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Coburn, James Monroe


Age: 20, credited to Orwell, VT
Unit(s): 44th NY INF, 146th NY INF
Service: Enl, Pvt, 8/8/61, Co. B, 44th NY INF, m/i 8/30/61; reenl, 12/63 Co. B, 44th NY INF, 10/11/64 Trans to Co. D, 146th NY INF, Pvt, m/o 7/16/65 near Washington DC

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations


Birth: 04/1841, Pittsford, VT
Death: 04/11/1909

Burial: St. Pauls Cemetery, Orwell, VT
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Heidi McColgan
Findagrave Memorial #: 85131407

Cenotaph: Mountain View Cemetery, Orwell, VT
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Alan Lathrop
Findagrave Memorial #: 46680365


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes, 1/8/1876; widow Catherine, 4/19/1909, VT
Portrait?: Unknown
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: None


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St. Pauls Cemetery, Orwell, VT

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.




Cenotaph in Mountain View Cemetery, Orwell, VT

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may have cenotaphs there.


Mysteries are an agonizing phenomenon. James Monroe Coburn was one of those stories that left you hanging wondering, "Why in the world did that happen?" If you read about his brother, John M. Coburn, also written about by this writer, you will not get any more answers to the question "Why?" than you have here in this biographical sketch. Although, if you put the two together, you may get a more complete picture of the family to which these two Civil War veterans belonged.

James Monroe Coburn was born about April of 1841 in Pittsford, Vermont.[1] He was the second son of Seth J. Coburn (1810-1882) and Lydia Moulton (1814-1893). His parents hailed from Berlin, Vermont, where they were married in 1833 by a Justice of the Peace, named John West.[2] James had three siblings: Emily (1835-1861); John (1831-1862); and Almina (1843-1893).[3]

When James was nine years old, he and his family lived in Orwell, Vermont. His father, Seth, was a laborer there. All of James' brothers and sisters were living at home and attended school that year (1850). Included in the family was "Pameler" Clark, age fifty-one, and her son, Vandan Clark, age fourteen.[4] No relationship of any kind was ever found between the Clarkes and the Coburns.

It appeared from the public records, that James became a resident of New York State sometime prior to the outbreak of the Civil War in April of 1861. Where exactly in New York State he lived was a mystery. Along with his residency, the reason a native Vermonter would join a New York regiment to fight in the Civil War rather than go for one of those being raised in his own state is an enigma. James could have, and it would have been much more logical for him to do so, enlist along with his brother in the Fifth Vermont Infantry. Perhaps it was the glitz and glamour and the exclusiveness of the 44th New York Regiment that captured young James' fancy.


After the well publicized death of New York resident and native, Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth at the hands of a secessionist inn keeper in Alexandria, Virginia in May of 1861 (a month after Fort Sumter), Albany citizens supported the raising of a regiment of Zouave-like infantry regiment in his memory. To be accepted into the unit, a candidate had to show proof that he was a resident of a town or ward in New York State, among other criteria. Since James was accepted into the elite 44th New York, he must have been able to furnish such evidence to the satisfaction of the recruiting committee. He was admitted as a member of the regiment on August 8, 1861 at Albany, New York. He was twenty, single and had the prerequisite $20 fee to join. He stated he had been born in Orwell, Vermont and that he farmed for a living. He stood five feet eleven inches in height. His eyes were blue and his hair was brown. He had a light complexion. On August 30, 1861 he was formally enrolled as a member of Company B of Ellsworth's Avengers as the 44th was also called.[5]

One of the first heroes to fall in the War of the Rebellion was Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth. He was best known as the first Union officer conspicuously killed in the Civil War. He was murdered by a Southern sympathizer while attempting to remove a large Confederate flag flying on the roof of the Marshall House Inn in Alexandria, Virginia. It could be seen by President Lincoln from the White House. And Ellsworth was, besides being an officer in the Union Army, a close friend of the President. After his death, his body lay in state at the Capital. "Remember Ellsworth" became a Union rallying cry, like "Remember the Alamo" did for another generation of fighters. Since Ellsworth was a native of New York State (he had been born in Malta), some prominent patriots in Albany conceived the idea of recruiting a special regiment in his honor. This memorial regiment was to be filled with distinguished volunteers. The plan was to accept only one man from each town or ward in the State of New York into the ranks. Each candidate had to meet certain eligibility requirements: be able-bodied; single; temperate; under thirty; at least five feet eight inches tall; of good moral character; and able to pay the $20 entrance fee to the regiment. The newly formed regiment was to be designated the 44th New York Volunteer Infantry. It soon was dubbed "Ellsworth's Avengers" aka "People's Ellsworth Regiment".


