November 16, 2007

General John E. Coffey of Georgia

Sometime ago I wrote about General John E. Coffey of Georgia. After that blog I received information from one of his descendants, Frank V. Coffey of Florida. Click here to read that blog.

Today I received additional information from Frank:

An important caveat: Gen. John E. Coffee did not take part in the War of 1812.

My ancestor, Gen. John E. Coffee of Georgia (1782-1836), is understandably often confused with his first cousin Gen. John A. Coffee of Tennessee (1792-1833). The Tennessee Coffee, by far the more famous, was Andrew Jackson's best friend, comrade in arms who is often thought to have been the strategic genius behind the Battle of New Orleans, and married (1809) Mary Donelson, Rachel Jackson's niece. Coffee, who played no role in Jackson's presidential career (although he did go to Washington during the nullification crisis in 1833, just before his death), left Nashville and, as part of a land speculation project, moved to Alabama and founded the city of Florence where he died 7 July 1833.

John E. Coffee of Georgia, just as much a Jackson partisan as his cousin, named the town where he settled Jacksonville and served in the US Congress during both terms of the Jackson administration. He fought with Jackson in the Seminole wars in Florida and was also Agent for Indian Affairs for the State of Georgia. The military supply road which he built from his home in Jacksonville, Georgia, to present-day Madison, Florida, is still known as The Old Coffee Road. Following his death in 1836 and the final clearance of the Indians in 1838 (Trail of Tears), most of his family moved down the Coffee Road and settled in Madison where many remain to this day. My grandfather Christopher Columbus Coffee, Jr., was born in Madison but lived
most of his life in Jacksonville, Florida, where I was born.

In the 1920s some ignorant busybody DAR ladies, conflating the history of the two generals, had the remains of my ancestor dug up (he was buried on his Jacksonville plantation) and re-interred in McRae, 20 miles to the north, where they erected an elaborate marker which claims that Gen. John E. Coffee of Georgia was a member of the Tennessee Volunteers and took part in the Battle of New Orleans!

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