correspondent, till every scene and incident was impressed upon his memory as distinctly as that of the die upon the coin. Another volume was a historical novel entitled "A Peep at the Pilgrims," which awakened a love for historical literature. Books of the Indian Wars, Stories of the Revolution, were read and re-read with increasing delight. Even the Federalist, that series of papers elucidating the principles of Republican government, was read before he was fourteen. There was no pleasure to be compared with that of visiting Concord, and looking at the books in the store of Marsh, Capen and Lyon, who kept a bookstore in that, then, town of four thousand inhabitants—the only one in central New Hampshire.
Without doubt the love for historical literature was quickened by the kind patronage of John Farmer, the genial historian, who was a visitor at the Boscawen farm-house, and who had delightful stories to tell of the exploits of Robert Rogers and John Stark during the French and Indian wars.
Soldiers of the Revolution were living in 1830. Eliphalet Kilburn, the grandfather of Charles Carleton Coffin on the maternal side, was in the thick of battle at Saratoga and Rhode Island, and there was no greater pleasure to the old blind pensioner than to narrate the stories of the Revolution to his listening grandchild. Near neighbors to the Coffin homestead were Eliakim Walker, Nathaniel Atkinson and David Flanders, all of whom were at Bunker Hill—Walker in the redoubt under Prescott; Atkinson and Flanders in Captain Abbott's company, under Stark, by the rail fence, confronting the Welch fusileers.
The vivid description of that battle which Mr. Coffin has given in the "Boys of '76," is doubtless due in a great measure to the stories of these pensioners, who often sat by the old fire-place in that farm-house and fought their battles over again to the intense delight of their white-haired auditor.
Ill health, inability for prolonged mental application, shut out the future correspondent, to his great grief, from all thoughts of attempting a collegiate course. While incapacitated from mental or physical labor he obtained a surveyor's compass, and more for pastime than any thought of becoming a surveyor, he studied the elements of surveying.
There were fewer civil engineers in the country in 1845 than now. It was a period when engineers were wanted—when the demand was greater than the supply, and anyone who had a smattering of engineering could find employment. Mr. Coffin accepted a position in the engineering corps of the Northern Railroad, and was subsequently employed on the Concord and Portsmouth, and Concord and Claremont Railroad.
In 1846 he was married to Sallie R. Farmer of Boscawen. Not wishing to make civil engineering a profession for life he purchased a farm in his native town; but health gave way and he was forced to seek other pursuits.
He early began to write articles for the Concord newspapers, and some of his fugitive political contributions were re-published in Littell's Living Age.
Mr. Coffin's studies in engineering led him towards scientific culture. In 1849 he constructed the telegraph line between Harvard Observatory and Boston, by which uniform time was first given to the railroads leading from Boston. He had charge of the construction of the Telegraphic Fire Alarm in Boston, under the direction of Professor Moses G. Farmer, his brother-in-law, and gave the first alarm ever given by that system April 29, 1852.
Mr. Coffin's tastes led him toward journalism. From 1850 to 1854 he was a constant contributor to the press, sending articles to the Transcript, the Boston Journal, Congregationalist, and New York Tribune. He was also a contributor to the Student and Schoolmate, a small magazine then conducted by Mr. Adams (Oliver Optic).
He was for a short time assistant editor of the Practical Farmer, an agricultural and literary weekly newspaper. In 1854 he was employed on the Boston Journal. Many of the editorials upon the Kansas-Nebraska struggle were from his pen. His style of composition was developed during these years when great events were agitating the public mind. It was a period which demanded clear, comprehensive, concise, statements, and words that meant something. His articles upon the questions of the hour were able and trenchant. One of the leading newspapers of Boston down to 1856 was the Atlas—the organ of the anti-slavery wing of the Whig party, of the men who laid the foundation of the Republican party. Its chief editorial writer was the brilliant Charles T. Congdon, with whom Mr. Coffin was associated as assistant editor till the paper was merged into the Atlas and Bee.
During the year 1858 he became again assistant on the Journal. He wrote a series of letters from Canada in connection with the visit of the Prince of Wales. He was deputed, as correspondent, to attend the opening of several of the great western railroads, which were attended by many men in public life. He was present at the Baltimore Convention which nominated Bell and Everett as candidates for the Presidency and Vice Presidency in 1860. He travelled west through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, before the assembling of the Republican Convention at Chicago, conversing with public men, and in a private letter predicted the nomination of Abraham Lincoln, who, up to the assembling of the convention, had hardly been regarded as a possible candidate.
He accompanied the committee appointed to apprise Mr. Lincoln of his nomination to Springfield, spent several weeks in the vicinity—making Mr. Lincoln's acquaintance, and obtaining information in regard to him, which was turned to proper advantage during the campaign.
In the winter of 1860-61, Mr. Coffin held the position of night editor of the Journal. The Southern States were then seceding. It was the most exciting period in the history of the republic. There was turmoil in Congress. Public affairs were drifting with no arm at the helm. There was no leadership in Congress or out of it. The position occupied by Mr. Coffin was one requiring discrimination and judgment. The Peace Congress was in session. During the long nights while waiting for despatches, which often did not arrive till well toward morning, he had time to study the situation of public affairs, and saw, what all men did not see, that a conflict of arms was approaching. He was at that time residing in Maiden, and on the morning after the surrender of Sumter took measures for the calling of a public meeting of the citizens of that town to sustain the government. It was one of the first—if not the first of the many, held throughout the country.
Upon the breaking out of the war in 1861 Mr. Coffin left the editorial department of the Journal and became a correspondent in the field, writing his first letter from Baltimore, June 15, over the signature of "Carleton"—selecting his middle name for a nom de plume.
He accompanied the right wing under General Tyler, which had the advance in the movement to Bull Run, and witnessed the first encounter at Blackburn's Ford, July 18. He returned to Washington the next morning with the account, and was back again on the succeeding morning in season to witness the battle of Bull Run, narrowly escaping capture when the Confederate cavalry dashed upon the panic-stricken Union troops. He reached Washington during the night, and sent a full account of the action the following morning.
During the autumn he made frequent trips from the army around Washington to Eastern Maryland, and the upper Potomac, making long rides upon the least sign of action. Becoming convinced, in December, that the Army of the Potomac was doomed to inaction during the winter, the correspondent, furnished with letters of introduction to Generals Grant and Buell from the Secretary of War, proceeded