Since Ellsworth had admired and studied the French Zouave troops of Algeria, he had outfitted several local militia units prior to the Civil War. His first militia group was known as the "Rockford Greys" and had been formed in 1857. Other militia units were formed by Ellsworth before 1861 in Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. He uniformed his militia in the Zouave-style and modeled his training on them. One of his militia units became nationally known as a famous drill team. When the war broke out after Fort Sumter, Ellsworth raised the 11th New York, also known as the "Fire Zouaves", from New York City's volunteer firefighting companies.

Ellsworth's Avengers were first mustered by Stephen W. Stryker, a former lieutenant of the 11th New York. In keeping with honoring the memory of the slain Ellsworth for whom the 44th was raised, it wore an Americanized version of the French Zouave uniform: a dark blue zouave jacket with red piping on the cuffs, dark blue trousers with a red stripe, a red zouave shirt, a dark blue forage cap and a pair of leather gaiters. The jacket had buttons down the front of it which was not part of the original French Zouave uniform. There was sharp competition in the towns and wards of New York State to be chosen as the representative for the regiment. Those who were accepted considered themselves in elite company. Eventually, the one man, one town/ward rule had to be modified. There was no shortage of candidates from which to chose despite the exclusive membership requirements and the hefty $20 entrance fee. The applicants met at Albany on August 8, 1861. After paying the $20 and passing the required examination, those accepted into the regiment were marched to the barracks. The ranks were quickly filled in a short time. The average age of the men was twenty-two years; the average height was five feet ten and a half inches. The regiment was mustered into the United States service on September 24, 1861 for three years. The time spent in the barracks was used in drilling and discipline. On October 21, 1861, the regiment, 1,061 strong and dressed in fresh Zouave uniforms, left Albany for Washington, D.C. in railroad cars. The first night in the Capital was spent sleeping on door steps and sidewalks of the city. The next day was a fatiguing review of the Regiment by President Lincoln followed by a march across Long Bridge to Hall's Hill, Virginia on October 28, 1861. They arrived in camp late at night on the 28th. The 83rd Pennsylvania prepared and served them a warm supper, and even aided them in erecting their tents to sleep in. This kind gesture was remembered forever by the original members of the 44th N.Y.

The fall and winter were passed with the routines of drill and picket duty. On March 10, 1862, the 44th N.Y. led the advance to Centreville but soon returned to Fairfax. Ellsworth's Avengers then became part of the Peninsular Campaign in late March, 1862. On March 30, it was part of the reconnaissance to Big Bethel. It took part in the siege of Yorktown April 5 to May 4, 1862. From May 5 to 19, the 44th garrisoned Fort Magruder until, at its own request, it was moved to the front. It was engaged at Hanover Court House May 27 where it lost eighty-six killed, wounded and missing. The regiment participated in the Seven Days' battles with a total loss of fifty-six at Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862 and another ninety-nine at Malvern Hill, July 1. Moving by way of Fortress Monroe, Ellsworth's regiment lost seventy-one killed, wounded or missing on August 30, 1862 at Second Bull Run. It was in reserve at Antietam; was active at Sheperdstown and Fredericksburg; shared in the hardships of Burnside's "Mud March" and returned to Falmouth, Virginia for winter quarters. Camp broke on April 27, 1863, for the Chancellorsville campaign in which the 44th took an active part. At Gettysburg, July 1-4, the 44th N.Y. was posted on the left of the Union line and was instrumental in the defense of Little Round Top by Hood's Confederates. In this critical action, the regiment suffered its greatest losses - one hundred eleven killed, wounded and missing out of four hundred sixty engaged. After spending some weeks in camp at Emmitsburg, the command was present at the Battle of Bristoe Station in October, 1863; Rappahannock Station, November 7; and in the Mine Run campaign, November 26 through December 2, 1863. It went into winter camp at Brandy Station. May of 1864 was the month of the memorable Wilderness campaign in which the regiment faithfully served suffering severely at the Wilderness May 5-7, 1864 and at Cold Harbor June1-2. The Ellsworth Avengers were active in the first assault on Petersburg in June, 1864, at the Weldon Railroad debacle August 18-21 and at Poplar Spring Church September 29 through October 2, 1864. On October 11, the 44th was mustered out at Albany. Some veterans and recruits were consolidated into a battalion of which two hundred sixty-six men were transferred to the 140th and one hundred eighty-three to the 146th New York. The total strength of the regiment was 1, 585, of whom one hundred eighty-eight died during their term of service from wounds received in action and one hundred forty-seven died from accident, imprisonment or disease. Total loss in killed, wounded and missing was seven hundred thirty.[6]

