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GENERAL DATUS E. COON, a member of Heintzelman Post, No. 33, San Diego, was born February 20, 1831, in DeRuyter, Madison County, New York, son of Luke and Lois (Burdick) Coon; the former born in Petersburg, New York, in 1804, was a farmer of Scotch descent; the latter, born in Rhode Island in 1808, was of German descent. They had a family of six children, of whom our subject was the oldest. He spent most of his early youth in two counties, Allegany and Cattaraugus, of New York. In 1849 the family removed to Wisconsin, where they bought a farm, and Mr. Coon remained with his father improving it; he was there two years, then went to the Milton Academy and prepared himself for teaching. He taught for two years in Delhi and Dubuque, Iowa; he then embarked in the newspaper business and started the first paper published in Delaware County, Iowa, the Delhi Argus. It was issued in August, 1855; in six months he sold the whole establishment and removed to Osage, Iowa, and published the Osage Democrat. The town was a new one just started upon the prairie; and the first issue came out in April, 1856, and the type was set up outside in cold weather, the cases filled with snow, and the printers had to warm their fingers at pots of coals under the cases. In the spring of 1858 he removed the establishment to Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, where he published the Cerro Gordo Press, until the war broke out in 1861.

On receipt of the news of the fall of Fort Sumter he resolved to go into the army as a cavalry man, and procured a captain's commission from Governor Kirkwood, of Iowa, to raise a company in three weeks. The company was raised, and they proceeded to Davenport, Iowa, and were assigned to the Second Iowa Cavalry. In September, 1861, Captain Coon was promoted to Major, in command of the Second Battalion. After drilling and equipping here, they were ordered to St. Louis, and from there they were ordered to the front. They took a steamer to Cairo, Illinois, from there across the river to Bird's Point, Missouri, and then were ordered to New Madrid, Missouri. They participated in the battle of New Madrid and Island No. 10; from here were ordered on General Pope's expedition down the river to near Vicksburg, where they remained until ordered back to Cairo, Illinois, and from there to Shiloh. The first important engagment the Second Regiment had was a cavalry charge, made to protect the command of General Paine of Illinois, who was making a reconnoissance near Corinth, Mississippi, on May 9, 1862. It was Major Coon's good fortune to be in the lead with his command of four companies. The regiment lost sixty horses, and several men were killed and wounded; it all occurred in fifteen minutes, but saved Paine and all his division, by diverting the attention of the enemy.  The next important engagement was the battle of Boonville; the victory was given to Sheridan, who was promoted to brigadier general the next day, July 1, 1862. When Sheridan was promoted, Colonel Ed. Hatch became brigade commander and Major Coon was assigned command of his regiment; six months later he was placed in command of a brigade of cavalry, composed of the Sixth and Ninth Illinois Cavalry and Second Iowa Cavalry. In 1864 he was appointed Colonel and was ordered with his regiment to Memphis, Tennessee, where he commanded a brigade of cavalry until the fall of that year, when they were driven back from Shoal creek, Tennessee, to Columbia, Tennessee, by Hood's army advancing on Nashville. His brigade participated in the battle of Franklin and was driven back to Nashville, where they remained during Thomas' preparations for the great battle. At Nashville, Tennessee, two regiments more were added to his command (5,000 men all told), namely: the Seventh Illinois and the Twelfth Michigan Cavalry. December 14, 1864, the whole army were ordered to the front to contest with General Hood. Colonel Coon's command occupied the right of General Thomas' command. When five or six miles in advance they struck the enemy, dismounted and advanced on the first fort; his command captured a small earth-work, some forty prisoners and two pieces of artillery and 200 stand of arms. Not satisfied with this victory they pushed steadily on to what is called the Brentwood Hill, and charging as infantry on foot, 200 feet up the hill, captured 400 prisoners, two more pieces of artillery and 400 stand of arms. This was the most terrine storm of shot that the men had ever passed through, and many brave men of this brigade were killed and wounded. The Colonel's horse was killed under him, the ball passing through the horse just back of the Colonel's leg. The next day the whole command pushed on, followed Hood's demoralized and retreating army to the Tennessee river, and took up camp at Eastport, Mississippi, where they remained until Wilson made his raid further south. Immediately after the battle of Nashville, which occurred on December 14 and 15, 1864, the subject of this memorial was appointed by the President, Brevet Brigadier General, for gallant conduct on that memorable battle-field. July 1, they were ordered east, to Decatur, Alabama. At this point he received orders to report to General Thomas, at Nashville, and was placed in command of a cavalry camp of drill and discipline, on the north side of the river. In the latter part of August he was ordered to proceed with his regiment to Selma, Alabama, to be mustered out of service, as the war had been ended several months and the men were anxious to get home to their families. The final muster out took place at Davenport, Iowa, October 1, 1865. General Coon returned to Selma, Alabama, in the fall of 1863, and embarked in the raising of cotton. He was elected and served as a member of the first constitutional convention which convened under act of Congress, 1868. Afterward he was elected a member of the State Senate and served four years, and later, two years in the House of Representatives of the State of Alabama. He also held several prominent appointments from the Federal Government. In 1879 he was appointed consul to Baracoa, Cuba, where he remained for six years, at the expiration of which time he came to San Diego and engaged in the real estate business.

In 1855 he married Miss Hattie A. Cummins, of Delhi, Iowa. She died in May, 1857, leaving a child six weeks old, which died soon after. At the close of the. war he married Mrs. Jennie E. Bailey, daughter of Hon. George W. Ells, of Davenport, Iowa, by whom he had two daughters, one of whom, Maggie E., died in Cuba when thirteen years old; the wife died there also. The other daughter, Georgie, was born in 1872; she now lives with her father in San Diego.

Source: An Illustrated history of southern California : embracing the counties of San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange, and the peninsula of lower California, from the earliest period of occupancy to the present time, together with glimpses of their prospects, also, full-page portraits of some of their eminent men, and biographical mention of many of their pioneers and of prominent citizens of to-day. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1890, pp. 291-292.

 

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