, chaffing some 
Democratic urchins in the street. A Douglas 
meeting was going on in the State House, 

74 Charles Carleton Coffin 

addressed, as I learned, by A. McClernand, 
afterwards major-general. Lincoln stood in the 
parlor, dressed in black frock coat. Ashman 
made the formal announcement. Lincoln s 
reply was brief. He was much constrained, 
but as soon as the last word was spoken he 
turned to Kelly and said : 

" c Judge, you are a pretty tall man. How 
tall are you ? 

" Six feet two/ 

U< I beat you. I m six feet three without 
my high-heeled boots on. 

" Pennsylvania bows to Illinois, where we 
have been told there were only Little Giants, 
said Kelly, gracefully alluding to Douglas, who 
was called the Little Giant. 

" One by one we were introduced by Mr. 
Ashman. After the hand-shaking was over, 
Mr. Lincoln said : 

" ( Mrs. Lincoln will be pleased to see you 
gentlemen in the adjoining room, where you 
will find some refreshments. 

" We passed into the room and were pre 
sented to Mrs. Lincoln. Her- personal ap 
pearance was not remarkably prepossessing. 
The prevailing fashion of the times was a 

The Republican Party 75 

gown of voluminous proportions, over an 
enormous hoop. The corsage was cut some 
what low, revealing plump shoulders and bust. 
She wore golden bracelets. Her hair was 
combed low about the ears. She evidently 
was much gratified over the nomination, but 
was perfectly ladylike in her deportment. 

" The only sign of refreshments visible was 
a white earthen pitcher filled with ice-water. 
Probably it was Mr. Lincoln s little joke, for 
the next morning I learned that his Republi 
can neighbors had offered to furnish wines and 
liquor, but he would not allow them in the 
house ; that his Democratic friends also sent 
round baskets of champagne, which he would 
not accept. 

" I met him the next morning in his law 
office, also his secretary, J. G. Nicolay. It 
was a large, square room, with a plain pine 
table, splint-bottomed chairs, law books in a 
case, and several bushels of newspapers and 
pamphlets dumped in one corner. It had a 
general air of untidiness. 

" During the campaign I reported many 
meetings for the Boston Journal^ and was made 
night editor soon after Mr. Lincoln s election. 

76 Charles Carleton Coffin 

The position was very laborious and exacting. 
It was the period of secession. Through the 
live-long night, till nearly 3 A. M., I sat at 
my desk editing the exciting news. The re 
porters usually left the room about eleven, and 
from that time to the hour of going to press, 
I was alone, save the company of two mice 
that became so friendly that they would sit on 
my desk, and make a supper of crackers and 
cheese, which I doled out to them. I remem 
ber them with much pleasure. 

" The exacting labors and sleepless nights 
told upon my health. The disturbed state 
of the country made everybody in business 
very cautious, so much so that the proprietor 
of the Journal, Charles A. Rogers, began to 
discharge his employees, and I was informed 
that my services were no longer needed. I 
had been receiving the magnificent sum of ten 
dollars per week, and this princely revenue 

After President Lincoln had been inaugu 
rated, Mr. Coffin went to Washington, dur 
ing the last week in March. His experiences 
there must be told by himself: 

" I took lodgings at a private boarding- 

The Republican Party 77 

house on Pennsylvania Avenue, where there 
was a poverty-stricken Virginian, of the old 
Whig school, after an office. He did not 
think his State would secede. I saw much 
of the Republican members of Congress, who 
said if I wanted a position they would do what 
they could for me. Senator Sumner suggested 
that I would make a good secretary of one of 
the Western territories. 

" I called upon my old schoolmate Sargeant 
who had been for many years in the Treasury. 
Having constructed the telegraph fire-alarm, 
and done something in engineering, I thought 
I was competent to become an examiner in the 
patent office. I made out an application, which 
was signed by the entire Massachusetts delega 
tion, recommending me. I dropped it into 
the post-office, and that was the last I saw or 
even thought of it, for the great crisis in the 
history of the country was so rapidly approach 
ing, and so evident, that, newspaper man as I 
was, accustomed to forecast coming events, 
I could see what many others could not see. 

" I was walking with Senator Wilson up E 
Street, on a bright moonlight night. The 
moon s rays, falling upon the unfinished 

78 Charles Carleton Coffin 

dome of the Capitol, brought the building 
out in bold relief." 

" Will it ever be finished ? I asked. The 
senator stopped, and gazed upon it a moment 
in silence. 

" We are going to have a war, but the peo 
ple of this country will not give up the Union, 
I think. Yet, to-day, that building, prospec- 
tively, is a pile of worthless marble. 



WHEN the long gathering clouds broke 
in the storm at Sumter, and war was 
precipitated in a rain of blood, Charles Carle- 
ton Coffin s first question was as to his duty. 
He was thirty-seven years old, healthy and 
hearty, though not what men would usually 
call robust. To him who had long learned to 
look into the causes of things, who knew well 
his country s history, and who had been edu 
cated to thinking and feeling by the long de 
bate on slavery, the Secession movement was 
nothing more or less than a slaveholders 
conspiracy. His conviction in 1861 was the 
same as that held by him, when more than 
thirty years of reflection had passed by, that 
the inaugurators of the Civil War of 1861-65 
were guilty of a gigantic crime. 

In 1 86 1, with his manhood and his talent, 
the question was not on which side duty lay, 


8o Charles Carleton Coffin 

or whether his relation to the question should 
be active or passive, but just how he could 
most and best give himself to the service of 
his country. Whether with rifle or pen, he 
would do nothing less than his best. He 
inquired first at the recruiting office of the 
army. He was promptly informed that on 
no account could he be accepted as an active 
soldier, whether private or officer, on account 
of his lame heel. Rejected here, he thought 
that some other department of public service 
might be open to him in which he could be 
more or less directly in touch with the sol 
diers. While uncertain as to his future course, 
he was, happily for his country, led to consult 
his old friend, Senator Henry Wilson, who 
immediately and strenuously advised him to 
give up all idea of either the army, the hos 
pital, the clerical, or any other government 
service, but to enter at once actively upon the 
work of a war correspondent. 

" Your talent," said Wilson, " is with the 
pen, and you can do the best service by see 
ing what is going on and reporting it." 

The author of the " Rise and Fall of the 
Slave Power in America" intimated that truth, 

The War Correspondent 81 

accurately told and published throughout the 
North, was not only extremely valuable, but 
absolutely necessary. It would not take long 
for a thoroughly truthful reporter to make 
himself a national authority. The sympa 
thizers with disunion would be only too 
active in spreading rumors to dishearten the 
upholders of the Union, and there would be 
need for every honest pen and voice. 

After this conversation, Carleton was at 
peace. He would find his work and ask no 
other blessedness. But how to find it, and to 
win his place as a recognized writer on the 
field was a question. Within our generation, 
the world has learned the value of the war 
correspondent. He has won the spurs of the 
knighthood of civilization. He wears in life 
the laurel wreath of fame. He is respected in 
his calling. He goes forth as an apostle of 
the printed truth. The resources of wealthy 
corporations are behind him. His salary is 
not princely, but it is ample. Though he 
may lose limb or life, he is honored like the 
soldier, and after his death, the monument 
rises to his memory. In the great struggle 
between France and Germany, between Russia 

82 Charles Carleton Coffin 

and Turkey, between Japan and China, and in 
the minor wars of European Powers against 
inferior civilizations, in Asia and Africa, the 
"war correspondent" has been a striking figure. 
He is not the creation of our age; but our 
half of this century, having greater need of 
him, has equipped him the most liberally. 
He has his permanent place of honor. If the 
newspaper is the Woden of our century and 
civilization, the war correspondent and the 
printer are the twin Ravens that sit upon his 
shoulder. The one flies afar to gather the news, 
the other sits at home to scatter the tidings. 

In i 86 1 it was very different. The idea of 
spending large sums of money, and maintain 
ing a staff-corps of correspondents who on 
land and sea should follow our armies and 
fleets, and utilize horse, rail car, and telegraph, 
boat, yacht, and steamer, without regard to ex 
pense, had not seized upon newspaper publish 
ers in the Eastern States. Almost from the 
first, the great New York journals organized 
bureaus for the collection of news. With 
relays of stenographers, telegraphers, and extra 
printers, they were ready for all emergencies in 
the home office, besides liberally endowing 

The War Correspondent 83 

their agencies at Washington and cities near 
the front, and equipping their correspondent, 
in camp and on deck. In this, the New 
England publishers were far behind those on 
Manhattan Island. Carleton, when in Wash 
ington, wrote his first letters to the Boston 


Journal and took the risk of their being ac 
cepted for publication. He visited the camps, 
forts, and places of storage of government 
material. He described the preparations for 
war and life in Washington with such spirit 
and graphic power, that from June 15 to 
July 17, 1861, no fewer than twenty-one of 
his letters were published in the Journal. 

The great battle of Bull Run gave him his 
opportunity. As an eye-witness, his oppor 
tunity was one to be coveted. He wrote out 
so full, so clear., and so interesting an account, 
that the proprietors of the Journal engaged 
him as their regular correspondent at a salary 
of twenty-five dollars a week, with extra allow 
ance for transportation. His instructions were 
to " keep the Journal at the front. Use all 
means for obtaining and transmitting impor 
tant information, regardless of expense." This, 
however, was not to be interpreted to mean 

84 Charles Carleton Coffin 

that he should have assistants or be the head 
of a bureau or relay of men, as in the case of 
the chief correspondent of at least three of the 
New York newspapers. It meant that he was 
to gather and transmit the news and be the 
whole bureau and staff in himself. Neverthe 
less, during most of the war, the Boston Jour 
nal was the only New England paper that kept 
a regular correspondent permanently not only 
in Washington, but at the seat of war. Carle- 
ton in several signal instances sent news of 
most important movements and victories ahead 
of any other Northern correspondent. He 
achieved a succession of what newspaper men 
call "beats." In those days, on account of 
the great expense, the telegraph was used only 
for summaries of news, and rarely, if ever, 
for long despatches or letters. The ideas and 
practice of newspaper managers have greatly 
enlarged since 1865. Entering upon his work 
at the very beginning of the war, he was, we 
believe, almost the only field correspondent 
who continued steadily to the end, coming out 
of it with unbroken health of body and mind. 
How he managed to preserve his strength 
and enthusiasm, and to excel where so many 

The War Correspondent 85 

others did well and nobly, is an open secret. 
In the first place, he was a man of profound- 
est religious faith in the Heavenly Father. 
Prayer was his refreshment. He renewed his 
strength by waiting upon God. His spirit 
never grew weary. In the darkest days he 
was able to cheer and encourage the despond 
ing. He spoke continually, through the Jour 
nal^ to hundreds of thousands of readers, in 
tones of cheer. Like a great lighthouse, with 
its mighty lamps ever burning and its reflectors 
and lenses kept clean and clear, Carleton, never 
discouraged, terrified, or tired out, sent across 
the troubled sea and through the deepest dark 
ness the inspiriting flash of the light of truth 
and the steady beam of faith in the Right and 
its ultimate triumph. He was a missionary of 
cheer among the soldiers in camp and at the 
front. His reports of battles, and his message 
of comfort in times of inaction, wilted the 
hopes of the traitors, copperheads, cowards, 
and " nightshades " at home, while they put 
new blood in the veins of the hopeful. 

Carleton was always welcome among the 
commanders and at headquarters. This was 
because of his frankness as well as his ability 

86 Charles Carleton Coffin 

and his genial bonhomie and social qualities. 
He did not consider himself a critic of gen 
erals. He simply described. He took care 
to tell what he saw, or knew on good author 
ity to be true. He did probe rumors. From 
the very first he became a higher critic of as 
sertions and even of documents. He quickly 
learned the value of camp reports and items of 
news. By and by his skill became the envy 
of many of less experienced readers of human 
nature, and judges of talk and despatches. 
While shirking no hard work in the saddle, on 
foot, on the rail, or in the boat, he found by 
experience that by keeping near headquarters 
he was the better enabled to know the motions 
of the army as a whole, to divine the plans of 
the commanding general, and thus test the 
value of flying rumors. He had a genius for 
interpreting signs of movement, whether in 
the loading of a barge, the riding of an orderly, 
or the nod of a general s head. His previous 
training as an engineer and surveyor enabled 
him to foresee the strategic value of a position 
and to know the general course of a campaign 
in a particular district of country. With this 
power of practical foresight, he was often better 

The War Correspondent 87 

able even than some of the generals to fore 
see and appraise results. This topographical 
knowledge also gave him that power of won 
derful clearness in description which is the first 
and best quality necessary to the narrator of a 
series of complex movements. A battle fought 
in the open, like that at Gettysburg, or one of 
those which took place during the previous 
campaigns, on a plain, along the river, and in 
the Peninsula, is comparatively easy to describe, 
especially when viewed from an eminence. 
These battles were like those in ordinary 
European history ; but after Grant took com 
mand of the Army of the Potomac, a reversion 
to something like the American colonial meth 
ods in the forest took place. The heaviest 
fighting was in the woods, behind entrench 
ments, or in regions where but little of the 
general scheme, and few of the operations, could 
be seen at once. In either case, however, as 
will be seen by reading over the thousand or 
so letters in Carleton s correspondence, his 
power of making a modern battle easily under 
stood is, if not unique, at least very remark 
able. With his letters often went diagrams 
which greatly aided his readers. 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

Carleton s personal courage was always equal 
to that of the bravest. Too sincerely appre 
ciative of the gift of life from his Creator, he 
never needlessly, especially after his first eager 
ness for experience had been satiated, exposed 
himself, as the Dutch used to say, with " full- 
hardiness," or as we, corrupting the word, say, 
with " foolhardiness." He got out of the line 
of shells and bullets where there was no call for 
his presence, and when the only justification 
for remaining would be to gratify idle curiosity. 
Yet, when duty called, when there was need to 
know both the facts, and the truth to be de 
duced from the facts, whistling bullets or 
screeching shells never sufficed to drive him 
away. His coolness with pen and pencil, amid 
the dropping fire of the enemy, made heroes 
of many a soldier whose nerves were not as 
strong as was the instinct of his legs to run. 
The lady librarian of Dover, N. H., thus 
writes : 

"An old soldier whom I was once showing 
through the library stopped short in front of 
Coffin s books and looked at them with much 
interest. He said that at his first battle, I 
think it was Fredericksburg, but of this I am 

The War Correspondent 89 

not sure, he was scared almost to death. 
He was a mere boy, and when his regiment was 
ordered to the front and the shot was lively 
around him, he would have run away if he had 
dared. But a little distance off, he saw a man 
standing under the lee of a tree and writing 
away as coolly as if he were standing at a desk. 
The soldier asked who he was, and was told it 
was Carleton, of the Journal. c There he 
stood, said the man, ( perfectly unconcerned, 
and I felt easier every time I looked at him. 
Finally he finished and went off to another 
place. But that was his reputation among the 
men all through the war, perfectly cool, and 
always at the front/ 

Carleton was able to withstand four years of 
mental strain and physical exposure because 
he knew and put in practice the right laws of 
life. His temperance in eating and drinking 
was habitual. Often dependent with the pri 
vate soldier, while on the march and in camp, 
on raw pork and hardtack; helped out in 
emergencies with food and victuals, by the 
quartermaster or his assistants ; not infre 
quently reaching the verge of starvation, he 
did not, when reaching city or home, play the 

90 Charles Carleton Coffin 

gourmand. He drank no intoxicating liquor, 
always politely waving aside the social glass. 
He was true to his principles of total absti 
nence which had been formed in boyhood. It 
would have been easy for him to become in 
temperate, since in early boyhood he acquired 
a fondness for liquors, through being allowed 
to drink what might remain in the glass after 
his sick mother had partaken of her tonic. 
He demonstrated that man has no necessity 
for alcoholic drinks, however much he may 
enjoy them. 

Only on one occasion was he known to taste 
strong liquor. In the Wilderness, when in a 
company of officers on horseback, the blood 
curdling Confederate yells were heard but a 
short distance off, and. it seemed as though our 
line had been broken and the day was lost for 
the Union army. At that dark moment, one 
of the officers on General Meade s staff pro 
duced a flask of brandy, and remarking with 
inherited English prejudice that he would 
fortify his nerves with " Dutch courage," to 
tide over the emergency, he quaffed, and then 
handed the refreshment to his companion. In 
the momentary and infectious need for stimu- 

The War Correspondent 91 

lant of some sort, Mr. Coffin took a sip and 
handed it on. Though himself having no 
need of and very rarely making use of spirits, 
even medicinally, he was yet kindly charitable 
towards his weaker brethren. It is too sadly 
true that many of the military officers, who 
yielded to the temptation of temporarily brac 
ing their nerves at critical moments, became 
slaves to the bottle, and afterwards confirmed 
drunkards. Carleton made no use of tobacco 
in any form. 

Carleton s wonderful prescience of coming 
events, and his decisions rightly made as to 
his own whereabouts in crises, enabled him 
to concentrate without wasting his powers. 
He then gave himself to his work with all 
ardor, and without sparing brain or muscle, 
risking limb and life at Bull Run, on the 
Mississippi, at Fort Donelson, at Antietam 
and Gettysburg, in the Wilderness, at Savan 
nah, and in Richmond. His powers in toil 
were prodigious. He could turn off an im-* 
mense amount of work, and keep it up. When 
the lull followed the agony, he went home to 
rest and recruit, spending the time with his 
wife and friends, everywhere diffusing the sun- 

92 Charles Carleton Coffin 

shine of hope and faith. When rested and 
refreshed, he hied again to the front and the 
conflict. The careers of most army corre 
spondents in the field were short. Carleton s 
race was long. His was the promise of the 
prophet s glorious burden in Isaiah xl. 28-31. 
It was between his thirty-eighth and forty- 
second year, when in the high tide of his manly 
strength, that Carleton pursued the profession 
of letters amid the din of arms. His pictures 
show him a handsome man, with broad, open 
forehead and sunny complexion, standing nearly 
six feet high, his feet cased in the broad and 
comfortable boots which he always wore. Over 
his ordinary suit of clothing was a long and 
comfortable overcoat with a cape, around which 
was a belt, to which hung a spy-glass. Later 
in the war he bought a fine binocular marine 
glass. He gave the old "historic spy-glass" 
to his nephew Edmund, from under whose 
head it was stolen by some camp thief. In 
his numerous and capacious pockets, besides a 
watch and a pocket compass, was a store of 
note-books, in which he was accustomed to jot 
his rapid, lightning-like notes, which meant 
" reading without tears " for him, but woe and 

The War Correspondent 93 

sorrow to those who had to knit their brows in 
trying to decipher his " crow-tracks." During 
the first part of the war he bought horses as 
often as he needed them, and these were not 
always of the first quality as to flesh or charac 
ter. He usually found it difficult to recover 
his beast after having been away home. In the 
later campaigns he possessed finer animals for 
longer spaces of time, taking more pains, and 
spending more money to recover them on his 
return from absences North. 

Nevertheless, in order to beat other corre 
spondents, to be at the front, in the right mo 
ment, in order to satisfy the need for news, he 
counted neither the life nor the ownership of 
his horse as worth a moment s consideration. 
In comparison with the idea of stilling the pub 
lic anxiety, and giving the news of victory, he 
acted upon the principle of his Master, "Ye 
are of more value than many sparrows." One 
man, using plain English, says, " Uncle Carle- 
ton got the news, goodness knows how, but he 
got it always and truly. He was the cheekiest 
man on earth for the sake of the Journal^ and 
the people of New England. He used to ask 
for and give news even to the commander-in- 

94 Charles Carleton Coffin 

chief. Often the staff officers would be amazed 
at the cheek of Carleton in suggesting what 
should be done. His bump of locality and 
topography was well developed, and he read 
the face of the country as by intuition. He 
would talk to the commander as no civilian 
could or would, but Meade usually took it 
pleasantly, and Grant always welcomed it, and 
seemed glad to get it. I have seen him (Grant) 
in long conversations with Mr. Coffin, when 
no others were near." 



CARLETON S account of the battle of 
Bull Run, where the Union forces first 
won the day, and then lost it through a panic, 
was so graphic, accurate, and comprehensive, 
that the readers of the Boston Journal at once 
poured in their requests that the same writer 
should continue his work and reports. 

From his position with the Union batteries 
he had a fine view of the whole engagement. 
Many of the statements which he made were, 
as to their accuracy, perfect. For example, 
when the Confederates fired continuous vol 
leys, making one long roll of musketry, min 
gled with screams, yells, and cheers, while their 
batteries sent a rain of shell and round shot, 
grape and canister, upon a body of three com 
panies of Massachusetts men, Carleton stood 
with his watch in his hand to see how long 
these raw troops could stand such a fire. It 


96 Charles Carleton Coffin 

is wonderful to read to-day his volume .of 
"Army Correspondence," and find so little 
to correct. 

Besides letters written on the field during 
the first of four battles, he wrote from Wash 
ington in review of the whole movement. He 
was not at all discouraged by what had hap 
pened, believing that the bitter experience, 
though valuable, was worth its cost. He does 
not seem to have been among the number of 
those who expected that the great insurrection 
would be put down in a few months. Like 
every one else, he was at first smitten with 
that glamour which the Western soldiers, led 
by Grant, soon learned to call " McClellan- 
ism." It was with genuine admiration that he 
noticed the untiring industry and superb or 
ganizing powers of " Little Mac ; " who, what 
ever his later faults may have been, was the 
man who transformed a mob of militia into 
that splendid machine animated by an unquail- 
ing soul, " The Army of the Potomac." Yet 
in the cool light of history, w r e must rate 
Gen. George B. McClellan as the military 
Erasmus of this war of national reformation, 
while Grant was its Luther. 

With the Army of the Potomac 97 

Late in August, after ten days rest at home 
to recruit exhausted energies, Carleton was 
once more at his post in the " City of Mag 
nificent Distances and big lies," attempting 
to draw out the truth from whole maelstroms 
of falsehood. He writes : " Truly this is a city 
given to lying." He had a habit of hunting 
down falsehoods, of tracing rumors to their 
holes. Many an hour in the blazing sun, 
consuming his strength, did this hater of lies 
spend in chasing empty breaths. Once he 
rode forty miles on horseback, simply to con 
firm or reject an assertion. Very early, how 
ever, he learned to put every report upon the 
touchstone, and under the nitric acid of criti 
cism. He quickly gained experience, and 
saved .much vexation to himself and his 
readers. In this way his letters became what 
they are, like coins put in the pyx, and mint 
age that survives the best of the goldsmiths. 
When read thirty-five years after the first drying 
of the ink, we have a standard of truth, need 
ing correction, for the most part, only here 
and there, in such details as men clearly discern 
only in the perspective of time. 

Under McClellan s strict orders, Washing- 

98 Charles Carleton Coffin 

ton became less of a national bar-room. The 
camps were made models of cleanliness, hygiene, 
and comfort, and schools of strict preparation 
for the stern work ahead. Carleton often 
rode through them, and out on the picket-line. 
Among his other studies, being a musician, 
he soon learned the various notes and tones 
of round and conical bullet, of globular and 
case shot, of shell and rocket, as an Indian 
learns the various sounds and calls of birds 
and beasts. Never wearing eye-glasses, until 
very late in life, and then only for reading, he 
was able, when standing behind or directly 
before a cannon, to see the missile moving 
as a black spot on the invisible air, and from 
a side view to perceive the short plug of con 
densed air in front of a ball, which is now 
clearly revealed by instantaneous photography. 
He soon noted how the variation in the charge 
of powder, and the curve of the rifle, changed 
the pitch of the ball, and how and why certain 
shells with ragged edges of lead scream like 
demons, and work upon the nerves by their 
sound and fury rather than their total of re 
sults. He soon discovered that in a battle 
the artillery, except at short ranges, and in 

With the Army of the Potomac 99 

the open, bears no comparison in its killing 
power to the rifles of the infantry. Like an 
old soldier, he soon came to look with some 
thing like contempt upon the ponderous can 
non and mortars, and to admire the low firing 
of the old veteran musket-men. 

During those humiliating days, when the 
stars and bars waved upon Munson s Hill 
within sight of the Capitol, Carleton saw much 
of the Confederates through his glass. Picket- 
firing, though irregular and, probably, from a 
European point of view, unmilitary, trained 
the troops to steadiness of nerve. Many 
things in the first part of the war were done 
which were probably not afterwards often re 
peated ; for example, the meeting of officers on 
the picket-lines, who had communications 
with each other, because they were free 
masons. In September, the Confederates fell 
back from Munson s Hill, and on October 2ist 
the battle at Poolsville, or Ball s BlufF, took 
place, in which, out of 1,800 Federals engaged, 
over one-third were killed, wounded or miss 
ing. The Fifteenth Massachusetts regiment 
suffered heavily. Colonel Devens, afterwards 
major-general and attorney-general, covered 

ioo Charles Carleton Coffin 

himself with glory, but the brave Colonel 
Baker lost his life. 

Edward Dickinson Baker, born in England, 
had come to the United States in his youth. 
Between his thirtieth and fortieth year he 
had served in Congress as representative from 
Illinois. Then removing to California, he be 
came a popular orator of the Republican party. 
In 1860 he was elected United States Senator 
from Oregon. I remember reading with a 
thrill his speech in the Senate, and his rebuke 
of Breckin ridge. A few days later he was in 
Philadelphia holding a commission as colonel. 
He visited in their different halls the volunteer 
fire companies of our Quaker City. In torrents 
of overwhelming eloquence, he called on them 
to enlist in his famous "California Regiment," 
which was quickly clothed, equipped, and given 
the first rudiments of military instruction. I 
remember his superb, manly figure, in the very 
prime of life, his rosy English face set in a 
glory of hair just turning to silver. With hat 
off, he rode up and down the line, as the regi 
ment stood in "company front" on Federal 
Street, between the old Cooper Shop (which 
was destined later to be the great Volunteers 

With the Army of the Potomac 101 

Refreshment Saloon) and the Baltimore Depot, 
where they were to take cars for the seat of 
war. Like the "ten thousand" with Klearchos, 
foreigner, hut also friend and commander, of 
whom Xenophon in the " Anabasis " speaks, it 
was already uncertain whether the Philadelphia 
men most feared or loved their lion-hearted 
leader. A few weeks went by, the tragedy of 
Ball s Bluff took place, and in Independence 
Hall I saw the brave Colonel Baker s body 
lying in state. In that hall of heroes, it seemed 
to my imagination as though the painted eyes 
of the Revolutionary heroes looked down in 
sympathy and approval. There, if not already 
among them, soon hung also the picture of 
Lieutenant Henry Greble, friend and neighbor, 
killed at Big Bethel, and the first officer in the 
regular army slain during the war. Colonel, 
afterwards General, Charles Devens, Jr., whose 
acquaintance Mr. Coffin made about this time, 
distinguished himself from this early engage 
ment at Ball s Bluff throughout the war, and 
until the closing scene at Appomattox Court 
House, rising to the rank of brevet major- 
general. Long afterwards, in Boston, having 
been attorney-general of the United States, I 

IO2 Charles Carleton Coffin 

knew him as the judge of the Supreme Court 
of Massachusetts, meeting him socially more 
than once, and noticing the warm friendship 
between the famous war correspondent and 
this dignified interpreter of law. 

After the battle of Ball s Bluff, seeing in 
detail the other and the hideous side of war 
in the mutilation of the human frame, and the 
awful horror of wounds, Carleton took a long 
ride through Eastern Maryland to look at the 
rebel batteries along the lower Potomac and to 
study the roads, the food products, and the 
black and white humanity of the Chesapeake 
Bay and Potomac regions, besides informing 
himself as to the Union flotilla. In the 
absence of active military operations, he wrote 
of the religious life of the soldiers. He was 
appalled at the awful profanity around him, 
and his constant prayer to God was for strength 
to resist the demoralizing influences around 
him, which seemed to him a hell on earth. 
His wife s words followed him "like a strain 
of music," and "the infinite purity of Jesus" 
was his inspiring influence. 

He made himself thoroughly acquainted 
with the New England regiments, and studied 

With the Army of the Potomac 103 

the details in the "mosaic of the army." He 
became so expert in studying the general com 
position of the regiments, their physical appear 
ance, and ways of life, peculiarities of thought, 
speech, and action, that usually within five 
minutes he could tell from what State, and 
usually from what locality a regiment had 
come. He writes: 

"A regiment from Vermont is as unlike a 
regiment from Pennsylvania almost as a pea 
from a pumpkin. Both are excellent. Both 
are brave. Both will fight well; but in the 
habits of life, in modes of doing a thing, they 
are widely different." 

"Just look at the division that crosses the 
Potomac, and see the mosaic of McClellan s 
army. Commencing on the right there is 
McCall s division, one grand lump of Pennsyl 
vania coal and iron. There is Smith s division, 
containing a block of Vermont marble ; then 
Porter s tough conglomerate of Pennsylvania, 
New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, 
and Rhode Island; then McDowell s, a splendid 
specimen of New York; then Blenker s, a mag 
nificent contribution from Germany, with such 
names as Stahl, Wurnhe, Amsburg, Bush- 

104 Charles Carleton Coffin 

beck, Bahler, Steinwick, Saest, Betje, Cultes 
D Utassy, Von Gilsa, and Schimmelpfennig, 
who talk the language of their Fatherland, sing 
the Rhine songs, and drink a deluge of lager 
beer, slow, sure, reliable men, of the stock 
that stood undismayed when all things were 
against them, in the times of Frederick the 
Great, who lost everything except courage, and, 
that being invincible, regained all they had lost. 
Then there are the Irish brigades and regiments 
from a stock which needs no words of praise, 
for their deeds are written in history. Without 
enumerating all the divisions, we see Yankees, 
Germans, Irish, Scotch, Italians, Frenchmen, 
Norwegians, and Dutchmen, all in one army; 
and, grandest spectacle of all, moved by one 
common impulse to put down this rebellion, 
and to save for all future time the principle 
upon which this government is founded." 

Weeks and months passed, and Carleton be 
came acquainted with all the minutiae of camp 
life. He studied the peculiarities of the sut 
ler, the army mule, the government rations, 
and the pies concocted in New York. He en 
joyed the grand reviews, noting with his quick 
eye the difference, in the great host, between 

With the Army of the Potomac 105 

the volunteers and the regulars. Of the type 
of that noble band of officers and men, none 
the less patriotic because more thoroughly edu 
cated in drills than the volunteers, he wrote : 
"His steps are regulated, his motions, his 
manners, he is a regular in all these. The 
volunteer stoops beneath the load on his back. 
He is far more like Bunyan s c Pilgrim s Prog 
ress, with his burden of sin, than the regu 
lar. His steps are uneven, his legs are more 
unsteady. He carries his gun at a different 
angle. He lacks the finish which is obtained 
only by hard drill, and exact discipline." He 
closed this letter with a tribute of praise to 
Tidball s superb battery of artillery. 

At this time the cavalry were not in good 
repute, General Scott not being in favor of any 
horsemen, except for scouting purposes. In 
this arm of the service the Confederates were 
far ahead of the Union soldiers. Grant, Sheri 
dan, and Ronald McKenzie had not yet trans 
formed our Northern horsemen into whirlwinds 
of fire. After various other experiences, includ 
ing a long ride through Western Maryland, 
Carleton, within a few days before Christmas, 
was called by his employers to leave the Army 

io6 Charles Carleton Coffin 

of the Potomac, to go west to the prospective 
battle-field, where the heavy blows were soon 
to be struck. He was succeeded in Wash 
ington by Mr. Benjamin Perley Poore. A 
few noble words of farewell in his iO9th let 
ter, dated Washington, December 21, 1861, 
closed Carleton s first campaign in the East, 
his acquaintance with the Army of the Poto 
mac having begun on the 1 2th of June. 
Having won the hearts of the soldiers in 
camp, and their friends at home, he left for 
" the next great battle-field " in the West, 
where, as he said, " history will soon be writ 
ten in blood." He would see how the navy, 
as well as the army, was to bring peace by its 
men of valor, and its heavy guns, "preachers 
against treason." His experience was to be of 
war on the waters, as well as on land. 



HIS first letter from the Army of the West, 
he dated, Cincinnati, December 28, 1861. 
Instead of a comparatively circumscribed Utica 
(on the Potomac), to confine his powers, our 
modern Ulysses had a line a thousand miles 
long, and a territory larger than several New 
Englands to look over. His first work, there 
fore, was to invite his readers to a panorama of 
Kentucky and the Mississippi Valley. Thus 
far in the war there had been no masterly 
moves, but, on the contrary, masterly inac 
tivity. With such splendid chances for heroes, 
who would improve them ? Neither Wolfe 
nor Washington had played Micawber, but 
had created opportunities. Carleton wrote, 
" Now is the time for the highest order of 
military genius. . . . We wait for him who 

shall improve the propitious hours." So in 


io8 Charles Carleton Coffin 

waiting went out the gloomy year of 1861. 
At Louisville, Ky., Carleton made the ac 
quaintance in detail of General Buell s army. 
The commander, Don Carlos Buell, did not 
enjoy the presence of correspondents, and those 
from Cincinnati and New York papers had 
been expelled from the camp ; nor was Carle- 
ton s letter from the Secretary of War, asking 
that "facilities consistent with public interests" 
be granted him, of any avail. He wrote on 
New Year s day, " No more troops are needed 
here, or on the Potomac at present ; what is 
wanted is activity, activity, activity." 

Following Horace Greeley s advice, Carle- 
ton went West. On January 4th, having sur 
veyed the land and people, he sent home two 
letters, then moved on to Rolla, in the heart 
of Missouri, and, having got out of St. Louis 
with his passes, he found himself, January i ith, 
at Cairo. There the New England men were 
warm in their welcome of the sole representa 
tive of the press of the Eastern States, though 
St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York 
journals were also represented. Among these 
were A. D. Richardson, of the New York 
Tribune, and Whitelaw Reid, of the Cincin- 

"Ho, for the Gunboats, Ho!" 109 

nati Gazette. Unlike General Don Carlos Buell, 
General U. S. Grant, in command at Cairo, 
had no horror of newspaper correspondents, 
and granted them all reasonable facilities. For 
the first time Carleton looked upon the gun 
boats, "three being of the coal-transport pat 
tern, and five of the turtle style," with sides 
sloping inward, both above and below the deck. 
A shot from the enemy would be likely either 
to fly up in the air or " go into the realms 
of the catfish." As to the army, Carleton 
noticed that, as compared with the Army of 
the Potomac, discipline was much more severe 
in the East, while real democracy was much 
more general in the West. Men seemed less 
proud of their shoulder-straps. The rules of 
military etiquette were barely observed. 

" There is but very little of the soldier about 
these Western troops. They are armed citi 
zens, brave, active, energetic, with a fine phy 
sique, acquainted with hardships, reared to 
rough life . . . but it is by no means certain 
that they will not be quite as effective in the 
field. The troops here are a splendid set of 
men, all of them young. . . . There is more 
bone and muscle here, but less culture. ... I 

iio * Charles Carleton Coffin 

have heard far less profanity here than on the 
Potomac, among officers and men." He be 
lieved there were fewer profane words used 
and less whiskey drunk than among the troops 
in the East. There was not as much attention 
paid to neatness and camp hygiene. 

