David Coon: A Civil War story… and tragedy.

I spent a great deal of time transcribing the typewritten copies of handwritten letters of David Coon to his wife and children from Confederate prison, marking the days until his subsequent death from disease. The original transcriptions were completed by his son, Dr. William B. Coon in 1913, one for each family member. My father-in-law now holds one of the transcribed sets of letters.

David Coon and Mary Ann Adams

David and Mary Ann (Adams) Coon

David Coon, born February 10, 1824 in Beekmantown, Clinton County, New York, was the son of William B. Coon and Clarissa Haskel Williams. David Coon was the 4th great grandfather of my children on their father’s side by adoption.

My husband’s father-in-law, Marshall Matthews Blythe was the son of Louise Matthews, who was adopted by Dennis William Matthews, son of Elam Dennis Matthews and grandson of David Coon.

On June 15, 1843, David married his first wife, Mary Ann Adams, daughter of Alanson Adams and Submit Hall, in Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont. In subsequent years, they had seven children: Alonzo Beckwith Coon, Edgar Coon, Herbert William Coon, Emma E. Coon, Hiram Southwick Coon, Elam Dennis Coon and Orilla (Mary) Coon. Mary Ann died June 3, 1859.

Between 1843 and June of 1844, he was living in Licking County, Ohio and in 1844, started a wagon making business with his brother-in-law Elam Dennis Adams. He is shown in records of November 27, 1854 in Waushara County, Wisconsin, living on 40 acres of military bounty land at the SE Quarter of NW Quarter of Section 12, Township 19. He is recorded in the 1860 census for Bloomfield, Waushara County, Wisconsin, farming his land.

David married his second wife, Isabel Ann Hall, daughter of Benjamin Hall and Eliza McReynolds on November 24, 1859 in Leon, Waushara County, Wisconsin. They added to the family with three more children: John Williams Coon, Matthew Edgar Coon and Jedidah Wood Coon. Isabel Ann was the cousin of David’s first wife Mary Ann as Benjamin and Submit were brother and sister, both children of John Hall and his wife Submit.

John Williams Coon, MD

John Williams Coon, MD 

Assuming that the responsibilities of caring for such a large family as a widower were too much for David after the death of Mary Ann, the younger children went to other families. Elam Dennis went to the Matthew’s family, who later adopted him. He took the last name Matthews. Orilla went to live with a family named Ellis, who later adopted her, and Hiram lived with a different Matthews family (although related to the family who took Elam) but later returned to live with his father and his father’s new wife, Isabel.

Leaving his farm close to Bloomingfield in Waushara County and proceeding to Berlin to enlist in the army, he was told he had to leave right away to proceed to Madison. His departure for camp Randall was so quick, he did not have time to go back and tell his family he was leaving. They only found out in a letter dated February 28, 1864 that he “…enlisted in the 36th Regiment.” David enlisted in the Union army from Green Lake County on February 26, 1864 and served as a Private in Co. A, 36th Wisconsin Infantry, and is recorded on his military documents dated August 15, 1861 as being 5 feet, 8 3/8 inches in height with blue eyes and sandy hair. The following is an excerpt from the foreward of the original typed transcription of David Coon Letters, prepared in 1913 in Wales, Wisconsin by his son, John W. Coon, MD.

“David Coon was a great man, a kind husband and father, a true soldier of the American type, not only a patriot but a philosopher.” During his service in the Civil War, David wrote frequently and consistently, approximately one letter per week, to his wife and children, his devotion to all being very evident. Even if he did not have any stationary to write on he made sure they knew he was okay. He once wrote a letter on the label of a condensed milk can. As described by his son John W. Coon, MD in the typed transcription he prepared of his father’s letter home, “Many of the letters were written on such scraps of paper as were available, the ink being often very poor — in one instance at least, made from the juice of pokeberries gathered on the battlefield.”

Forest Cemetery, Stephens Point, Portage County, Wisconsin

Forest Cemetery, Stephens Point, Portage County, WisconsinSources

David was stationed with his regiment at Camp Randall until May 10, 1864, where he nursed the sick at the hospital before being sent to battle. He was then ordered to join Hancock’s Corps in Virginia where he participated in many of the noted great battles of that campaign.On May 8, 1864, he sent a letter to his family telling them that he was to be sent away to Washington to join General Grant’s Army.The regiment moved from battle to battle. They hardly ever had time to rest. During a battle, Coon was captured by a Confederate officer and was handcuffed for two hours. The officer let him go with a note of warning. Coon wrote to his family, “He offered to let me go back to the regiment but wanted me to promise to be a better boy.”Not until August did the regiment start to travel again. They went to Richmond where they fought against the rebels. When they finished they returned to their camp near Petersburg. On August 25, 1864, he, along with 11 officers and 175 other men from the regiment, posted themselves at Reams Station on the Weldon Railroad. Before long, he, along with 133 other men from his regiment were reported missing. On August 27, Coon wrote a letter to his family telling them that he and 127 other men had been captured and taken prisoner. He talked about how the officers and guards had treated them fairly until then and he wrote that he was expecting to be sent to Libby Prison in Richmond and for his family to keep up courage. That was his last letter. He was first held in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, then at Belle Isle, later being transferred again to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina.

