west. Arriving at Louisville he found that General Buell had expelled all correspondents from the army. The letter from the Secretary of War vouching for the loyalty and integrity of the correspondent was read and tossed aside with the remark that correspondents could not be permitted in an army which he had the honor to command.
Mr. Coffin proceeded to St. Louis, took a look at the army then at Rolla, in Central Missouri, but discovering no signs of action in that direction made his way to Cairo where General Grant was in command. General Grant's headquarters were in the second story of a tumble-down building.
No sentinel paced before the door. Ascending the stairs and knocking, Mr. Coffin heard the answer, "Come in." Entering, he saw a man in a blue blouse sitting upon a nail-keg at a rude desk smoking a cigar.
"Is General Grant in?" he asked.
Supposing the man on the nail keg with no straps upon his shoulder to be only a clerk or orderly, he presented his letter from the Secretary of War, with the remark, "Will you please present this to General Grant?" whereupon the supposed clerk glanced over the lines, rose, extended his hand and said, "I am right glad to see you. Please take a nail keg!"
There were several empty nail kegs in the apartment, but not a chair. The contrast to what he had experienced with General Buell was so great that the correspondent could hardly realize that he was in the presence of General Grant, who at once gave him the needed facilities for attaining information.
The rapidity of the correspondent's movements—the quickness with which he took in the military situation, may be inferred from the dates of his letters. On January 6, 1862, he wrote a letter detailing affairs at St. Louis. On the eighth, he described affairs at Rolla in Central Missouri. On the eleventh, he was writing from Cairo. The gunboats under Commodore Foot were at Cairo, and the correspondent was received with the utmost hospitality, not only by the Commodore, but by all the officers.
Upon the movement of General Zolicoffer into Kentucky, Mr. Coffin hastened to Louisville, Lexington, and Central Kentucky, but finding affairs had settled down, hastened down the Ohio River on a steamboat, reaching the mouth of the Tennessee just as the fleet under Commodore Foot was entering the Ohio after capturing Fort Henry. Commodore Foot narrated the events of the engagement, and Mr. Coffin, learning that no correspondent had returned from Fort Henry, stimulated by the thought of giving the Boston Journal the first information, jumped on board the cars, wrote his account on the train, and had the satisfaction of knowing that it was the first one published.
Returning to Cairo by the next train, he proceeded to Fort Donelson and was present in the cabin of the steamer "Uncle Sam" when General Buckner turned over the Fort, the Artillery, and 15,000 prisoners to General Grant. He hastened to Cairo, wrote his account on the cars, riding eastward, till it was complete, then returning, and arriving in season to jump on board the gunboat Boston for a reconnoissanceof Columbus.
Mr. Coffin continued with the fleet during the operation at Island No. 10. His knowledge of civil engineering enabled him to assist Captain Maynadier of the engineers in directing the mortar firing. On one occasion while mounted on a corn crib near a farm-house to note the direction of the bombs, the Confederate artillerists sent a shell which demolished a pig-pen but a few feet distant.
While at Island No. 10, the battle of Pittsburg Landing was fought. Leaving the fleet he hastened thither, accompanied the army in its slow advance upon Corinth, was present at the battle of Farmington and the occupation of Corinth.
General Halleck, smarting under the criticism of the press, ordered all correspondents to leave, and Mr. Coffin once more joined the fleet, descending the Mississippi. During the engagement with the Confederate fleet at Memphis, he stood upon the deck of the Admiral's despatch boat with note-book and watch in hand—noting every movement. He was fully exposed, aided in hauling down the flag of the Confederate ship, "Little Rebel," and assisted in rescuing some of the wounded Confederates from the sinking vessels.
He accepted an invitation from Captain Phelps of the Benton to accompany him on shore when the city was surrendered, and saw the stars and strips go up upon the flag-staff in the public square and over the Court House.
The Army of the Potamac was in front of Richmond, and he returned east in season to chronicle the seven day's engagement on the Peninsular. The constant exposure to malaria brought on sickness, which prevented his being with the army in the engagement at the second Bull Run, but he was on the field of Antietam throughout the entire contest, and wrote an account which was published in the Baltimore American, of which an enormous edition was disposed of in the army—and was commended for its accuracy.
In October Mr. Coffin was once more in Kentucky, but did not reach the army in season to see the battle of Perrysville. Comprehending the situation of affairs there, that there could be no movement until the entire army was re-organized under a new commander, he returned to Virginia, accompanying the army in its march from the Potomac to Fredericksburg, and witnessed that disastrous battle. A month later he was with the fleet off Charleston and saw the attack on Sumter by the Monitor, and the bombardment of Fort McAllister.
In April he was once more with the Army of the Potomac, arriving just as the troops were getting back to their quarters after Chancellorsville to hear the stories and collect an account of that battle.
When the Confederate army began the Gettysburg Campaign Mr. Coffin watched every movement. He was with the cavalry during the first day's struggle on that field, but was an eyewitness of the second and third days' engagement. His account was re-published in nearly every one of the large cities, was translated and re-published in France and Germany. While the armies east and west were preparing for the campaign of 1864 Mr. Coffin made an extended tour through the border states—Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, to ascertain what changes had taken place in public opinion. In May he was once more with the Army of the Potomac under its great leader, Lieutenant General Grant, and saw all the conflicts of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, North Anna, around Hanover, Cold Harbor, the struggles in front of Petersburg through '64. Upon the occupation of Savannah by General Sherman he hastened south, having an ardent desire to enter Charleston, whenever it should be occupied by Union troops. He was successful in carrying out his desires, and with James Redpath of the New York Tribune leaped on shore from the deck of General Gilmore's steamer when he steamed up to take possession of the city.
Mr. Coffin's despatch announcing the evacuation and occupation of Sumter, owing to his indefatigable energy, was published in Boston, telegraphed to Washington, and read in the House of Representatives before any other account appeared, causing a great sensation.
Thus read the opening sentence:
"Off Charleston, February 18, 2 P.M. The old flag waves over Sumter and Moultrie, and the city of Charleston. I can see its crimson stripes and fadeless stars waving in the warm sunlight of this glorious day. Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory."
In March the correspondent was again with the Army of the Potomac, witnessing the last battles—Fort Steadman—Hatcher's Run—and the last grand sweep at Five Forks. He entered Petersburg in the morning—rode alone at a breakneck pace to Richmond, entering it while the city was a sea of flame, entered the Spottsville hotel while the fire was raging on three sides—wrote his name large on