Charles Carleton Coffin was born in Boscawen, New Hampshire on July 26, 1823, and worked on his father's farm until he came of age. Though his means of education were limited, young Coffin so desired to acquire knowledge that he studied at night. He worked as a civil engineer from 1845 to 1848, and eventually purchased a farm, only to abandon it because of failing health.
He then gave his attention to telegraphy, constructing the time line between Harvard observatory and Boston in 1849. When in charge of the Boston telegraphic fire-alarm, he sent out the first signal over the system on the 29th of April, 1852. After writing for some of the New Hampshire papers, he began contributing to the Boston press in 1851. Coffin spent a a great deal of time on his articles, some of which he rewrote ten times before sending them to the printer. Between 1855 and 1860, he held various positions on the Boston Journal, the Atlas, and the Traveller. When the American Civil War erupted, Coffin became a war correspondent for the Journal, witnessing many important battles. He often rendered important service to the military authorities by his knowledge of engineering.
He also served as the Journal's correspondent during the Prusso-Austrian war of 1866; at its completion he made a circuit of the world, returning part of the way from San Francisco by stage, the Pacific railroad not being completed. During his two and a half year-long travels, Coffin wrote weekly letters back home to the Journal. He was a popular lyceum lecturer for years, and appeared several times before congressional committees to present arguments on the labor question. Coffin was a resident of Boston for some time, serving as a member of the Massachusetts legislature in 1884 and 1885. He also published The Great Commercial Prize, which advocated the construction of a railway over the Northern Pacific route. He died in 1918.
His books include:
- Days and Nights on the Battle-Field (1864)
- Following the Flag (1865)
- Winning His Way (1865)
- Four Years of Fighting (1866)
- Our New Way Round the World (1869)
- The Seat of Empire (1870)
- Caleb Krinkle: A Story of American Life (1875)
- History of Boscawen (1877)
- Boys of '76 (1879)
- Story of Liberty (1878)
- Old Times in the Colonies (1880)
- Life of Garfield (1880)
- Building the Nation (1883)
- Drum-Beat of the Nation (1887)
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