The People's Ellsworth Regiment was engaged in seventeen major battles during its term of service. Private James M. Coburn was in fourteen of those.[7] The only fights he missed were those fought by the regiment while he was recuperating from wounds received in prior actions. He was wounded at Gaines' Mills, Virginia during the Seven Days battles on June 27, 1862. He recovered well enough to rejoin the ranks of the 44th in time for the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 12-15, 1862. He re-enlisted as a veteran on December 28, 1863. He was wounded for a second time in the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5, 1864.[8] Although none of his wounds were mortal, one of them may have haunted him later in life and directly contributed to the cause of his death in later years. One wound was described as "...disability: shell wound right side of chest and disability of lungs."[9] At the end of the Regiment's term of service in September of 1864, Private Coburn was transferred to Company D of the 146th New York (October 11). He wasn't mustered out of the 146th until July 26, 1865.[10]

Being about twenty-four now, James had to assimilate himself back into civilian life. Before the war, he had been a farmer in New York. After the war, he seemed to return to his native roots in Vermont and learned a trade. By 1868, James had found something else besides a new career. He found a bride. She was Katherine (aka Catherine, Kate) Mccauley. Katherine was twenty years old and James was twenty-seven. She was the daughter of James McCauley from Ireland. The two were married in Rutland, Vermont. Both had been living in nearby Pittsford. This was the first marriage for both of them. For some unexplained reason, the Town Clerk of Rutland listed James' father as Ezekiel Coburn and his mother as Lydia A. Clark.[11] This was the only incident of Seth J. Coburn being called "Ezekiel" or of his mother being called anything else other than Lydia Moulton.

Three years after their marriage, James and Katherine had their first child, a son, John Frank (1871-1955). He was born on February 26 in Orwell. James, called Monroe J. Coburn by the Orwell Town Clerk, Roswell Bottom, was making a living as a "joiner" - a carpenter.[12] Three years later, a second child was born to the couple. This time a daughter they named Minnie (1874-1936). James and his family lived in Orwell with his father and mother, Seth and Lydia[13] The birth of a third child came on August 27, 1875 when James Albert (1875-1970) was born.[14] It was a good thing that James was a carpenter so that he could add a room onto the house with each child born to the family. It was also at this time, January 8, 1876, that James first filed for a pension as an invalid. Perhaps it was the growing family that prompted him to do so. Or perhaps he was beginning to feel the effects of his wounds from his military service.[15] Tragedy struck the family in 1877. On July 30, Katherine delivered a stillborn female infant.[16] She was not the last child the family would have.

In 1880, the Coburn's lived in Orwell. James was about thirty-nine and his wife was thirty-four. They had their three surviving children living with them and they still lived in the home of James' father and mother. The two older children attended school in Orwell. James Albert was only four in 1880, so he stayed at home doing whatever it was that four year olds do. His father, James M., still worked at building houses for other people and Kate kept the house even though, technically, it wasn't hers. Seth kept busy and earned a little money making baskets.[17] The last child born to James and Katherine came in 1885. Anther daughter was born, Julia Elizabeth (1885-1968) in Orwell. New Town Clerk, Gideon Abbey, came up with a new name for Katherine - "Maggie"; but she was still from Ireland. James had gone back to being called James M. Coburn and was still a house carpenter.[18]

No Federal Census information was available for James M. Coburn other than what came from the 1890 Veteran Schedule. That only verified what was already known. James enlisted in Company B of the 44th New York on August 8, 1861. He was discharged on December 27, 1863 after serving two years, four months and eighteen days.[19]

By 1900, J. Monroe Coburn was fifty-nine and lived in Orwell with his wife, Katherine, and his daughter, Julia E. James, when he worked, was still pounding nails for a living. But he did not work full time anymore. In fact, he had slowed up considerably. Whether that was from age or an increasing disability to do the physical work required of a carpenter, was not obvious. Likely it was both which accounted for the fact that he had worked only two months out of the past year. James was not robust, but he was still with Katherine after thirty-two years of marriage. He may have inherited his father and mother's house or he may have gotten around to building his own, but in any case, he owned his home free and clear in 1900.[20] James almost lived out the first decade of the twentieth century, but not quite. On April 11, 1909, James died of pneumonia in Orwell at sixty-two years, ten days of age. On the death certificate his father was listed as L.J. Coburn from Roxbury, Vermont. His mother was identified as Lydia Moulton from Charlotte, Vermont. The Town Clerk insisted on calling James "Monroe Coburn". The final indignity imposed on James was that the card used for recording his death was intended for a female and was never changed to male by the Clerk.[21] Must be the town ran out of Death-Male cards.