It was at Cairo that Carleton made the 
personal acquaintance, which he retained until 
their death, of General Ulysses S. Grant and 
Commodore Foote. The latter had already 
made a superb reputation as a naval officer in 
Africa and China. Before Foote was able to 
equip and start his fleet, or Grant could move 
his army southward, on what proved to be 
their resistless march, Carleton made journeys 
into Kentucky, wrote letters from Cincinnati 
and Chicago, and arrived back in time to join 
General Grant s column. He went down the 
river, seeing the victorious battle and siege 
operations. First from Cairo, and then from 
Fort Donelson, he penned brilliant and accu 
rate accounts of the capture of Fort Henry 
and Fort Donelson, which opened the South 
ern Confederacy to the advance of the Union 
army. While Grant beat the rebels, Carleton 
beat his fellow correspondents, even though he 

" Ho, for the Gunboats, Ho ! " 1 1 1 

had first to spend many hours among the 
wounded. The newspaper men from New 
York had poked not a little fun at the " Bos 
ton man," chaffing him because they thought 
the New England newspapers " slow " and 
" out of date in methods." They fully ex 
pected that Carleton s despatches would be far 
behind theirs in point of time as well as in 
general value. Their boasting was sadly pre 
mature. Carleton beat them all, and their 
humiliation was great. 

The matter was in this wise. He had 
hoped by taking the first boat from Fort 
Donelson to Cairo to find time to write out 
an account of the siege and surrender of the 
great fortresses ; but during his travel of one 
hundred and eighty miles on the river, the 
steamer had in its cabin and staterooms two 
hundred maimed soldiers and officers with 
their wounds undressed. Instead of occupa 
tion with ink-bottle, pen, and paper, Carleton 
found himself giving water to the wounded, 
and holding the light for surgeons and nurses. 
Then, knowing that no other correspondent 
had the exact and copious information pos 
sessed by himself, he took the cars, writing his 

i i 2 Charles Carleton Coffin 

letters on the route from Cairo to Chicago, 
where he mailed them. 

No doubt at this time, while Carleton was 
writing so brilliantly to a quarter of a million 
readers, many of them envied him his oppor 
tunities. Distance lent enchantment to the 
view. " But let me say," wrote Carleton, " if 
they were once brought into close contact with 
all the dreadful realities of war, if they were 
obliged to stand the chances of getting their 
heads knocked off, or blown to atoms by an 
unexpected shell, or bored through with a 
minie ball, to stand their chances of being 
captured by the enemy, to live on bread and 
water, and little of it, as all of the correspond 
ents have been obliged to do the past week, 
to sleep on the ground, or on a sack of corn, 
or in a barn, with the wind blowing a gale, 
and the snow whirling in drifts, and the ther 
mometer shrunk to zero, and then, after the 
battle is over and the field won, to walk 
among the dying and the dead, to behold all 
the ghastly sights of trunkless heads and head 
less trunks, to see the human form muti 
lated, disfigured, torn, and mangled by shot 
and shell, to step in pools of blood, to 

"Ho, for the Gunboats, Ho!" 113 

hear all around sighs, groans, imprecations, and 
prayers from dying men, they would be con 
tent to let others become historians of the war. 
But this is not all ; a correspondent must keep 
ever in view the thousands that are looking 
at the journal he represents, who expect his 
account at the earliest possible moment. If 
he is behindhand, his occupation is gone. 
His account must be first, or among the first, 
or it is nothing. Day and night he must be 
on the alert, improving every opportunity and 
turning it to account. If he loses a steam 
boat trip, or a train of cars, or a mail, it is all 
up with him. He might as well put his pencil 
in his pocket and go home." 

Carleton had a hearty laugh over a letter 
from a friend who advised him " to take more 
time and rewrite his letters," adding that it 
would be for his benefit. To Carleton, who 
often wrote amid the smoke of battle or on 
deck amid bursting shells, or while flying over 
the prairies at the rate of thirty-five miles an 
hour, in order, first of all, to be ahead of his 
rivals, this seemed a joke. In after-years of 
calm and leisure, when writing his books, he 
painted word pictures and finished his chapters > 

ii4 Charles Carleton Coffin 

giving them a rhetorical gloss impossible when 
writing in haste against the pressure of rush 
ing time. Although Boston was two hundred 
miles farther from Cairo than New York, yet 
all New England had read Carleton s account 
in the Journal before any correspondent s let 
ters from Fort Donelson or Henry appeared 
in the newspapers of Manhattan. 

After the fall of Columbus, the next point 
to which army and navy were to give attention 
was the famous Island Number Ten. Here 
the Confederates were concentrating all that 
were available in men and cannon. Thousands 
of negroes were at work upon the trenches, and 
it was believed that the fight would be most 
desperate. After long waiting for his arma 
ment and the training of his men, Commodore 
Foote was ready. Carleton wrote at Cairo, 
March 10, 1862, in the exhilaration of high 
hopes : 

" Like the waves of the Atlantic is the tide 
of events. How they sweep ! Henry, Don 
elson, Bowling Green, Nashville, Roanoke, 
Columbus, Hampton Roads, Manassas, Cedar 
Creek, wave upon wave, dashing at the 
foundation of a house built upon the sand. 

"Ho, for the Gunboats, Ho!" 115 

. . . The gigantic structure is tottering. A 
few more days like that of the immediate past, 
and the Confederacy will have a name and a 
place only in history. And what a history it 
will be ! A most stupendous crime. A con 
spiracy unparalleled, crushed out by a free 
people, and the best government of all times 
saved to the world ! How it sends one s blood 
through his veins to think of it ! Who would 
not live in such an age as this ? Before this 
reaches you, the telegraph, I hope, will have 
informed you that the Mississippi is open to 
New Orleans." 

So thought Carleton then. Who at that 
time was wiser than he ? 

Island Number Ten, so named quite early 
in history, by the pilots descending the river, 
was a place but little known in the East. To 
the writer it was one of interest, because here 
had lived for a year or so a beloved sister 
whose letters from the plantation and home at 
which she was a guest were not only frequent, 
but full of the fun and keen interest about 
things as seen on a slave plantation by a bright 
young girl of twenty from Philadelphia. Well 
do I remember the handsome planter of com- 

116 Charles Carleton Coffin 

manding form and winning manners who had 
made my sister s stay in the family of the 
Merri wethers so pleasant, and who at our 
home in Philadelphia told of his life on the 
Mississippi. This was but two or three years 
before the breaking out of the war. This 
same plantation on Island Number Ten was 
afterwards sown thickly with the seed of war, 
shot, and shell. In front of it took place the 
great naval battle, which Carleton witnessed 
from the deck of the gunboat Pittsburg, which 
he has described not only in his letters but also 
in the books written later. After the destruc 
tion of the rebel fleet followed the heavy bom 
bardment which, after many days of constant 
rain of iron, compelled the evacuation of the 
forts early in April. Even after these stagger 
ing blows at the Confederacy, Carleton expa 
tiated on the mighty work that yet remained 
to be done before Secessia should become one 
of the curiosities of history in the limbo of 
things exploded. 

A month of arduous toil and continuous 
activity on foot, on deck, and on horseback 
followed. On the river and in Tennessee and 
in Mississippi the tireless news-gatherer plied 

" Ho, for the Gunboats, Ho!" 117 

his tasks. Then came tidings of the capture 
of New Orleans, the evacuation of Fort Pillow, 
in or near which Carleton wrote two of his best 
letters ; the retreat of the Confederates from 
Memphis, and the annihilation of the rebel 
fleet in a great water battle, during which 
Carleton had the very best position for obser 
vation, only two other journalists being present 
to witness it with him. Owing to a week s 
sickness, he did not see the battle of Shiloh 
or Pittsburg Landing, but he arrived on the 
ground very soon after, and went over the 
whole field with participants in the struggle 
and while the debris was still fresh. He made 
so thorough a study of this decisive field of 
valor, that he was able to write with notable 
power and clearness both in his letters at the 
time and later in his books. 

We find him in Chicago, June lyth, in Bos 
ton, June 2 ist, where, in one of his letters, 
numbering probably about the two hundredth, 
he welcomes the sweet breezes of New England, 
her mountains, the deep-toned diapason of the 
ever-sounding sea, the green fields, the troops 
of smiling children, the toll of church bells, 
and the warm grasp of hands from a host of 

ii8 Charles Carleton Coffin 

kind-hearted friends ; and, best of all, the 
pure patriotism, the true, holy devotion of 
a people whose mighty hearts beat now and 
ever " for union and liberty, one and insep 



THE opening of the battle-summer of 
1862 found the seat of war in the East, 
in the tidewater region of Virginia. These 
were the days when "strategy" was the word. 
General George B. McClellan s leading idea 
was to capture Richmond rather than destroy 
the Confederate army. His own forces lay on 
both sides of the Chickahominy, in the penin 
sula below Richmond. The series of five 
battles had already begun when Carleton ar 
rived in Baltimore, July id. A peremptory 
order from Washington having stopped every 
one from reaching Fortress Monroe, he had 
therefore to do the next best thing as collector 
and reviser of news. After studying the whole 
situation, he wrote a long and detailed letter 
from Baltimore. 

Spending most of the summer at home, 

he was able to rejoin the army early in Sep- 


I2O Charles Carleton Coffin 

tember, when Lee began his daring invasion 
of the North, a political even more than a 
military move. Then Confederate audacity 
was fully matched by Pennsylvania s patriot 
ism. Although the State had already one 
hundred and fifty regiments in service, Gover 
nor Andrew D. Curtin called for fifty thousand 
more men. Within ten days that number of 
militia were armed and equipped, and in the 
field. Millionaires and wage-earners, profes 
sors and students, ministers and their congre 
gations were in line guarding the Cumberland 
Valley. Neither disasters nor the incapacity 
of generals chilled the fierce resolve of Penn 
sylvania s sons, who were determined to show 
that the North could not be successfully 
invaded, even by veterans led by the bravest 
and most competent generals of the age. 

Carleton was in the saddle as soon as he 
learned that Lee had moved. From Parkton 
to Hanover Junction, to Westminster, to Har- 
risburg, to Green Castle, to Hagerstown, to 
Keitisville he rode, and at these places he 
wrote, hoping to be in at the mightiest battle 
which, until this time, had ever been fought on 
American soil. For many days it was a mys- 

At Antietam and Fredericksburg 121 

tery to the Washington authorities, and to the 
Army of the Potomac, where Lee and his divi 
sions were ; but, with his usual good fortune, 
Carleton was but nine miles distant, at Hagers- 
town, when the booming of the cannon at 
Antietam roused him from his sleep. It was 
not many minutes before he was in saddle and 
away. Instead of the ride down the Sharps- 
burg pike that would have brought him in 
rear of the enemy, he rode down the Boons- 
boro road, reaching the right wing of the 
Union army just as Hooker was pushing his 
columns into position. Striking off from the 
main road, through fields and farms, he came 
to Antietam creek. He found a ford, and 
reached a pathway where a line of wagons 
loaded with the wounded was winding down 
the slope. On the fields above was a squad 
ron of cavalry to hold back stragglers. In the 
first ambulance he descried a silver star, and 
saw the face of the brave General Richardson, 
dead, with a bullet through his breast. At 
the farmhouses, rows of men were already 
lying in the straw, waiting their turn at the 
surgeon s hands, while long lines of men were 
bringing the fallen on stretchers. With hatred 

122 Charles Carleton Coffin 

of war in his heart, but with faith in its stern 
necessity, Carleton rode on to see the fight 
which raged in front of Sumner, noticing that 
the cannon of Hooker and Mansfield were 
silent, cooling their lips after the morning s 
fever. Of the superb Pennsylvania Reserve 
Corps, which he had seen a year ago at review, 
there was now but a remnant. He ascended 
the ridge, where thirty pieces of cannon were 
every moment emptying their black mouths 
of fire and iron. 

All day long Carleton was witness of the 
battle, and then sent home from Sharpsburg, 
September I9th, in addition to his preliminary 
letter, a long and comprehensive account in 
five columns of print. It was so animated 
in style, so exact in particulars, and so skil 
ful and clear in its general grouping, that its 
writer was overwhelmed with congratulations 
by the best of all critics, his fellow corre 
spondents. In two other letters from Sharps- 
burg, he reviewed the whole subject judicially, 
and then returned home for a few days 

From Philadelphia we find two of his let 
ters, one describing the transport of troops 

At Antietam and Fredericksbur 


and the monitors then on the stocks, or in 
the Delaware, and another reviewing the ac 
count of Antietam which he had read in the 
Charleston Courier. Indeed, all through the 
war, Mr. Coffin took pains to inform himself 
as to Southern opinion, and the methods of its 
manufacture and influence by the press. He 
was thus able to correct and purify his own 
judgments. He preserved his copies of the 
Southern papers, and gradually accumulated, 
during and after the war, a unique collection 
of the newspapers of the South. His first 
opinion about the battle of Antietam, written 
October 8, 1862, is the same as that which he 
held thirty years later : 

"In reviewing the contest, aided by the 
Southern account, it seems that all through 
the day, complete, decisive, annihilating vic 
tory lay within our grasp, and yet we did 
not take it." 

Let us read further from the closing para 
graph of that letter, which he wrote in Phila 
delphia, before moving West to the army in 
Kentucky : 

"In saying this, I raise no criticism, make 
no question or blame, but prefer to look upon 

i 24 Charles Carleton Coffin 

it as a controlling of that Providence which 
notices the fall of every sparrow. The time 
had not come for complete victory, for anni 
hilation of the rebel army. We are not yet 
over the Red Sea. The baptism of blood is 
not yet complete. The cause of the war is not 
yet removed, retribution for crime is not yet 
finished. We must suffer again. With firmer 
faith than ever in the ultimate triumph of 
right, truth, and justice, let us accept the fiery 

Like the pendulum of an observatory clock, 
the bob-point of which touches at each vibra 
tion the mercury which transmits intelligence 
of its movements to distant points, Carleton 
now swung himself to Cincinnati. In Louis 
ville he gave an account, from reports, of the 
battle of Perryville. It was written in the 
utmost haste, with one eye upon the hands 
of his watch moving on to the minute of the 
closing of the mail. In such a case, according 
to his custom, he wrote a second letter, when 
possessed with fuller data from eye-witnesses. 
In the heart of Kentucky he was able to see 
the effects of the President s Emancipation 
Proclamation, which had been issued but three 

At Antietam and Fredericksburg 125 

weeks before. He described the coming of 
the Confederate army into Kentucky as " the 
Flatterer, dressed in a white garment, who 
with many fair speeches would have turned 
Christian and Faithful from the glittering gates 
of the Golden City, shining serene and fair 
over the land of Beulah." The robe having 
dropped from Flatterer s limbs, the Kentuckian 
saw that the reality was hideous, and that to 
follow him was to go back again to the City of 
Destruction. The Confederates moved south 
ward, laden with plunder, while General Buell, 
with his army of one hundred and forty thou 
sand men, after having mildly pursued them 
for twenty-one days, returned to Louisville. 
Carleton s comment upon these movements is, 
" Such is strategy." 

Finding himself again in the trough of inac 
tivity, and ever ready to mount on the wave 
of opportunity, Carleton moved again to the 
East, writing in the cars while whirling to Vir 
ginia. His first letters from the East were 
penned at Harper s Ferry. Then began his 
zigzag movements, like a planet. We find 
his pen active at Berlin, Md., Purcellville, Va., 
Upperville, Va., where, beside the cavalry bat- 

126 Charles Carleton Coffin 

ties between Pleasanton and Stewart, he saw 
that seven corps were in motion. From 
Gainesville, Warrenton Junction, Orleans, 
Warrenton, Catlett s Station, and again and 
often from Washington, and from Falmouth, 
he sent his letters, which, if not always full of 
battle, kept the heart of New England patient 
and courageous. 

McClellan had been removed, and Burnside, 
taking command, led his army to the riverside 
before Fredericksburg. Carleton w r as witness 
of the bombardment of the city by the Federal 
artillery. From his coign of vantage at Gen 
eral Sumner s headquarters, on the piazza of 
an elegant mansion, one hundred feet above 
the Rappahannock, and about three-quarters of 
a mile from it, he could see, as though it were 
a great cartoon and he a weaver of the Gobelins 
tapestry of history, the awful pattern of war. 
Beyond the sixteen rifled Rodman guns of 
large calibre and long range, mounted on the 
river bluff and thrust out through sand-bags, 
behind the masses of infantry, the pontoon and 
artillery trains, Carleton stood and saw the 
making of a bridge in fifteen minutes, in the 
face of a terrific musketry fire from the oppo- 

At Antietam and Fredericksburg 127 

site shore. Then followed views of the street 
fight in the doomed city, the shattered houses, 
the cloudless sky, the setting sun, the gor 
geous sunset dyes, the deepening shadows, 
the masses of men upon the opposite hills, the 
screaming shells, the puffs of white smoke, the 
bursting storms of iron, the blood-red flames 
illuminating the ruin of dwellings, the battle 
smoke settling in the valley, so densely as to 
obscure or hide the flashes. All this was 
before Carleton on that afternoon and evening 
of that winter s day, December nth. Then 
he spread his blanket for a little sleep, expect 
ing to awake to behold one of the greatest 
battles of modern times ; but the sun set with 
out the two great armies coming to close 

The next day was a hard one, for Carleton 
was in the field until night, now watching a 
bombardment, now a charge, and again a long 
and stubborn, persistent musketry fire. The 
shells sang near him, and at one time he was 
evidently the target for a whole Confederate 
battery ; for, within a few seconds, a round shot 
struck a few rods in front of him, a second fell 
to the right, a third went over his head, a 

128 Charles Carleton Coffin 

fourth skimmed along the surface of the 
ground, just over the backs of a regiment, 
lying flat on their faces. As he moved to the 
shelter of the river bank, a shot dropped oblig 
ingly in the water before him. All day long 
the lines of batteries on the hills smoked like 
Etna and Vesuvius. Sometimes, between ord 
nance and musketry, there were twenty thou 
sand flashes a minute. Carleton thus far had 
seen no battles where the fire equalled that 
which was poured upon Sumner s command 
during the last grand, but hopeless, charge at 
sunset. At nightfall, when the wearied soldiers 
could lie down for rest, Carleton began the 
work of writing his letter. Among other 
things he said: 

"With the deference to military strategics, 
my own common sense deprecated attempting 
the movements which were made, as unneces 
sary and unwise, which must be accomplished 
with fearful slaughter, and which I believed 
would be unsuccessful. . . . 

"It is a plain of Balaklava, where the Light 
Brigade, renowned in song, made their fearful 

Then follows a simple but sufficient diagram 

At Antietam and Fredericksburg 129 

of the Confederate impregnable position, where, 
with only common printer s type, and the 
"daggers" of punctuation standing for Blakes- 
ley and Armstrong guns, printer s ink told the 
story. Though nearly exhausted by his mani 
fold labors of brain and muscle, Carleton, on 
the 1 5th, visited the battle-field, which did not 
exceed one hundred acres, and the city in 
which the troops were quietly quartered, but 
in which a Confederate shell was falling every 
ten minutes. After surveying the near and 
distant scenes from the cupola of an already 
well-riddled house, Carleton followed the army 
when it withdrew to Falmouth, seeing through 
his glass the Confederates leaping upon the 
deserted entrenchments and staring at the 
empty town. 

Returning to Washington, he reviewed as 
usual the battle, and then returned homeward, 
according to his wont, for three weeks of rest 
and refreshment. His last letter, before leav 
ing the front, was a noble and inspiriting plea 
for patience and continuance. He wrote: "The 
army is ready to fight, but the people are de 
spondent. The army has not lost its nerve, 
its self-possession, its balance ; it is more pow- 

ijo Charles Carleton Coffin 

erful to-day than it has ever been. It has no 
thought of giving up the contest. The cause 
is holy. It is not for power or dominion, but 
for the rich inheritance decreed by our fathers." 
The same bugle call of inspiration sounded 
from his lips and pen, when he rejoined the 
army on the Rappahannock, and Hooker was in 
command. He wrote : " The army needs sev 
eral things ; first, to be supported by the peo 
ple at home. There is nothing which will so 
quickly take the strength out of the soldier as 
a blue letter from home, and on the other hand 
there is nothing which would give him so much 
life as a cheerful, hopeful letter from his friends. 
Let every one look beyond the immediate pres 
ent into the years to come, and think of the 
inheritance he is to bequeath to his children. 
Let him see the coming millions of our people 
on this continent ; let him lay his ear to the 
ground, and hear the tread of that mighty 
host which is to people the Mississippi Val 
ley ; which will climb the mountains of the 
West, to coin the hidden riches into gold ; 
let him see the great cities springing up on 
the Pacific Coast; let him understand that 
this nation is yet in its youth ; that this con- 

At Antietam and Fredericksburg 131 

tinent is to be the highway between China and 
Europe ; let him behold this contest in its vast 
proportion, reaching through all coming time, 
and affecting the entire human race forever ; 
let him resolve that, come weal or come woe, 
come life or come death, that it shall be sus 
tained, and it will be." 

Another letter deals in rather severe sarcasm 
with a friend who belonged to "the Nightshade 
family," one of those individuals who thrive 
on darkness. He wrote : cc People of New 
England, are you not ashamed of yourselves ? 
Away with your old womanish fears, your 
shivering, your timidity, your garrulousness. 
. . . Sustain your sons by bold, inspiring, 
patriotic words and acts ; act like men. . . . 
This army, this government must be sustained. 
It will be ." 



AFTER five letters from Washington, in 
the first of which he had predicted that 
in a few days, for the first time in war, there 
would be the great contest between ironclads 
and forts, and the stroke of fifteen-inch shot 
against masonry, Carleton set off for salt water, 
determining to see the tug-of-war on the Atlan 
tic coast. It was on Saturday afternoon, Feb 
ruary yth, that he stood on deck of the steamer 
Augusta Dinsmore as she moved through 
the floating masses of ice down the Hudson 
River to the sea. This new ship was owned 
by Adams s Express Company, and with her 
consort, Mary Sandford, was employed in 
carrying barrels of apples, boxes of clothing, 
messages of love, and tokens of affection be 
tween the Union soldiers along the coast and 
their friends at home. Heavily loaded with 
express packages, with fifty or sixty thousand 


The Ironclads Off Charleston 133 

letters, and with several hundred fifteen-inch 
solid shot, packed ready for delivery by Ad 
miral Du Pont at or into Fort Sumter, the trim 
craft passed over a sea like glass, except that 
now and then was a dying groan or heave 
of the storm of a week before. A pleasant 
Sunday at sea was spent with worship, sermon, 
and song. After sixty hours on salt water, 
Carleton s ear caught the boom of the surf on 
the beach. The sea-gulls flitted around, and 
after the sun had rent the pall of fog, the town 
of Beaufort appeared in view. 

The harbor was full of schooners which 
had come from up North, bringing potatoes, 
onions, apples, and Yankee notions for the 
great blue-coated community at Newburgh. 
Carleton moved up the poverty-stricken coun 
try through marsh, sea-sand, pitch-pine, swamp, 
and plain. Here and there were the shanties 
of sand-hillers, negro huts, and scores of long, 
lank, scrimped-up, razor-backed pigs of the 
Congo breed, as to color ; but in speed, racers, 
outstripping the fleetest horses. Making his 
headquarters at Hilton Head, Carleton made 
a thorough study of the military and naval 
situation. He visited the New England regi- 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

ments. He saw the enlistment of negro troops, 
and devoted one letter to Colonel Thomas 
Wentworth Higginson s first South Carolina 
regiment of volunteers. 

With his usual luck, that is, the result of 
intelligence and energy which left nothing to 
mere luck, Carleton stood on the steamer Nan- 
tasket, off Charleston, April 7, 1863. Both 
admiral and general had recognized the war 
correspondents as the historians of the hour. 
At half past one, the signal for sailing was dis 
played from the flag-ship. Then the ugly 
black floating fortresses moved off in a line, 
each a third or a half a mile apart, against the 
masses of granite at Sumter and Moultrie, and 
the earthen batteries on three sides. "There 
are no clouds of canvas, no beautiful models 
of marine architecture, none of the stateliness 
and majesty which have marked hundreds of 
great naval engagements. There is but little 
to the sight calculated to excite enthusiasm. 
There are eight black specks, and one oblong 
block, like so many bugs. There are no hu 
man beings in sight, no propelling power 

A few minutes later, " the ocean boils." 

The Ironclads Off Charleston 135 

Columns of spray are tossed high in air, as if 
a hundred submarine mines were let instantly 
off, or a school of whales were trying which 
could spout highest. There is a screaming in 
the air, a buzzing and humming never before 
so loud. 

" You must think the earth s crust is rup 
tured, and the volcanic fires, long pent, have 
suddenly found vent." 

" There she is, the Weebawken^ the target of 
probably two hundred and fifty or three hun 
dred guns, at close range, of the heaviest cali 
bre rifled cannon, throwing forged bolts and 
steel-pointed shot turned and polished to a 
hair in the lathes of English workshops, ad 
vancing still, undergoing her first ordeal, a trial 
unparalleled in history. For fifteen minutes 
she meets the ordeal alone." 

Soon the other four monitors follow. Sev 
enty guns a minute are counted, followed by 
moments of calm, and scattering shots, but 
only to break out again in a prolonged roar 
of thunder. In the lulls of the strife, Carle- 
ton steadied his glass, and when the southwest 
breeze swept away the smoke, he could see 
" increasing pock-marks and discolorations 

136 Charles Carleton Coffin 

upon the walls of the fort, as if there had been 
a sudden breaking out of cutaneous disease." 

We now know, from the Confederate offi 
cers then in Fort Sumter, that the best artil 
lery made in England, and the strongest powder 
manufactured in the Confederacy, were used 
during this two and a half hours of mutual 
hammering, until then unparalleled in the his 
tory of the world. Near sunset, at 5.20 P.M., 
signals from the flag-ship were read ; the order 
was, " Retire." 

The red sun sank behind the sand hills, and 
the silence was welcomed. During the heavy 
cannonade, like the Union soldiers who, 
obedient to the hunter s instinct, stopped in 
the midst of a Wilderness battle to shoot rab 
bits, a Confederate gunner had trained his 
rifled cannon upon the three non-combatant 
vessels, the Bibb, the Ben Deford, and the Nan- 
tasket, which lay in the North Channel at a 
respectful distance, but quite within easy range 
of Sullivan s Island. Having fired a half a 
dozen shot which had fallen unnoticed, the 
gunner demoralized the little squadron, and 
sent hundreds of interested spectators running, 
jumping, and rolling below deck, by sending 

The Ironclads Off Charleston 137 

a shot transversely across the Nantasket. It 
dropped in the sea about a hundred yards 
from the bow of the Ben Deford. Another 
shot in admirable line fell short. Shells from 
Cummings Point had also been tried on the 
ships laden with civilians, but had failed to 
reach them. However, the correspondents 
claim to have silenced the batteries, by 
getting out of the way; for in a few minutes 
the cables had been hauled in, paddle-wheels 
set in motion, and distance increased from the 
muzzles of the battery. 

When the fleet returned, Carleton leaped on 
board of the slush deck of the monitor Catskill^ 
receiving hearty response from Captain George 
Rodgers, who reported " All right, nobody 
hurt, ready for them again." I afterwards saw 
all these monitors covered with indentations 
like spinning-top moulds or saucers. They 
were gouged, dented, and bruised by case-shot 
that had struck and glanced sidewise. Here 
and there, it looked as though an adamantine 
serpent had grooved its way over the convex 
iron surface, as a worm leaves the mark of its 
crawling in the soft earth under the stone. 
The Cat skill had received thirty shots, the Keo~ 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

kuk a hundred. Inside of the Nahant, Carleton 
found eleven officers and men badly contused 
by the flying of bolt-heads in the turret ; but, 
except from a temporary jam, her armor was 
intact. On the Patapsco a ball had ripped 
up the plating and pierced the work beneath. 
This was the only shot that had penetrated 
any of the monitors. The Weehawken had 
in one place the pittings of three shots which, 
had they immediately followed each other, 
might, like the arrows of the Earl of Douglas 
in Scott s " Lady of the Lake," split each other 
in twain. Except leaving war s honorable scar, 
these three bolts hurt not the Weehawken. 
Out of probably three thousand projectiles 
shot from behind walls, about three hundred 
and fifty took effect, that is, one shot out of 
six. Three tons of iron were hurled at Fort 
Sumter, and probably six tons at the fleet. 
Fighting inside of iron towers, the Union men 
had no one killed, and but one mortally 
wounded. The Keokuk, the most vulnerable 
of all the ships engaged, sank under the north 
west wind in the heavy sea of the next day. 

It was long after midnight when Carleton 
finished the closing lines of his letter, and then 

The Ironclads Off Charleston 139 

stepped out upon the steamer s guard for a 
little fresh air. Over on Sumter s walls the 
signal-light was being waved. The black 
monitors lay at their anchorage. Ocean, air, 
and moonbeams were calm and peaceful. 
From the flag-ship, which the despatch steamer 
visited, the report was, " The engagement is to 
be renewed to-morrow afternoon." Neverthe 
less, the next day, Admiral Du Pont, dissenting 
from the opinions of his engineers and inspec 
tors, as to a renewal of the attack, moreover 
finding his own officers differing in their 
opinions as to the ability of the fleet to reduce 
Fort Sumter, ordered no advance. The enter 
prise was, for the present, at least, given up. 
So Carleton, after another letter on white and 
black humanity in South Carolina, which 
showed convincingly the results of slavery, 
sailed from Hilton Head. 

Like the war-horse of Hebrew poetry, he 
smelt the battle afar off, and looked to Vir 
ginia. He reached home just in time to hear 
of the great conflict at Chancellorsville. Rush 
ing to Washington, and gathering up from all 
sources news of the disaster, he presented to 
the readers of the Journal a clear and con- 

140 Charles Carleton Coffin 

nected story of the battle. During the latter 
part of May and until the middle of June, the 
previous weeks having been times of inaction 
in the military world, Carleton recruited his 
strength at home. Like a falcon on its perch, 
he awaited the opportunity to swoop on the 



WHEN Lee and his army, leaving the 
front of the Union army and becom 
ing invisible, when President and people, gen 
eral and chief and privates, Cabinet officers 
and correspondents, were wondering what had 
become of the rebel hosts, and when the one 
question in the North was, " Where is General 
Lee ? " Carleton, divining the state of affairs, 
took the railway to Harrisburg. Once more 
he was an observer in the field. His first letter 
is dated June i6th, and illuminates the dark 
ness like an electric search-light. 

General Lee, showing statesmanship as well 
as military ability, had chosen a good time. 
The Federal army was losing its two years 
and nine months men. Vicksburg was about 
to fall. Something must be done to counter 
balance this certain loss to the Confederates. 
Paper money in the South was worth but ten 


142 Charles Carleton Coffin 

per cent, of its face value. Recognition from 
Europe must be won soon, or the high tide of 
opportunity would ebb, nevermore to return. 
Like a great wave coming to its flood, the 
armed host of the Confederacy was moving to 
break at Gettysburg and recede. 

Yet, at that time, who had ever thought of, 
or who, except the farmers and townsmen and 
students in the vicinity, had ever seen Gettys 
burg ? At first Carleton supposed that Har 
per s Ferry might be the scene of the coming 
battle. Again he imagined it possible for Lee 
to move down the Kanawha, and fall upon 
defenceless Ohio. He wrote from Harrisburg, 
from Washington, from Baltimore, from Wash 
ington again, from Baltimore once more, from 
Frederick, where he learned that Hooker had 
been superseded, and Meade, the Pennsylva- 
nian, put in command. On June joth, writ 
ing from Westminster, Md., he described the 
rapid marching of the footsore and hungry 
Confederates, and the equally rapid pedestrian- 
ism of the Federals. He revels in the splen 
dors of nature in Southern Pennsylvania, which 
the Germans once hailed as a holy land of com 
fort and liberty, and which, by their industry, 

Gettysburg: High Tide and Ebb 143 

they had made " fair as the garden of the Lord." 
As Carleton rode with the second corps from 
Frederick to Union Town, and thence to West 
minster, he penned prose poems in description 
of the glorious sight, so different from his native 
and stony New Hampshire. 

" The march yesterday was almost like pass 
ing . through paradise. Such broad acres of 
grain rustling in the breeze ; the hills and 
valleys, bathed in alternate sunlight and shade ; 
the trees so green ; the air so scented with 
clover-blossoms and new-made hay ; the 
cherry-trees ruby with ripened fruit, lining 
the roadway ; the hospitality of the people, 
made it pleasant marching." 

Thus like the great forces of the universe, 
which make the ocean s breast heave to and 
fro, and send the tides in ebb and flood, were 
the great energies which were now to bring two 
hundred thousand men in arms, on the field of 
Gettysburg, in Adams County, Pennsylvania. 
Forty years before, as it is said, a British officer 
surveying the great plain with the ranges of 
hills confronting each other from opposite sides, 
with many highroads converging at this point, 
declared with admiration that this would be a 

144 Charles Carleton Coffin 

superb site for a great battle. Now the vision 
of possibility was to become reality, and Carle- 
ton was to be witness of it all. Since mid-June 
he had been on the rail or in the saddle. He 
was now to spend sleepless nights and laborious 
days that were to tax his physical resources to 
their utmost. 

With his engineer s eye, and from the heights 
overlooking the main field, he took in the 
whole situation. From various points he saw 
the awful battles of July id and jd, which 
he described in two letters, written each time 
after merciful night came down upon the field 
of slaughter. He saw the charges and defeats, 
the counter-charges and the continued carnage, 
and the final cavalry onset made by the rebels. 
He was often under fire. An impression that 
lasted all his life, and to which he often referred, 
was the result of that great movement of Pick- 
ett s division across the field, after the long 
bombardment of the Federal forces by the Con 
federate artillery. Retiring before the heavy 
cannonade, Carleton had remained in the rear, 
until, hearing the cheers of the Union soldiers, 
he reached the slope in time to see the gray and 
brown masses in the distance. 

Gettysburg: High Tide and Ebb 1-45 

As the great wave of human life receded, 
that for a moment had pierced the centre of 
the Union forces, only to be hurled back 
and broken, Carleton rode out down the 
hill and on the plain into the wheat field. 
Then and there, seeing the awful debris, 
came the conviction that the rebellion had 
seen its highest tide, and that henceforth it 
would be only ebb. 

When is a battle over, and how can one 
know it ? That night, Friday, and the next 
day, Saturday, Carleton felt satisfied that Lee 
was in full retreat, though General Meade did 
not seem to think so. Carleton s face was now 
set Bostonwards. Not being able to use the 
army telegraph, he gave his first thought to 
reaching the railroad. The nearest point was 
at Westminster, twenty-eight miles distant, from 
which a freight-train was to leave at 4 P.M. 

