William L. Coughtry

William L. Coughtry, also known as “Coftry”, was born 1838 in Albany, Albany County, New York.

William left New York and moved west, eventually settling in western Michigan by the time the war broke out.

He was married to Rachel E. and they had at least one child.

William stood 5’7” with gray eyes, dark hair and a light complexion, and was a 23-year-old cigar-maker probably living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted in Company B on May 13, 1861. (Company B was made up largely of men from Grand Rapids, and many of who had served in various local militia units before the war, in particular the Grand Rapids Artillery, under Captain Baker Borden, who would also command Company B.) He was absent sick in the hospital in July of 1862, and was a Sergeant and the recipient of the Kearny Cross for his participation in the action at Chancellorsville, Virginia on May 3, 1863, during which he may have been wounded.

In the spring of 1863 he was a witness for the prosecution in the court martial of Lieutenant James Bennett of Company B, on May 25, 1863, when Coughtry was First Sergeant of the company.

William was wounded in the right leg on July 2, 1863, in the Peach Orchard during the battle of Gettysburg, and was admitted probably first in the general hospital, West’s Building, Baltimore, Maryland, and then on July 10 to Satterlee’s hospital in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was reported “the missile was a fragment of shell which struck the outside of right thigh in the upper third making a contused wound.” It was also noted that his health was good and the “wound doing well at time of admission.”

Indeed William did recover and returned to duty on August 6. He reenlisted on December 23, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids, although his discharge paper notes that he was transferred to the Veterans’ Reserve Corps on that same day. (The VRC was made up of men who while ambulatory were generally incapable of performing regular military tasks due to having suffered debilitating wounds and/or diseases and were assigned to garrison the many supply depots, draft rendezvous, camps, forts, prisons, etc. scattered throughout the northern cities, thus freeing able-bodied men for regular military duty.) He was possibly absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864 and he probably returned to duty (to the VRC) on or about the first of February.

On April 29, 1864, William received permission from the Supervisory committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments in Philadelphia to enter the Free Military School in Philadelphia, and on May 2, 1864, he applied to appear before the board of examiners for admission to the Free Military School. He informed Captain Alfred Pew, then commanding Company B, Third Michigan, that he had “received permission to enter the free military school at Philadelphia,” and his request was approved on May 3 by Lieutenant Colonel Moses Houghton, then commanding the Third Michigan, as well as by the Brigade commander.

However, before he was transferred, William was wounded on May 6, 1864, during the Wilderness campaign, and he subsequently died of his wounds in a field hospital on May 10, 1864. He was presumably among the unknown soldiers buried in the Wilderness.

In June of 1864 his widow was quite probably living in Albany, New York when she applied for and received a pension (no. 68500). She eventually remarried to a Mr. McCorman and in 1869 applied on behalf of a minor child (no. 730695).