James had a brother, John M. Coburn, who was sick with tuberculosis even before he enlisted in the Fifth Vermont in 1861. He had been discharged with a medical disability by June of 1862 and died in December of the same year from consumption. The wound to the chest and lungs that James received while serving in the 44th New York may have aggravated a previously preordained family lung problem and helped contribute to his own death by pneumonia. (See article on John M. Coburn, Vermont in the Civil War website).

Katherine, James' widow, continued to live in Orwell after her husband's death. She was sixty-four in 1910 and most likely lived in the same house she had shared with James. She shared the home with her daughter, Julia, who had married and had two children: Leroy V. Martin age five and Florence E. Martin age three. There was no mention of a husband for Julia in the 1910 Census. Julia was not identified as a widow nor was she listed as single.[22] Calculating by the age of Julia's oldest child, she was married about 1900. According to the 1910 Federal Census, she had had three children between then and 1910, but only two had survived until then. That means she lost a child between 1900 and 1904 when she was probably pregnant for Leroy, her five year old son. Julia worked outside the home as a laundress in a local hotel. The 1910 Federal Census revealed a few interesting facts about Katherine as well. She had been born in Ireland. The 1910 Census asked questions about immigration, specifically what year you immigrated to the United States if you were foreign born. Katherine responded with "1857". "Naturalized or alien" was another question asked of foreigners. The answer Katherine gave was illegible on the Census form so it was unclear whether she ever became a U.S. citizen or not.[23] No documentation for naturalization showed up in any public records consulted for this biographical sketch. However, the New York Passenger List, 1820-1957 does have one "Cather" Mccauley listed. Her arrival date was December 31, 1855. She was ten years old and English. She had departed from Liverpool, England on the Henry Clay bound for the port of New York City in the United States. She traveled with her family which consisted of John McCauley, twenty-two, shoemaker; Mary, fourteen; Cath, ten; Annie, seven; and Bridget, four.[24] This may, or may not, be James' Katherine McCauley. "Kathren" Colburn of Castleton, Vermont, housewife, born August 7, 1845 and daughter of James McCauley of Ireland, died at seventy years, ten months and twenty-five days of "La Grippe followed by Chronic Bronchitis" on July 2, 1916.[25]

1., Memorial #85131407 for James M. Coburn;, Gilley Family Tree for James M. Coburn.
2., Memorial #46680269 for Seth J. Coburn;, Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954, Marriage for Seth Coburn.
3., Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908, Death, for Mary Coburn; Ibid., Gilley Family Tree for James Monroe Coburn.
4., 1850 U.S. Federal Census for James Coburn.
5. Ibid., New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900 for James M. Coburn.
6. New York Volunteer Regiment; Infantry Regiment/New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center; Sketch of The 44th Infantry Regiment; -new-york; NY Infantry Regiment/Civil War Newspaper Clippings, pp.1-100; E. Ellsworth.
7., New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts for James M. Coburn.
8. history of the 44th Regiment, N.Y. Vol., p.370 (Roster), James M. Coburn.
9., United States Veterans Admin. Payment Cards, 1907-1933 for James M. Coburn.
10.,/A history of the 44th Regiment, N.Y. Vol., p.370 (Roster) for James M. Coburn.
11., Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908, Marriage-Groom for James M. Coburn;, Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954, Marriage-Bride for Catherine McCauley.
12., Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908 for John F. Coburn; Ibid., Gilley Family Tree for James Monroe Coburn.
13., 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Minnie Coburn;, Gilley Family Tree for James Monroe Coburn.
14., Vermont, Vital Records, Birth, 1720-1908 for James Albert Coburn; Ibid., Gilley Family Tree for James Monroe Coburn.
15., Pension Files for James M. Coburn.
16. Ibid., Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954, Birth/Death of Coburn female infant.
17., 1880 U.S. Federal Census for James Coburn.
18. Ibid., Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908, Birth for Julia E. Coburn; Ibid., Gilley Family Tree for James Monroe Coburn.
19. Ibid., 1890 Special Schedule - Surviving Veterans for James M. Coburn.
20. Ibid., 1900 U.S. Federal Census for J. Monroe Coburn.
21., Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954 for Monroe Coburn.
22., 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Katherine M. Coburn.
23. Ibid.
24., New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 for Cather Mccauley.
25. Ibid., Vermont, Vital Records, 1909-2008, Death for Kathren Colburn.

Photographs from the Photographic History of the Civil War, i:350

Courtesy of Bernie Noble

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