Rain was falling heavily, but with Whitelaw 
Reid as companion, Carleton rode the twenty- 
eight miles in two hours and a half. Covered 
with mud from head to foot, and soused to the 
skin, the two riders reached Westminster at 
3.55 P. M. As the train did not immediately 
start, Carleton arranged for the care of his. 

146 Charles Carleton Coffin 

beast, and laying his blanket on the engine s 
boiler, dried it. He then made his bed on the 
floor of the bumping car, getting some sleep 
of an uncertain quality before the train rolled 
into Baltimore. 

At the hotel on Sunday morning he was 
seized by his friend, E. B. Washburn, Grant s 
indefatigable supporter and afterwards Minis 
ter to France, who asked for news. Carleton 
told him of victory and the retreat of Lee. 
<c You lie," was the impulsive answer. Wash- 
burn s nerves had for days been under a strain. 
Then, after telling more, Carleton telegraphed 
a half-column of news to the Journal in Bos 
ton. This message, sent thence to Washing 
ton, was the first news which President Lincoln 
and the Cabinet had of Gettysburg. After a 
bath and hoped-for rest, Carleton was not 
allowed to keep silence. All day, and until 
the train was entered at night for New York, 
he was kept busy in telling the good news. 

The rest of the story of this famous " beat," 
as newspaper men call it, is given in Carleton s 
own words to a Boston reporter, a day or two 
before the celebration of his golden wedding in 
February, 1896 : 

Gettysburg: High Tide and Ebb 147 

" Monday I travelled by train to Boston, 
writing some of my story as I rode along, and 
wiring ahead to the paper what they might 
expect from me. When I reached the office 
I found Newspaper Row packed with peo 
ple, just as you will see it now on election 
night, and every one more than anxious for 

"It was too late, however, for anything but 
the morning edition of Tuesday, but the paper 
wired all over New England the story it would 
have, and the edition finally run off was a large 

" I locked myself in a room and wrote 
steadily until the paper went to press, seeing 
no one but the men handling the copy, and, 
when the last sheet was done, threw myself on 
a pile of papers, thoroughly exhausted, and got 
a few hours sleep. I went to my home in the 
suburbs, the next day, but my townspeople 
wouldn t let me rest. They came after me 
with a band and wagon, and I had to get out 
and tell the story in public again. 

" The next day I left for the front again, 
riding forward from Westminster, where I had 
left my horse, and thus covering about 100 

148 Charles Carleton Coffin 

miles on horseback, and 800 miles by rail, from 
the time I left the army until I got back again. 

" Coffee was all that kept me up during that 
time, but my nerves did not recover from it 
for a long time. In fact, I don t think I could 
have gone through the war as I did, had I not 
made it a practice to take as long a rest as 
possible after a big battle or engagement." 

In his letter written after the decisive event 
of 1863, Carleton pays a strong tribute of 
praise to the orderly retreat which Lee made 
from Pennsylvania. He was bitterly disap 
pointed that the defeated army should have 
been allowed to escape. With the soldiers, he 
looked forward with dread to another Virginia 
campaign. Nevertheless, he was all ready for 
duty. Having found his horse and resumed 
his saddle, he spent a day revisiting the An- 
tietam battle-field. It was still strewn with the 
debris of the fight: old boots, shoes, knapsacks, 
belts, clothes all mouldy in the dampness of 
the woods. He found flattened bullets among 
the leaves, fragments of shells, and, sickening 
to the sight, here and there a skull protruding 
from the ground, the bleaching bones of horses 
and men. The Bunkers church and the 

Gettysburg: High Tide and Ebb 149 

houses were rent, shattered, pierced, and pitted 
with the marks of war. 

Even until July i5th, when he sent des 
patches from Sharpsburg, he nourished the 
hope that Lee s army could still be destroyed 
before reaching Richmond. This was not to 
be. Like salt on a sore, and rubbed in hard, 
Carleton s sensibilities were cut to the quick, 
when, on again coming home, he found the 
people in Boston and vicinity debating the 
question whether the battle of Gettysburg had 
been a victory for the Union army or not. 
Some were even inclined to consider it a defeat. 
Carleton s letter of July 24th, written in Bos 
ton, fairly fumes with indignation at the blind 
critics and in defence of the hard work of the 
ever faithful old Army of the Potomac, 
"which has had hard fighting, terrible fight 
ing, and little praise." He lost patience with 
those staying at home depreciating the army 
and finding fault with General Meade. He 
wrote : " Frankly and bluntly, I cannot appre 
ciate such stupidity. Why not as well ask if 
the sun rose this morning ? That battle was 
the greatest of the war. It was a repulse 
which became a disastrous defeat to General 

5 o 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

Lee." He sarcastically invited critics, "instead 
of staying at home to weaken the army by 
finding fault, to step into the ranks and help 
do the ( bagging, the c cutting up/ and the 
1 routing which they thought ought to have 
been done." 



AFTER the exhausting Gettysburg cam 
paign, Carleton was obliged to rest some 
weeks. So far as his letter-book shows, he did 
not engage in war correspondence again until 
the opening of the next year, when he entered 
upon his fourth hundred of letters, and began a 
tour of observation through the border States. 
Traversing those between the Ohio River and 
the Lakes, besides Missouri and Kansas, he 
kept the Journal readers well informed of the 
state of sentiment, and showed the preparations 
made to pursue the war. At the last of April, 
we find him in Washington preparing his read 
ers for the great events of the Wilderness, in 
letters which clearly describe the prospective 
" valley of decision." The grandest sight, that 
week, in the city, was the marching of Burn- 
side s veteran corps, in which were not only 
the bronzed white heroes, following their own 

1 52 Charles Carleton Coffin 

torn and pierced battle-flags, but also regiments 
of black patriots, slaves but a few months 
before, but now no longer sons of the Dark 
Continent, but of the Land of Hope and 
Opportunity. From slavery they had been re 
deemed in the Free Republic. Unpaid sons of 
toil once, but free men now, they were marching 
with steady step to certain victory or to cer 
tain death, for at that moment came the sicken 
ing details of the massacre of Fort Pillow. On 
the balcony of the hotel, standing beside the 
handsome Burnside, was the tall and pale man 
who, having given them freedom, now recog 
nized them as soldiers. As they halted by the 
roadside and read the accounts of massacre, 
their white teeth clenched, and oaths, not alto 
gether profane, were sworn for vengeance. 

Out from the broad avenues of the nation s 
capital, and away from the sight of the marble 
dome, the great army and its faithful historians 
moved from sight, to the bloodiest contests of 
war. No more splendid pageants in the fields, 
but close, hard, unromantic destruction in the 
woods and among trenches and craters ! One 
mind now directed all the movements of the 
many armies of the Union, making all the 

The Battle in the Wilderness 153 

forces at the control of the nation into one 
mighty trip-hammer, for the crushing of Slav 
ery s conspiracy against Liberty. 

General Grant recognized in Carleton his 
old friend whom he first met in Cairo, and 
whom he had invited to take a nail-keg for a 
seat. Having established his reputation for 
absolute truthfulness, Carleton won not only 
Grant s personal friendship, but obtained a pass 
signed " U. S. Grant," which was good in all 
the military departments of the country, with 
transportation on all government trains and 
steamers. In hours of relaxation, Carleton was 
probably as familiar with Grant as was any 
officer on the general s own staff. Carleton 
profoundly honored and believed in Grant as 
a trained, regular army officer who could cut 
loose from European traditions and methods, 
and fight in the way required in Virginia in 
1864 and 1865. Further, Grant wanted the 
Army of the Potomac to destroy Lee s army 
without the aid of, or reinforcement from, West 
ern troops. 

Carleton comprehended the magnitude of the 
coming campaign, in which were centred the 
hopes of eighteen millions of Americans. In 

i 54 Charles Carleton Coffin 

his eyes it was the most stupendous campaign 
of modern times. " It is not the movement of 
one army merely, but of three great armies, to 
crush out treason, to preserve the institutions 
of freedom, and consolidate ourselves into a 
nation." Butler and Smith were to advance 
from the Chesapeake, the armies of the South 
and West were in time to march northward in 
Lee s rear, while from the West and North 
were to come fresh hosts to consummate the 
grand combination. 

Carleton s foresight had shown him that, in 
this campaign, an assistant for himself would 
be absolutely necessary ; for, in one respect, 
Grant s advance was unique. Instead of, as 
heretofore, the Union army s having its rear in 
close contact with the North, and all the lines 
and methods of communication being open, the 
soldiers and the correspondents were to advance 
into the Wilderness, and cut themselves off 
from the railway, the telegraph, and even the 
ordinary means of communication by horse, 
wheel, and boat. Carleton, at short notice to 
the young man, chose for his assistant his 
nephew, Edmund Carleton, now a veteran sur 
geon and physician in New York, but then in 

The Battle in the Wilderness 155 

the freshness and fullness of youth, health, and 
strength. Alert and vigorous, fertile in re 
source, courageous and persevering, young 
Carleton became the fleet messenger of the 
great war correspondent. He assisted to gather 
news, and soon learned the art of winning the 
soldier s heart, and of extracting, from officers 
and privates, scraps and items of intelligence. 
Even as the hunter becomes expert in noting 
and interpreting signs in air and on earth which 
yield him spoil, so young Carleton, trained by 
his uncle, quickly learned how to secure news, 
and to make a " beat." He kept himself well 
supplied to the extent of his ability with to 
bacco, always welcome to the veterans, for 
which some "would almost sell their souls ;" 
and with newspapers, for which officers would 
often give what was worth more than gold, 
items of information, from which letters could 
be distilled, and on which prophecies could be 
based. Very appropriately, Carleton dedicates 
his fourth book on the war, " Freedom Tri 
umphant," to his fleet messenger. 

Carleton s first letter in the last long cam 
paign is dated May 4, 1864, from Brandy 
Station. There four corps were assembled : 

156 Charles Carleton Coffin 

the Second, Hancock s ; the Fifth, Warren s ; 
the Sixth, Sedgwick s ; the Ninth, Burnside s. 
With Sheridan s riders, these made a great city 
of tents. The cavalry was not the cavalry of 
Scott s day, but was in its potency a new arm 
of the service. From this time forth, the 
Confederate authorities, by neglecting this arm 
of their service, furnished one chief cause of 
final failure, while those in Washington steadily 
increased in generous recognition of the power 
of union of man and horse. In equal ability 
of brute and rider to endure fatigue, the 
Union cavalryman under Sheridan was a ver 
itable centaur. 

While the great army lay waiting and ex 
pectant at Brandy Station, it was significant to 
Carleton when the swift-riding orderlies sud 
denly left headquarters carrying sealed pack 
ages to the corps commanders. First began 
the tramping of the cavalry. Next followed 
the movement of two divisions of the Fifth 
Corps. All night long was heard the rumble 
of artillery. Carleton wrote : " Peering from 
my window upon the shadowy landscape at 
midnight, I saw the glimmering of thousands 
of camp-fires, over all the plain. Hillside, 

The Battle in the Wilderness 


valley, nook, and dell, threw up its flickering 
light. Long trains of white canvas wagons 
disappeared in the distant gloom. 

"At three A. M., the reveille, the roll of in 
numerable drums, and the blow of bugles 
sounded, and as morning brightened, dark 
masses of armed men stood in long line. 
With the first beams of the sun peering over 
the landscape, they moved from the hills. 
Disjointed parts were welded together, regi 
ments became brigades, brigades grew into 
divisions, and divisions became corps. The 
sunlight flashed from a hundred thousand 
bayonets and sabres." Thus in a few hours 
a great city of male inhabitants, numbering 
over the tenth of a million, disappeared. By 
night-time, in a rapid march, Grant was in 
headquarters in a deserted house near the Ger- 
mania Ford. There Carleton noticed the gen 
eral s simple style of living. Unostentatious 
in all his habits, he smoked constantly, often 
whittling a stick while thinking, and wasting 
no words. Grant had stolen a march upon 
Lee, and was as near Richmond as were the 
Confederates, who must attack him in flank 
and retard him if possible. Knowing every 

158 Charles Carleton Coffin 

road and bridle-path in the Wilderness, Lee, 
having drawn all the resources of the Confed 
eracy east of Georgia into his lines, had 
gathered an army the largest and the most 
complete he had yet commanded. He must 
now cut up Grant s host ; or, if unable to do 
so, even without defeat, must begin a march 
which meant some American Saint Helena as 
its end. 

The campaign which followed in that 
densely wooded part of Virginia, a few miles 
west of the former battle-field of Chancellors- 
ville, had not been paralleled for hardship 
during the whole war. In the ten days suc 
ceeding May 4th, when the army broke camp 
at Culpeper and Brandy Station, there had 
been a march of eighteen miles, the crossing 
of the Rapidan with hard fighting on May 5th, 
and on the 6th, the great battle in the Wilder 
ness, among the trees from which the foe could 
hardly be distinguished. On the yth, there 
was fighting all along the line, with the .night 
march after Spottsylvania, and on Sunday, the 
8th, under the burning sun, a sharp fight by 
the Fifth Corps. On the 9th, another terrific 
battle followed, in which three corps were 

The Battle in the Wilderness 159 

engaged, one of them, the Sixth, losing its 
noble commander, Sedgwick, with a score or 
two of able officers. On the loth, in the 
afternoon, a pitched battle was fought all along 
the line, lasting until midnight, in which all 
the corps were engaged. On Wednesday, the 
nth, skirmishing and picket firing formed the 
order of the day along the whole front. On 
Thursday, the I2th, at daybreak, the Second 
Corps began its attack, capturing twenty-three 
guns and several thousand prisoners. Sunday, 
the i Jth, was a time of rain, hard work, hun 
ger, and fatigue. In a word, within twelve 
days there had been four great pitched battles, 
with heavy fighting, mainly in the woods, and 
hard pounding on both sides, with many thou 
sands of dead and wounded. 

During the war Carleton had seen no such 
fighting, suffering, patience, determination. 
General Grant freely admitted that the fight 
ing had been without a parallel during the war. 
There was little work done by the artillery. 
Swords and bayonets were but ornaments or 
emblems. Only lead had the potency of death 
in it. Even the cavalry dismounted, sought 
cover, shooting each other out of position 

160 Charles Carleton Coffin 

with their carbines. Bullets, which do the kill 
ing, were the fixed forces. In war it is mus 
ketry that kills, and it was a question which 
side could stand murder the longest. 

At the end of the Wilderness episodes, Carle- 
ton, after first answering those critics far in the 
rear, who, to all the noble tenacity of Grant and 
his army, queried " Cui bono" wrote : " I confi 
dently expect that he [Grant] will accomplish 
what he has undertaken, because he is deter 
mined, has tenacity of purpose, measures his 
adversary at his true value, expects hard fight 
ing, and prepares for it." It was trying almost 
to discouragement, to this brave, honest, pa 
tient seeker after truth, to find with what chaff 
and husk of imaginary news, manufactured 
in Washington and elsewhere, the editors of 
newspapers had to satisfy the hungry souls of 
the waiting ones at home. 

In one of the engagements, when our right 
wing had been forced by the Confederates; 
when the loud rebel yells were heard so near 
that the teamsters of the Sixth Corps were 
frightened into a panic, and, cutting the traces, 
ran so far and wide that it was two days before 
they were got together again ; when, to many 

The Battle in the Wilderness 161 

army officers, it seemed the day had been lost, 
as lost it had been, save for the stubborn 
valor of the Sixth Corps ; when many a face 
blanched, Carleton looked at Grant. There 
was the modern Silent One, tranquil amid the 
waves of battle. Sitting quietly, with perfect 
poise, eyes on the ground, and steadily smok 
ing, he whittled a stick, neither flesh nor spirit 
quailing. " He himself knew what he would 
do." And he did wait, and, in waiting, won. 
Carleton s faith in Grant, strong from the first, 
was now as a mountain, unshakable. 



THE story of the Wilderness campaign, 
during which were fought the greatest 
musketry battles in the history of the world, 
with their awful slaughter, has been told by 
hundreds of witnesses, and by Carleton himself 
in his books ; but the life of the camp and how 
the great army was handled, how the news was 
forwarded, and how Carleton beat the govern 
ment couriers and all his fellow historians of 
the hour, getting the true report of the awful 
struggle before the country, has not been told, 
or at least, only in part. Let us try to recall 
some of the incidents. 

In the first place, this was the time of the 
year when the flies and manifold sort of ver 
min, flying, crawling, hopping, hungry, and 
ever biting, were in the full rampancy of their 
young vigor. It was not only spiteful enemies 

in human form, that sent crashing shells and 


Camp Life and News-gathering 163 

piercing bullets, but every kind of nipping, 
boring, sucking, and stinging creatures in the 
air and on the earth, that our brave soldiers, 
and especially our wounded, had to face. Even 
to the swallowing of a mouthful of coffee, 
or the biting of a piece of hard tack, it was a 
battle. Flies, above, around, and everywhere, 
made it difficult to eat without taking in ver 
min also. Even upon the most careful man, 
the growth of parasites in the clothing or upon 
the person was a certainty. Within twenty-four 
hours the carcass of a horse, left on the field of 
battle, seemed to move with new and multitu 
dinous life suddenly generated. The stench 
of the great battle-fields was unspeakable, and 
the sudden creation of incalculable hosts of 
insects to do nature s scavenger work was a 
phenomenon necessary, but to human nerves 
horrible. The turkey-buzzards gathered in 
clouds for their hideous banquet. 

All this made the work of the surgeons 
greater, and the sufferings of the wounded 
more intense ; yet, redeeming the awful sight 
of torn and mangled humanity, was the splen 
did discipline and order of the medical staff. 
Upon the first indications of a battle, the regi- 

164 Charles Carleton Coffin 

mental wagons of each corps would be driven 
up to some real or supposed safe place. It 
was the work of but a few moments for the 
tables to be spread with all their terrible array 
of steel instruments, while close at hand would 
be the stores of lint, bandages, towels, basins, 
and all the paraphernalia which science and 
long experience had devised. These dimin 
ished, in some measure, the horrors of the 
battle for at least the wounded. It was a sub 
lime and beautiful sight, as compared with the 
wars of even a century ago, when the surgeon 
had scarcely a recognized position in the army. 
In the very midst of the hell of fire and flame 
and noise, the relief parties, with their stretchers, 
would go out and return with their burdens. 
Soon the neighborhood of the surgeon s wagon 
looked like a harvest-field with the windrows 
of cut grain upon it. Strange as it may seem, 
there was often more real danger in this going 
and coming from rear to front, and from front 
to rear, than on the very battle line itself. 
Many a man preferred to stand in the fighting 
files with the excitement and glory, than to get 
out into the uncertain regions of wandering 
balls and bursting shells. The Carletons, both 

Camp Life and News-gathering 165 

uncle and nephew, had often, while out collect 
ing news, to scud from cover to cover, and amid 
the " zip, zip " of bullets. Dangerous as the 
service was, there was little reward to the eye 
sight, for the Confederate army, like the Jap 
anese dragon of art, was to be seen only in 
bits, here and there. 

How easy for us now, in the leisure of 
abundant time and with all the fresh light that 
science has shed upon surgery, and focussed 
upon the subject of gunshot wounds, to criti 
cise the surgeons of that day, who, with hun 
dreds of men each awaiting in agony his turn, 
were obliged to decide within minutes, yea, 
even seconds, upon a serious operation, with 
out previous preparation or reinforcement of 
the patient. The amputation, the incision, the 
probing had to be done then and there, on the 
instant. It is even wonderful that the sur 
geons did as well as they did. Often it was a 
matter of quick decision as to whether any 
thing should be attempted. One look at 
many a case was enough to decide that death 
was too near. Often the man died in the 
stretcher ; sometimes, when marked for the 
operating-table, he was asleep in his last sleep 

1 66 Charles Carleton Coffin 

before his turn came. Surgeons, hospital 
stewards, nurses, detailed men, had to concen 
trate into moments what in ordinary hospital 
routine may require hours. 

Human nature was reduced to its lowest 
terms when hunger made the possessors of a 
stomach forget whether they were men or 
wolves. The heat was so intense, the march 
ing so severe, that many of the men would 
throw away blankets, rations, and equipments, 
and then make up in camp by stealing. Se 
vere punishment was meted out when ammu 
nition was thrown away. The debris on the 
line of march, and the waste, was tremendous. 
Only strict military discipline made property 
respected. Even then, the new conscript had 
to look out for his bright and serviceable mus 
ket when the old veteran s arms were lost or 
out of order. The newspaper correspondent 
owning a good horse had to keep watch and 
ward, while so many dismounted cavalrymen 
whose horses had been shot were as restless as 
fish out of water. It was hard enough even 
for the soldiers to get rations during the Wil 
derness campaign, harder often for the men of 
letters. Had it not been for kind quarter- 

Camp Life and News-gathering 167 

masters, and the ability of the correspondents 
to find the soft side of their hearts, they must 
have starved. Yet the rapidity with which 
soldiers on their forced marches could turn 
fences into fires and coffee into a blood-warmer 
was amazing. The whole process from cold 
rails to hot coffee inside the stomach often 
occupied less than twenty minutes. In these 
"ramrod days," "pork roasts" slices of 
bacon warmed in the flame or toasted over the 
red coals made, with hard tack, a delicious 

Once when the Second Corps had captured 
several thousand Confederate prisoners, who 
were corralled in an open field in order to be 
safely guarded, and their commander brought 
into the presence of General Grant, the former 
remarked that his men had had nothing to 
eat for the past twenty-four hours. Instantly 
Grant gave the order for several wagon-loads 
of crackers to be brought up and distributed 
to the hungry. Thereupon appeared a spec 
tacle that powerfully impressed young Carle- 
ton. The six-muled teams appeared in a few 
moments and were whipped up alongside of 
the Virginia rail fence. Then the stalwart 

1 68 Charles Carleton Coffin 

teamsters, aided by some of the boys in blue, 
stood beside the wagons to distribute boxes. 
Two men, taking each the end of a box in 
hand, after two or three preparatory swings, 
heaved the box full of biscuit up in the air 
and off into the field. Within the observation 
of young Carleton, no box, while full, ever 
reached the ground, but was seized while yet in 
the air, gripped and ripped open by the men that 
waited like hungry wolves. They tore open the 
packed rows of crackers and fairly jammed 
them down their famished mouths, breaking 
up the hard pieces in their hands while waiting 
for their teeth to do its hasty work. Human 
ity at its noblest, in Grant s instantly ordering 
food, and in its most animal phase of neces 
sity, in the hungry rebels devouring sustenance, 
were illustrated on that day. 

After work with the pen concerning the 
great battles in the Wilderness, Carleton s 
great question was how to get his letters to 
Boston. The first bundle was carried by Mr. 
Wing, of the New York Tribune, the second 
by Mr. Coffin s nephew, Edmund Carleton. 
The nearest point occupied by the Union 
army, which had communication with the 

Camp Life and News-gathering 169 

North by either boat, mail or telegraph, was 
Fredericksburg, more than forty miles to the 
eastward. To reach this place one must ride 
through a region liable at any moment to be 
crossed by regular Confederate cavalry, Mos- 
by s troops, or rebel partisans. There were 
here and there outposts of the Union cavalry, 
but the danger, to a small armed party, and 
much more to a single civilian rider, was very 
great. Nevertheless, young Carleton was 
given his uncle s letters, with the injunction to 
ride his horse so as not to kill it before reach 
ing Fredericksburg. " The horse s life is of 
no importance, compared with the relief of our 
friends anxiety ; and, if necessary to secure 
your purpose of prompt delivery, let the horse 
die, but preserve its life if you can." 

To make success as near to certainty as pos 
sible, young Carleton took counsel with the 
oldest and wisest cavalrymen. He then con 
cluded to take the advice of one, who told him 
to give his horse a pint of corn for breakfast 
and allow the animal plenty of time to eat and 
chew the fodder well. Then, during the day, 
let the beast have all the water he wanted, but 
no food till he reached his destination. For- 

170 Charles Carleton Coffin 

tunately, his horse, being " lean," was the one 
foreordained in the proverb for the "long race." 
The young messenger lay down at night with 
his despatches within his bosom, his saddle 
under his head, and his horse near him. The 
bridle was fastened around his person, and all 
his property so secured that the only thing 
that could be stolen from him without his 
being awakened was his hat and haversack, 
though this last was under his saddle-pillow. 
Nothing else was loose. 

The young man rose early. Alas ! he had 
been bereaved indeed. Not only his hat, but 
his haversack, with all toilet articles, his uncle s 
historic spy-glass, and his personal notes of the 
campaign, were gone. While his horse chewed 
its corn he found a soldier s cap, vastly too 
small, but by ripping up the back seam he was 
able to keep it on his head and save himself 
from sunstroke. Mounting his horse, he set 
out eastward at sunrise. When some miles 
beyond the Federal lines, he was challenged by 
horsemen whom he found to be of the ijth 
Pennsylvania cavalry on outpost duty and 
just in from a foraging trip. They hesitated 
to release him even after examining his passes, 

Camp Life and News-gathering 171 

but "that from Butler fetched them." Even 
then, they did not like him to proceed, assur 
ing him that it was too dangerous for anybody 
to cross such unprotected territory. He would 
be "a dead man inside of an hour." However, 
they examined his horse s shoes, and gave him 
a strip of raw pork, the first food he had tasted 
for many an hour. Finally they bade him 
good-by, promising him that he was going 
" immediately to the devil." Some miles fur 
ther on, he saw near him two riders. Mu 
tually suspicious of each other, the distance 
was shortened between the two parties until 
the character of each was made known. Then 
it was discovered that all three were on the 
same errand, the solitary horseman for Boston 
private enterprise, and the two cavalrymen in 
blue for General Grant to the Government, 
were conveying news. 

They rode pleasantly together for a few 
minutes, but when Carleton noticed that their 
horses were fat and too well-fed to go very 
fast, he bade his companions good-by. He 
put spurs to his horse. Though it was the 
hottest day of the year, he reached Fredericks- 
burg about the middle of the forenoon, thirsty 

1 72 Charles Carleton Coffin 

and hungry, having eaten only the generous 
cavalryman s slice of raw pork on the way. 
He found there a train loading with the 
wounded of several days battle. He at once 
began helping to carry the men on the cars. 
Volunteering as a nurse, where nurses were 
most needed, though at first refused by the 
surgeons, he got on board the train. From 
the Sanitary Commission officers, he received 
the first " square meal " eaten for many days. 
At Acquia Creek, he took the steamboat, and 
after helping to transfer the wounded from 
cars to boat, he remained on board, sleeping 
on a railing seat. Next morning he was in 
Washington, before the newspaper bureaus 
were open. 

He sent by wire a brief account of the Wil 
derness battles. At first the operator was 
very reluctant to transmit the message, since 
he was sure that none had been received by 
the Government, and he feared reprimand or 
discharge for sending false reports. Indeed, 
this information sent by Carleton was the first 
news which either President Lincoln or Secre 
tary Stanton had of Grant s latest movements. 

From the telegraph office, young Carleton 

Camp Life and News-gathering 173 

went to the Boston Journal Bureau, on i4th 
Street. There he had to wait some time, since 
Mr. Coffin s successor in Washington, not 
expecting any tidings, was leisurely in appear 
ing. By the first mail going out, however, a 
" great wad of manuscript," put in envelopes 
as letters, was posted. Again the Journal beat 
even the official messengers and the other 
newspapers in giving the truthful reports of an 
eye-witness. Thus, Charles Carleton Coffin 
scored another triumph. 

How to get back to the army was now a 
question for young Carleton. The orders of 
the Secretary of War were peremptory that no 
one should leave Washington for the front. 
The correspondents who were there might 
stay, but no fresh accessions could be made to 
the ranks of the news-gatherers. How, then, 
could young Carleton pierce through the hedge 
of authority ? 

But the man diligent in business shall stand 
before kings. Young Carleton, securing a 
commission as nurse from Surgeon-General 
Hammond, went down to the riverside, and, 
going on board a steamer arriving with 
wounded, he helped to unload its human 

174 Charles Carleton Coffin 

freight. When the last man had been carried 
over the gunwales, young Carleton stayed on 
board. When far down the river, on the re 
turning boat, he ceased being something like a 
stowaway, and became visible. No one chal 
lenged or disturbed him. At Acquia Creek, 
he found that General Augur, having sent all 
his wounded North, was just abandoning the 
communication. Young Carleton then went 
to Belle Plain, and thence marched three days 
with three companies of the Veteran Invalid 
Corps, and rejoined the army on its forced 
march, when Grant moved by the left flank 
down towards Petersburg. 

Meanwhile, the pride of Mr. Coffin, the 
journalist, and the conscience of Mr. Coffin, 
the man, the uncle, and the Christian, had 
been at civil war. He was berating himself 
for having let his nephew go on so dangerous 
an errand. When the news flew round the 
camp that " young Carleton s back," Mr. Cof 
fin rushed up to his nephew, wrung his hand, 
and cried out, with beaming face, " Ed, you re 
a brick." 


BY this time, Mr. Coffin was himself nearly 
exhausted, having been worn down by 
constant service, day and night, in one of the 
most exhausting campaigns on record. Know 
ing that both armies would have to throw up 
entrenchments and recuperate, he came home, 
according to custom, to rest and freshen for 
renewed exertion. Leaving immediately after 
the battle of Cold Harbor, that is, on June 
yth, he was back again in Washington on 
June 22d, and in Petersburg, June 26th. The 
lines of offence and defence were now twenty 
miles long, and the great battle of Petersburg, 
which was to last many months, the war of 
shovel and spade, had begun. Mr. Coffin 
remained with the army, often riding to City 
Point and along the whole front of the Union 
lines, reading the news of the sinking of the 
Alabama by the Kearsarge, and the call of the 


176 Charles Carleton Coffin 

President for a half million of men, seeing 
many of the minor contests, the picket firing, 
the artillery duels, and learning of the splendid 
valor of the black troops. 

He came to Washington and Baltimore, 
when the news of Early s raid up the Shenan- 
doah Valley was magnified into an invasion of 
Maryland by General Lee, with sixty thou 
sand men behind them. Carleton, however, 
was not one to catch the disease of fear through 
infectious excitement. Finding Grant, the 
commander-in-chief of all the armies in the 
field,, walking alone, quietly and unostenta 
tiously, with his thumbs in the armholes of his 
vest, and smoking a cigar, neither excited nor 
disturbed, Carleton felt sure that the raid had 
been anticipated and was well provided for. 
Both then, as well as on July i8th, when he 
had to argue with friends who wore metaphor 
ically blue glasses, he wrote cheerfully and 
convincingly of his calm, deliberate judgment, 
that the prospects of crushing the rebellion 
were never so bright as at that moment. He 
concluded his letter thus, " Give Grant the 
troops he needs now, and this gigantic struggle 
will speedily come to an end." 

"The Old Flag Waves over Sumter " 177 

While Lee, disappointed in the results of 
Early s menace of Washington, was summon 
ing all his resources to resist the long siege, 
and while Grant was awaiting his reinforce 
ments and preparing the cordon, which, like a 
perfect machine, should at the right moment be 
set in motion to grind in pieces the armies of 
rebellion, Carleton was chosen by the people 
of Boston to accompany their gift of food 
which they wished to send to Savannah, to re 
lieve the needy. Between Tuesday and Thurs 
day of one week, thirty thousand dollars were 
contributed. The steamer Greyhound, a cap 
tured blockade-runner, was chartered. Taking 
in her hold one-half of the provisions, she left 
Boston Harbor at 3 o clock on Saturday after 
noon, January 23, 1865. With the committee 
of relief, Carleton arrived in Savannah in time 
to ride out and meet the army of Sherman. 
After attending meetings of the citizens, seeing 
to the distribution of supplies, and writing a 
number of letters, he now scanned all horizons, 
feeling rather than seeing the signs of supreme 
activity. Whither should he go ? 

Sherman s army was about to move north 
to crush Johnston, and then join Grant in de- 

178 Charles Carleton Coffin 

molishing Lee s host. Mr. Coffin could easily 
have accompanied this marvellous modern 
Anabasis, which, however, instead of retreat 
meant victory. He had an especially warm 
invitation from Major-General A. S. Williams, 
commander of the 2Oth Corps, to be a guest 
at his headquarters. There were many argu 
ments to tempt him to proceed with Sherman s 
army. Nevertheless, from the war correspond 
ent s point of view, it seemed wiser not to go 
overland, but to choose the more unstable 
element, water. For nearly a month, perhaps 
more, the army would have no communication 
with any telegraph office, and for long intervals 
none with the seacoast. 

Carleton knew that after Gilmore s " swamp 
angel " and investing forces had done their 
work, Charleston must soon be empty. He 
longed to see the old flag wave once more 
over Sumter. So, bidding farewell to Sher 
man s army, he took the steamer Fulton at 
Port Royal, which was to stop on her way to 
New York at the blockading fleet off Charles 
ton. Happy choice ! He arrived in the nick 
of time, just as the stars and stripes were being 
hoisted over Sumter. It was on February 

"The Old Flag Waves over Sumter " 179 

1 8th, at 2 P.M., that the Arago steamed into 
Charleston Bay, where he had before seen the 
heaviest artillery duel then known in the his 
tory of the world, and the abandonment of the 
attack by the floating fortresses. Now a new 
glory rose above the fort, while in the distance 
rolled black clouds of smoke, from the con 
flagration of the city. He penned this tele 
gram to the Boston "Journal : 

" The old flag waves over Sumter, Moultrie, 
and the city of Charleston. 

" I can see its crimson stripes and fadeless 
stars waving in the warm sunlight of this glo 
rious day. 

" Thanks be to God who giveth us the 

Carleton had but a few minutes to write out 
his story, for the steamer Fulton was all ready 
to move North. How to get the glorious 
news home, and be first torch-bearer in the 
race that would flash joy over all the North, 
was now Carleton s strenuous thought. As 
matter of fact, this time again, as on several 
occasions before, he beat the Government and 
its official despatch-bearers, and all his fellow 

180 Charles Carleton Coffin 

How did he do it ? 

While other knights of the pen confided 
their missives to the purser of the despatch 
steamer, Arago^ Carleton put his in the hands 
of a passing stranger, who was going North. 
Explaining to him the supreme importance of 
rapidity in delivery of such important news, he 
instructed him as follows : 

" When your steamer comes close to the 
wharf in New York, it will very probably 
touch and then rebound before she is fast to 
her moorings. Do you stand ready on the 
gunwale, and when the sides of the vessel first 
touch the dock, do not wait for the rebound ; 
but jump ashore, and run as for your life to 
the telegraph office, send the telegram, and 
then drop this letter in the post-office." 

