May 22, 2014

Sgt. Robert John Coffey


The Vermont Civil War organization honors their Canadian-born hero, Robert John Coffey on their website.

According to information at that site, Coffey was born in St. Johns, New Brunswick, Canada on Dec. 15, 1842 and, moved to Montpelier, VT in 1853.

The Medal of Honor was awarded to Coffey for "single-handedly" capturing "two officers and five privates of the 8th Louisiana Regiment" during the battle at Banks Ford, VA.  The award came in 1892, almost 30 years after the end of the war.

On Nov. 13, 1867 Coffey married Demis Hattie
Burnham in Montpelier.  From this union, at least one child was born:  George Burnham Coffey was born  on Sep. 7, 1872 at Waitsfield, VT.  Unfortunately, the child died on May 28, 1874 of "cerebral meningitis."

In the 1870 census, Robert reported his occupation as "day laborer," born in Vermont.  I do not find the couple in 1880.  In the 1900 census he was found as superintendent of the Vermont State Soldier's Home at Bennington.  Robert confirmed his birth as Dec., 1842 in New Brunswick; his parents were born in Ireland.  Demis gave her birth date as Sep., 1848 in VT and reported that she was the mother of 1, none living!  Her occupation was "Matron" of the Home.  Included in the household was a daughter, Nellie, age 20, born Sep., 1879 in VT.

Robert died in Vermont on July 9, 1901 and was buried at Green Mount Cemetery in Montpelier.  His July 10, 1901 obituary in the New York Times reported that "Col. Robert J. Coffey" of Bennington "...died at his home there yesterday of apoplexy."

Demis and Nellie appeared in the Bennington Co. census for 1910.  Nellie was named as Demis' "adopted daughter," who was also an accountant in a real estate office.  I have not found Nellie in any census record after 1910.

Demis died in 1911 and is also buried at Green Mount.  Nellie died, apparently unmarried, in 1958 and was buried in the plot with her parents.


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