John Nicholas Coyne MOH

b. 14/11/1839 New York. d. 04/03/1907 Brooklyn, New York.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 05/05/1862 Williamsburg, Virginia.

John N Coyne MOH

Born in New York City, New York on November 14, 1839, John Nicholas Coyne Jr. was a son of John Nicholas Coyne Sr. (1815–1854), a native of Ireland, and New York City native Hannah Anne (Parke) Avery (1804–1888), whose first husband, Samuel Putnam Avery (1797-1832), had died in 1832. Initially reared in New York City with his brother, Charles Russell Coyne (1845–1899), and their half-siblings, Samuel P. (1822–1904), Hannah S.(1824–1885) and Susan Jane Avery (b. 1826), his life and that of his siblings changed with the death of their father on May 31, 1854. Sometime after John Coyne Sr.’s burial at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, John N. Coyne Jr. relocated with his mother and brother to Jersey City, New Jersey. By 1860, John Coyne was employed as an editor and residing with his mother, Hannah, and her third husband, John Owen Rouse (1818-1896), in Jersey City.

John Coyne Jr. then began his own family when he married Sallie Johnson Matthews sometime around 1862. Their daughter, Sadie Matthews Coyne was born in Pennsylvania on December 22, 1863.

John N. Coyne became one of his nation’s earliest responders to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help defend Washington, D.C. following the fall of Fort Sumter on April 13, 1861. Enrolling for Civil War military service, he mustered in on April 26 as a private with Company G of the 7th New York Militia. After honorably completing his Three Months’ Service, he mustered out with his unit on June 3. Just over six months later, at the age of 22, he signed up for a three-year tour of duty in New York City, mustering in on January 20, 1862 with Company B of the 70th New York Infantry, which was part of the “Excelsior Brigade” and the U.S. Army of the Potomac. On January 28, he was advanced to the rank of sergeant. Serving initially as part of the brigade led by Brigadier-General Daniel Sickles, which was part of the division commanded by Brigadier-General Joseph Hooker, he and his regiment were reassigned to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division of the U.S. Army’s III Corps in March, and ordered to duties associated with the Siege of Yorktown. On May 7, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and assigned to the command staff of his regiment’s F Company.

During the spring of 1862, Coyne performed the act of valour for which he would later be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor. The flag captured by Coyne was reportedly the first Confederate States Army flag to be taken by a Union Army soldier on an American Civil War battlefield, according to historian Thomas S. Townsend. Coyne was then wounded in action on June 1, 1862 while fighting with his regiment during the Battle of Seven Pines (also known as the Battle of Fair Oaks). After recuperating, he returned to duty, and fought with his regiment in the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11–15). Three days after Christmas in 1862, Coyne was advanced in rank again, having been recommissioned as a first lieutenant. After emerging from winter quarters, Coyne and his regiment were assigned, once again, to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, III Corps in the Army of the Potomac. During the spring and summer of that year, they then fought in the Battle of Chancellorsville as part of the Chancellorsville Campaign (April 30 – May 6).

While fighting with his regiment in the Battle of Gettysburg as part of the Gettysburg Campaign (June 3 – July 24), Coyne was wounded in action again, this time on July 2, 1863. Three weeks later, he was commissioned as a captain, and placed in charge of the 70th New York Infantry’s D Company. On July 23, he led his new company in combat with other Union troops in the Battle of Wapping Heights (also known as the Battle of Manassas Gap) and in the Mine Run Campaign (November 27 – December 2.

After emerging from winter quarters during the early spring of 1864, Coyne and his regiment were reassigned to the 2nd Brigade, 4th Division of the U.S. Army’s II Corps from March to May and then re-assigned again in May to the 4th Brigade, 3rd Division within that same Corps. Ordered to duties associated with Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign (May 4 – June 24, 1864), they then fought in the battles of the Wilderness (May 5–7), Spotsylvania Court House (May 8–21), North Anna (May 23–26), Totopotomoy Creek (May 28–30), and Cold Harbor (May 31 – June 12), and engaged in the Siege of Petersburg from June 9 until June 22 when the regiment was transported back to New York for muster out and reorganization. Although a number of 70th New York infantrymen were subsequently re-mustered into the 86th New York Infantry, Coyne was honorably mustered out in New York City on July 1, 1864.

Following his honorable discharge from the military, Coyne returned to New Jersey, where he found work as a customs house clerk in Jersey City and resumed life with his wife, Sallie, and their daughter, Saidee. Another daughter, Mary, was then born in June of 1870.

During the 1880s and 1890s, he was active with the Mutual Aid Society of the Jersey City and Bergen Railroad Company. In 1893, he attended the fourth annual convention of the Medal of Honor Legion, which was held at the Holland House in New York City in October. By the fall of 1900, he had advanced professionally to become chief clerk of the disbursing department of the Customs House.

Coyne died from disease-related complications in Orange, New Jersey on March 4, 1907, and was interred at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York on March 7. His funeral announcement noted that he was a member of the Military Order, Loyal Legion, United States (Commandery State of New York).



Capture of a flag after a severe hand-to-hand contest; was mentioned in orders for his gallantry.



SECTION 82/91, LOT 5631