Carleton s friend did as he was told. He 
watched his opportunity. In spite of efforts 
to hold him back, he was on terra firma many 
minutes before even the Government messen 
ger left the boat; while, unfortunately for the 
New York newspapers, the purser kept the va 
rious correspondents despatches in his pocket 
until his own affairs had been attended to. It 
was about 8 o clock in the morning when 

"The Old Flag Waves over Sumter " 181 

Carleton s messenger faced the telegraph oper 
ators. Then, as Carleton told the story in 
1896, "they at first refused to take the story, 
as they did not believe its truth, and said it 
would affect the price of gold. In those days, 
there was a censorship of the telegraph, and 
nothing was allowed to be sent which might 
affect the price of gold. 

" But finally they sent the story, and it was 
bulletined in Boston and created a great sensa 
tion. It was wired back to New York and 
pronounced a canard by the papers there, since 
the steamer from Charleston was in and they 
had no news from her. 

" They were set right, though, when about 
noon the purser, having finished his own work, 
delivered the stories entrusted to him." 

The despatch, which was received in the 
Journal office soon after 9 o clock A. M., was 
issued as an extra, containing about sixty-five 
lines, giving the outline of the great series of 
events. This telegram was the first intimation 
that President Lincoln and the Cabinet at 
Washington received of the glorious news. 
Being signed "Carleton," its truth was assured. 

The next day, in the city "where Secession 

i 82 Charles Carleton Coffin 

had its birth," Carleton walked amid the 
burning houses and the streets deserted of its 
citizens, saw the entrance of the black troops, 
and went into the empty slave-market, secur 
ing its dingy flag the advertisement of sale 
of human bodies as a relic. During several 
days he wrote letters, in which the notes of 
gratitude and exultation, mingled with pity 
and sympathy with the suffering, and full of 
scarcely restrainable joy in view of the speedy 
termination of the war, are discernible. 



WHITHER now should Carleton go? 
There were but few fields to conquer, 
for the slaveholders rebellion was swiftly 
nearing its end, and Carleton felt his work 
with armies and amid war would soon and 
happily be over. He knew it was now time 
for Grant to deliver his blows, and make the 
anvil at Petersburg ring. Eager to be in at 
the death of treason, he hastened home, short 
ened his stay with wife and friends, and hur 
ried on to City Point. As usual, he was 
present in the nick of time. He was able to 
write his first letter from the Army of the 
Potomac, descriptive of the attack on Fort 
Steadman, March 25th. On the 26th he saw 
again the sparkling-eyed Sheridan. Once more 
he began to use his whip of scorpions upon the 
editors and people who were bestowing all 
praises upon the Army of the West, with only 


184 Charles Carleton Coffin 

criticism or niggardly commendation for the 
Armies of the Potomac and the James, with 
many a sneer and odious comparison. He 
witnessed the tremendous attack of the rebel 
host upon the Ninth Corps, hearing first the 
signal gun, next the rebel yell, then the rat 
tling fire of musketry deepening into volleys, 
and finally the roar of the cannonade. Carle- 
ton, within three minutes after the firing of the 
first gun, took position with his glass and note 
book, upon a hill. One hundred guns and 
mortars were in full play, surpassing in beauty 
and grandeur all other night scenes ever wit 
nessed by him. In some moments he could 
count thirty shells at once in the air, which 
was filled with fiery arcs crossing each other 
at all angles. Between the flaming bases, at the 
muzzle and the explosion, making two ends of 
an arch, there were thousands of muskets 
flashing over the entrenchments. Yet, despite 
the awful noise and the spectacle so magnifi 
cent to the eye, there were few men hurt 
within the Union lines. 

After forty hours of rain, the wind blew 
from the northwest, and the mud rapidly dis 
appeared. Then Carleton began to look out 

With Lincoln in Richmond 185 

for the great event, in which such giants as 
Lee and Johnston on one hand, and Grant, 
Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas, and Hancock on 
the other, were to finish the game of military 
mathematics which had been progressing dur 
ing four years. Carleton wrote, March 31, 
1865, "How inspiring to watch the close of 
such a game." He expected a great battle. 
" The last flicker of a candle is sometimes its 
brightest flame." 

He was not disappointed. On mid-after 
noon of April ist, Carleton was at Sheridan s 
headquarters witnessing the battle of Five 
Forks, and the awful bombardment of Satur 
day night. Then went out Grant s order to 
" attack along the whole line." Now began 
the bayonet war. At 4 o clock on that event 
ful Sunday, like a great tidal wave, the Union 
Army rolled over the rebel entrenchments. 
This is the way Carleton describes it in Put 
nam s Magazine : 

" Lee attempted to retrieve the disaster on 
Saturday by depleting his left and centre, to 
reinforce his right. Then came the order 
from Grant, c Attack vigorously all along the 
line. How splendidly it was executed ! The 

1 86 Charles Carleton Coffin 

Ninth, the Sixth, the Second, the Twenty- 
fourth Corps, all went tumbling in upon the 
enemy s works, like breakers upon the beach, 
tearing away chevaux-de-frise, rushing into the 
ditches, sweeping over the embankments, and 
dashing through the embrasures of the forts. 
In an hour the C. S. A., the Confederate 
Slave Argosy i the Ship of State launched but 
four years ago, which went proudly sailing, 
with the death s-head and cross-bones at her 
truck, on a cruise against Civilization and 
Christianity, hailed as a rightful belligerent, 
furnished with guns, ammunition, provisions, 
and all needful supplies, by England and 
France, was thrown a helpless wreck upon the 
shores of time." 

On April id, he wrote from Petersburg 
Heights telling of the movements of Sheri 
dan s cavalry and the Ninth, Second, and 
Twenty-fourth Corps. 

On the jd, he was in Richmond, writing, 
" There is no longer a Confederacy." 

He had been awakened by the roar of the 
Confederate blowing up of ironclads in the 
James River. A few minutes later he was in 
the Petersburg entrenchments. He rode soli- 

With Lincoln in Richmond 187 

tary and lone from City Point to Richmond, 
entering the city by the Newmarket road, and 
overtaking a division of the Twenty-fifth Corps. 
Dismounting at the Spottswood House, he 
registered his name on the hotel book, so 
thickly written with the names of Confederate 
generals, as the first guest from a " foreign 
country," the United States. The clerk bade 
him choose any room, and even the whole 
house, adding that he would probably be 
burned out in a few minutes. Parts of the 
city had already become a sea of flame, but 
Richmond was saved, and the fire put out by 
Union troops. Military order soon reigned, 
and plundering was stopped. He met Presi 
dent Lincoln, and helped to escort him 
through the streets lined with the black peo 
ple whom he had set free. Later, Carleton 
saw and talked with Generals Weitzel and 
Devens in the capitol, shaking hands also with 
Admiral Farragut. From the top of the capi 
tol building, he reflected on the fall of Seces 
sion. He saw Libby Prison inside and out, 
as well as the old slave-mart, holding the key 
of the slave-pen in his hand. He has told 
the story of his Richmond experiences in 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

lectures, magazine articles, and in his book, 
" Freedom Triumphant." His verbal de 
scriptions enabled Thomas Nast to paint his 
famous picture of Lincoln in Richmond. 

Carleton s last letter, completing his war 
correspondence, is dated April i2th, 1865. 
It depicts the scene of the surrender, thus 
completing a series of about four hundred 
epistles, not counting the ten or a dozen lost 
in transmission. In these he not only wrote 
history and furnished material for it, but he 
kept in cheer the heart of the nation. 

Finally the great rebellion was crushed by 
the navy and army. Foote, Farragut, Dupont, 
and Porter, with their men on blockade and 
battle-deck duty, made possible the victories 
of Grant, Thomas, Sheridan, and Sherman. 
Carleton as witness and historian on the ships, 
in water fresh and salt, as well as in the camps 
and field, appreciated both arms of the service. 
His letters were read by thousands far beyond 
the Eastern States, and often his telegrams 
were the only voice crying out of the wilder 
ness of suspense, and first heard at Washing 
ton and throughout the country, proclaiming 



AFTER four years of strenuous activity 
of body and brain, it was not easy for 
Carleton to settle down at once to common 
place routine. Having exerted every nerve 
and feeling in so glorious a cause as our na 
tion s salvation, every other cause and question 
seemed trivial in comparison. Succeeding such 
a series of excitements, it was difficult to lessen 
the momentum of mind and nerve in order to 
live, just like other plain people, quietly at 
home. One could not be drinking strong 
coffee all the time, nor could battle shocks 
come any longer every few weeks. The sud 
den collapse of the Confederacy, and the end 
ing of the war, was like clapping the air-brakes 
instantaneously upon the Empire State Express 
while at full speed. While the air pressure 
might stop the wheels, there was danger of 
throwing the cars off their trucks. 

190 Charles Carleton Coffin 

It took Carleton many months, and then 
only after strong exertion of the will, careful 
study of his diet and physical habits, to get 
down to the ordinary jog-trot of life and enjoy 
the commonplace. He occupied himself dur 
ing the latter part of 1865 in completing his 
first book, which he entitled " My Days and 
Nights upon the Battle Field." This was 
meant to be one in a series of three volumes. 
He had written most of this, his first book, in 
camp and on the field. In form, it was an 
illustrated duodecimo of 312 pages, and was 
published by Ticknor and Fields, and later 
republished by Estes and Lauriat. 

It carries the story of the war, and of Carle- 
ton s personal participation in it in the Potomac 
and Mississippi River regions, down to the fall 
of Memphis in the summer of 1862. 

After this, followed another volume, entitled 
" Four Years of Fighting," full of personal 
observation in the army and navy, from the 
first battle of Bull Run to the fall of Rich 
mond. This was a more ambitious work, of 
five hundred and fifty-eight, with an introduc 
tion of fifteen, pages. It contained a portrait 
and figure of the war correspondent, with 

The Glories of Europe 191 

pencil and note-book in hand. Published by 
Ticknor and Fields, it was reissued in 1882, 
by Estes and Lauriat, under the title of " Boys 
of 6 1." Carleton completed a careful revision 
of this work about a fortnight before his golden 
wedding, for another edition which appeared 
posthumously in October, 1896. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Coffin had reentered the 
work of journalism in Boston. This, with his 
books and public engagements, as a lecturer 
and platform speaker, occupied him fully. In 
the summer of 1866 the shadows of coming 
events in Europe began to loom above the 
horizon of the future. The great Reform 
movement in England was in progress. The 
triumph of the American war for internal free 
dom, the vindication of Union against the 
pretensions of State sovereignty, the release 
of four million slaves, the implied honor put 
upon work, as against those who despised 
workmen as " mudsills," had had a powerful 
reaction upon the people of Great Britain. 
These now clamored for the rights of man, 
as against privileged men. British liberty was 
once more " to broaden down from precedent 
to precedent." In France, the World s Expo- 

192 Charles Carleton Coffin 

sition was being held. Prussia and Austria 
had rushed to arms. 

The evolution of a modern German empire 
had begun. Austria and Hungary were being 
drawn together. Should Prussia humble her 
Austrian foe, then Italy would throw off the 
yoke, and the Italians, once more united as a 
nation, would see the temporal power of the 
Pope vanish. Victor Emmanuel s troops 
would enter Venice and perhaps even the 
Eternal City. 

To tell the story of storm and calm, of war 
and peace, Carleton was again summoned by 
the proprietors of the Boston Journal^ and at 
a salary double that received during the war. 
This time his wife accompanied him, to aid 
him in his work and to share his pleasure. 
On one of the hottest days of the summer, 
they sailed on the Cunard steamer Persia^ 
from New York. This was to be Carleton s 
first introduction to a foreign land. The chief 
topic of conversation during the voyage was 
the Austro-Prussian War, which, it was gener 
ally believed, would involve all Europe. The 
storm-cloud seemed to be vast and appalling. 

They arrived in Liverpool, the cloud had 

The Glories of Europe 193 

burst and disappeared, and the sky was blue 
again. The battle of Sadowa had been fought. 
Prussian valor and discipline in handling the 
needle-gun had won on the field. Bismarck 
and diplomacy were soon to settle terms of 
peace, and change the map of Europe. 

Carleton hastened on to London to hear the 
debate in Parliament on the extension of the 
suffrage, to see the uprising of the people, and 
to notice how profoundly the great struggle in 
America and its results had affected the Eng 
lish people. Great Britain s millions were de 
manding cheaper government, without so many 
costly figureheads, both temporal and spirit 
ual, and manhood suffrage. The long period 
of nearly constant war from 1688 to 1830 had 
passed. In area of peace, men were thinking 
of, and discussing openly, the relation of the 
middle classes and the laboring men to the 
nobility and landed estates. Agitated crowds 
thronged the streets, singing " John Brown s 
Soul is Marching on." 

Mr. Gladstone s bill was defeated. Earl 
Russell was swept out of office, and Disraeli 
was made chancellor. . It was a field-day in 
the House of Commons when Carleton heard 

194 Charles Carleton Coffin 

Gladstone, Bright, Lowe, and the Conservative 
and Liberal leaders. These were the days 
when such men as Governor Eyre, after in 
carnating the most brutish principle of that 
worse England, which every American and 
friend of humanity hates, could be defended, 
lauded, and glorified. Indeed, Eyre s bloody 
policy in Jamaica was approved of by such 
men as John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, and 
other literary men, to the surprise and pain of 
Americans who had read their books. On the 
other hand, the men of science and thinking 
people in the middle and laboring classes 
condemned the red-handed apostle of British 
brutishness. All through this, his first jour 
ney in Great Britain, as in other countries 
years afterward, Carleton clearly distinguished 
between the Great Britain which we love, and 
the Great Britain which we do not love, the 
one standing for righteousness, freedom, and 
progress ; the other allied with cruelty, injus 
tice, and bigotry. 

After studying British finance, political cor 
ruption, the army, and the system of purchas 
ing commissions then in vogue, and visiting 
the homes of the Pilgrims in Lincolnshire, 

The Glories of Europe 195 

and the county fairs, the land of Burns, and 
the manufactures of Scotland, Carleton turned 
his face towards Paris. Before leaving the 
home land of his fathers, he dined and spent 
an afternoon with the great commoner, John 
Bright. Mrs. Coffin accompanied him and 
enjoyed Mrs. Bright, who was as modest, 
unassuming, kind, and genial as her husband. 
John Bright listened with intense interest and 
profound emotion to Carleton s personal remi 
niscences of Mr. Lincoln, and of his entrance 
into Richmond. Before leaving for France, 
on the 5th of September, Carleton wrote : 

" The thunder of Gettysburg is shaking the 
thrones of Europe. English workmen give 
cheers for the United States. The people of 
Germany demand unity. Louis Napoleon, to 
whom Maximilian had said, c Mexico and the 
Confederacy are two cherries on one stalk, 
was already sending steamers to Vera Cruz, to 
bring back his homesick soldiers. Monarchy 
will then be at an end in North America." 
Maximilian s wife was in France, expecting 
soon to see her husband. In a few weeks, the 
corpse of the bandit-emperor, sustained by 
French bayonets and shot by Mexican repub- 

196 Charles Carleton Coffin 

licans, and an insane widow startled Carleton, 
as it startled the world. 

The Journal correspondent passed over to 
Napoleon s realm, spending a few weeks in 
Paris, Dijon, and other French cities. In 
Switzerland he enjoyed mightily the home of 
Calvin and its eloquent memories, Mont 
Blanc and its associated splendors, the moun 
tains, the glaciers, the passes, and valleys, and, 
above all, his study of the politics of " The 
freest people of Europe. " How truly pro 
phetic was Carleton, when he wrote, " This 
republic, instead of being wiped off from the 
map, . . . will more likely become a teacher 
to Europe," a truth never so large as now. 
He rode over the Splugen pass, and saw Milan 
and Verona. From the city of Romeo and 
Juliet, he took a carnage in order to visit and 
study, with the eye of an experienced engineer 
and veteran, the details of the battle of Cus- 
tozza, where, on June 24th, 1866, the Arch 
duke Albert gained the victory over the 
Italian La Marmora. 

He reached Venice October ijth. In the 
old city proudly called the Queen of the Adri 
atic, and for centuries a republic, until ground 

The Glories of Europe 197 

under the heel of Austrian despotism, Carleton 
arrived in time to see the people almost insane 
with joy. The Austrian garrison was march 
ing out and the Italian troops were moving in. 
The red caps and shirts of the Garibaldians 
brightened the throng in the streets, and the 
old stones of Venice, bathed in salt water at 
their bases, were deluged with bunting, flags, 
and rainbow colors. When King Victor 
Emmanuel entered, the scenes of joy and 
gladness, the sounds of music, the gliding 
gondolas, the illuminated marble palaces and 
humble homes, the worshipping hosts of peo 
ple in the churches, and the singing bands in 
the streets, taxed to the utmost even Carleton s 
descriptive powers. The burden of joy every 
where was " Italy is one from the Alps to the 
Adriatic, and Venice is free." 

Turning his attention to Rome, where 
French bayonets were still supporting the 
Pope s temporal throne, Carleton discussed a 
question of world-wide interest, the impend 
ing loss of papal power and its probable re 
sults. Within a fortnight after his letter on 
this subject, the last echoes of the French 
drum-beat and bugle-blast had died away. 

198 Charles Carleton Coffin 

The red trousers of the Emperor s servants 
were numbered among Rome s mighty list of 
things vanished. In the Eternal City itself, 
Carleton attended mass at St. Peter s, and then 
reread and retold the story of both the Roman 
and the Holy Roman Empire. Some of his 
happiest days were passed in the studios of 
American artists and sculptors. There he 
saw, in their beginning of outlines and color, 
on canvas or in clay, some of the triumphs of 
art which now adorn American homes and 
cities. Fascinated as he was in Pompeii and 
in Rome with the relics and revelations of an 
cient life, he was even more thrilled by the 
rapid strokes of destiny in the modern world. 
The separation of church and state was being 
accomplished while Italy was waking to new 
life. The Anabaptists were avenged and 

About the middle of February, Carleton 
was again in Paris, seeing the Exposition and 
the Emperor of the French and his family. 
Then crossing to England, he heard a great 
debate over the Reform measures, in which 
Disraeli, Lowe, Bright, and Gladstone spoke. 
The results were the humiliation of Disraeli, 

The Glories of Europe 199 

and the break-up of the British ministry. Re- 
crossing the channel to Paris, he spent eight 
weeks studying the Exposition and the coun 
try, writing many letters to the Journal. 
After examination of the great fortresses in 
the Duchy of Luxembourg, he went into 
Germany, tarrying at Heidelberg, Nuremberg, 
Munich, and Vienna. He then passed down 
" the beautiful blue Danube " to Buda-Pesth, 
where, having been given letters and com 
mendations from J. L. Motley, the historian 
of the Netherlands and our minister at Vienna, 
he saw the glittering pageant which united the 
crowns of Austria and Hungary. This was 
performed in the parish church in Buda, an 
edifice built over six hundred years ago. It 
had been captured by the Turks and made 
into a mosque, where the muezzin supplanted 
the priest in calls of prayer. After the great 
victory won by John Sobieski, cross and altar 
were restored. Here, amid all the glittering 
and bewildering splendor of tapestry, banners, 
dynastic colors, national flags, jewels, and in 
numerable heraldic devices, " the iron crown 
of Charlemagne," granted by Pope Sylvester 
II. in the year 1000, and called " the holy and 

loo Charles Carleton Coffin 

apostolic crown," was placed by Count An- 
drassy upon the head of the Emperor Francis 
Joseph. The ruler of Austria practically ac 
knowledged the righteousness of the revolu 
tion of 1 849, and his own mistake, when he 
accepted the crown from the once rebel militia- 
leader and then exiled Andrassy, having already 
given to the Hungarians the popular rights 
which they clamored for. .Most gracious act 
of all, Francis Joseph contributed, with the 
Empress (whom Mrs. Coffin thought the 
handsomest woman in Europe), 100,000 ducats 
($200,000) to the widows and children of 
those who were killed in 1849, while fighting 
against the empire. At this writing, Decem 
ber, 1896, we read of the unveiling, at Kor- 
morn, of a monument to Klapka, the insurgent 
general of 1849. 

In Berlin, Carleton saw a magnificent spec 
tacle, the review of the Prussian army in 
welcome to the Czar. He studied the battle 
fields of Leipsig and Lutzen, and the ever 
continuing gamblers war at Weisbaden. Then 
sailing down the Rhine, he revisited Paris to 
see the distribution of prizes at the Exposition, 
the arrav of Mohammedan and Christian 

The Glories of Europe 201 

princes, and the grand review of the French 
troops in honor of the Sultan. In England 
once more, he looked upon the great naval 
review of the British fleets of iron and wood. 
He studied the ritualistic movement. He 
attended the meeting of anti-ritualists at Salis 
bury, where, midway between matchless spire 
and preancient Cromlech, one can meditate on 
the evolution of religion. He was at the Meth 
odist Conference of Great Britain in the city of 
Bristol, whence sailed the Cabots for the dis 
covery of America, now four centuries ago. 
He read the modern lamentations of Thomas 
Carlyle, who, in his article, " Shooting the 
Niagara and After," foretold the death of good 
government and religion in the triumph of 

At the British Scientific Association s gather 
ing in Dundee, he heard Murchison, Baker, 
Lyell, Thomson, Tyndall, Lubbock, Ran- 
kine, Fairbairn, and young Professor Her- 
schell. He was at the Social Science Congress 
held in Belfast, meeting Lord Dufferin, Dr. 
James McCosh, Goldwin Smith, and others. 
Two months more were given to study and 
observation in the countries Ireland, England 

1O2 Charles Carleton Coffin 

and Scotland, Holland and Belgium. Of 
his frequent letters to the Journal a score or 
so were written especially to and for young 
people, though all of them interested every 
class of readers. He kept a keen watch upon 
movements in Italy and in Spain, where the 
Carlists uprising had begun. 

In this, manner, nearly sixteen months 
slipped away in parts of Europe, and amid 
scenes so remote as to require hasty journeys 
and much travelling. Carleton received further 
directions to continue his journey around the 
world. He was to visit the Holy Land, 
Egypt, India, China, and Japan, to cross the 
Pacific, and to traverse the United States as 
far as possible on the Pacific railway, then in 
course of construction. This was indeed 
" A New Voyage Around the World," not 
exactly in the sense of Defoe ; but was, as 
Carleton called it in the book describing it, 
which he afterwards wrote, " Our New Way 
Around the World." No one before his 
time, so far as known, had gone around the 
globe, starting eastward from America, crossing 
continents, and using steam as the motor of 
transportation on land and water all the way. 

The Glories of Europe 203 

Making choice of three routes to the Orient, 
Carleton left Paris December 9th, 1867, for 
Marseilles. He found much of the country 
thitherward nearly as forbidding as the hardest 
regions of New Hampshire. The climate was 
indeed easier than in the Granite State, but 
from November to March the people suffered 
more from cold than the Yankees. They 
lived in stone houses and fuel was dear. At 
Marseilles the vessels were packed so closely 
in docks, that the masts and spars reminded 
him of the slopes of the White Mountains 
after fire had swept the foliage away. Al 
though innumerable tons of grain were im 
ported here, he saw no elevators or labor 
saving appliances like those at Buffalo, which 
can load or empty ships holds in a few half 
hours. Many of the imports were labelled 
" Service Militaire," and were for the support 
of that army of eight hundred thousand men, 
which the impoverished French people, even 
with a decreasing population, were so heavily 
taxed to support. Carleton noticed that mer 
chants of France were planning to lay their 
hands on the East and win its trade. 



IT was " blowing great guns," and the sea 
was white with foam, when on the ninety- 
eighth anniversary of Washington s birthday 
into another world, December i4th, 1867, the 
steamer Euphrates, of the M. I. Company, left 
Marseilles. The iron ship was staunch, though 
not overclean. On the deck were boxed up 
eight carnages for Turks who had been visit 
ing Paris. The captain amused himself, in 
hours which ought not to have been those of 
leisure, with embroidery. After a run through 
the Sardinian straits, they had clear sea room 
to Sicily. Stromboli was quiet, but Vesuvius 
was lively. At Messina they took on coal, 
oranges, five Americans, and one Englishman. 
On learning Carleton s plan to travel eastward 
to San Francisco, the Queen s subject re 
marked, with surprise : 


Through Oriental Lands 205 

" There was a time when we Englishmen 
had the routes of travel pretty much all to 
ourselves, but I ll be hanged if you Americans 
haven t crowded us completely off the side 
walk. We can t tie your shoe-strings." 

Greece was sighted at sunrise. With Carle- 
ton s mental picture of the great naval victory 
of Navarino, by which the murderous Turk 
was driven off the sea, rose boyhood s remem 
brances of the fashionable "Navarino bonnets," 
with their colossal flaring fronts, with beds of 
artificial flowers set between brims and cheeks, 
making rivalry of color amid vast ostentation 
of bows and ribbon. With his glass, he could 
discern, at one point upon the hillside, the hut 
of a hermit, who had discovered that man can 
not live upon history alone, but that beans 
and potatoes are desirable. The practical her 
mit cultivated a garden. 

Arrival at Piraeus was at 2 A. M. The party 
of passengers descended the ladder into a 
boat, and there sat shivering in their shawls, 
where they were likely to be left to historic 
meditation until the custom-house opened, 
except for the well-known fact that silver often 
conquers steel. One franc, held up before the 

2o6 Charles Carleton Coffin 

gaze of a highly important personage possessed 
of a sword and much atmosphere of authority, 
secured smiles and welcome to the sacred soil 
of Greece, immunity from search, and direction 
to a cafe where all was warm and comfortable, 
and from which, in due time, hotel accommo 
dations were secured. 

In the city of Pericles, they saw the play of 
"Antigone" in the theatre of Herod Atticus. 
On visiting the Parthenon, with its marvellous 
sculpture, which Turkish soldiers had so often 
used as a target, they found that the chief in 
habitants of the ruin were crows. They met 
the missionaries who were influential in the 
making of the new Grecian nation. From 
Athens they went to Constantinople, where 
Dr. Cyrus Hamlin, in Robert College, was 
lighting the beacon of hope for the Christians 
in the Turkish empire. 

Leaving Europe at that end of it on which 
the Turks have encamped during four cen 
turies, and where they are still blasting and 
devouring, Carleton visited Africa, the old 
house of bondage. At Alexandria his first 
greeting was a cry for bakshish. Within 
half an hour after landing, most of his child- 

Through Oriental Lands 207 

hood s illusions were dispelled. A drenching 
rain fell. The delta of the Nile had been 
turned into one vast cotton field which looked 
like a mass of snow. The clover was in 
bloom along the railway to Cairo. In this 
land of the donkey and of the Arabian Nights 
Entertainments, he received several practical 
lessons in the art of comparative swindling, 
soon learning that in roguery both Christians 
and the followers of the prophet are one. 

In studying his Bible amid the lands which 
are its best commentary, Carleton concluded 
that the crossing of the Red Sea by the fugi 
tive slaves from Egypt, over an " underground 
railway made by the order of God himself," 
" instead of being in the domain of the miracu 
lous, is under natural law." At Suez, one of 
the half-way houses of the world, he was 
amused at the jollity of the Mohammedans, 
who had just broken their long lenten fast 
from tobacco and smoke, and who were very 
happy in their own way. 

In thirty hours after leaving Alexandria, the 
party, now joined by Rev. E. B. Webb, had 
its first view of Palestine, a sandy shore, low, A . 
level as a Western prairie, tufted with palms, 

208 Charles Carleton Coffin 

green with olives, golden with orange orchards, 
and away in the distance an outline of gray 
mountains. Soon, in Jerusalem, he was among 
the donkeys, dogs, pilgrims, and muleteers. 
Out on the Mount of Olives and in starlit 
Bethlehem, by ancient Hebron, and then down 
to low-lying Jericho and at the Dead Sea, he 
was refreshing memory and imagination, shed 
ding old fancies and traditions, discriminating 
as never before between figures of rhetoric and 
figures of rock and reality, while feeding his 
faith and cheering his spirit. Then from Jeru 
salem, after a twenty days stay, the party rode 
northward to Shechem, the home of the Sa 
maritan, and over the plain of Esdraelon. 
There Carleton s military eye revelled in the 
scene, and he made mind-pictures of the bat 
tles fought there during all the centuries. 
Then, after tarrying at Nazareth and Beyrout, 
we find him, April nth, at Suez, on board a 
steamer for the East. 

At Paris he had seen De Lesseps, amid tu 
multuous applause, receive from Napoleon 
III. a gold medal. 

Now Carleton was on the steamship Earoda^ 
moving down the Red Sea, once thought to be 

Through Oriental Lands 209 

an arm of the Indian Ocean, but which we 
now know to be only a portion of " the great 
rift valley," the longest and deepest and 
widest trough on the earth s surface, which ex 
tends from the base of Mount Lebanon and the 
Sea of Galilee, through the Jordan Valley, the 
Dead Sea, the dried up wadies, the Red Sea, 
and the chain of lakes and Nyanzas discovered 
in recent years in the heart of Africa, and ex 
tending nearly to Zanzibar. Passing by Great 
Britain s garrisons, lighthouses, and coaling 
stations, which guard her pathway to India, 
Bombay was reached April 2yth. 

In the interior, in the distressing hot weather 
of India, Carleton found this the land of pun 
kas, tatties, and odors both sweet and other 
wise. He was impressed with the amount of 
jewelry seen, not in the bazaars, but on the 
persons of the women. " Through all ages 
India has swallowed up silver, and the absorp 
tion is as great as ever to-day." He was 
amused at the little men s big heads, covered 
with a hundred and fifty feet, or more, of tur 
ban material, which made so many of them 
look like exaggerated tulips. He noticed 
the phenomena of religion, the trees smeared 

2io Charles Carleton Coffin 

with paint, the Buddhist caves, the Parsee 
Towers of Silence, the phallic emblems of 
nature-worship. Evidently he w r as not con 
verted to cremation, for he wrote, " The earth 
is our mother, and it is sweeter to lie on her 
bosom amid blooming flowers or beneath 
bending elms and sighing pines in God s 
Acre." He noticed how rapidly the rail 
ways were breaking down caste. "The loco 
motive, like a ploughshare turning the sward 
of the prairies, is cutting up a faith whose roots 
run down deep into bygone ages. . . . The 
engine does not turn out for obstructions, 
such as in former days impeded the car of 

Though caste was stronger than the instincts 
of humanity, this relic of the brutishness of 
conquest was not allowed to have sway in rail 
way carriages. 

Carleton sums up his impressions of the re 
ligions of India in this sentence: "The world 
by wisdom knew not God." He found his 
preconceived ideas of central India all wrong. 
Instead of jungles, were plateaus, forest-covered 
mountains, groves, and bamboo. With the 
thermometer at 105 in the shade, the wood- 

Through Oriental Lands 211 

work shrunk so that the drivers of the dak or 
ox-cart wound the spokes of the wheels with 
straw and kept them wet, so that Carleton 
noticed them " watering their carnage as well 
as horses." Whether it was his head that 
swelled or his hat which shrunk, he found the 
latter two sizes too small at night. In India, 
between June and October, little business is 
done. The demand for cotton, caused by the 
American war, had set India farmers to grow 
ing the bolls over vast areas, but the cost of 
carriage to the seaboard was so great that new 
roads had to be built. 

" Sahib Coffin " at the garrison towns was 
amused at both the young British officers, 
with their airs, and at the old veterans, who 
were as dignified as mastiffs. Living in the 
central land of the world s fairy tales, he en 
joyed these legends which " give perfume to 
literature, science, and art." At Allahabad, in 
the middle of the fort, he saw a pillar forty-two 
feet high, erected by King Asoka, 250 B. C., 
bearing an inscription commanding kindness to 
animals. In one part of India, at the golden 
pagoda of Benares, he found the monkeys 
worshipped as gods, or at least honored as 

2 i 2 Charles Carleton Coffin 

divine servants, while in the North they were 
pests and thieves, the enemy of the farmer. 

Among other hospitalities enjoyed, was a 
dinner with an American, Mr. C. L. Brown, 
who represented the Tudor Ice Company, of 
Boston, and who sold solidified water from 
Wenham Lake. The piece that clinked in 
the glass of Carleton, " sparkling and bright 
in its liquid light," had been harvested in 1865, 
three years before. He described it as a " piece 
of imprisoned cold, fragment of a bygone win 
ter," which called up " bright pictures of boys 
and girls with their rosy cheeks and flashing 
skates, a breeze of old associations." At 
Benares, various root ideas of Hindoo holiness 
were illustrated, including the linga worship and 
the passion for motherhood in that strange 
phallic cult which, from India to Japan, has 
survived all later forms of religion. In Cal 
cutta, Old India had already been forgotten 
in the newer and more Christian India. He 
visited especially the American Union Mission 
Home, where Miss Louise Hook and Miss 
Britton were training the girls of India to 
nobler ideals and possibilities of life. After 
seeing the school, Carleton wrote : " Theirs is a 

Through Oriental Lands 213 

great work. Educate the women of India, and 
we withdraw two hundred millions from gross 
idolatry. This mighty moral leverage ob 
tained, the whole substratum of society will be 
raised to a higher level. The mothers of 
America fought the late war through to its 
glorious end. They sustained the army by 
their labor, their sympathy, their heroic devo 
tion. The mothers of India are keeping the 
idols on their pedestals." 

Personal accidents in India were minor and 
amusing, mostly. Crossing the Bay of Bengal 
on the Clan Alpine, one of England s opium 
steamers bound to China, a boiler blew up. 
The " priming " of the iron, the life of the 
metal, having been burned out in passing from 
fresh to salt water, was the cause of the trouble. 
Nineteen persons, eighteen natives and a Scots 
man, were killed or badly scalded. Carleton 
rushed out from his stateroom, amid clouds of 
steam that made his path nearly invisible, and 
was happy in finding his wife safe on deck at 
the stern. At sunset the Christian was given 
the rites of burial. The dead Hindoos, not 
being used to religious attentions paid to 
corpses, were heaved into the sea, and the 

214 Charles Carleton Coffin 

voyage continued. This was not the first 
or the last time that Carleton experienced 
the sensation of being blown up while on a 



AT Penang, in the Spice Islands, the verge 
of the Flowery Kingdom seemed to have 
been reached. " We might say that that land 
had bloomed over its own borders, and its 
blossoms had fallen here. . . . Nearly the 
entire population of this island, 125,000 in 
all, are Chinese." At Singapore, the town of 
lions, he met an American hunter named Car 
roll, who lived with the natives and had won 
fame as a dead shot. Fortunately for human 
ity, that contests with the aboriginal beasts a 
possession of this part of the earth, the leonine 
fathers frequently devour their cubs, else the 
earth would be overrun with the lions. 

Seventeen days on the Clan Alpine passed 

by, and then, on the loth of June, the captain 

pointed out the "Asses Ears," two black specks 

on the distant horizon, which gave them their 


216 Charles Carleton Coffin 

first glimpse of China. On Saturday afternoon, 
Mrs. Coffin had the pleasure of being told, by 
the healthy-looking captain of the sampan or 
boat by which they were to get ashore, that she 
\vas " a red-faced foreign devil." This was a 
Chinese woman, of thirty-five or forty, who 
commanded the craft. The next day, Sunday, 
they went to church in sedan-chairs, and sat 
under the punkas or swinging-fans, which 
cooled the air. On Monday, while going 
around with, or calling upon, the missionaries 
Preston, Kerr, and Parker, the Americans who 
had a sense of the value of minutes found that 
the " Chinese are an old people. Their em 
pire is finished, their civilization complete, and 
time is a drug." The walls of the great Roman 
Catholic Cathedral, costing over four million 
dollars, were then but half-way up. 