Salisbury Prison was one of the best Confederate prisons. However, soon after David and the other men arrived, the conditions grew worse. The prison became over crowded with 10,000 people in a space that had reached capacity one year before Coon arrived. Living in these terribly overcrowded conditions, one third of the prisoners, or 35,000 men, died. David Coon was one of these. The diary of James Canon, a Sergeant in the same company, states in a simple entry dated November 2, 1864, “David Coon died today.” He was buried the same day in Forest Cemetery at Stephens Point, Portage County, Wisconsin.

Souces:

  1. Matthews, Dennis, 1910 US Census, Louisa County, Iowa.
  2. Coon, David, 1860 US Census, Bloomfield, Waushara County, Wisconsin; Ancestry.com.
  3. David Coon and Family tombstone, Stevens Point Cemetery, Wisconsin.
  4. Emily Bailey, “David Coon and Family Background,” e-mail message from < EnBBailey@aol.com> to Christine Blythe, 19 Nov 2006.
  5. Emily Bailey, “William B. Coon Family,” e-mail message from <EnBBailey@ aol.com> to Christine Blythe, 20 Nov 2006.
  6. Military Bounty Land Warrant – David Coon – 27 Nov 1854.
  7. Act of Sept. 28 1850 Land Warrant Card – Coon, W.B. and Coon, David.
  8. Military Bounty Land Location Record.
  9. Military Bounty Land Warrant Certificate – Coon, William B.
  10. David Coon, “Hiram Coon Biographical Information,” e-mail message from < noxqcez@comcast.net> to Christine Blythe, 21 Nov 2006.
  11. Widow’s Declaration of Pension – Isabel Ann Coon (5 M ar 1865).
  12. Statement of Pension Claim of Nathan H. Matthews (16 Mar 1870).
  13. Coon, David, death certificate no. Widow’s Claim to Pension – Emma and Hiram Coon (1864).
  14. Sworn Statement re Matthew Coon’s Birth, compiler, (27 Feb 1867).
  15. Statement re David Coon’s Children.
  16. Claim for Increase of Widow’s Pension – Coon, Isabel – 22 Aug 1865 (22 Aug 1865).
  17. Widow’s Pension Statement – Isabel A. Coon (15 Se p 1893).
  18. Notice of Death of Isabel Coon to Pension Agent.
  19. Wisconsin Civil War Volunteers Roster – C (Coon), Wisconsin Historical Museum online
  20. Claim for Widow’s Pension – Isabel A. Coon (1865).
  21. Affidavit of Alanson and Mitty Adams (31 Mar 1869 ).
  22. Statement of Isabel Coon re Custody of Children (4 M ay 1870).
  23. Sworn Statement of Isabel A. Coon re Orilla Coon (2 8 Jun 1869).
  24. Statement of Minister re Marriage of David and Isabel Coon (24 Mar 1875).
  25. Statement of Clerk re Missing Marriage Record of David Coon (8 Apr).
  26. 1850 OH, Licking, Alexandria, M432_702, Page 170 Dwelling 66, Family 68
  27. http://web.archive.org/web/20000601082635/http://madison.k12.wi.u s/wright/civilwar/36regmet.

About the Author ()

A fifties' child, mom, wife, avid genealogy researcher, web contributor and author/owner of four blogs including Empty Nest Ancestry, Feathering the Empty Nest Nest, Top Web Blog Tips, Job Bully, and our extensive family genealogy database site at Blythe Genealogy.

Comments (7)

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  2. Thomas says:

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  6. Aaron says:

    Very interesting — especially as a fellow Coon relative! Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in any old pictures of Louise and her family. Great stuff! Thanks for posting this!

    • cjblythe says:

      Absolutely! I’d love copies of whatever you have and care to provide. Likewise, I’d be happy to send you anything I have – including a clean (unwatermarked) copy of the Coon Civil War letters I scanned. Just let me know if you’d like them – and/or what you’d like. I have considerably more than shows in this article.

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Christine Blythe
Empty Nest Genealogy
Chilliwack, British Columbia, V2P 5B9 Canada
genealogy, ancestry, family tree, research, transcriptions, sources, images, data

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