Being a true Christian, without cant or guile, 
Carleton, as a matter of course, was a warm 
friend of the missionaries, and always sought 
them out to visit and cheer them. He rarely 
became their guest, or accepted hospitality 
under the roofs either of American consuls or 
missionaries, lest critics might say his views 
were colored by the glasses of others. He 

In China and Japan 217 

would have his own mind and opinions judi 
cial. Nevertheless, he knew that those who 
knew the language of the people were good 
guides and helpers to intelligent impressions. 
In Shanghai he met Messrs. Yates, Wilson, 
and Thomson, and, in the Sailors Chapel, Rev. 
E. W. Syle, afterwards president of the Asiatic 
Society of Japan. Carleton noticed that when 
the collection was taken up among the tars 
present, the plate, when returned, showed sev 
eral silver dollars. The travellers went up the 
Yangtse in a New York built Hudson River 
steamer, commanded by a Yankee captain from 
Cape Ann. At Wuchang he called on Bishop 
Williams, whom he had met in London at the 
Pan-Anglican council, and who afterwards made 
so noble record of work in the Mikado s em 

So far from being appalled at what he saw of 
the Chinese and their civilization, Carleton noted 
many things to admire, their democratic spirit, 
their competitive civil service examinations, 
and their reverence for age and parental author 
ity. At the dinners occasionally eaten in a 
Chinese restaurant, he asked no questions as to 
whether the animal that furnished the meat 

21 8 Charles Carleton Coffin 

barked, mewed, bellowed, or whinnied, but 
took the mess in all good conscience. 

From the middle of the Sunrise Kingdom, 
the passage was made on the American Pacific 
mail-steamer Costa Rica, through a great storm. 
In those days before lighthouses, the harbor 
of Nagasaki was reached through a narrow 
inlet, which captains of ships were sometimes 
puzzled to find. They steamed under and 
within easy range of the fifty or more bronze 
cannon, mounted on platforms under sheds 
along the cliffs. Except at Shimonoseki, in 
1863 and 1864, when floating and fast for 
tresses, steamers and land-batteries exchanged 
their shots, to the worsting of the Choshiu 
clansmen, the military powers of the Japanese 
had not yet been tested. Accepting the local 
traditions about the Papists Hill, or Papenberg, 
from which, in 1637, the insurgent Christians 
are said to have been hurled into the sea, Carle- 
ton wrote, " The gray cliff, wearing its emerald 
crown, is an everlasting memorial to the martyr 

It was in this harbor that the American 
commander, James Glynn, in 1849, m tne 
little fourteen-gun brig Preble^ gave the imperi- 

In China and Japan 219 

ous and cruel Japanese of Tycoon times a taste 
of the lesson they were to learn from McDougall 
and Pearson. Soon they reached Deshima, the 
little island which, in Japan s modern history, 
might well be called its leaven ; for here, for 
over two centuries, the Dutch dispensed those 
ideas, as well as their books and merchandise, 
which helped to make the Japan of our day. 
Carleton s impressions of the Japanese were 
that they had a more manly physique, and 
were less mildly tempered, but that they were 
lower in morals, than the Chinese. The women 
were especially eager to know the mysteries of 
crinoline, and anxiously inspected the dress of 
their foreign sisters. 

Japan, in 1 868, was in the throes of civil war. 
The lamp of history at that time was set in a 
dark lantern, and very few of the foreigners, 
diplomatic, missionary, or mercantile, then in 
the islands, had any clear idea of what was 
going on, or why things were moving as they 
were. It may be safely said that only a hand 
ful of students, who had made themselves fa 
miliar with the ancient native records, and with 
that remarkable body of native literature pro 
duced in the first half of this century, could see 

22O Charles Carleton Coffin 

clearly through the maze, and explain the origin 
and meaning of the movement of the great 
southern clans and daimios against the Tycoon. 
It was in reality the assertion of the Mikado s 
imperial and historic claims to complete suprem 
acy against the Shogun s or lieutenant s long 
usurpation. It was an expression of nationality 
against sections. The civil war meant " unite 
or die." Carleton naturally shared in the gen 
eral wrong impressions and darkness that pre 
vailed, and neither his letters nor his writing 


give much light upon the political problem, 
though his descriptions of the scenery and of the 
people and their ways make pleasing reading. 
In reality, even as the first gun against Su ni 
ter and the resulting civil war were the results 
of the clash of antagonistic principles which had 
been working for centuries, so the uprising and 
war in Japan in 1868-70, which resulted in 
national unity, one government, one ruler, one 
flag, the overthrow of feudalism, the abolition 
of ancient abuses, and the making of new Japan, 
resulted from agencies set in motion over a 
century before. Foreign intercourse and the 
presence of aliens on the soil gave the occasion, 
but not the cause, of the nation s re-birth. 

In China and Japan 221 

The new government already in power at 
Kioto, under pressure of bigoted Shintoists, 
revamped the ancient cult of Shinto, making 
it a political engine. Persecution of the native 
Christians, who had lived, with their faith une- 
radicated, on the old soil crimsoned by the 
blood of their martyr ancestors, had already 
begun. Carleton found on the steamer going 
North to Nagasaki one of the French mission 
aries in Japan, who informed him that at least 
twenty thousand native Christians were in com 
munication with their spiritual advisers. At 
sea they met the Japanese steamer named after 
Sir Harry Parkes, the able and energetic British 
minister, who was one of the first to understand 
the situation and to recognize the Mikado. 
This steamer had left Nagasaki three weeks 
previously, with four hundred native Christians. 
These had been tied, bundled, and numbered 
like so many sticks of firewood, and carried 
northward to the mountain-crater prisons of 

Many of these prisoners I afterwards saw. 
When in Boston I used to talk with Mr. Coffin 
about Japanese history and politics, and of the 
honored Guido F. Verbeck, one of the finest 

222 Charles Carleton Coffin 

of scholars, noblest of missionaries, and best 
friends of Japan. No one was more amused 
than Carleton over that mistake, in his letter 
and book, from hearsay, about " Mr. Yer- 
beck, a Dutchman who is trading there " 

They passed safely through the straits of 
Shimonoseki, admiring the caves, the surf, the 
multitudes of sea-fowl, the silver streams falling 
down from the heights of Kokura, on the oppo 
site side of Choshiu, and from mountains four 
thousand feet high, and made beautiful with 
terraces and shrubbery. Through the narrow 
strait where the water ran like a mill-race, the 
steamer ploughed her way. They passed heights 
not then, as a few years before, dotted numer 
ously with the black muzzles of protruding 
cannon, nor fortified as they are now with steel 
domes, heavy masonry, and modern artillery. 
Here in this strait, in 1863, tne g a ^ ant David 
McDougall, in the U. S. corvette Wyoming, 
performed what was perhaps the most gallant 
act ever wrought by a single commander in a 
single ship, in the annals of our navy. Here, 
in 1864, the United States, in alliance with 
three European Powers, went to war with one 

In China and Japan 223 

Parrott gun under Lieutenant Pierson on the 

Like nearly all other first gazers upon the 
splendid panorama of the Inland Sea, Carleton 
was enthralled with the ever changing beauty, 
while interested in the busy marine life. At 
one time he counted five hundred white wings 
of the Old Japan s bird of commerce, the junk. 
At the new city of Hiogo, with the pretty little 
settlement of Kobe yet in embryo, they spent 
a happy day, having Dr. W. A. P. Martin to 
read for them the inscriptions in the Chinese 
characters on the Shinto temple stones and 

The ship then moved northward, through 
that wonder river in the ocean, the Kuro-Shiwo, 
or Black Current, the Gulf Stream of the 
Pacific, first discovered and described by the 
American captain, Silas Bent. The great 
landmarks were clearly visible, Idzu, with 
its mountains and port of Shimoda, where 
Townsend Harris had won the diplomatic vic 
tory which opened Japan to foreign residence 
and commerce ; white-hooded Fuji San, looking 
as chaste and pure as a nun, with her first dress 
of summer snow ; Vries Island, with its column 

224 Charles Carleton Coffin 

of gray smoke. Further to the east were the 
Bonin Islands, first visited by Captain Reuben 
Coffin, of Nantucket, in the ship Transit, in 
1824. When past Saratoga Spit, Webster Isle, 
and Mississippi Bay, the party stepped ashore 
at Yokohama, where on the hill was a British 
regiment in camp. The redcoats had been 
ordered from India during the dangers conse 
quent upon civil strife, and belonged to the 
historic Tenth Regiment, which Carleton s 
grandfather and his fellow patriots had met on 
Bunker Hill. 

It was a keen disappointment to Carleton 
not to be able to see Tokio, then forbidden to 
the tourist, because of war s commotion. A 
heavy battle had been fought July 4, 1868, at 
Uyeno, of old the place of temples, and now 
of parks and exhibitions, in the northern part 
of the city. The Mikado s forces then moved 
on the strongholds of the rebels at Aidzu, but 
foreigners knew very little of what was then 
going on. After a visit to the mediaeval capi 
tal of the Shoguns, at Kamakura, he took the 
steamer southward to Nagasaki, and again set 
his face eastward. He was again a traveller to 
the Orient, that is, to America. On the home- 

In China and Japan 225 

ward steamer, the Colorado, were forty-one first- 
class passengers, of whom sixteen were going to 
Europe, taking this new, as it was the nearest 
and cheapest, way home. Below deck were 
one thousand Chinese. Before the steamer 
got out of the harbor it stopped, at the request 
of Admiral Rowan, and four unhappy deserters 
were taken off. 

The Pacific Ocean was crossed in calm. It 
seemed but a very few days of pleasant sailing 
on the great peaceful ocean, with the days 
gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, which hollowed 
out of the sky caverns upon caverns of light 
full of color more wonderful than Ali Baba s 
treasure-chamber, and nights spiritually lovely 
with the silvery light of moon and stars. On 
August 1 5th, 1868, they passed through the 
Golden Gate, and "Aladdin s palace of the 
West," the cosmopolitan city of San Francisco, 
was before their eyes. 

Not more wonderful than the things ephem 
eral and the strange changes going on in the 
city, wherein were very few old men, but only 
the young and strong of many nations, were 
the stabilities of life. Carleton found time to 
examine and write about education, the libraries, 

226 Charles Carleton Coffin 

churches, asylums, chanties, and the begin 
nings of literature, science, and art. In one of 
the schools he found them debating " whether 
Congress was right in ordering Major Andre 
to be executed." Lest some might think 
Carleton lacking in love to " Our Old Home," 
we quote, "It is neither politic, wise, nor 
honest to instill into the youthful mind ani 
mosity towards England or any other nation, 
especially for acts committed nearly a century 

In his youth he had played the battles of 
Bunker Hill and Bennington, in which his 
living ancestors had fought, and of which they 
had told him, using the roadside weeds as 
British soldiers, and sticks, stones, and a corn 
stalk knife for weapons. In after-life, he often 
expressed the emphatic opinion that our school 
histories were viciously planned and written, 
preserving a spirit that boded no good for the 
future of our country and the w r orld. In the 
nineties, he was asked by the Harpers to write 
a history of the United States for young 
people. This he hoped to do, correcting 
prejudices, and emphasizing the moral union 
between the two nations using English speech ; 

In China and Japan 227 

but all too soon the night came when he could 
not do the work proposed. 

Remaining in California over two months, 
Carleton started eastward in the late autumn 
over the Central Pacific railway, writing from 
Salt Lake City what he saw and knew about 
Mormonism and the polygamy and concubi 
nage there shamefully prevalent. From the 
town of Argenti, leaving the iron rails, they 
enjoyed and suffered seven days and nights of 
staging until smooth iron was entered upon 
once more. They passed several specimens 
of what Carleton called "pandemonium on 
wheels," those temporary settlements swarm 
ing with gamblers and the worst sort of human 
beings, male and female. They abode some 
time in the city of Latter Day Saints. They 
saw Chicago. " Home Again" was sung be 
fore Christmas day. Once more he breathed 
the salt air of Boston. Carleton wrote a series 
of letters on c< The Science of Travel," show 
ing where, when, and for how much, one could 
enjoy himself in the various countries and 
climates in going around the world. 

Carleton summed up his impressions after 
completing the circuit of the globe in declaring 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

that three aggressive nations, England, Russia, 
and the United States, were the chief makers 
of modern history, America being the great 
est teacher of them all, and "our flag the sym 
bol of the world s best hope." 



IT was one of the great disappointments of 
Carleton s life that, on returning from his 
journey around the world, he was not made, 
as he had with good reason fully expected to 
be made, chief editor of the Boston Journal. 
We need not go into details of the matter, 
but suffice it to say, that Carleton was not one 
to waste time in idle regrets. Indeed, his was 
a character that could be tested by disappoint 
ments, which, in his life, were not a few. In 
stead of bitterness, came the ripened fruit of 
patience and mellowness of character. 

His renewed acquaintance with the region 
west of the Mississippi, which he had made 
during his recent trip across the continent, 
only whetted his appetite for more seeing and 
knowing of the future seat of America empire. 

He accepted with pleasure a commission to ex- 


230 Charles Carleton Coffin 

plore the promising regions of Minnesota and 
Dakota, and to give an account especially of 
the Red River Valley. 

Already, in 1858, he had written and pub 
lished, at his own expense, a pamphlet of 
twenty-three pages, entitled "The Great Com 
mercial Prize," Boston, A. Williams & Co. 
It cost him fifty dollars, then a large sum for 
him, from which the advantage accrued to the 
nation at large. It was addressed to every 
American who values the prosperity of his 
country. It was "An inquiry into the present 
and prospective commercial position of the 
United States, and a plea for the immediate 
construction of a railroad from Missouri River 
to Puget Sound." It opens with a review of 
the great events in the world which have had 
a direct and all-important bearing upon the 
United States. Hitherto, since the modern 
mastery of the ocean through the mariner s 
compass and the science of navigation, the At 
lantic had been the domain of sea power. 
The Pacific was in future to be the scene of 
greater opportunities and grander commercial 
developments. With China and Japan enter 
ing the brotherhood of nations, and Russia ex- 

The Great Northwest 231 

tending its power towards the Pacific, " five hun 
dred millions of human beings were henceforth 
to be reached by the hand of civilization." 
The countries and continents bordering the 
greatest of oceans were animated with new ideas 
of progress. On our own western shores, Cali 
fornia, Oregon, and Washington were await 
ing the touch of industry to yield their riches. 
As a reader of the signs of the times, Carle- 
ton pointed out the great changes which were 
to take place in the thoroughfares of trade and 
travel. Instead of civilization depending for 
its communication with India, China, and Japan, 
by passages around the southern capes of the 
two continents, the paths of water and land 
traffic were to be directly from China, Russia, 
and Japan to northern America. Noticing 
that England had made herself the world s 
banking-house, he saw that the time had come 
when the United States (which he believed to 
be potentially, at least, a larger and a nobler 
England) must stretch out her left hand, as 
well as her right, for the grasping of the 
world s prizes. He pointed out the wonder 
ful openings along the shore, providing harbors 
at the mouths of the two great river systems 

23 2 Charles Carleton Coffin 

on the Pacific Coast, those of the Sacramento 
and the Columbia. 

Carleton urged that " A railroad to Puget 
Sound, constructed immediately, alone will 
take the key of the Northwest from the hands 
of the nations which stand with us in the front 
rank of power. " Important as the railway to 
San Francisco was, it would not yield the 
prize. To his vision it was even then per 
fectly clear, as to all the world it has been since 
the Chino-Japanese war of 1894-95, that the 
chief American staple which China and Japan 
needs is cotton, though machinery, petroleum, 
and flour are in demand. After giving facts, 
statistics, and well-wrought arguments, he 
wrote : "Again we say it is easy for America to 
lay its hand upon the greatest prize of all 
times, to make herself the world s workshop, 
the world s banker. Shall England or the 
United States control the northwestern section 
of the continent and the trade of the Pacific ? 

Over a decade later on, in 1869, Carleton 
revelled in the opportunity of being once more 
the herald and informer concerning regions 
ready to welcome the plough, the machine-shop, 
the home, the church, the school, and the glo- 

The Great Northwest 233 

ries of civilization. He spent several months 
mostly in the open air and chiefly on horse 
back, though often on foot and in vehicles of 
various descriptions, camping out under the 
stars, or accepting such rough accommodation 
as was then afforded in regions where palace 
cars, elegant hotels, and comfortable homes 
are now commonplaces. His letters to the 
Journal were breezy and sparkling. They 
diffused the aroma of the Western forests and 
prairies, while marked with that same wealth of 
graphic detail, spice of anecdote, lambent hu 
mor, and garnish of a conversation which de 
lighted the readers of his correspondence from 
the army and from the older seats of empire in 
Asia and in Europe. Carleton s literary pho 
tographs were the means of moving many a 
young and adventurous couple from their 
homes in the East to the frontier, and of firing 
the ambition of many a lad and lass to seek 
their fortune west of the Mississippi. Since 
California was settled and the Pacific Coast oc 
cupied even at scattered points, our frontiers, 
strange as it may seem, have not been at the 
eastern or western ends, but on the middle of 
the country. 

234 Charles Carleton Coffin 

After this campaign of correspondence, 
Carleton returned home and wrote that little 
book which has been so widely read, both in 
the East and in the West, entitled " The Seat 
of Empire." It was published in 1870 by 
Fields & Co., of Boston. It had eight pages 
of introduction, with a map of the territory yet 
to be settled. It was a volume of 232 pages, 
i6mo, and was illustrated. For many years 
afterwards, amid the hundreds of letters re 
ceived from grateful readers of his books, none 
seemed to give Carleton more pleasure than 
those from readers who had become settlers. 
This little book had indeed come to many as a 
revelation of the promised land. The conta 
gion reached even to Mrs. Coffin s brothers, 
one of whom, with a nephew of Carleton, be-" 
came a pioneer farmer in the Red River Valley 
in Dakota. 

Another pathfinder, a literary as well as mil 
itary pioneer in opening this noble region to 
civilization, was the warm friend of Carleton 
and of the writer, General Henry B. Carring- 
ton, of the United States regular army, and 
author of that standard authority, " Battles of 
the American Revolution." During the Civil 

The Great Northwest 235 

War, General Carrington had been stationed 
in Indiana, where he was the potent agent 
in spoiling the treasonable schemes of the 
Knights of the Golden Circle, and in nobly 
seconding Governor Morton in holding the 
State true to the Union. The war over, he 
served on the Western plains until 1868, 
and then wrote "Absaraka, the Home of the 
Crows," which was a score of years afterwards 
republished under the title of " Absaraka, 
the Land of Massacre." General Carrington 
was afterwards one of the active members 
of Shawmut Church. With his fine schol 
arly and literary tastes, he made a delightful 

Any well-told narrative of the exploration, 
conquest, and civilization of a country, with a 
history which has helped to make the pageant 
and procession of human achievement so rich, 
is, when fully known, of thrilling interest. 
How grand is the story of the Aryans in India, 
of the first historic invaders of Japan, of the 
Roman advance into northern Europe, of the 
making of Africa and of western America in 
our own times ! Even the culture-epoch of 
the North American Indians, as written by 

236 Charles Carleton Coffin 

Longfellow, in his " Song of Hiawatha," is as 
fascinating as a fairy tale. 

Carleton, believing himself and his country 
to be " in the foremost files of time " and " the 
heirs of all the ages," came, saw, and wrote of 
our empire in the Northwest, with an intoxica 
tion of delight. Furthermore, he believed that 
those who came after him would see vastly 
more of this part of the earth replenished and 
subdued. Yet the conquest for which he 
longed was not to be with blood. His hope 
and his purpose were intensely ethical and spir 
itual. His vision was of the triumph of peace, 
law, order, religion. He urged emigrants 
looking beyond the Mississippi, or the Rock 
ies, to go in groups, and take with them " the 
moral atmosphere of their old homes." He 
advocated the opening of a school the first 
week and a Sunday school the first Sunday 
following the arrival of such a colony at its 
destination. Even a bare, new home, cramped 
and poor, he suggested, might be to them the 
type of a better one in more prosperous years, 
and of the Home beyond, so that, from the 
beginning, " on Sabbath morning, swelling 
upward on the air, sweeter than the lay of the 

The Great Northwest 

lark among the flowers, will ascend the songs 
of the Sunday school established in their new 
home. Looking forward with ardent hope of 
the earthly prosperous years, they would look 
still beyond to the heavenly, and sing: 

My heavenly home is bright and fair; 
Nor pain nor death can enter there. 

In Japan s long and brilliant roll of benefac 
tors and civilizers, no names shine more glo 
riously than those of the Openers of Mountain 
paths, of men, priests or laymen, who, by 
showing the way, surmounting the dangers and 
difficulties, revealed and made accessible great 
spaces of land for home and harvest field. 
The Hebrew prophet speaks eloquently of 
those who " raise up the foundation of many 
generations," and of those called "the restorer 
of the paths to dwell in." In this glorious 
company of the world s benefactors, Carleton s 
name is written indelibly. Even " far-sighted" 
men deemed the project of a railway to Puget 
Sound "visionary," when Carleton s pamphlet 
was published. He lived to see it a reality. 



OTEEPED in the ancestral lore of New 
O England, a student of the origins of this 
country, a reader of, and thinker upon, the 
records of the past, having seen history in its 
making, and, as it were, in the very furnace and 
crucibles of war, having traversed the globe 
along the line of its highest civilizations, hav 
ing watched at the cradle of our own nobler 
empire in the great West, Carleton determined 
to write for the young people of this nation 
the story of liberty, and of liberty s highest 
expression, " The American People and Their 

It was not a sudden impulse that came to 
him, it was no accident, but the result of a 
deliberate purpose. Opportunity and leisure 
now made the way perfectly clear. He had 
long been of the opinion that the events of 
history might be presented vividly to the 


The Writer of History 239 

youthful mind in a series of pictures. He 
would portray the experiences of individuals 
whom the reader has been led to regard as 
persons, and not merely parts of an army, a 
church, and a government. He believed this 
was a better method, with young readers at 
least, than that usually followed by the majority 
of writers of history. To form his style, he 
read and re-read the very best English authors. 
He studied Burke especially, and ascribed to 
him the strongest single literary influence he 
had known. Years afterwards, when (like the 
swords of the Japanese steel-smiths, Muramasa 
and Sanemori, which never would rest quietly 
in their scabbards, but always kept flying out) 
Carleton s books were nearly always usefully 
absent from the shelves, the librarian at Dover, 
New Hampshire, in surprise made criticism to 
his face of Carleton s own statement about 
Burke. She remarked to him that she had not 
thought of Burke as a model for a person 
intending to write fiction, referring, doubt 
less, to "Winning His Way/ and "Caleb 

Carleton replied tihat the strong, fine style of 
the British author gave him the best possible 

240 Charles Carleton Coffin 

lesson in presenting a subject. " Whether 
writing fiction or fact, if the author wished to 
make and retain an impression on the mind of 
his reader, let him study Burke." At a partic 
ular time, as the chief librarian of a large public 
library told him, Carleton s books were more 
largely read than those of any living writer in 
the world. 

" Caleb Krinkle " is a story of American 
life in which the characters, the habits of 
thought, and the rich details of daily routine 
are given with minuteness, accuracy of obser 
vation, and genuine sympathy. The land 
scape is that of New Hampshire, but the 
outlook is far beyond, for the author s pur 
pose is to sow broadcast the seeds of true dig 
nity, manliness, and republicanism. The hero 
is a good one, but of no uncommon type. 

The young Yankee finds the battle of life 
hard, but also fights it bravely, and, in good 
time, conquers. The secondary actor, Dan 
Dishaway, is a wholly original character, a tin 
peddler with little education and unpolished 
manners, but with a loyal heart, and a simple, 
unconscious character that impressed and in 
fluenced the whole village. The teacher of 

The Writer of History 241 

teachers, to him, was his mother. The very 
foundation of the story is the value of human 
character, apart from the accidents of birth or 
position. The plot develops rapidly, and is 
illustrated by exciting incidents of river fresh 
ets, shipwreck on one of the great lakes, and a 
prairie fire. Love is shown to be no respecter 
of persons, but is found faithful, pure, and deli 
cate, in people who never heard of cosmic phi 
losophy, or the term " altruism," who knew not 
the classics, who went sadly astray in grammar. 
Without direct preaching, the story shows that 
the way of the transgressor is hard, and that 
the hardness is not lessened by worldly pros 

The critic quickly notices, however, that 
Carleton is not so successful in his pictures of 
city life as those of the country. Nevertheless, 
in modern days, when the population of Boston 
consists not of people born there, but chiefly 
of newcomers from the country, from Canada, 
or from Europe, Carleton was all the more a 
helper. An American who has mastered 
French, even though not perfect in pronun 
ciation, may be a better teacher of it than 
a native. 

24- Charles Carleton Coffin 

Bertha Wayland s success in society, and her 
Boston lite, made a very attractive portion of 
the book to a large number of readers at rural 
firesides. For who in New England, and still 
young, does not hope some day to live in sight 
of the golden dome? In later years, " Caleb 
Krinkle " was republished, with some revision 
and in much handsomer form, as " Dan of Mill- 
brook," by Estes and Lauriat, of Boston. 

His next work, w r hich still remains the most 
popular of all, the one least likely to suffer by 
the lapse of time, and the last probably to 
reach oblivion, because it appeals to young 
Americans in the whole nation, is his " Boys 
of 76." The first lore to which Carleton 
listened after his infant lips had learned prayer, 
and " line upon line, and precept upon precept," 
from the Bible, was from his soldier-grand 
fathers. These around the open fireplace told 
the story of Revolutionary marches, and camps, 
and battles. Nothing could be more real to 
the open-eyed little boy than the narratives 
related by the actors themselves, especially 
when he could ask questions, and get full light 
and explanation. 

For an author who would write on the be- 

The Writer of History 243 

ginnings of the Revolution, no part of our 
country is so rich in historic sites, and so 
superbly equipped with libraries, museums, 
relics, and memorials, as the valley of the 
Charles River, in Massachusetts. In this region 
lies Boston, where not the first, though nearly 
the first, blood of the Revolution was shed ; 
where were hung for Paul Revere the lantern- 
beacons ; which was first the base of operations 
against Bunker Hill ; and which afterward suf 
fered siege, and served as the outlet for the 
Tories to Canada, when Howe and his fleet 
sailed away. Across the river is the battle- 
road to Lexington, now nobly marked with 
monumental stones and tablets, and, further on, 
Lexington itself, with its blood-consecrated 
green and inscribed boulder, its museum, and 
its well-marked historic spots. Beyond is 
Concord, with its bridge, well-site, and bronze 
minuteman. From the crest of the green 
mound on Bunker Hill, at Charlestown, rises 
the granite monument seen from all the coun 
try round. Near to Boston, is Cambridge 
with its university, Washington s elm, and 
manifold Revolutionary memories ; while on 
the southeast, on the rising ground close at 

244 Charles Carleton Coffin 

hand, and now part of the municipality itself, 
are Dorchester Heights, once fortified and 
bristling with cannon. Within easy reach by 
rail, water, or wheel, are places already magnetic 
to the tourist and traveller, because their repu 
tations have been richly enlarged by poet, artist, 
romancer, and historian. Along the coast, or 
slightly inland, stood the humble homes of the 
ancestors of Grant and Lincoln, and but a 
little further to the southeast is the " holy 
ground " of Plymouth. 

Even more important to the historiographer 
are the amazing treasures of books and records 
gathered in the twin cities on the Charles, mak 
ing a wealth of material for American history, 
unique in the United States. What wonder, 
then, that the overwhelming majority of Amer 
ican writers of history have wrought here P 
Nor need we be surprised that, both in their 
general tone and in the bulk of their writing, 
they have portrayed less the real history of the 
United States than the history of New Eng 
land, with a glance at parts adjacent and an 
occasional distant view of regions beyond. 

Graphic, powerful, and popular as are Carle- 
ton s books, he does not wholly escape the 

The Writer of History 245 

limitations of his heredity and environment. 
Generous as he is, and means to be, to other 
States, nationalities, and sections in the United 
States, beyond those in the six Eastern States, 
the student more familiar with the great con 
structive forces of the Middle, the Southern, 
and the Western States, who knows the power 
of Princeton as well as of Harvard, of Dutch 
as well as of Yankee, without necessarily con 
testing Carleton s statements of fact, is inclined 
to discern larger streams of influence, and to 
give greater credit to sources and develop 
ments of power, and to men and institutions 
west and south of the Hudson River, than 
does Carleton in his books. 

Yet to the millions of his readers, history 
seemed to be written in a new way. It was 
different from anything to which they had 
been accustomed. Peter Parley had, indeed, 
in his time, created a fresh style of historical 
narration, which captivated unnumbered read 
ers by its simple and direct method of present 
ing subjects known in their general outline, but 
not made of sufficient human or present inter 
est. These works had suited exactly the stage 
of culture which the majority of young people 

246 Charles Carleton Coffin 

in our country had reached when the Parley 
books were written. It is doubtful, however, 
whether those same works would have achieved 
a like success in the last three decades of this 
century. Education had been so much im 
proved, schools were so much more general, 
the development of the press and cheap read 
ing matter was so great, that in the enlargement 
of view consequent upon the successful issue 
of the great civil war, a higher order of histori 
cal narration was a necessity. He who would 
win the new generation needed to be neither 
a professional scholar, a man of research, nor a 
genius, but he must know human nature well, 
and be familiar with great national movements, 
the causes and the channels of power. This 
equipment, together with a style fashioned, 
indeed, in the newspaper office, but deepened 
and enriched by the study of language, of 
rhetoric, and of masterly literary methods, as 
seen in the best English prose, made Carleton 
the elect historian for the new generation, and 
the educator of the youth of our own and the 
coming century. 

Carleton is a maker of pictures. He turns 
types into prismatics, and paragraphs into paint- 

The Writer of History 247 

ings. He lifts the past into the present. The 
event is seen as though it happened yesterday, 
and the persons, be they kings or plough-boys, 
appear as if living to-day. Their hearts, affec 
tions, motives, thoughts, are just like those of 
men and women in our time. Their clothing 
and way of living may be different, but they 
are the sort of human beings with which we 
are acquainted. Better yet, it is not only 
the men with crowns on their heads, or the 
women who wear jewelled and embroidered 
robes, or riders locked up in steel, or men 
under tonsure or tiara, that did great things 
and made the world move. Carleton shows 
how the milk-maid, the wagoner, the black 
smith, the spinster with the distaff, the rower 
of the boat, the common soldier on foot, the 
student in his cell, and the peddler with his 
pack, all had a part in working out the won 
derful story. 

Had a part, did I say ? No, in Carleton s 
story he has a part. No writer more fre 
quently and with keener effect uses the histori 
cal present. Compare Carleton s straightfor 
ward narration and marching chapters with the 
average British writer of history, and at once 

248 Charles Carleton Coffin 

we see the difference between chroniclers, 
who give such enormous space to kings, queens 
and ecclesiastical and military figure-heads, al 
most to the extent (in the eye of the philo 
sophic student, at least) of caricature, and 
this modern scribe, to whom every true man 
is a sovereign, while a king is no more than a 
man. While well able to measure personal 
ities and forces, to divine causes, and to dis 
cern and emphasize in the foreground of his 
pictures, even as an artist does, the important 
figure, yet Carleton is never at a loss to do this 
because the real hero may be of humble birth 
or in modest apparel. 

In travelling, the little child from the car 
window will notice many things in the land 
scape and about the houses passed, belonging 
to his lowly world of experience, no higher 
than the top of a yardstick, to which the 
average adult is blind. Carleton looked with 
the child s eye over history s field. He brings 
before the front lights of his stage what will at 
once catch the attention of the young people, 
to whom the deeper things of life may be 
invisible mystery. Yet, Carleton s books are 
always enjoyable to the mature man, for he 

The Writer of History 249 

discerns beneath the vivid picturing and sim 
ple rhetoric, so pleasing to the child, a practi 
cal knowledge and a philosophic depth which 
shows that the writer is a master of the art of 
reading men and events as well as of interpret 
ing history. 

Mr. Coffin s more serious productions are 
his arguments before Congressional and State 
legislative committees ; his pamphlets on the 
labor question, railways, and patents ; his ad 
dresses before general audiences and gatherings 
of scientific, commercial, and religiously inter 
ested men ; his .life of Garfield, as well as that 
of Lincoln ; and those voluminous contribu 
tions made to the daily or weekly press, and 
to magazines, and to reviews. Editors often 
turned to him for that kind of light and 
knowledge that the public needed when grave 
issues were before the church, the city, the 
commonwealth, the nation. In speaking or 
writing thus, he used a less ornate style, less 
fervid rhetoric, and spoke or wrote with direct, 
business-like precision. In a word, he suited 
his style to the work in hand. But, because 
he attracted and delighted, while teaching, his 
young readers, that critic must be blind or un- 

250 Charles Carleton Coffin 

appreciative who cannot see also the purpose 
of a master mind. The mature intellect of 
Carleton which animates and informs the 
pretty stories, educated also up and on to 
the nobler heights of historical reading. 

Strictly speaking, in the light of the more 
rigid canons of historical knowledge and the 
research demanded in our days, and when 
tested by stern criticism, Mr. Coffin was not 
a historical scholar of the first order. Nor did 
he make any such pretension. No one, cer 
tainly not himself, would dream of ranging his 
name in the same line with those of the great 
masters, Prescott, Motley, Bancroft, or Park- 
man, men of wealth and leisure, as well as 
of ability. He painted his pictures without 
going into the chemistry of colors, or searching 
into the mysteries of botany, to be absolutely 
sure as to the classification of the fibres which 
made his canvas. His first purpose was to 
make an impression, and his second, to fix 
that impression inerasably on the mind. For 
this, he trusted largely the work of those who 
had lived before him, and he made diligent 
and liberal use of materials already accumu 
lated. He would paint his own picture after 

The Writer of History 

making the drawings and arranging his tints, 
perspective, lights, and shadows. 

Nevertheless, Mr. Coffin was not a man 
accustomed to take truth at second hand. 
His own judgment was singularly sane, and 
he was not accustomed to receive statements 
and to devour them unflavored by the salt of 
criticism. Four years of the pursuit of letters 
amid arms, while passion was hottest, and men 
were too excited to care for the exact truth, 
had trained this cool-headed scribe to critical 
treatment of rumors and reports. Further 
more, he knew the value of first authorities 
and of contemporary writers and eye-witnesses. 
He discounted much of the writing done after 
the war in controversy, for political ends, for 
personal vanity, or to cover up damaged repu 
tations. He knew both the heating and the 
cooling processes of time. I remember when, 
about 1890, after he had finished making a set 
of scrap-books of soldiers letters, reminis 
cences and newspaper reports of the battles of 
the war, how heartily he laughed when, with 
twinkling eyes, he remarked on the tendency 
of some old soldiers cc to remember a good 
deal that never happened." As his experi- 

252 Charles Carleton Coffin 

ence with the pen deepened, he became more 
rigid in his requirements as to the quality of 
the information which his books gave. Those 
who have read especially his four later volumes 
on the war, will note that at the end of each 
chapter he gives the sources of authority for 
his statements and judgments. In a word, 
Carleton was a man who, having mapped the 
irrigated country and the stream s mouth, reso 
lutely set his face towards the fountains to find 
them. There is an increasing exactness and 
care in finish, as his works progressed. 

The decade from 1870 to 1880 was a busy 
one for this author, not only in his home 
study, in the Boston libraries, but also with 
the pen and with voice. The formation of 
the Grand Army of the Republic, and the 
establishments of Posts all over the country, 
and especially in the Northern States, created a 
demand for lectures on the war. The soldiers 
themselves wished to study the great subject 
as a whole, while their wives and children and 
friends were only too glad to support the 
movement for the gathering of Post libraries, 
or the collection in the town public libraries 
of books relating to the war. The younger 

The Writer of History 253 

generation needed instruction as to causes, as 
well as to results. Carleton was everywhere a 
favorite, because of his personality, as well as 
of his wide and profound acquaintance, from 
actual observation, of the great movements 
which consolidated nations. 

Years before becoming a war correspondent, 
Carleton had longed to be an orator who could 
sway thousands by the magic of his eloquence. 
More than once, after hearing Edward Ever 
ett, Rufus Choate, Wendell Phillips, and such 
masters of audiences, he would be unable to 
sleep, so excited was he by what he had heard, 
and still more by the power evinced in a single 
mind moving the wills of thousands. In such 
hours he longed to be a great orator, and thought 
no sacrifice too great to make in order to achieve 
success. As his own opportunities for public 
speaking multiplied, he became a fluent and 
convincing speaker, with clear ideas, pictur 
esque language, and the power of dramatic 
antithesis. He had that gift of making pic 
tures to the mind by which a speaker can turn 
the ears of his auditors into eyes. His tall 
form, luminous face, impressive sincerity, and 
contagious earnestness made delighted hearers, 

254 Charles Carleton Coffin 

especially among the soldiers, who everywhere 
hailed him as their defender, their faithful his 
torian, and their steadfast friend. To take 
the hand of Carleton, after his address or lec 
ture, was a privilege for which men and women 
strove as a high honor, and which children, 
now grown men and women, remember for a 

Nevertheless, in the sound judgment of the 
critic, Carleton would not be reckoned, as he 
himself knew well, in the front rank of orators. 
Neither in overmastering grace of person, in 
power of unction, in magnetic conquest of the 
mind and will, was he preeminent. When, 
leaving the flowery meadows of description or 
rising from the table-land of noble sentiment 
and inspiring precepts, he attempted to rise in 
soaring eloquence, his oratorical abilities did 
not match the grandeur of his thought or the 
splendor of his diction. 

In the course of his career as a speaker, he 
delivered at least two thousand lectures and 
addresses on formal occasions, besides unnum 
bered off hand speeches. Being one of those 
full men, it was of him that it could be said, 
paratus. On whatever subject he 

The Writer of History 255 

spoke, he was sure to make it interesting. 
Besides reports of his addresses and orations 
in the newspapers, several of the most impor 
tant have been published in pamphlet form. 
At the centennial celebration at Boscawen, 
N. H., on the 4th of July, and at the 45th 
anniversary of the settlement of Rev. Edward 
Buxton, at the 5Oth anniversary of the Histor 
ical-Genealogical Society of Boston, and at 
Nantucket, before the Bostonian Society and 
at the Congregational Clubs, before Press As 
sociations, Legislative and Congressional Com 
mittees, on Social and Labor questions, and at 
the Congress held in Chicago for the promo 
tion of international commerce between the 
countries of North and South America, Carle- 
ton reached first an audience, and then, through 
the types, wider circles of readers. 



BESIDES other means of recreation, ^Carle- 
ton was happy in having been from child 
hood a lover of music. In earlier life he sang in 
the church choir, under the training of masters 
of increasing grades of skill, in his native village, 
at Maiden, and in Boston. He early learned 
to play upon keyed instruments, the melodion, 
the piano, and the organ, the latter being his 
favorite. From this great encyclopaedia of 
tones, he loved to bring out grand harmonies. 
He used this instrument of many potencies, 
for enjoyment, as a means of culture, for the 
soothing of his spirits, and the resting of his 
brain. When wearied with the monotony of 
work with his pen, he would leave his study, 
as I remember, when living in Boston, and, 
having a private key to Shawmut Church, and 
dependent on no assistance except that of the 
water-motor, he would, for a half hour or 


Music and Poetry 257 

more, and sometimes for hours, delight and 
refresh himself with this organ, grandest of 
all but one, in Boston, the city of good organs 
and organ-makers. Many times throughout 
the war, in churches deserted or occupied, 
alone or in the public service, in the soldier s 
camp-church or meeting in the open air, where- 
ever there was an instrument with keys, Carle- 
ton was a valued participant and aid in worship. 

Religious music was his favorite, but he de 
lighted in all sweet melodies. He loved the 
Boston Symphony concerts and the grand 
opera. Among his best pieces of writing were 
the accounts of Wagner s Parsifal at Bayreuth, 
and the great Peace Jubilee after our civil war. 
At most of the great musical events in Boston, 
he was present. 

Shawmut Church had for many years one of 
the very best quartette choirs in the city, sup 
ported at the instrument by such organists as 
Dudley Buck, George Harris, Samuel Carr, 
H. E. Parkhurst, and Henry M. Dunham. 
In Carleton, both voice and instrument found 
so appreciative a hearer, and one who so often 
personally commended or appraised their ren 
derings of a great composer s thought, or a 

258 Charles Carleton Coffin 

heart-touching song, that " as well the singers 
as the players on instruments " were always 
glad to know how he received their art and 
work. In Europe, this lover of sweet sound 
enjoyed hearing the greatest vocalists, and 
those mightiest of the masses of harmony 
known on earth, and possible only in Eu 
ropean capitals. Before going to some noble 
feast for ear and soul, as, for example, Wag 
ner s rendition of his operas at Bayreuth, 
Carleton would study carefully the literary 
history, the ideas sought to be expressed in 
sound, and the score of the composer. In his 
grand description and interpretation of Parsifal, 
he likened it among operas to the Jungfrau 
amid the Bernese Alps. "In its sweep of 
vision, beauty, greatness, whiteness, glory, and 
grandeur, it stands alone ... to show the 
greatness, the ideal of Wagner, including the 
conflict of all time, the upbuilding of individ 
ual character, and reaching on to eternity." 

Carleton, being a real Christian, necessarily 
believed in, and heartily supported, foreign 
missionary work. He saw in his Master, 
Christ, the greatest of all missionaries, and in 
the twelve missionaries, whom he chose to 

Music and Poetry 259 

carry on his work, the true order and line of 
the kingdom. " Apostolical " succession is, 
literally, and in Christ s intent, missionary 
succession. He read in Paul s account of the 
organization of the Christian Church, that, 
among its orders and dignities, its officers and 
personnel, were " first missionaries." To him 
the only " orders " and " succession " were 
those which propagated the Gospel. He had 
seen the work of the modern apostles, sent 
forth by American Christians, west of the 
Alleghanies first, west of the Mississippi. He 
had later beheld the true apostles at work, in 
India, China, and Japan. It was on account 
of his seeing that he became a still more en 
thusiastic upholder of missionary, or apostolic, 
work. He gave many addresses and lectures 
in New England, in loyalty to the mind of the 
Master. As he had been a friend of the black 
man, slave or free, so also was he ever a faith 
ful defender of the Asiatic stranger within our 
gates. Against the bill which practically ex 
cluded the Chinamen from the United States, 
in defiance of the spirit and letter of the 
Burlingame treaty, Carleton spoke vigorously, 
at the meeting held in Tremont Temple, in 

260 Charles Carleton Coffin 

Boston, to protest against the infamous Exclu 
sion bill, which committed the nation to per 
jury. Carleton could never see the justice of 
stealing black men from Africa to enslave 
them, of murdering red men in order to steal 
their hunting-grounds, or of inviting yellow 
men across the sea to do our work, and then 
kicking them out when they were no longer 

Carleton was instrumental in giving impetus 
to the movement to found that mission in 
Japan which has since borne fruit in the cre 
ation of the largest and most influential body 
of Christian churches, and the great Doshi- 
sha University, in Kioto. These churches 
are called Kumi-ai, or associated independent 
churches, and out of them have come, in re 
markable numbers, preachers, pastors, editors, 
authors, political leaders, and influential men 
in every department of the new modern life in 
Japan. It was at the meeting of the American 
Board, held in Pittsburg, in the Third Presby 
terian Church edifice, October 7-8, 1869, that 
the mission to Japan was proposed. A paper 
by Secretary Treat was read, and reported on 
favorably, and Rev. David Greene, who had 

Music and Poetry 261 

volunteered to be the apostle to the Sunrise 
Empire, made an address. The speech of 
Carleton, who had just returned from Dai 
Nippon, capped the climax of enthusiasm, and 
the meeting closed by singing the hymn, 
" Nearer, my God, to Thee." 

At one of the later meetings of the Board, at 
Rutland, Vermont, the Japanese student Nee- 
sima pleaded effectually that a university be 
founded, the history of which, under the name 
of the One Endeavor, or Doshisha, is well 
known. In the same year that Neesima was 
graduated from Amherst College, Carleton 
received from this institution the honorary de 
gree of Master of Arts. 

Carleton could turn his nimble pen to 
rhyme, when his friends required verses, and 
best when his own emotions struggled for 
utterance in poetry. Several very creditable 
hymns were composed for anniversary occa 
sions and for the Easter Festivals of Shawmut 

Indeed, the first money ever paid him by a 
publisher was for a poem, " The Old Man s 
Meditations," which was copied into " Littell s 
Living Age." The pre-natal life, birth, and 

262 Charles Carleton Coffin 

growth of this first-born child of Carleton s 
brain and heart, which inherited a " double 
portion," in both fame and pelf, is worth not 
ing. In 1852, an aged uncle of Mrs. Coffin, 
who dwelt in thoughts that had not yet be 
come the commonplace property of our day, 
being at home in the immensities of geology 
and the infinities of astronomy, made a visit to 
the home in Boscawen, spending some days. 
Carleton was richly fed in spirit, and, conceiv 
ing the idea of the poem, on going out to 
plough, put paper and pencil in his pocket. 
As he thought out line upon line, or stanza by 
stanza, he penned each in open air. At the 
end of the furrow, or even in the middle of it, 
he would stop his team, lay the paper on the 
back of the oxen, and write down the thought 
or line. Finished at home in the evenings, 
the poem was read to a friend, who persuaded 
the author to test its editorial and mercantile 

" I shall never forget," wrote Mrs. Coffin, 
October 13, 1896, "with what joy he came to 
me and showed me the poetry in the magazine, 
and a check for $5.00." 

The last three stanzas are : 

Music and Poetry 263 

" He sails once more the sea of years 

So wide and vast and deep ! 
He lives anew old hopes and fears 
Sweet tales of love again he hears, 
While flow afresh the scalding tears, 

For one long since asleep. 

f *He sees the wrecks upon the shore, 

And everything is drear ; 
The rolling waves around him roar, 
The angry clouds their torrents pour, 
His friends are gone forevermore, 
And he alone is here. 

"Yet through the gloom of gathering night, 

A glory from afar 
Streams ever on his fading sight, 
With Orient beams that grow more bright, 
The dawn of heaven s supernal light 

From Bethlehem s radiant star." 

During the evenings of 1892, Carleton 
guided a Reading Club of young ladies who 
met at his house. I remember, one evening, 
with what effect he read Lowell s " Biglow 
Papers," his eyes twinkling with the fun which 
none enjoyed more than he. On another 
evening, after reading from Longfellow s "The 
Poet s Tale," " Ladv Wentworth," and other 

264 Charles Carleton Coffin 

poems, Carleton, before retiring, wrote a " Se 
quel to Lady Wentworth." It is full of 
drollery, suggesting also what might possibly 
have ensued if " the judge " had married 
" Maud Mullen" Carleton s poem tells of 
the risks and dangers to marital happiness 
which the old magistrate runs who weds a 
gay young girl. 

Carleton was ever a lover and student of 
poetry, and among poets, Whittier was from 
the first his favorite. As a boy he committed 
to memory many of the Quaker poet s trumpet- 
like calls to duty. As a man he always turned 
for inspiration to this sweet singer of freedom. 
What attracted Carleton was not only the in 
tense moral earnestness of the Friend, his 
beautiful images and grand simplicity, but the 
seer s perfect familiarity with the New Hamp 
shire landscape, its mountains, its watercourses, 
the ways and customs of the people, the local 
legends and poetical associations, the sympathy 
with the Indian, and the seraphic delight which 
he took in the play of light upon the New 
Hampshire hills. Not more did Daniel Web 
ster study with eager eyes the glowing and the 
paling of the light on the hilltops, no more 

Music and Poetry 265 

rapturously did Rembrandt unweave the mazes 
of darkness, conjure the shadows, and win by 
study the mysteries of light and shade, than 
did Whittier. To Carleton, a true son of 
New Hampshire, who had Hmself so often in 
boyhood watched and disciiminated the mys 
tery-play of light in its variant forms at dawn, 
midday, and sunset, by moon and star and 
zodiac, at the equinoxes and solstices, the 
imagery of his favorite poet was a perennial 

As he ripened in years, Carleton loved 
poetry more and .more. He delighted in 
Lowell, and enjoyed the mysticism of Emer 
son. He had read Tennyson earlier in life 
without much pleasure, but in ripened years, 
and with refined tastes, his soul of music re 
sponded to the English bard s marvellous num 
bers. He became unspeakably happy over 
the tender melody of Tennyson s smaller 
pieces, and the grand harmony of "In Me- 
moriam," which he thought the greatest poem 
ever written, and the high-water mark of Intel- 


lect in the nineteenth century. Carleton was 
not only a lover of music, but a composer. 
When some especially tender sentiment in a 

266 Charles Carleton Coffin 

hymn impressed him, or the re-reading of an 
old sacred song kindled his imagination by its 
thought, or moved his sensibilities by its smooth 
rhythm, then Carleton was not likely to rest 
until he had made a tune of his own with which 
to express his feelings. Of the scores which 
he composed and sang at home, or had sung 
in the churches, a number were printed, and 
have had happy use. 

To the end of his life, he seemed to present, 
in his carriage and person, some of that New 
Hampshire ruggedness, and even rustic sim 
plicity, that attracted and lured, while it foiled 
and disgusted those hunters of human prey 
who, in every large city, wait to take in the 
wayfaring man, whether he be fool or wise. 
Because he wore comfortable shoes, and cared 
next to nothing about conformity to the last 
new freak of fashion, the bunco man was very 
apt to make a fool of himself, and find that he, 
and not the stranger, was the victim. In Bos 
ton, which of late years has been so far cap 
tured by the Irishman that even St. Patrick s 
is celebrated under the guise of " Evacuation 
Day," matters were not very different from 
those in New York. Carleton, while often 

Music and Poetry 267 

conducting parties of young friends around 
Copp s Hill, and the more interesting histori 
cal, but now uncanny houses of the North 
End, was often remarked. Occasionally he 
was recognized by the policeman, who would 
inform suspicious or inquiring fellow foreigners 
or adopted sons of the Commonwealth, that 
" the old fellow was only a countryman in 
town, and wouldn t do any harm." 

Lest some might get a false idea, I need only 
state that Mr. Coffin was a man of dignified 
dress, and scrupulously neat. He was a gentle 
man whose engaging presence might suggest the 
older and more altruistic, rather than the newer 
and perhaps brusquer style of manners. His 
was a " mild and magnificent " blue eye in which 
so many, who loved him so, liked to dwell, and 
he had no need to wear glasses. The only sign 
of ornament about him was his gold watch- 
chain and cross-bar in his black vest button 



QHAWMUT Church, in Boston, stands 
k3 at the corner of Tremont and Brookline 
Streets. Its history is one of unique interest. 
Its very name connects the old and new world 
together. A Saxon monk, named Botolph, 
after completing his Christian studies in Ger 
many, founded, A. D. 654, a monastery in Lin 
colnshire, on the Witham, near the sea, and 
made it a centre of holy light and knowledge. 
He was the friend of sailors and boat-folk. 
The houses which grew up around the mon 
astery became Botolph s Town, or Boston. 
" Botolph " is itself but another form of boat- 
help, and the famous tower of this English 
parish church, finer than many cathedrals, is 
crowned by an octagon lantern, nearly three 
hundred feet above the ground. It serves as 
a beacon-light, being visible forty miles distant, 
and, as of old, is the boat-help of Saint Botolph s 

Shawmut Church 269 

Town. This ecclesiastical lighthouse is famil 
iarly called " Boston Stump," and overlooks 
Lincolnshire, the cradle of Massachusetts his 
tory. At Scrooby, a few miles to the west, 
lived and worshipped the Pilgrim Fathers and 
Mothers. From this shire, also, came the Eng 
lish people who settled at Shawmut on the iyth 
of September, 1630. 

The Indian name, Shawmut, was that of the 
" place near the neck," probably the present 
Haymarket Square. The three-hilled penin 
sula called Tremont, or Boston, by the white 
settlers, was connected with the main land at 
Roxbury by a long, narrow neck or causeway. 
The future " South End " was then under the 
waves. After about two centuries of use as a 
wagon road, this narrow strip between Boston 
and Roxbury so narrow that, at high tide, 
boys were able to leap from the foam of the 
South Bay to the spray of the waters of the 
Charles River was widened. Suffolk Street, 
which was one of the first highways west of 
Washington Street to be made into hard ground, 
was named Shawmut Avenue. About the 

1 Other good authorities interpret Shawmut as meaning " liv 
ing waters." 

2jo Charles Carleton Coffin 

middle of the nineteenth century, much land 
was reclaimed from the salt mud and marshes 
and made ready for the pile-driver, mason, and 
builder. Two splendid districts, the first called 
the " South End," and the second the " Back 
Bay," were created. Where, in the Revolu 
tionary War, British frigates lay at anchor, are 
now Beacon Street and Commonwealth and 
Massachusetts Avenues. Where the redcoats 
stepped into their boats for disembarkation at 
the foot of Bunker Hill, stretch the lovely 
Public Gardens. The streets running east and 
west in the new districts, beginning with Dover 
and ending with Lenox, are named after towns 
in the Bay State. About midway among these, 
as to order and distance, are Brookline and 
Canton Streets. 

On a chance space of hard soil around Can 
ton and Dedham Streets, in this marshy re 
gion, a suburban village of frame houses had 
gathered, and here a Sunday school was started 
as early as 1836. In January, 1842, a weekly 
prayer-meeting began at the house of Mr. 
Samuel C. Wilkins. On November 20, 1845, 
a church was formed, with fifty members. In 
the newly filled up land, the pile-driver was 

Shawmut Church 27 1 

already busy in planting forests of full-grown 
trees head downward. All around were rising 
blocks of elegant houses, with promise of im 
posing civic and ecclesiastical edifices of various 
kinds. In the wider streets were gardens, 
parks, or ample strips of flower-beds. This 
was the land of promise, and into it pressed 
married couples by the hundreds, creating 
lovely homes, rearing families, and making this 
the choicest part of the young city. For, 
though " Boston town " is as old as Mother 
Goose s rhymes, the municipality of Boston 
was, in 1852, but thirty years old. The con 
gregation of Christian people which, on April 
14, 1849, to k the name, as parish, of The 
Shawmut Congregational Society, and, as a 
church, one month later, the name of the Shaw 
mut Congregational Church, occupied as a 
meeting-house first a hall, then a frame build 
ing, and finally a handsome edifice of brick, 
which was dedicated on the :8th of November, 
1852. This building is now occupied by the 
Every Day Church, of the Universalist denom 
ination. The tide of prosperity kept steadily 
rising. The throng of worshippers increased, 
until, in the very midst of the great Civil War, 

272 Charles Carleton Coffin 

it was necessary to have more room. The 
present grand edifice on Tremont Street was 
erected and dedicated February 11, 1864; 
the Rev. Edwin Bonaparte Webb, who had 
been called from Augusta, Maine, being the 
popular and successful pastor. 

Boston was not then noted, as she certainly 
is now, for grandeur or loveliness in church 
edifices. Neither excellence nor taste in ecclesi 
astical architecture was, before the war, a strik 
ing trait of the city or the people. To-day her 
church spires and towers are not only numerous, 
but are famed for their variety and beauty. 

Fortunately for the future of Boston, the 
people of Shawmut Church found a good archi 
tect, who led the van of improvement in church 
architecture. The new edifice was the first one 
in the city on the early Lombardy style of 
architecture, and did much to educate the taste 
of the people of the newer and the older town, 
and especially those in the fraternity of churches 
called Congregational. 

Both its architecture and decoration have 
been imitated and improved upon in the city 
wherein it was a pioneer of beauty and the 
herald of a new order of church architecture. 

Shawmut Church 273 

It is a noble vehicle of the faith and feelings of 
devout worshippers. 

The equipment of Shawmut Church edifice 
made it a very homelike place of worship, and 
here, for a generation or more of Carleton s 
life, a noble company of Christians worshipped. 
The Shawmut people were noted for their 
enterprise, sociability, generosity, and unity of 
purpose. In this "South End" of Boston 
was reared a large proportion of the generation 
which to-day furnishes the brain and social and 
religious force of the city and suburbs. In 
Shawmut Church, gathered, week by week, 
hundreds of those who, in the glow of pros 
perity, held common ambitions, interests, and 
hopes. They were proud of their city, their 
neighborhood, and their church, yet were ever 
ready to extend their well-laden hands in gifts 
to the needy at home, and to send to those 
far off, within our own borders, and in lands 
beyond sea. 

The great fire in Boston, of which Carleton 
wrote so brilliant a description, which, begin 
ning November 9, 1872, within a few hours 
burned over sixty-five acres and reduced 
seventy-five millions of property to smoke and 

274 Charles Carleton Coffin 

ashes, gave the first great blow to the material 
prosperity of Shawmut Church. Later came 
the filling up, the reclamation, and building of 
the Back Bay district. About 1878, the tide 
of movement set to the westward, progressing 
so rapidly and steadily as to almost entirely 
change, within a decade, the character of the 
South End, from a region of homes to one 
largely of business and boarding houses. Still 
later, about 1890, with the marvellous develop 
ment of the electric motor and trolley cars, 
making horse traction by rail obsolete, the 
suburbs of Boston became one great garden 
and a semicircle of homes. Then Brookline, 
Newton, and Dorchester churches flourished 
at the expense of the city congregations. 
Shawmut Church, having graduated hundreds 
of families, had, in 1893, to be reorganized. 

Ot this church Charles Carleton Coffin, 
though not one of the founders, was certainly 
one of the makers. As a member, a hearer, a 
worshipper, a teacher, an officer, a counsellor, 
a giver of money, power, and influence, his 
name is inseparably associated with the life of 
Shawmut Church. 

When Carleton s seat was vacant, the chief 

Shawmut Church 275 

servant of the church knew that his faithful 
ally was serving his Master elsewhere. After 
one of his trips to Europe, out West, or down 
South over the old battle-fields, to refresh his 
memory, or to make notes and photographs 
for his books, the welcome given to him, on 
his return, was always warm and lively. 

First of all, Mr. Coffin was a good listener. 
This man, so fluent in speech, so ready with 
his pen, so richly furnished by long and wide 
reading, and by habitual meditation and deep 
thinking, by unique experience of times that 
tried men s souls, knew also the moments 
when silence, that is golden, was better than 
speech, even though silvern. These were not 
as the " brilliant flashes of silence," such as 
Sidney Smith noted as delightful improve 
ments in his friend " Tom " Macaulay ; for 
Carleton was never a monopolist in conversa 
tion. Rather, with the prompting of a gen 
erous nature, and as studied courtesy made 
into fine art, he could listen even to a child. 
If Carleton was present, the preacher had an 
audience. His face, while beaming with en 
couragement, was one of singular responsive 
ness. His patience, the patience of one to 

276 Charles Carleton Coffin 

whom concealment of feeling was as difficult 
as for a crystal to shut out light, rarely failed. 

In Japan there are temples, built in memo- 
riam to heroes fallen in war. These are named 
Shrines for the Welcome of Spirits. They are 
lighted at sunset. Like one of these that I 
remember, called the Soul-beckoning Rest, was 
this listener, Carleton, who begat eloquence by 
his kindly gaze. Nor was this power to lift 
up and cheer this winged help of a great 
soul, like that of a mother bird under her 
fledgling making first trial of the air given 
only to the professional speaker in the pulpit. 
This ten-talent layman was ever kindly help 
ful, with ear and tongue, to his fellow holder- 
in-trust of the one, or of the five, talents ; 
yes, even to the little children in Christ s 

The young people loved Carleton because 
he heard and loved them. To have his great, 
kindly eyes fixed on some poor soldier, or 
neighbor in distress, was in itself a lightening 
of the load of trouble. Unlike those profes 
sional or volunteer comforters, who overwhelm 
by dumping a whole cart-load of condolence 
upon the sufferer, who is unable to resist or 

Shawmut Church 277 

reply, Carleton was often great in his power of 
encouraging silence, and of gentle sympathy. 

Bacon, as no other Englishman, has com 
pressed in very few words a recipe for making 
a "full," a "ready," and an "exact" man. 
Carleton was all these in one. He was ever 
full. In the Shawmut prayer-meeting, his 
deep, rich voice was the admirable vehicle of 
his strong and helpful thoughts. Being a man 
of intense conviction, there was earnestness in 
every tone. A stalwart in faith, he was neces 
sarily optimistic. A prophet, he was always 
sure that out of present darkness was to break 
forth grander light than former days knew. 
This world is governed by our Father, and 
God makes no mistakes. 

That rhetorical instrument, the historical 
present, which makes the pages of his books 
tell such vivid stories, he often used with 
admirable effect in the prayer-room, impressing 
and thrilling all hearts. No little one ever 
believed more confidently the promises of its 
parent than did this little child in humility who 
was yet a man in understanding. Yet his was 
not blind credulity. He always faced the facts. 
He was willing to get to the bottom of reality, 

278 Charles Carleton Coffin 

even though it might cause much drilling of 
the strata, with revelation of things at first un 
pleasant to know. I never knew a man whose 
piety rested less on traditions, institutions, per 
sons, things, or reputations taken for granted. 
To keen intuitions, he was able to add the riches 
of experience, and his experience ever wrought 
hope. Hence the tonic of his thought and 
words. He dwelt on the mountain-top of 
vision, and yet he had that combination, so rare, 
yet so indispensable in the prophet, vision 
and patience, even the patience of service. 

Naturally his themes and his illustrations, so 
pertinent and illuminating, were taken largely 
from history. It is because he saw so far and 
so clearly down the perspective of the past, that 
he read the future so surely. " That which 
hath been, is that which shall be," but more. 
" God fulfils himself in many ways." To our 
friend, history, of which the cross of Christ was 
the centre, was the Heavenly Father s fullest 
revelation. Many are the ways of theophany, 
" at sundry times, and in divers manners," 
to one the burning bush, to another the 
Urim and Thummin, to another the dew on 
the fleece, to one this, to another that. To 

Shawmut Church 279 

our man of the Spirit, as to the sage of Patmos, 
human history, because moved from above, 
was the visible presence of God. 

The war, which dissolved the old world of 
slavery, sectional bigotry, and narrow ideals, 
and out of the mother liquid of a new chaos 
shot forth fresh axes of moral reconstruction, 
furnished this soldier of righteousness with 
endless themes, incidents, illustrations, and sug 
gestions. Yet the emphasis, both as to light 
and shading, was put upon things Christian and 
Godlike, the phenomena of spiritual courage 
and enterprise, rather than upon details of blood 
or slaughter. Neither years nor distance seemed 
to dim our fellow patriot s gratitude to the brave 
men who sacrificed limb and life for their coun 
try. The soldierly virtues, so vital to the Chris 
tian, were brought home to heart and conscience. 
He showed the incarnation of truth and life to 
be possible even in the camp and field. 

Having been a skilled traveller in the Holy 
Land, Carleton frequently opened this " Fifth 
Gospel " to delighted listeners. There hung 
on the wall of the " vestry," or social prayer- 
room, above the leader s chair, a steel-plate 
picture of modern Jerusalem, showing espe- 

280 Charles Carleton Coffin 

daily the walls, gates, and roadways leading out 
from the city. Carleton often declared that 
this print was " an inspiration " to him. It 
recalled not only personal experiences of his 
own journeys, but also the stirring incidents in 
Scripture, especially of the life of Christ. Hav 
ing studied on the soil of Syria, the background 
of the parables, and possessing a genius for 
topography, he was able to unshackle our 
minds from too close bondage to the English 
phrase or letter, from childhood s imperfect 
imaginations, and from our crude Occidental 
fancies. Many a passage of Scripture, long 
held in our minds as the hand holds an un- 
lighted lantern, was often turned into an imme 
diately helpful lamp to our path by one touch 
of his light-giving torch. 

For many years, Carleton was a Bible-class 
teacher, excelling in understanding, insight, 
explanation, and application of the divine 
Word. Many to-day remember his teaching 
powers and their enjoyment at Maiden ; but it 
was in Boston, at Shawmut Church, that Mr. 
Coffin gave to this work the fullness of his 
strength and the ripeness of his powers. 

Counting it one of the noblest ambitions of 

Shawmut Church 281 

a man s life to be a good teacher, I used to 
admire Carleton s way of getting at the heart 
of the lesson. His talent lay in first drawing 
out the various views of the readers, and then 
of harmonizing them, even as the lens draws 
all rays to a burning-point, making fire where 
before was only scattered heat. Carleton was 
one of those superb teachers who believe that 
education is not only putting in, but also draw 
ing out. In his class were lawyers, physicians, 
doctors of divinity, principals of schools, heads 
of families, besides various specimens of aver 
age humanity. Somehow, he contrived, within 
the scant hour afforded him, often within a 
half hour, to bestow not only his own thought, 
but, by powerful spiritual induction, to kindle 
in others a transforming force. After the 
teaching had well begun, there set in an alter 
nating current of intensity that wrought might 
ily for the destruction of dead prejudices, and 
the building up of character. 

In his use of helps and commentaries he had a 
profound contempt of those peddlers of pedantry 
who try to make the words of eternal truth 
become merely the lingo of things local and 
temporary. He was fond of utilizing all that 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

the spade has cast up and out from the earth, 
as well as of consulting what the pen of genius 
has made so plain. He believed heartily in 
that interpretive, or higher criticism, which has 
done so much in our days to open the riches 
of holy Scripture. From the very first, instead 
of fearing that truth might be injured by an 
examination of the dress in which it was clothed, 
or the packages in which it was wrapped, Carle- 
ton was in hearty sympathy with those scholars 
and investigators who, by the application of 
literary canons to the Hebrew and Greek writ 
ings, have put illuminating difference between 
traditions and the original message. He be 
lieved that, in the popular understanding of 
many portions of the Bible, there was much 
confusion, owing to the webs which have been 
spun over the text by men who lived centuries 
and ages after the original writers of the in 
spired word. Though he never called himself 
a scholar, he knew only too well that Flavius 
Josephus and John Milton were the makers of 
much popular tradition which ascribed to the 
Bible a good deal which it does not contain, 
and that there was often difficulty among the 
plain people in distinguishing between the an- 

Shawmut Church 283 

cient treasure and the wrapping and strings 
within which it is now enclosed. Hence his 
diligent use of some of the strong books in 
his pastor s and other libraries. 

Above all, however, was his own clear, pene 
trating, spiritual insight, which, joined with his 
rich experience, his literary instincts, and his 
own gift of expression, made him such a master 
in the art of communication. While his first 
use of the Bible was for spiritual benefit to 
himself and others, he held that its study as 
literature would scatter to the wind the serious 
objections of sceptics and unbelievers. 



CARLETON was a typical free churchman. 
He was not only so by inheritance and 
environment, but because he was master of the 
New Testament. His penetrating acumen 
and power to read rightly historical documents 
enabled him to see what kind of churches they 
were which the apostles founded. With the 
open New Testament before him, he did not 
worry himself about the validity of the ordina 
tion of those who should preach to him or 
administer the sacraments, though there was 
no more loyal churchman and Christian. He 
believed in the kind of churches which were 
first formed at Jerusalem and in the Roman 
cities by the twelve whom Jesus chose, over 
which not even the apostles themselves ven 
tured to exercise authority ; but rather, on the 
other hand, submitted to the congregation, that 
is, the assembled believers. In the New Tes- 


The Free Churchman 285 

tament, Carleton read that the members of 
the churches were on the same level, all being 
equal before their great Head and risen Lord, 
no member having the smallest claim to any 
kind of authority over or among his fellow 
members. In such churches, organized to-day 
as closely as possible after the New Testament 
model, he believed, and to such churches he 
gave his heartiest support, while ever deeply 
sympathetic with his fellow Christians who 
associated themselves under other methods of 


His strong faith in the essential right and 
truth held by independent churches in frater 
nity, never wavered ; and this faith received 
even increasing strength because of his trust in 
human nature when moved from above. He 
believed in the constant presence of the Holy 
Spirit, as leading Christians unto the way of all 
truth. He thought the centuries to come 
would see a shedding off of many things dog 
matic theologians consider to be vital to Chris 
tianity, and the closer apprehension by society 
of the meaning of Christ s life and words. He 
believed not only that God was, but that he 
is. Though reared in New England, he had 

286 Charles Carleton Coffin 

little of that provincial narrowness which so 
often mars and cramps the minds of those who 
otherwise are the most agreeable of all Ameri 
cans, the cultivated New Englanders. No 
sermon so moved Carleton, and so kindled 
responsive radiance in his face, as those which 
showed that God is to-day leading and guiding 
humanity and individuals as surely as in the 
age of the burning bush or the smoking altar. 
He believed that neither the ancient Jews nor 
the early Christians had any advantages over 
us for spiritual culture, or for the foundation 
and increase of their faith in God, but rather 
less. He heartily approved of whatever pierced 
sectarian shams and traditional hypocrisies and 
revealed reality. 

Hence his coolness and impartiality in con 
troversy, whatever might be his own strong 
personal liking. His profound knowledge of 
human nature in all its forms, not excepting 
the clerical, professional, and theological sort, 
especially when in the fighting mood, en 
abled him to measure accurately the personal 
equation in every problem, even when masked 
to the point of self-deception. His judicial 
balance and his power to see the real point in 

The Free Churchman 287 

a controversy made him an admirable guide, 
philosopher, and friend. His vital rather than 
traditional view and use of the truth, and his 
sunny calm and poise, were especially mani 
fested during that famous period of trouble 
which broke out in that noble but close corpo 
ration, the American Board of Commissioners 
for Foreign Missions. 

Through all the subsidiary skirmishes con 
nected with the prosecution of the Andover 
professors, and the great debates in the public 
meetings of the American Board, Carleton was 
in hearty sympathy with those opinions and 
convictions which have since prevailed. He 
was in favor of sending men and women into 
missionary fields who showed, by their physical, 
intellectual, and spiritual make-up, that they 
were fitted for their noble work, whether or 
not their theology stood the test of certain 
arbitrary standards in vogue with a faction in a 
close corporation. 

Carleton was never averse to truth being 
tried on a fair field, whether of discussion, of 
controversy before courts, or, if necessary, at 
the rifle s muzzle. He was not one of those 
feeble souls who retreat from all agitation. 

288 Charles Carleton Coffin 

He had once fronted " a lie in arms " and was 
accustomed to probe even an angel s profes 
sions. He knew that in the history of man 
there must often be a storm before truth is re 
vealed in clearness. No one realized more 
fully than he that, among the evangelical 
churches holding the historic form of Chris 
tianity, the part ever played and perhaps yet 
to be played by Congregationalists, is that of 
pioneers. He knew that out of the bosom of 
this body of Christians had come very many 
of the great leaders of thought who have so 
profoundly modified Christian theology in 
America and Europe, and that by Congrega- 
tionalists are written most of the books shap 
ing the vanguard of thought in America, and 
he rejoiced in the fact. 

In brief, Charles Carleton Coffin was neither 
a " mean Yankee," nor, in his general spirit, a 
narrow New Englander. He was not a local, 
but a genuinely national American and free 
churchman. He believed that the idea of the 
people ruling in the Church as well as in the 
State had a historical, but not absolutely neces 
sary, connection with New England. In his 
view, the Congregational form of a church 

The Free Churchman 289 

government was as appropriate to the Middle 
and Western States of our country, as to the 
six Eastern States. Ever ready to receive new 
light and to ponder a new proposition, he grew 
and developed, as the years went on, in his 
conception of the origin of Congregational 
Christianity in apostolic times, and of its re 
birth after the release of the Bible from its 
coffin of dead Latin and Greek into the living 
tongues of Europe, among the so-called Ana 
baptists. Through his researches he had long 
suspected that those Christians, whom prelates 
and political churchmen had, besides murdering 
and attempting to exterminate, so vilified and 
misrepresented, were our spiritual ancestors 
and the true authors in modern time of church 
government through the congregation, and of 
freedom of the conscience in religion. He 
often spoke of that line of succession of 
thought and faith which he saw so clearly 
traced through the Lollards and the weavers 
of eastern England, the Dutch Anabaptists,, 
the Brownists, and the Pilgrims. He gave his 
hearty adherence to what he believed to be the 
demonstration of the truth as set forth in an 
article in The New World y by the writer, in the 

290 Charles Carleton Coffin 

following letter, written February 27, 1896, 
only four days before his sudden death and 
among the very last fruits of his pen. Like 
the editor who prints " letters from corre 
spondents," the biographer is " not responsible 
for the opinions expressed." 



DEAR DR. GRIFFIS : I have read your Anabaptist article, 
once for my own meditation, and once for Mrs. Coffin s 
benefit. I am glad you have shown up Mode) , and that 
toleration did not begin with Roger Williams. Your article 
historically will dethrone two saints, Williams and Lord 
Baltimore. You have rendered an invaluable service to his 
tory. Our Baptist and Catholic brethren will not thank 
you, but the rest of the world will. It is becoming clearer 
every day that the motive force which was behind the foun 
dations of this Republic came from the " Lollards " and the 
f( Beggars." I hope you will give us more such articles. 

Having been for many years an active mem 
ber of the Congregational Club, of Boston, 
Carleton was in 1890 elected president, and 
served during one year. This parent of the 
fifty or more Congregational Clubs scattered 
throughout the country was organized in 1869, 
and has had an eventful history of power and in- 

The Free Churchman 291 

fluence. Some of the topics discussed during his 
administration were " Relations of the Church 
to Politics/ " Congregationalism in Boston," 
" Bible Class Study," and " How shall the 
Church adapt itself to modern needs?" It was 
under his presidency, also, that the Boston 
Congregational Club voted unanimously, Feb 
ruary 24, 1890, to appoint a committee to 
obtain the necessary funds and erect a memorial 
at Delfshaven in honor of the Dutch Republi 
cans and the Pilgrim Fathers, both hosts 
and guests. When the suggestion to raise 
some such memorial, made by the Hon. S. R. 
Thayer, American Minister at the Hague, was 
first read in the meeting of the Club in Octo 
ber, 1889, and a motion made to refer it to the 
Executive Committee, Carleton seconded and 
supported the motion with a speech in warm 
commendation. He was among the very first 
to make and pay a subscription in money. 
The enterprise still awaits the happy day of 
completion, and the responsibility of the enter 
prise lies, by its own vote, upon the Boston 
Congregational Club. The Forefathers Day 
celebration of the Club was of uncommon inter 
est during the year of Mr. Coffin s presidency. 

292 Charles Carleton Coffin 

A leading feature was the display on a screen of 
views of Pilgrim shrines in England which Mr. 
Coffin had obtained on a visit two years before. 
Except his membership in the various his 
torical and learned societies and in religious 
organizations, Mr. Coffin was not connected 
with secret, benevolent, social, or mysterious 
brotherhoods. He did not believe in secret 
fraternities, but rather considered that these 
had much to do with weakening the Church of 
Christ, and with making men satisfied with a 
lower standard of ethics and human sociability 
than that taught by Jesus. He held that the 
brotherhood instituted of Christ, in an open 
chapter of twelve, and without secrets of any 
kind, was sufficient for him and for all men. 
More than once, when going abroad, or travel 
ling in the various parts of his own country, 
which is nearly as large as all Europe, he was 
advised to join a lodge and unite himself with 
one or more of the best secret fraternities, for 
assistance and recognition while travelling. All 
these kind invitations he steadily declined. 
He was not even a member of the Grand 
Army of the Republic, though often invited 
to join a Post. He never became a member, 

The Free Churchman 293 

for he did not see the necessity of secrecy, 
even for this organization, though he was very 
often an honored guest at their public meetings. 
The Church of Christ was to Carleton an all- 
sufficient society and power. 



ONE can hardly imagine a better school for 
the training of a good American citizen 
than that which Carleton enjoyed. By inherit 
ance and birth in a New Hampshire village, 
he knew " the springs of empire." By actual 
experience of farming and surveying in a tran 
sition era between the old ages of manual labor 
and the new aeon of inventions, he learned toil, 
its necessity, and how to abridge and guide it 
by mind. In the acquaintance, while upon a 
Boston newspaper, with public men, and all 
kinds of people, in the unique experiences as 
war correspondent, in wide travel and observa 
tion around the whole world, in detailed studies 
of new lands and life in the Northwest, in 
reading and research in great libraries, and in 
the constant discipline of his mind through 
reflection, his knowledge of man and nature, 

of society and history, was at first hand. 


Citizen, Statesman, and Reformer 295 

Intensely interested in politics from boy 
hood, Carleton sought no public office. 

When, in his early manhood, he revolved in 
his mind the question of attempting this or that 
career, he may have thought of entering the 
alluring but thorny path of office-seeking and 
"practical" politics. It cannot be said that 
his desire for public emolument lasted very 
long. He deliberately decided against a po 
litical career. Even if the exigencies of the 
moment had not tended to forbid the flight of 
his ambition in this direction, there were other 
reasons against it. 

He was a school commissioner in Maiden, 
faithfully attending to *the details of his duty 
during two years. The report of his work was 
given in a pamphlet. As we have seen, before 
the breaking out of the war, when in Washing 
ton, he sought for a little while government 
employment in one of the departments, but 
gave up the quest when the larger field of war 
correspondent invited him. He never sought 
an elective office, but when his fellow citizens 
in Boston found out how valuable a member 
of the Commonwealth he was, so rich in public 
spirit and so well equipped to be a legislator, 

296 Charles Carleton Coffin 

he was made first, for several terms, a Represent 
ative, and afterwards, for one term, a Senator, 
in the Legislature of Massachusetts. Carleton 
sat under the golden codfish as Representative 
during the years 1884 and 1885, and under the 
gilded dome as Senator, in 1890. 

Faithful to his calling as a maker of law, 
Carleton was abundant in labors during his 
three terms, interested in all that meant weal 
or woe to the Commonwealth ; yet we have 
only room to speak of the two or three particu 
lar reforms which he inaugurated. 

Until the year 1884, Boston was behind 
some of the other cities of the Union, notably 
Philadelphia, in requiring the children in the 
public schools to provide their own text-books. 
This caused the burden of taxation for educa 
tion, which is " the chief defence of nations," 
to fall upon the men and women who reared 
families, instead of being levied with equal 
justice upon all citizens. Carleton prepared a 
bill for furnishing free text-books to the public 
schools of Boston, such as had been done in 
Philadelphia since 1819. Despite considerable 
opposition, some of it on the part of teachers 
who had severe notions, bred chieflv bv local 

Citizen, Statesman, and Reformer 297 

Boston precedent, which had almost the force 
of religion, Carleton had the happiness of 
seeing the bill passed. 

The administration of municipal affairs in 
the " Hub of the Universe," during the seven 
ties and early eighties of this proud century, 
was one not at all creditable to any party nor 
to the city that prides itself on being distinctive 
and foremost in fame. The development of 
political life in New England had been after 
the model of the town. Municipal organiza 
tion was not looked upon with much favor 
until well into this century. While the popu 
lation of the Middle States was advancing in 
the line of progress in government of cities, 
the people in the Eastern States still clung 
to the model of the town meeting as the perfec 
tion of political wisdom and practice. This was 
done in the case of Boston, even when several 
tens of thousands of citizens, dwelling as one 
political union, made the old system antiquated. 

Before the opening of the i9th century, all 
the municipally incorporated cities of the North 
ern United States, excepting Albany, lay along 
a line between the boundaries of Manhattan 
Island and Philadelphia. It was not until 

298 Charles Carleton Coffin 

1830 that "Boston town" became a city. 
For fifty years afterwards, the development of 
municipal enterprise was in the direction of 
superficial area, rather than according to fore 
sight or genius. It is very certain that the 
fathers of that epoch did not have a very clear 
idea of, certainly did not plan very intelligently 
for, the vast growth of our half of the century. 
Added to this ultra conservatism, came the 
infusion, with attendant confusion, of Ireland s 
sons and daughters by myriads, a flood of 
Scotch-Irish and other nationalities from Can 
ada, and the flocking of large numbers of native 
Americans from the rural districts of New 
England. Nearly all of the newcomers usu 
ally arrived poor and with intent to become 
rich as quickly as honesty would allow, while 
not a few were without limit of time or scruple 
of conscience to hinder their plans. The 
Americans of "culture and character" were 
usually too busy in making money and getting 
clothes, houses, and horses, to attend to "pol 
itics," while Patrick was only too glad and 
ready to develop his political abilities. So it 
came to pass that a ring of powerful political 
" bosses " if we may degrade so good and 

Citizen, Statesman, and Reformer 299 

honest a Dutch word was formed. Saloons, 
gambling- houses and dance- halls multiplied, 
while an oligarchy, ever grasping for more 
power, nullified the laws and trampled the stat 
utes under its feet. The sins of drunkenness 
and bribery among policemen, who were simply 
the creatures for the most part of corrupt poli 
ticians, were too frequent to attract much notice. 
That conscientious wearer of the blue and the 
star who enforced the laws was either discharged 
or sent on some unimportant suburban beat. 
The relations between city saloons and politics 
were as close as hand and glove, palm and coin. 
The gambler, the saloon-keeper, the masters of 
houses of ill-fame, were all in favor of the kind 
of municipal government which Boston had had 
for a generation or more. 

An American back is like the camel s, 
able to bear mighty loads, but insurgent at the 
last feather. So, in Boston, the long-outraged 
moral sense of the people suddenly revolted. 
A Citizens Law and Order League was formed, 
and Charles Carleton Coffin, elected to the 
House of Representatives for the session ot 
1885, was asked to be their banner bearer in 
reform. With the idea of destroying partisan- 

300 Charles Carleton Coffin 

ship and making the execution of the laws 
non-partisan, Carleton prepared a bill, which 
was intended to take the control of the police 
out of the hands of the Mayor and Common 
Council of the city, and to put it into the 
hands of the Governor of the Commonwealth. 
When Mr. Coffin began this work, Boston 
had a population of 412,000 souls. From the 
" Boston bedrooms," that is, the suburban 
towns in five counties, one hundred thousand 
or more were emptied every day, making over 
half a million people. In this city there was 
an array of forces all massed against any legis 
lation restricting their power, while eager and 
organized to extend it. These included 2,850 
licensed liquor sellers, and 1,300 unlicensed 
places, besides 222 druggists; all of which, and 
whom, helped to make men drunk. To sup 
ply the thirsty there were within the city limits 
three distilleries and seventeen breweries. To 
show the nature of the oligarchy, we have only 
to state that there were twenty-five men who 
had their names as bondsmen on no fewer 
than 1,030 licenses, and that eight men signed 
the bonds of 610 licenses. These "bonds 
men " of one sort controlled the votes of from 

Citizen, Statesman, and Reformer 301 

15,000 to 20,000 bondsmen of a lower sort. 
The liquor business was then, as it is now, the 
great incentive to lawlessness, helping to make 
Boston a place of shame. Ten thousand per 
sons and $75,000,000 capital were employed 
in work mostly useless and wicked. 

" Boston s devil-fish was dragging her down." 
The Sunday laws were set at defiance. The 
clinking of glasses could not only be distinctly 
heard as one went by, but the streams of 
young men openly filed in. The laws, requir 
ing a certain distance between the schoolhouse 
and the saloon, were persistently violated. Of 
two hundred saloons visited by Carleton, one 
hundred and twenty-eight had set the law at 
defiance. While six policemen were needed 
in one Salvation Army room, to keep the 
saints and sinners quiet, often there would be 
not one star or club in the saloons. 

Carleton began by arming himself with the 
facts. He visited hundreds of the tapster s 
quarters in various parts of the city. In some 
cases he actually measured, with his own hands 
and a surveyor s chain, the distance between 
the schoolhouse and the home-destroyer. He 
talked with scores of policemen. He then 

302 Charles Carleton Coffin 

prepared his bill and reported it in the Judi 
ciary Committee, the members of which, about 
that time, received a petition in favor of a non- 
partisan metropolitan board of police com 
missioners, in order to secure a much better 
enforcement of law. On this petition were 
scores of names, which the world will not will 
ingly let die. Yet, after reading the petition, 
seven of the eleven members of the Committee 
were opposed to the bill, and so declared them 
selves. Carleton was therefore obliged to 
transfer the field of battle to the open House. 
When he counted noses in the Legislature, he 
found that in the double body there were but 
four men who were heartily in favor of the 
apparently unpopular reform. The bill lay 
dormant for many weeks. Almost as a matter 
of course, the Sunday newspapers were bitterly 
hostile to it. They informed their readers, 
more than once, that the reform was dead. 
By hostile politicians the bill was denounced 
as " infamous." 

Nevertheless, the minority of four nailed 
their colors to the mast, " determined, it need 
be, to sink, but not to surrender." Behind 
them were the State constitution, the statutes 

Citizen, Statesman, and Reformer 303 

of the General Court, and the whole history 
of Massachusetts, whose moral tonic has so 
often inspired the beginners of better times in 
American history. When the day came for 
discussion of the bill, in public, Mr.. Coffin 
made a magnificent speech in its favor, March 
17, 1885. Despite fierce opposition, the bill 
finally became law, creating a new era of hope 
and reform in the City on the Bay. 

In a banquet given by the Citizens Law 
and Order League, at the Hotel Vendome, 
to talk over the victory of law, about two 
hundred ladies and gentlemen were present. 
Among them were President Capen, of Tufts 
College, president of the League, and such 
grand citizens as Rufus Frost, Jonathan A. 
Lane, and Dr. Henry Martin Dexter; the 
Honorable Frank M. Ames, Senator, and 
Charles Carleton Coffin, Representative, being 
guests of honor. Carleton, being called upon 
for an address, said, among other things : 

" There are no compensations in life more 
delightful and soul-satisfying than those which 
come from service and sacrifice for the welfare 
of our fellow men. ... It has never troubled 
me to be in the minority. If you want real 

304 Charles Carleton Coffin 

genuine pleasure in a battle, go in with the 
minority on some great principle affecting the 
welfare of society." 

In his speech he had said : " The moral sense 
of this community is a growing quantity, and no 
political party that ignores or runs counter to 
the lofty ideal can long stand before us." 

The Honorable Alanson M. Beard had 
already paid a merited tribute when he said 
that Carleton had " lifted up this question 
above the domain of party politics into the 
higher realm of morals, where it belonged." 

No one who knew Carleton need be told 
that, during all these weeks of uncertainty of 
issue, he was in constant prayer to God for 
light, guidance, and success. From all over 
the Commonwealth came letters of cheer and 
sympathy, especially from the mothers whose 
sons in Boston were tempted beyond measure 
because of the non-enforcement of law. To 
these, and to the law-loving editors of the 
newspaper press, the statesman afterwards re 
turned his hearty thanks. 

Carleton was a man ever open to conviction. 
To him, truth had no stereotyped forms. His 
mind never became a petrifaction, but was ever 

Citizen, Statesman, and Reformer 305 

growing and vital. At first he was opposed to 
civil service reform ; but after a study of the 
subject, he was convinced of its reasonableness 
and practicality, and became ever afterwards a 
hearty upholder of this method of selecting the 
servants of government, in the nation, the 
State, and the city. 

He was a friend of woman suffrage. On 
the occasion of a presentation of a petition from 
twenty thousand Massachusetts women, though 
four thousand of them had petitioned against 
the proposed measure, he made a strong and 
earnest plea for granting the ballot to women. 
Among other things he said : " No fire ever 
yet was lighted that could reduce to ashes an 
eternal truth." He believed that women, as 
well as men, form society, and " the people,, 
who were the true source, under God, of all 
authority on earth," were not made up wholly 
of one sex. He quoted from that pamphlet, 
" De Jure Regni," published by George Bu 
chanan in 1556, which was burned by the 
hangman in St. Paul s churchyard, where so 
many Bibles and other good books have been 
burned, which declared that "the will of the 
people is the only legitimate source of power." 

306 Charles Carleton Coffin 

He declared that the " lofty ideal of republican 
ism is the Sermon on the Mount." Of women, 
he said, " Wherever they have walked, there 
has been less of hell and more of heaven." 

After an ex-mayor, in his speech, had referred 
to Carleton s bill, which changed the appointing 
power of the police from the Mayor and Com 
mon Council, and, by putting it in the hands of 
the Governor and Executive Council, placed it 
on the same foundation as the judiciary, as 
" that infamous police law," Carleton said : 
" Make a note of it, statesmen of the future. 
Write it down in your memoranda, politicians 
who indulge the expectation that you can ride 
into power on the vices of society, that moral 
forces are marshalling as never before in the his 
tory of the human race, and that the women of 
this country are beginning to wield them to 
shape legislation on all great moral questions. 
Refreshing as perfume-laden breezes from the 
celestial plains were the words of encouragement 
and sympathy that came to me from mothers 
in Berkshire, from the Cape, from all over the 

In 1890, in the Massachusetts Senate, there 
was an attempt made to divide the town of 

Citizen, Statesman, and Reformer 307 

Beverly. Into this, as into so many of the 
pleasant towns, villages, and rural districts 
around Boston, wealthy Bostonians had come 
and built luxurious houses upon the land which 
they had bought. Not content with being 
citizens in the place where they were newcom 
ers, thus securing release from heavier taxes 
in Boston, where they lived in winter, they 
wished to separate themselves, in a most un- 
American and un-democratic manner, from the 
older inhabitants and " common " people, and 
to make a new settlement with a separate local 
government for those who formed a particular 
class living in luxury. Carleton, hostile to the 
sordid and unsocial spirit lurking in the bill, 
vigorously opposed the attempted mutilation 
of an old historic town, and the isolation of 
" Beverly Farms." He opposed it, because it 
would be a bad precedent, and one in favor of 
class separation and class distinction. His 
speech embodies a masterly historical sketch of 
the town form of government. 



WHILE Carleton enjoyed that kind of 
work, ethical, literary, benevolent, and 
political, which appealed to sentiment and 
aroused sympathy to the burning point, he 
was an equally faithful coworker with God 
and man in enterprises wholly unsentimental. 
He who waits through eternity for his crea 
tures to understand his own creation, knows 
how faithfully good men can cooperate with 
him in plans which only unborn and succeed 
ing generations can appreciate. 

Out of a thousand illustrations we may note, 
along the lines of electric science, the names of 
Professor Kinnersly, who probably first led 
Franklin into that line of research which ena 
bled him to " snatch the sceptre from tyrants 
and the lightning from heaven," and Profes 
sor Moses Gerrish Farmer, who broke new 
paths into the once unknown. As early as 

A Saviour of Human Life 309 

1859, Mr. Farmer lighted his whole house 
with electric lights, and blew up a little ship by 
a tiny submarine torpedo in 1847, anc ^ m tne 
same year propelled by electricity a car carry 
ing passengers. Yet neither of these names is 
found in the majority of ordinary cyclopedias 
or books of reference. 

Familiar with such facts, both by a general 
observation of life, and by a special and critical 
study of the literature of patents and inven 
tions, Carleton felt perfectly willing to devote 
himself to a work that he knew would yield 
but little popular applause, even when victory 
should be won, the abolition of railway level 
or " grade " crossings. 

During a brief morning call on Carleton, 
shortly after he had been elected Senator in 
the Massachusetts Legislature for the session of 
1890, I asked him what he proposed especially 
to do. " Well," said he, I think that if I 
can get all grade crossings abolished from the 
railroads of the whole Commonwealth, it will 
be a good winter s work." 

Forthwith he set himself to study the prob 
lem, to master resources and statistics, to learn 
the relation between capital invested and prof- 

Charles Carleton Coffin 

its made by the railway corporation, and espe 
cially to measure the forces in favor of and in 
opposition to the proposed reform. 

About this time, the chief servant of Shaw- 
mut Church was studying an allied question. 
While the " grade crossing " slew its thousands 
of non-travelling citizens, the freight-car, with 
its link-and-pin coupling, its block-bumpers, 
its hand-brakes, its slippery roofs, its manifold 
shiftings over frogs and switches, slew its tens 
of thousands of railway operatives. On the 
grade crossings, the victims were chiefly old, 
deaf, or blind men and women, cripples, chil 
dren, drunkards, and miscellaneous people. 
On the other hand, the freight-cars killed al 
most exclusively the flower of the country s 
manhood. The tens of thousands of hands 
crushed between bumpers, of arms and legs cut 
off, of bodies broken and mangled, were, in the 
majority of cases, those of healthy, intelligent 
men, between the ages of eighteen and fifty, 
and usually breadwinners for whole families. 
The slaughter every year was equal to that of 
a battle at Waterloo or Gettysburg. Fairy 
tales about monsters devouring human beings, 
legends of colossal dragons swallowing annually 

A Saviour of Human Life 311 

their quota of fair virgins, were insignificant 
expressions of damage done to the human race 
compared to that annual tribute poured into 
the insatiable maw of the railway Moloch. 
Every great line of traffic, like the Pennsyl 
vania or New York Central Railway, ate up a 
man a day. Sometimes, between sunrise and 
sunset, a single road made four or five widows, 
with a profusion of orphans. 

Yet two men, each of the name of Coffin, 
and each of that superb Nantucket stock 
which has enriched our nation and carried the 
American flag to every sea, were working in 
the West and the East, for the abolition of 
legalized slaughter. Lorenzo Coffin, of Iowa, 
a distant cousin of Carleton s, whom so many 
railway men always salute as " father," had 
been for years trying to throttle the two twin 
enemies of the railway man, alcohol, and the 
freight-car equipment of link-and-pin coupler 
and hand-brake. It was he who agitated un 
ceasingly for national protection to railway 
men, and to the brakeman especially. He 
and his fellow reformers asked for a law com 
pelling the use of a brake which would relieve 
the crew from such awful exposure and fool- 

3 i 2 Charles Carleton Coffin 

hardy risk of life on the icy roofs of the cars in 
winter, and for couplers which, by abolishing 
the iron link and pin, would save the constant 
and almost certain crushing of the hands which 
the shifting of the cars compelled when cou 
pled in the old way. 

For a long time Lorenzo Coffin s efforts 
seemed utterly useless. This was simply be 
cause human life was cheaper than machinery, 
and because public opinion on this particular 
subject had not yet become Christian. It was 
Jesus Christ who raised the value of both the 
human body and the human soul, abolished 
gladiatorial shows, raised up hospitals, created 
cemeteries, even for the poorest, made life 
insurance companies possible, and put even 
such value on human life as could be recovered 
in action by law from corporations which mur 
der men through sordid economy or criminal 
carelessness. Lorenzo Coffin wrought for the 
application of Christianity to railway men. 
When finally the law was passed, compelling 
safety-couplers and air-brakes, and when, in 
the constitution of New York State, the limit 
of five thousand dollars replevin for a human 
life destroyed by a corporation was abolished, 

A Saviour of Human Life 


and no limit set, there were two new triumphs 
of Christianity. In these phenomena, we see 
only further illustrations of that Kingdom of 
Heaven proclaimed by Christ, and illustrated 
both in the hidden leaven and the phenomenal 

A sermon by the pastor of Shawmut Church, 
on " Lions that devour," depicted the great 
American slaughter-field. It set forth the 
array of figures as given him in the reports of 
the Inter-State Commerce Commission, sent 
by his friend, the Hon. Augustus Schoon- 
maker, of Kingston, New York, and then in 
Washington, one of the Commissioners. There 
was considerable surprise and criticism from 
among his auditors, and the facts as set forth 
were doubted. There were present, as usual 
on Sunday mornings in Shawmut Church, men 
of public affairs, presidents of banks, the col 
lector of the port of Boston, a general in the 
regular army, a veteran colonel of volunteers, 
several officers of railway companies, and, most 
of all, Mr. Charles Carleton Coffin. He and 
they thought the statements given of the 
slaughter of young men on railroads in the 
United States must be incredible. Even Carle- 

3 14 Charles Carleton Coffin 

ton had not then informed himself concerning 
that great field of blood extending from ocean 
to ocean, and from the Great Lakes to the 
Gulf, which every year was strewn with the 
corpses or mangled limbs of twenty-five thou 
sand people. He thought his friend in the 
pulpit must be mistaken, and frankly told 
him so. 

On the following Sunday, having received 
the figures for the current year, from the best 
authority in Washington, the preacher was able 
to say that his statements of last Sunday had 
been below reality, and that, instead of exag 
gerating, he had underestimated the facts. 
This gave Mr. Coffin, as he afterwards con 
fessed, fresh impetus in his determination to 
get grade crossings abolished in Massachu 

Having first personally interviewed the 
presidents of several great railroads leading out 
from Boston, and finding one or two heartily 
in favor of the idea, two or three more not in 
opposition, and scarcely a majority opposed, 
he persevered. He pressed the matter, and 
the bill was carried and signed by the governor. 
It provided that within a term of years all 

A Saviour of Human Life 315 

grade crossings in Massachusetts should be 
abolished. This will require the expenditure 
of many millions of dollars, the sinking or ele 
vating of tracks, and the making of tunnels 
and bridges. The work was nobly begun. 
At this moment, in May, 1898, the progress 
is steadily forward to the great consummation. 

Though his measure for the protection of 
human life received very little popular notice, 
Carleton counted it one of the best things that 
God had allowed him to do. And certainly, 
among the noble and truly Christian measures 
for the good of society, in this last decade of the 
century, the work done by Lorenzo Coffin in 
Iowa, as well as in the country at large, and by 
Senator Charles Carleton Coffin in Massachu 
setts, a State whose example will be followed 
by others, ^must ever be remembered by the 
grateful student of social progress. Surely, 
Carleton proved himself not merely a poli 
tician, but a statesman. 

The welfare of the city of Boston was ever 
dear to Carleton s heart. He gave a great 
deal of time and thought to thinking out prob 
lems affecting its welfare, and hence was often 
a welcome speaker at club meetings, which are 

316 Charles Carleton Coffin 

so numerous, so delightful, and, certainly, in 
their number, peculiar to Boston. He wrote 
for the press, giving his views freely, whenever 
any vital question- was before the people. This 
often entailed severe labor and the sacrifice of 
time to one who could never boast very much 
of this world s goods. 

When the writer first, in 1886, came to 
Boston to live, he found the horse everywhere 
in the city; when he left it in 1893 there was 
only the trolley. The motor power was car 
ried through the air from a central source. It 
is even yet, however, a test of one s knowledge 
of Boston a city not laid out by William 
Penn, but by cows and admirers of crooked 
ness to understand the street-car system of 
the city. Most of the street passenger lines 
fell gradually into the hands of one great cor 
poration, which vastly improved the service, 
enlarging and making more comfortable, not 
to say luxurious, the accommodations, and by 
unification enabling one to ride astonishing 
distances for a nickel coin. 

From the peculiar shape of the city and the 
converging of the thoroughfares on Tremont 
Street, fronting the Common and the old bury- 

A Saviour of Human Life 317 

ing grounds, the space between Boylston Street 
and Cornhill was, at certain hours of the day, 
in a painful state of congestion. Then the 
stoppage of the cars, the loss of time, and the 
waste of temper was something which no nine 
teenth century man could stand with equanim 
ity. How to relieve the congestion was the 
difficulty. Should there be an elevated rail 
way, or a new avenue opened through the 
midst of the city ? This was the question. 

To this subject, Carleton gave his earnest 
attention. He remembered the day when the 
now elegant region of the Back Bay was marsh 
and water, when schooners discharged coal and 
lumber in that Public Garden, which in June 
looks like a day of heaven on earth, and 
when Tremont Street stopped at the crossing 
of the Boston and Albany railway. Even as 
late as 1850 the population included within 
the ten-mile radius of the city hall was but 
267,861 ; in 1890, the increase was to 841,- 
617 ; and the same ratio of increase will give, 
in 1930, 2,700,000 souls. In 1871, seventeen 
million people were moved into Boston by 
steam; in 1891, fifty-one millions. At the 
same ratio of increase, on the opening of the 

318 Charles Carleton Coffin 

twentieth century, there will be 100,000,000 
persons riding in from the suburbs, and of 
travellers in the street-cars, in A. D. 1910, 
nearly half a billion. 

Carleton, the engineer and statesman, be 
lieved that neither a subway nor an elevated 
railway would solve the problem. He spoke, 
lectured, and wrote, in favor of a central city 
viaduct. For both surface and elevated rail 
ways, he proposed an avenue eighty feet wide, 
making a clear road from Tremont to Cause 
way Streets. 

Moreover, he believed that the city should 
own the roads that should transport passengers 
within the city limits. He was not afraid of 
that kind of socialism which provides for the 
absolute necessities of modern associated life. 
He expected great amelioration to come to 
society from the breaking up and passing away 
of the old relics of feudalism, as well as of the 
power of the privileged man as against man, of 
wealth against commonwealth. He believed 
that transportation within city limits should be 
under public ownership and control. He there 
fore opposed the subway and the incorporation 
of the Boston Elevated Railroad Company. 

A Saviour of Human Life 319 

One of his most vigorous letters, occupying 
a column and a half, in the Boston Herald of 
July 17, 1895, is a powerful plea for the re 
jection by the people of an act which should 
give the traffic of the streets of Boston and 


surrounding municipalities into the hands of a 
corporation for all time. He considered that 
the act, which had been rushed through the 
legislature in one day at the close of the ses 
sion, was a hasty piece of patchwork made by 
dovetailing two bills together, and was highly 
objectionable. He wrote : 

" Why shall the people give away their own 
rights ? Do they not own the ground beneath 
the surface and the air above the surface? . . . 
What need is there of a corporation ? Cannot 
the people in their sovereign capacity do for 
themselves all that a corporation can do? Why 
give away their rights, and burden themselves 
with taxes for the benefit of a corporation ? 

" Does some one say it is a nationalistic 
idea ? Then it is nationalism for Boston to 
own Quincy Market, the water supply, the 
system of sewerage. Far different from gov 
ernmental ownership of railroads, with the 
complications of interstate commerce, is the 

3 20 Charles Carleton Coffin 

proposition for public ownership of street rail 
ways. A street is a highway. Why shall not 
the subway under the street, or the structure 
over it, be a highway, built and owned by the 
people, and for their use and benefit, and not 
for the enrichment of a corporation ? " 

After forcibly presenting the reasonable ob 
jections to the bill, he closed by pleading that 
it be rejected, and that the next legislature be 
asked to establish a metropolitan district and 
the appointment of a commission with full 
power to do everything that could be done 
under the bill, " not for the greed of a corpora 
tion, but for the welfare of the people." 



ARLETON S biographer having resigned 
the pastorate of Shawmut Church at the 
end of 1892, the work was continued by the 
Rev. William E. Barton, who had been called 
from Wellington, Ohio. He began his minis 
trations March i, 1893. As so ver y many 
families forming the old church, and who had 
grown up in it from early manhood, youth, or 
even childhood, had removed from the neigh 
borhood, it was necessary to reorganize to a 
certain extent. The great changes which had 
come over the South End, and the drift of 
population to the more attractive neighbor 
hoods in the Back Bay, Brookline, Dorches 
ter, Newton, Allston, and other beautiful 
suburbs of Boston, caused much derangement 
of previously existing conditions. The tre 
mendous development of the means of trans 
portation by the steam, horse or electric 


322 Charles Carleton Coffin 

railways, to say nothing of the bicycle, had 
caused a marvellous bloom of new life and 
flush of vigor among the suburban churches, 
while those in the older parts of the city suf 
fered corresponding decline. The Shawmut 
Church, like the Mount Vernon, the Pine 
Street, and others, had to pass through ex 
periences which make a familiar story to those 
who know Philadelphia, New York, and Lon 
don. The work of the old city churches had 
been to train up and graduate sons and 
daughters with noble Christian principles and 
character, to build up the waste places and the 
newer societies. Like bees, the new swarms 
out from the old hives were called to gather 
fresh honey. 

The exodus from rural New England and 
from Canada enlarged Boston, and caused the 
building up and amazing development of 
Brookline. With such powerful magnets 
drawing away the old residents, together with 
the multiplication of a new and largely non- 
American and Roman Catholic population into 
the district lying east of Washington Street, 
the older congregations of the South Knd had, 
by 1890, been vastly changed. Several had 

Life s Evening Glow 323 

been so depleted in their old supporters, that 
churches moved in a body to new edifices on 
the streets and avenues lying westward. In 
others the burdens of support fell upon a de 
creasing number of faithful men and women. 
Where once were not enough church edifices 
to accommodate the people who would wor 
ship in them, was now a redundancy. In the 
city where a Roman Catholic church was once 
a curiosity are now nearly fifty churches that 
acknowledge the Pope s supremacy. 

These things are stated with some detail, 
in order to show the character of Charles 
Carleton Coffin in its true light. After a 
laborious life, having borne the heat and bur 
den of the day in the churches where his lot 
was cast, withal, having passed his three score 
and ten years, one would naturally expect this 
veteran to seek repose. Not a few of his 
friends looked to see him set himself down in 
some one of the luxurious new church edifices, 
amid congenial social surroundings and mate 
rial comforts. 

Carleton sought not his own comfort. When 
the new pastor and the old guard, left in Shaw- 
mut Church to " hold the fort," took counsel 

324 Charles Carleton Coffin 

together as to the future, they waited with 
some anxiety to hear what choice and decision 
Mr. Coffin would make. He had already 
selected the ground and was making plans for 
building his new home, " Alwington," at No. 9 
Shailer Street, Brookline, several miles away 
from his old residence in Dartmouth Street. 
It was naturally thought that he would ally 
himself with a wealthy old church elsewhere, 
and bid farewell, as so many had done, to their 
old church home, taking no new burdens, risks, 
or responsibilities. During the conference in 
the Shawmut prayer-room, Carleton rose and, 
with a smiling face and his usual impressive 
manner, stated that he should give his hopes 
and prayers, his sympathy and work, his gifts 
and influence to Shawmut Church ; and, for 
the present at least, without dictating the 
future, would cast in his lot with the Shawmut 
people. A thrill of delight, unbidden tears of 
joy, and a new warmth of heart came to those 
who heard. As time went on he so adjusted 
himself to the change, and found Dr. Barton 
such a stimulating preacher, that any thought 
of sacrifice entirely vanished. 

When the first Congregational Church of 

Life s Evening Glow 325 

Christ in Ithaca, N. Y., the city named by 
Simeon DeWitt after his Ulysses-like wander 
ings were over, sent out its " letter missive" 
to the churches of the Central Association of 
New York State, and to Shawmut Church in 
Boston, the latter responded. It was voted to 
send, as their messengers, the pastor, Rev. Dr. 
Barton, and Mr. Coffin ; Mrs. Barton and Mrs. 
Coffin accompanied them. These four came 
on to the Forest City and its university " far 
above Cayuga s waters." With the delight of 
a boy Carleton enjoyed the marvellously lovely 
scenery, the hills robed in colors as many as 
though they had borrowed Joseph s robe, and 
Cayuga, the queen of the waters in New York s 
beautiful lake region. Most of all he visited 
with delight that typical American university 
which, Christian in spirit, neither propagates 
nor attacks the creed of any sect. 

With its stately edifices for culture, training, 
research, and religion, it had risen like a new city 
on the farm of Ezra Cornell. This far-seeing 
man, like Mr. Coffin, had, when so many 
others were blind, discerned in the new force, 
electricity, the vast future benefits to com 
merce, science, and civilization. Ezra Cornell 

326 Charles Carleton Coffin 

had helped powerfully to develop its applica 
tion by his thought, his money, and his per 
sonal influence. Ezra Cornell, in Irish phrase, 
" invented telegraph poles." Moses Farmer, 
the electrician, invented the lineman s spurred 
irons by which to climb them. 

Besides attending the Church Council in the 
afternoon, Carleton made an address in the 
evening that was to one flattering and to many 
inspiring. Later on, the same night, he at 
tended the reception given to the Faculty and 
new students at the house of President J. G. 
Schurman. He was delighted in seeing the 
young president, with whose power as a thinker 
and writer he had already acquainted himself. 

Carleton s last and chief literary work, done 
in his old home on Dartmouth Street, was to 
link together in the form of story the Revolu 
tionary lore which he had gathered up from 
talks with participators in " the time that tried 
men s souls." From boyhood s memories, 
from long and wide reading in original mono 
graphs, from topographical acquaintance, he 
planned to write a trio or quartet of stories of 
American history. He wished to present the 
scenes of the Revolution as in the bright 

Life s Evening Glow 327 

colors of reality, in the dark shadows which 
should recall sacrifice, and with that graphic 
detail and power to turn the past into the pres 
ent, of which he was a master. 

As he had repeatedly written the story of 
the great Civil War from the point of view of 
a war correspondent actually on the ground, 
so would he tell the story of the Revolution 
as if he had been a living and breathing wit 
ness of what went on from day to day, enjoy 
ing and suffering those hopes and fears which 
delight and torment the soul when the veil of 
the future still hangs opaque before the mind. 

His first instalment, " The Daughters of 
the Revolution," was published by Messrs. 
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., in a comely and 
well-illustrated volume. It deals with that 
opening history of the eight years war with 
Great Britain which at the beginning had 
Boston for its centre and in which New Eng 
land especially took part. 

In his other books, " Building the Nation," 
" Boys of 76," and " Old Times in the Colo 
nies," Carleton had not ignored the work and 
influence of the " home guard " composed of 
mothers, daughters, aunts, cousins, and grand- 

328 Charles Carleton Coffin 

mothers; but in this story of the " Daughters " 
he gave special prominence to what our fe 
male ancestors did to make the country free, 
and to hand down in safeguarded forms that 
which had been outraged by King and Parlia 

How widely popular this volume may have 
been, the writer cannot say, but he knows that 
one little maiden whom he sees every day 
has re-read the work several times. 

In a subsequent volume of the series, Carle- 
ton proposed to repicture the splendid achieve 
ments of the colonial army in northeastern 
New York. Here, from Lake Champlain to 
Sandy Hook, is a "great rift valley" which 
lies upon the earth s scarred and diversified 
surface like a mighty trough. It corresponds 
to that larger and grander rift valley from 
Lebanon to Zanzibar, through Galilee and the 
Jordan, the Red Sea, and the great Nyanzas, 
or Lakes of Africa. As in the oldest gash on 
the earth s face lies the scene of a long pro 
cession of events, so, of all places on the 
American continent, probably, no line of terri 
tory has witnessed such a succession of dra 
matic, brilliant, and decisive events, both in 

Life s Evening Glow 329 

unrecorded time and in historic days, from 
Champlain and Henry Hudson to the era of 
Fulton, Morse, and Edison. 

In the Revolution, the Green Mountain 
boys, and the New York and New England 
militia under Schuyler and Gates, had made 
this region the scene of one of the decisive 
campaigns of the world. Yet, in the back 
ground and at home, the heroines did their 
noble part in working for that consummation 
at Saratoga which won the recognition and 
material aid of France for the United States 
of America. Besides Lafayette, came also the 
lilies of France, alongside the stars and stripes. 
The white uniforms were set in battle array 
with the buff and blue against the red coats, 
and herein Carleton saw visions and dreamed 
dreams, which his pen, like the camera which 
chains the light, was to photograph in words. 
He had made his preliminary studies, read 
ings, personal interviews, and reexamination 
of the region, and had written four or five 
chapters, when the call of the Captain to an 
other detail of service came to him. 

Life is worth living as long as one is inter 
ested in other lives than one s own. " Dando 

jjo Charles Carleton Coffin 

conservat " is the motto of a famous Dutch- 
American family. So Carleton, by giving, 
preserved. In the summer of 1895, after 
Japan had startled the world by her military 
prowess, Carleton went down to Nantucket 
Island, and there at a great celebration deliv 
ered a fine historical address, closing with these 
words : 

" Thus it came to pass that he who guides 
the sparrow in its flight saw fit to use the sail 
ors of Nantucket, by shipwreck and imprison 
ment, as his agents to bring about the resur 
rection of the millions of Japan from the grave 
of a dead past to a new and vigorous life. 
Thus it is that Nantucket occupies an exalted 
position in connection with the history of our 
country. * 

Of this he wrote me in one of his last letters, 
February 27, 1896 : 

" I have read c Townsend Harris with un 
speakable delight. I love to think of the 
resurrection of Japan in connection with the 
Puritans of Massachusetts, the original move 
ment culminating in Perry s expedition having 
its origin in the shipwrecking ot Nantucket 
sailors on the shores of that empire." Mr. 

Life s Evening Glow 331 

Coffin brought out this idea in his earlier and 
later address which he gave at Nantucket. 

Having lived over thirteen years, from 1877 
to 1895, at No. 8 1 Dartmouth Street, and 
feeling now the need for a little more quiet 
from the rumble of the trolley-car, for more 
light and room, for house space, for the accom 
modation of friends who loved to make their 
home with a genial host and his loving com 
panion, and to indulge in that hospitality 
which was a lifelong trait, Mr. and Mrs. Cof 
fin began looking for a site whereon to build 
in Brookline. No yokefellows were ever more 
truly one in spirit than " Uncle Charles and 
Aunt Sally." Providence having denied them 
the children for whom they had yearned, both 
delighted in a constant stream of young people 
and friends. Blessed by divine liberality in 
the form of nephews and nieces, rich in the 
gifts of nature, culture, and grace, neither 
Carleton nor his wife was often left lonely. 

The new house was built after his sugges 
tions and under his own personal oversight, the 
outdoor tasks and journeys thus necessitated 
making a variety rather pleasant than otherwise. 
Here, in this new home, his golden wedding 

33 2 Charles Carleton Coffin 

was to be celebrated, February 18, 1896. The 
house was in modern style, with all the com 
forts and conveniences which science and 
applied art could suggest. While compara 
tively modest and simple in general plan and 
equipment, it had open fireplaces, electric 
lights, a spacious porch, roomy hallways, 
and plenty of windows. It was No. 9 
Shailer Street, and named Alwington, after 
the ancestral home in Devonshire, England. 
Mr. Coffin s study room was upon the 
northeast, where, with plenty of light and 
the morning sun, he could sit at his desk 
looking out upon Harvard Street, and over 
towards Beacon Street ; the opposite side of 
the street, fortunately, not being occupied by 
buildings to obscure his view. At first he was 
often allured from his work for many minutes, 
and even for a half hour at a time, by a majes 
tic elm-tree so rich in foliage and comely in 
form that he looked upon it with ravished 
eyes. It was in this room that he wrote the 
chapters for his second book, which was to 
show especially the part which American 
women had played in the making of their 



IT was a remarkable coincidence that Mr. 
Coffin was to exchange worlds and transfer 
his work in the very year in which the issues 
of the Civil War were to be eliminated from 
national politics, when not one of the several 
party platforms was to make any allusion to 
the struggle of 1861-65, or to any of its 
numerous legacies. In this year, 1896, also, 
for the first time since 1860, Southern men, the 
one a Confederate general, and the other a 
Populist editor, were to be nominated for pos 
sible chief magistracy. Mr. Coffin, with pre 
science, had already seen that the war issues, 
grand as they were, had melted away into even 
vaster national questions. He had turned his 
thoughts towards the solution of problems 
which concerned the nation as a whole and 
humanity as a race. His historical addresses 
and lectures went back to older subjects, while 

334 Charles Carleton Coffin 

his thoughts soared forward to the newer con 
ditions, theories, and problems which were 
looming in the slowly unveiling future. In 
literature he turned, and gladly, too, from the 
scenes of slavery and war between brothers. 
With his pen he sought to picture the ancient 
heroisms, in the story of which the people of the 
States of rice and cotton, as well as of granite, 
ice, and grain, were alike interested, as in a 
common heritage. In Alwington, surrounded 
by old and new friends, genial and cultured, 
he hoped, if it were God s will, to complete his 
work with a rotunda-like series of pen pictures 
of the Revolution. 

This was not to be, though he was to die 
" in harness, * like Nicanor of old, without lin 
gering illness or broken powers. While he 
was to see not a few golden days of A. D. i 896, 
yet the proposed pictures were to be left upon 
the easel, scarcely more than begun. The 
pen and ink on his table were to remain, like 
brushes on the palette, with none to finish as 
the master-workman had planned. 

Months before that date of February i8th, 
on which their golden wedding was to be cele 
brated, Mr. and Mrs. Coffin had secured mv 

The Home at Alwington 335 

promise that I should be present. Coming on 
to Boston, I led the morning worship in the 
Eliot Church of Newton, which is named after 
the apostle of the Indians, the quarter-millennial 
anniversary of the beginning of whose work at 
Nonantum has just been celebrated. In the 
afternoon, I had the pleasure of looking into 
the faces of three score or more of my former 
Shawmut parishioners in the Casino hall in 
Beaconsfield Terrace. 

Mr. Coffin had, from the first, fully agreed 
with the writer in believing that a Congrega 
tional church should be formed in the Reser 
voir district, which had, he predicted, a brilliant 
and substantial future. He was among the 
very first to move for the sale of the old 
property on Tremont Street, and he personally 
prepared the petition to the Legislature of 
Massachusetts for permission to sell and move. 
Afterwards, when the new enterprise seemed 
to have been abandoned, he listened to the call 
of duty and remained in Shawmut Church. 
When he became a resident in Brookline, feel 
ing it still his duty to work and toil, to break 
new paths, to make the road straight for his 
Master, rather than to sit down at ease in 

336 Charles Carleton Coffin 

Zion, he cast his lot in with a little company 
of those who, though few and without wealth, 
bravely and hopefully resolved to form a 
church where it was needed. On November 
jd, they first gathered for worship, and one 
year later, November 4, 1896, the church was 
formed, with Rev. Harris G. Hale as pastor, 
and taking the historic, appropriate, but un 
common name, Leyden. Their first collection 
of money, as a thank-offering to God, was for 
Foreign Missions. 

On that afternoon of February i6th, Carle- 
ton was present, joining heartily in the worship. 
As usual, he listened with that wonderfully 
luminous face of his and that close attention to 
the discourse, which, like the cable-ships, ran 
out unseen telegraphy of sympathy. The ser 
vice, and the usual warm grasping of hands and 
those pleasant social exchanges for which the 
Shawmut people were so noted, being over, 
some fifteen or twenty gathered in the hospit 
able library of M. F. Dickinson, Jr., whose 
home was but a few rods off, on the other side 
of Beacon Street. After a half hour of spark 
ling reminiscences of the dear old days in 
Shawmut, all had gone except the host, Mr. 

The Home at Alwington 337 

Coffin, and the biographer, who then had not 
even a passing thought of the work he was 
soon to do. As Carleton sat there in an easy 
chair before the wood-fire on the open hearth, 
his feet stretched out comfortably upon the 
tiles, and his two hands, with their finger 
and thumb tips together, as was his usual 
custom when good thinking and pleasant con 
versation went on together, he talked about 
the future of Boston and of Congregational 

Interested as I was, a sudden feeling of pain 
seized me as I noticed how sunken were his 
eyes. I am not a physician, but I have seen 
many people die. I have looked upon many 
more as they approached their mortal end, 
marked with signs which they saw not, nor 
often even their friends observed, but which 
were as plain and readable as the stencilled 
directions upon freight to be sent and deliv 
ered elsewhere. After a handshake and an 
invitation from him to dine the next night 
at his house, and to be at the golden wedding 
on Tuesday, we bade him good afternoon. 
On returning with my host in front of the 
fire, I said, " I feel sad, for our friend Mr, 

33 8 Charles Carleton Coffin 

Coffin is marked for early death ; he will cer 
tainly not outlive this year." 

Nevertheless, I could not but count Charles 
Carleton Coffin among the number of those 
whom God made rich in the threefold life of 
body, soul, and spirit. 

The old Greeks, whose wonderfully rich ex 
perience of life, penetrating insight, powers of 
analysis, and gift of literary expression enabled 
them to coin the words to fitly represent their 
thoughts, knew how to describe both love and 
life better than we, having a mintage of thought 
for each in its threefold form. As they dis 
criminated eroSj phil e, and agape in love, so also 
they put difference between psyche, bios, and zoe 
in life. 

What other ranges of existence and develop 
ments of being there may be for God s chosen 
ones in worlds to come, we dare not conjecture, 
but this we know. Carleton had even then, 
as I saw him marked for an early change of 
worlds, entered into threefold life. 

i . The lusty boy and youth, the mature man 
with not a perfect, yet a sound, physical organi 
zation, showed a good specimen of the human 
animal, rich in the breath of life, psyche. 

The Home at Alwington 339 

2. The long and varied career of farmer, 
surveyor, citizen, Christian interested in his 
fellows and their welfare, with varied work, 
travel, and adventure, manifested the noble 
bios, the career or course of strenuous en 

3. The spiritual attainments in character, 
the ever outflowing benevolence, the kindly 
thought, the healing sunshine of his presence, 
the calm faith, the firm trust in God, gave 
assurance of the zoe. 

These three stages of existence revealed 
Carleton as one affluent with what men call 
life, and of which the young ever crave more, 
and also in that " life which is life indeed," 
which survives death, which is the extinction 
of the psyche or animal breath, the soul 
remaining as the abode of the spirit. In body, 
soul, and spirit, Charles Carleton Coffin was a 
true man, who, even in the evening of life, was 
rich in those three forms of life which God 
has revealed and discriminated through the 
illuminating Greek language of the New Test 

True indeed it was that, while with multiply 
ing years the animal life lessened in quantity 

34 Charles Carleton Coffin 

and intensity, the spiritual life was enriched and 
deepened ; or, to put it in Paul s language and 
in the historical present so favored by Carle- 
ton, " While the outward man perisheth, the 
inward man is renewed day by day." 



THUS, amid happy surroundings, in the 
new home, in the last leap-year of this 
wonderful century, came the time of the golden 
wedding. God had walked with these, his 
children, fifty years, while they had walked 
with one another. Providence seemed to 
whisper, " Come, for all things are now 
ready." The new home was finished and 
furnished, all bright and cheerful, and suffused 
with the atmosphere of genial companionship. 
The bride of a half century before, now with 
the roses of health blooming under the trellis 
of her silvery hair, with sparkling eyes beaming 
fun and sympathy, welcome and gladness, by 
turns, was at this season in happy health. 
This was largely owing, as she gladly acknowl 
edged, to regular calisthenics, plenty of fresh 
air, and complete occupation of mind and body. 
The thousand invitations in gilt and white had, 


34 2 Charles Carleton Coffin 

as with " the wings of a dove covered with sil 
ver and her feathers with yellow gold," flown 
over the city, commonwealth, and nation. On 
February i8th, the house having been trans 
formed by young friends into a maze of 
greenery and flowers, husband and wife stood 
together to receive congratulations. In the 
hall were ropes of sturdy pine boughs and 
glistening laurel, with a huge wreath of ever 
green suspended from the ceiling, and bearing 
the anniversary date, 1846 and 1896. In the 
reception-room one friend had hung the em 
blem of two hearts joined by a band of gold 
above the cornice. Dining-room and library 
were festooned with smilax. In the archways 
and windows were hanging baskets of jonquils 
and ferns. " An help meet for him," the bride 
of fifty years was arrayed in heliotrope satin 
with trimmings of point lace, making, as we 
thought, with her delicate complexion and soft 
white hair, a sight as lovely as when, amid the 
snow-storms of New Hampshire, a half century 
before, Charles Carleton Coffin first called Sallie 
Farmer his wife. 

Of Washington it has been said, " God 
made him childless that a nation might call 

The Golden Wedding 343 

him father." In the home on that day were 
scores of nieces and nephews, and children of 
several generations, from the babe in arms, and 
the child with pinafore, to the stately dames 
and long-bearded men, who, one and all, called 
the bride and groom " uncle and aunt." From 
a ladies orchestra, on the top floor, music filled 
the house, the melody falling like a lark s song 
in upper air. In the dining-room, turned for 
the nonce into a booth of evergreens, where 
everything was sparkle and joy, new and old 
friends met to discuss, over dainty cups and 
plates, both the happy moment and the de 
lights of long ago. 

It was not only a very bright, but a note 
worthy company that gathered on that Febru 
ary afternoon and evening. Massachusetts was 
about to lose by death her Governor, F. T. 
Greenhalge, as she had lost three ex-Gover 
nors, all friends of Carleton, within the pre 
vious twelvemonth, but there was present the 
handsome acting-Governor of the Common 
wealth, Roger Wolcott. Men eminent in 
political life, authors, editors, preachers, busi 
ness men, troops of lifelong friends, men and 
women of eminence, honor, and usefulness, 

344 Charles Carleton Coffin 

fellow Christians and workers in wonderfully 
varied lines of activity, were present to share 
in and add to the joy. Among the gifts, 
which seemed to come like Jupiter s shower 
of gold upon Danae, were two that touched 
Carleton very deeply. The Massachusetts 
Club, which has numbered in its body many 
Senators, Governors, generals, diplomatists, 
lawyers, authors, and merchants, whose names 
shine very high on the roll of national fame, 
sent their fellow member an appropriate pres 
ent. Instead of the regular cup, vase, or urn, 
or anything that might suggest stress, strain, 
or even victory, or even minister to personal 
vanity, the Club, through its secretary, Mr. 
S. S. Blanchard, presented the master of 
Alwington with a superb steel engraving, 
richly framed. It represented the Master, 
sitting under the vine-roof trellis at the home 
of Lazarus, in Bethlehem. " You knew just 
what I wanted," whispered the happy receiver. 
During the evening, when the people of 
Shawmut Church were present, a hundred or 
more strong, their former and latter chief ser 
vant being with them, a silver casket, with 
twenty half eagles in it, was presented by Dr. 

The Golden Wedding 345 

W. E. Barton, with choice and fitting words. 
So deeply affected was this man Carleton, so 
noted for his self-mastery, that, for a moment, 
those who knew him best were shot through 
as by a shaft of foreboding, lest, then and there, 
the horses and chariot of fire might come for 
the prophet. A quarter of a minute s pause, 
understood by most present as nothing more 
than a natural interval between presentation 
speech and reply, and then Carleton, as fully 
as his emotion would admit, uttered fitting 
words of response. 

The " banquet hall deserted," the photo 
graphic camera was brought into requisition, 
and pleasant souvenirs of a grand occasion 
were made. Everything joyously planned 
had been happily carried out. This was the 
culminating event in the life of a good man, 
to the making of whom, race, ancestry, par 
entage, wife, home, friends, country, and op 
portunity had contributed, and to all of which 
and whom, under God, Carleton often made 
grateful acknowledgments. 

It was but a fortnight after this event, in 
which I participated with such unalloyed pleas 
ure, that the telegraphic yellow paper, with its 

346 Charles Carleton Coffin 

type-script message, announced that the earthly 
house of the tabernacle of Carleton s spirit had 
been dissolved, and that his building of God, 
the " house not made with hands," had been 

The story of Carleton s last thirteen days 
on earth is soon told. He had written a little 
upon his new story. For the Boston Journal 
he had penned an article calling attention to 
the multiplying " sky-scraper " houses, and the 
need of better fire-apparatus. He had, with 
the physician s sanction, agreed to address on 
Monday evening, March 2d, the T. Starr King 
Unitarian Club of South Boston, on " Some 
Recollections of a War Correspondent." 

Carleton s last Sunday on earth was as one 
of " the days of heaven upon earth." It was 
rich to overflowing with joyous experiences. 
It is now ours to see that the shadows of his 
sunset of life were pointing to the eternal 

It was the opening day of spring. At 
Shawmut Church, in holy communion, he, 
with others, celebrated the love of his Saviour 
and Friend. To Carleton, it was a true Eu 
charist. A new vision of the cross and its 

The Golden Wedding 347 

meaning seemed to dawn upon his soul. At 
the supper- table, conversation turned upon 
Christ s obedience unto death, his great rec 
onciliation of man to God, his power to move 
men, the crucifixion, and its meaning. Carle- 
ton said, after expressing his deep satisfaction 
with Doctor Barton s morning sermon, and his 
interpretation of the atonement, that he re 
garded Christ s life as the highest exhibition 
of service. By his willing death on the cross, 
Jesus showed himself the greatest and best 
of all servants of man, while thus joyfully 
doing his Father s will. On that day of rest, 
Carleton seemed to dwell in an almost 
transfigurating atmosphere of delight in his 

On Sunday night husband and wife enjoyed 
a quiet hour, hand in hand, before the wood 
fire. The sunlight and warmth of years gone 
by, coined into stick and fagots from the for 
est, were released again in glow and warmth, 
making playful lights and warning shadows. 
The golden minutes passed by. The prattle 
of lovers and the sober wisdom of experience 
blended. Then, night s oblivion. Again, the 
cheerful morning meal and the merry company, 

348 Charles Carleton Coffin 

the incense of worship, and the separation of 
each and all to the day s toil. 

Carleton sat down in his study room to 
write. He soon called his wife, complaining 
of a distressing pain in his stomach. He was 
advised to go to bed, and did so. The phy 
sician, Dr. A. L. Kennedy, was sent for. 
" How is your head ? " asked Doctor Kennedy. 

" If it were not for this pain, I should get 
up and write," answered Carleton. 

With the consent of the physician he rose 
from the couch and walked the room for 
awhile for relief. Then returning, as he was 
about to lie down again, he fell over. Quickly 
unconscious, he passed away. Science would 
call the immediate cause of death apoplexy. 

Thus died at his post, as he would have 
wished, the great war correspondent, traveller, 
author, statesman, and friend of man and God. 
He had lived nearly three years beyond the 
allotted period of three score and ten. 

Two days later, while the flag over the pub 
lic schoolhouse in Brookline drooped at half- 
mast, and Carleton s picture was wreathed with 
laurels, at the request of the scholars them 
selves, in the impressive auditorium of Shaw- 

The Golden Wedding 349 

mut Church, Carleton s body lay amid palms 
and lilies in the space fronting the pulpit. At 
his head and at his feet stood a veteran-senti 
nel from the John A. Andrew Post of the 
Grand Army of the Republic. These were 
relieved every quarter of an hour, during the 
exercises, by comrades who had been detailed 
for a service which they were proud to render 
to one who had so well told their story and 
honored them so highly. It was entirely a 
voluntary offering on the part of the veterans 
to pay this tribute of regard, which was as 
touching as it was unostentatious. 

Nowhere in the church edifice were there any 
of the usual insignia of woe. The dirge was 
at first played to express the universal grief in 
the music of the organ, but it soon melted into 
In Memoriam and hymns of triumph. The 
quartet sang "Jesus Reigns," a favorite 
hymn of Carleton s, to music which he had 
himself composed only two years before. 

It reminded me of the burst of melody 
which, from the belfry of the church in a 
Moravian town, announces the soul s farewell 
to earth and birth into heaven. 

In the audience which filled the pews down- 

350 Charles Carleton Coffin 

stairs were men and women eminent in every 
walk of life, representatives of clubs, societies, 
and organizations. Probably without a single 
exception, all were sincere mourners, while yet 
rejoicing in a life so nobly rounded out. In 
the pulpit sat two of the pastors of Shawmut 
Church, and Dr. Arthur Little, friend of 
Carleton s boyhood, and a near relative. The 
eulogies were discriminating. 

The addresses, with the prayers offered and 
the tributes made in script or print, with some 
letters of condolence received by Mrs. Coffin, 
and a remarkable interesting biographical 
sketch from The CongregationaUst^ by Rev. 
Howard A. Bridgman, have been gathered in 
a pamphlet published by George H. Wright, 
Harcourt Street, Boston. 

From this pamphlet we extract the follow 
ing : 

After prayer and a brief silence, Dr. Little said : 
u There are few men, I think, engrossed in the 
affairs of life, for an entire generation, to whom 
the Word of God was so vital and so precious as 
to our friend, Mr. Coffin. Let us open this Word, 
and listen while God speaks to us, in Ps. 23 ; Ps. 
39: 4, 13; Ps. 46: i, 5, 7. 

The Golden Wedding 351 

" I will read from Ezekiel 26 : 15, which was a 
favorite word with Mr. Coffin, and the passage 
which he himself read, as he was journeying in 
the Eastern land, at the very spot concerning which 
the prophecy is uttered. Mr. Coffin was sitting 
there with his open Bible, and saw the literal fulfil 
ment of this prophecy, the fishermen spreading the 
nets in the very neighborhood where he was sitting." 

The continued readings were from John n : 21, 
23 ; John 14 : 19 ; 2 Cor. 5 : I, 8 ; Rev. 21 : I ; 
Rev. 22: 5; I Cor. 15: 51, 57. The quartet 
sang u In My Father s Arms Enfolded." 

Dr. Barton then read a letter from Rev. E. B. 
Webb, D. D., who was unable to be present. The 
following are the closing paragraphs. They recall 
the Oriental travels enjoyed by pastor and parish 
ioner in company. 

"Together we visited the home of Mary and Mar 
tha, and the tomb from which the Life-Giver called 
forth Lazarus to a new and divine life. We stood in 
Gethsemane, by the old olive-trees, beneath the shad 
ows of which the Saviour of men prayed, and sweat, 
as it were, great drops of blood. We climbed to 
gether to the top of the Mount of Olives, and looked 
up into the deep heavens to which he ascended, and 
abroad to the city over which he wept ; and both 
our words and our silence told how real it all was, 
and how the significance of it entered into Our lives. 

352 Charles Carleton Coffin 

"From the city we journeyed rrorthward, up past 
Bethel, where Jacob saw a new vision, and got a new 
heart, and on, past the blue waters of Galilee, and 
across the great plain, battle-ground of the ancient 
nations, and over the Lebanons to Damascus and 
Baalbec, and then to the sea, and homeward thence ; 
and always and everywhere scrutinizing the present, 
or reaching back into the past ; drinking from the 
sparkling waters of Abana and Pharpar, or searching 
for the wall over which Paul was let down in a bas 
ket ; impressed by the ruins of half-buried temples 
and cities, or looking forward, with sublime faith in 
the prophecy and promise, to the time when all 
things shall be made new; Carleton was always 
the same thoughtful, genial, courteous companion 
and sympathizing friend. 

" I honored, loved, and esteemed the man. His 
life is a beautiful example of devout Christian stead 
fastness. The history of his small beginnings, grad 
ual increase, and final success, is one to inspire noble 
endeavor, and ensure reward. He honored the 
church, and the church does well to honor him. 
" Affectionately yours, 

" E. B. WEBB." 

The Rev. Dr. Little paid a warm tribute to the 
memory of his friend : 

" At eleven years of age he [Carleton] entered 
the church. Think of it ! Sixty-three years de- 

The Golden Wedding 353 

voted to the service of his Lord and Master ! He 
seems to me to be an illustration of a man who, 
when he is equal to it, finds a hard physical environ 
ment united with a wholesome moral and spiritual en 
vironment of supreme advantage. To a weak nature 
it would very likely mean only failure, but to a man 
of the heroic mould of Mr. Coffin it meant opportun 
ity, and it only nerved him to more strenuous effort ; 
and it was everything to him that the atmosphere in 
the home, the community, and the church was what 
it was, so warm, so Christian, so spiritual, so sym 
pathetic, and so suited to furnish just the right con 
ditions for the moulding of his very responsive and 
susceptible nature. 

" And then he possessed what I think might very 
well be called the spirit of aggressiveness, or, possibly 
better, the spirit of sanctified self-assertion. He never 
thought of self-assertion for his own sake, or for the 
sake of honor or promotion, but he had in him a 
kind of push and an earnestness of purpose you 
might almost say audacity that somehow stirred 
him and prompted him always tb be in the place of 
greatest advantage at a given time for the service 
of others. He seemed always to be just at the point 
of supreme advantage in a crisis, just where he could 
give the world, at the right time, and in the best way, 
the fullest report of a battle, or a conference, or any 
other matters of supreme moment. This was char- 

354 Charles Carleton Coffin 

acteristic of him. It appeared all through his New 
Hampshire life, and was indeed in part a native en 

After an address by the author of this volume on 
"Charles Carleton Coffin as a Historian," Dr. W. 
E. Barton, in felicitous diction, reviewed the earthly 
life of him with whose career many memories were 
then busy. 

"Grief is no unusual thing. There is no heart 
here that has not known it. There is scarce a home 
where death has not entered. We weep the more 
sincerely with those that weep, because the intervals 
are not long between our own sorrows. The whole 
Commonwealth mourns to-day our chief magistrate. 
God comfort his family! God save the Common 
wealth of Massachusetts! God bless him in whose 
elevation to the Governor s chair Providence has an 
ticipated the will of the people. 

"A very tender sorrow brings us here to-day, and 
we turn for comfort to the Word of God. 

" Text : With long life will I satisfy him, |and 
shew him my salvation. Ps. 91 : 16. 

u It is not because of his unusual age that this 
text seems to me appropriate for the funeral of our 
friend. His years were but little more than three 
score and ten, and his step was light, and his heart 
was young, and we hardly thought of him as an old 
man. Nor is it because his work seemed to us com- 

The Golden Wedding 355 

pleted, that we think of the measure of his days as 
satisfied. His facile pen dropped upon a new page ; 
and before him, as he ceased to labor, were tasks 
midway, and others just begun. It is because our 
first feeling is so unsatisfied, it is because there was 
so much more which he wished, and we wished him 
to do, and that we are constrained to measure the 
length of his life, and to find, if we may find, in 
spite of this sudden break in our hopes and his plans, 
a completion that can satisfy. Measured by its ex 
periences and accomplishments, it may seem to us 
that this life, so abruptly terminated, was one whose 
length and symmetry well deserve to be considered a 
fulfilment of the promise of the text." 
Following the prayer, Dr. Barton said : 
" It was the purpose of our organist, Mr. Dun 
ham, a true and honored friend of Mr. Coffin, to 
play, as the postlude to this service, the stateliest of 
funeral marches, but I dissuaded him. This is a 
Christian funeral. Our music is not a dirge, but 
a jubilate. The hope of our friend in life is ours for 
him in death. Instead of even the noblest funeral 
march expressing our own grief, there will be played 
the most triumphant of anthems, expressing his own 
victory over death, Handel s matchless c Hallelujah 
Chorus. " 

The organ then played the " Hallelujah Chorus," 
and the benediction was pronounced by Dr. Barton. 

356 Charles Carleton Coffin 

It had been intended to deposit the mortal 
relics of Carleton in the ancestral cemetery at 
Webster, N. H., the village next to Boscawen, 
but Providence interposed. After all prepara 
tions for travel and transportation had been 
made, heavy rains fell, which washed away 
bridges and so disturbed the ordinary condi 
tion of the roads in New Hampshire that the 
body had to be deposited in a vault at Brook- 
line until a more convenient season for inter 
ment. Meanwhile, the soldiers of the Grand 
Army, adult friends, and even children, united 
in the wish that the grave of their friend and 
helper might be within easy reach of Boston, so 
that on the National Memorial Day, and at 
other times of visitation, the grassy mound 
might be accessible for the tribute of flowers. 
And so it eventuated that what was once mor 
tal of Charles Carleton Coffin rests in Mount 

The memorial in stone will be a boulder 
transported from more northern regions ages 
ago and left by ice on land which belonged to 
Mrs. Coffin s grandfather. On this rugged 
New Hampshire granite will be inscribed the 
name of Charles Carleton Coffin, with the 

The Golden Wedding 357 

dates of his births into this world and the 

Both of the man and this, his last memorial, 
we may say Deus fecit.